Hand Saw Series - Miter Saws
posted on January 31, 2011 by Ralph Bagnall

Nobex hand miter saw

Over the years I have mitered thousands of small moldings around boxes, newel posts and cabinet doors. Having used every power saw available for this task, for these small moldings nothing is as fast and easy as an old fashioned miter saw.

Two things create a seamless miter joint; an accurate 90 degree angle and accurate length. A good quality miter box has 45 degree presets that give excellent results, and they tend to stay accurate over time since it requires little force to swing from left to right. And since this saw is hand powered, you can safely hold parts right up close to the blade without risking dire injury. This makes it very easy to exactly position your stock for accurate cutting. The fine toothed blades on miter saws also virtually eliminate splintering at the cut even with complex detail. This provides a better quality joint, less waste, and a lot less filling or sanding.

hand sawing a miter sawing trim miter closeup

Another trick to sharp clean miters is to match your cuts. If one half of the miter is cut with the saw swung to the left, be sure to cut the mating miter with the saw swung to the right. That way, if the preset stops are a little off, they will cancel each other out. One might be 45.2 degrees and the other 44.8. As long as they equal 90, a good joint will result. But if you cut both parts on the same side (say the 44.8) then the resulting angle will be 89.6 and a gap may show.

tight fitting miter joint

Lastly, when wrapping a post or box with a molding, I do not try and measure. I prefer to cut the first 45 degree angle, then line up the molding and use a marking knife or fine pencil to mark the length. This saves time and re-cutting from the variations that measuring and marking can cause. With this method and a fine toothed blade, excellent results are easy to achieve.

I am certainly not a hand tools only sort of woodworker. My shop is well outfitted with power tools. I try to find the best tool for the job. For working with fine moldings, nothing beats a quality hand miter box.

posted on January 31, 2011 by Ralph Bagnall
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Comments

5 thoughts on “Hand Saw Series - Miter Saws”

  • John Feldom

    I've never had the chance to use a hand miter saw. I have to ask, do you risk having the wood chip or flake when using the hand version?
    And, is it possible to cleanly take of half a degree or so to make things fit? I mean, it seems my hand would shift a bit and ruin the cut.
    thanks in advance.
    John

  • Ralph Bagnall

    John, the saw is guided in a sliding frame, so there is very little room for the cut to veer from side to side. It is possible to make small adjustments to a cut and remove another half degree if needed. Mostly, it is a matter of letting the saw do the cutting, and not trying to muscle it.
    When buying your saw, check the tooth count on the blade. Coarser blades are better if you want to cut larger moldings since they cut faster. For cutting small moldings, a finer blade does the job very well with little or no tearing out. Again, a gentle touch helps. Any saw or saw blade will tear out if forced to cut too quickly.

    Ralph Bagnall

  • Ray

    I noticed that a Japanese blade is available for the miter box pictured. From what I have read, it appears as if all Japanese hand blades are "pull blades". Does this hold true for the Nobex miter box/saw?

  • Rockler Blog Team
    Rockler Blog Team March 2, 2011 at 1:29 pm

    Thanks for the comment, Ray. It may be possible to install the Nobex blade with a pull stroke, but the layout of the saw may not lend itself to doing so. Here's a good forum discussion with a few thoughts on the subject:
    http://forums.finewoodworking.com/fine-woodworking-knots/hand-tools/nobex-miter-saw-blade-direction

  • Harvey Salvin

    This is an enquirer for a part. I'm searching for a new bade( s) for a mitre saw whose manufacturer wentout of business long ago(Hempke). Would your blades fit other makes as such. If so what do blades cost? Or would the screw holes placement perhaps not line up. Thanks for your time and I shall place an order if these matters correspond.

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