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Using Miter Joints to Assemble Picture Frames, Shadow Boxes, Moldings and More
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Splined miter joint drawing An interior spline increases the gluing surface area of a standard miter joint, and allows for improved joint stability.

If you’ve seen a picture frame, then you know what a basic miter joint looks like: two members cut at matching angles that form a corner. In addition to being a popular frame joint for shadow boxes, cabinet faces, chair seats and so forth, miters are commonly used to join trim pieces, such as decorative ogee moldings framing the drawers of a fancy dresser as well as shoe, chair rail and crown moldings used to add style to a kitchen’s or dining room’s decor.

Picture frame corners formed by miter joints Because of the way and angle that picture frames are formed, miter joints are commonly and easily used on these corners.

Miter joints are also great for joining corners when building carcasses — jewelry boxes, blanket chests, cabinets for a kitchen or entertainment center, etc. Mitered assemblies have a clean look because the end grain of solid-wood frames and the plywood edges of carcass panels are hidden when the joint is assembled.

Setting a saw blade to cut a miter joint To get the right cutting angle for forming your miters, use a protractor or bevel gauge to set your saw blade.

Like butt joints, basic miters are very easy to cut, as long as you can make accurate cuts with a table saw, compound miter saw or with a hand saw and miter box. Mitered members cut at 45° are used for 90° corners — the most common form of miter construction for woodshop projects. But you can also use miter joinery to create other shaped projects, such as triangular flag boxes and hexagonal planters.

Shop-made jig for cutting dovetail keys in miter joint A simple shop-made jig can help cut dovetail keys into the miter joints, both for decorative and strengthening purposes.

In their simplest form, miter joints may be butted and glued together (it helps to add a few small nails, to hold the assembly together while the glue dries). Glued miters are adequate for many small projects that don’t require significant strength; say, a small frame for a photo or a pencil tray for a desk. By reinforcing plain miters with biscuits or splines, or by cutting special lock or lap miters, miter joints are strong enough for building durable cabinetry, furniture and more.

posted on April 1, 2009 by Sandor Nagyszalanczy
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