This Woodworking Tips Card is how to test fit your miters. Testing things is a great practice to get into, and it will save you time in the long run. When you have to make several miters, make sure to test them first before making all of your cuts. Here is why.
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Miter Saws Are All Different
Not only are all miter saws different, but they all can be a little off on their angle measurements. It’s important to test out the angle with a protractor or angle finder long before you cut up a lot of expensive wood.
Most saws come with stops that are made at common angles for easier miters. These are typically used to make four sided and six sided items.
One stop that every miter saw has is the 45 degree stop, which allows you to make 90 degree corners. When you place two boards together with 45 degree angles cut on their ends, the resulting angle needs to be 90.
One of the easiest ways to ensure that you have the correct angle on your miters is to make a couple test cuts and measure the resulting boards. Once you are satisfied with the test, you can move on to the real thing. The confidence that you have knowing your miters are dialed in will help out later in the build. Here is how you do it…
Checking Your Miters and Miter Saw Accuracy
When you set up your saw, use the existing stop as a guide, and then make a single cut on a test board. Make sure that the board itself is pressed against the fence well, so that your experiment is as accurate as possible.
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Using a angle finder or a protractor, examine the resulting board. Check the angle, and see if it measures the same as it should. If the angle is off, make another cut. When you check this second cut, if the angle is still off, then you need to adjust the saw.
Move the saw so that the angle is closer to correct, and make another test cut. Again, check the angle using a measuring tool. If the angle is good, you can move forward. If not, then repeat the previous steps until you have the right angle in place.
Testing and Checking Stuff in General
I wrote a post about called Glue Covered Problems, where I explain the importance of doing a dry run without glue for anything complex. That post and this one are similar in the fact that it is important to stop and smell the roses while you are woodworking.
The habit of double checking and not rushing through are great to have. Oddly enough, woodworkers that take their time actually tend to finish faster than the woodworkers who rush through. Slower paced workers makes less mistakes, so they spend less time correcting the errors that rushing leads to.
Get in the habit of checking things before committing too many resources. In the case of a large project, you may have to fix dozens of incorrect miters by filling them afterwards. In a case like that, the look can be compromised, and it may make you look like a rookie woodworker.
Take the time you need to ensure things are right, and then keep moving forward once you know that you are not headed into a problem.
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