When you need to reliably cut at an angle, there is no better tool for the job than a miter saw. That said, if your miter saw is too flimsy and you mess up your cuts, it can hurt more than it helps.
What Is A Miter Box?
A miter box (sometimes spelled “mitre”) is a tool for cutting wood at pre-determined angles, usually 45 degrees, but also 90 degrees and 22.5 degrees. A miter box is very useful for cutting moulding and trim, which often meet at a corner at 45-degree angles.
A miter box is specifically used with a hand saw, usually known as a miter saw. This terminology can lead to some confusion because a miter saw is a popular power tool which makes angled cuts using a circular blade.
Fixed vs Adjustable Miter Boxes
A standard miter box has two uprights, which a piece of wood is placed between. It has slots cut in it for making cuts into a piece of wood at the following angles:
- 22.5 degrees (also -22.5 degrees aka 112.5 degrees)
- 45 degrees (also -45 degrees aka 135 degrees)
- 90 degrees
- 45 degrees on the vertical
You can cut from either side of the box. The walls are typically about four inches tall, so don’t think you can cut a 2 by 10 at a vertical 45-degree angle with one of these.
An adjustable miter box will cut at any angle from 0 to 45 degrees (with 0 degrees in this situation being a 90-degrees or right angle cut).
What Kind Of Saw Is Used In A Miter Box?
While almost any type of hand saw will work in a miter box, the typical saw you’d use with one is called a back saw.
A back saw is a type of hand saw with a stiff metal backbone that prevents the blade from flexing and adds some downward pressure to the blade. These saws at good at fine cuts, as you would do with moulding or trim.
Because the backsaw is a type of saw, you might specifically use a tenon saw or dovetail saw, or you might just use a general purpose backsaw.
Light Duty Miter Box Options
Got some trim or moulding you want to cut this weekend, but don’t need to do much after that? Here’s the thing for that…
Craftmans’ $15 Miter Box With Saw
What seems to be the most popular miter box sold today is the $15 Craftsman miter box and back saw combo. Who could resist such a thing? I certainly could not, especially once I noticed the included saw.
This is a very lightweight box that is made out of not-very-thick plastic. It’s fine for limited use on small jobs, where some flex is OK. Generally speaking you don’t want your miter box to flex at all, but it should be clear from the price that this isn’t a professional grade tool.
The box includes at 12-inch saw which is fine, but not very heavy duty. The box itself is not strong enough to clamp wood against, but it has two hold to screw it down and includes two pegs for stabilizing the wood inside it while cutting.
Basically, this is the minimum requirement for getting the job done but no one will be thrilled with it.
Stanley Saw Storage Miter Box with Saw
This Stanley saw and miter box combo is, from what I can tell, the exact same thing as the Craftsman, just in yellow instead of red. I similarly would not recommend it except for the smallest of jobs or the tightest of budgets.
Heavy Duty Miter Boxes
The massively heavy, overbuilt miter boxes of yesteryear are no longer common. Sorry, that’s just how it goes. If you want the heavy, adjustable ones from back in the day you can buy a used vintage model and it’ll cost you a ton. Some of the most desirable options are…
- Stanley No. 150
- Stanley No. 358 (or 358A)
- Stanley No. 60
- Stanley No. 244
- Stanley No. 246
- Millers Falls Langdon No. 75
Some modern equivalents are such, as the Garrett Wade “Accurate Mitre Saw” which goes fro about $70 and has the look of a high-end woodworking tool without the headaches of a vintage piece.
Stanley sells a heavy duty, modern miter box as well, known as the Stanley Clamping Miter Box With Saw (model 20-800). As before, it’s basically interchangeable with the Craftsman miter box option. These hand tools will get you a nice saw, a metal base, adjustable angles, and the ability to bolt it firmly into a workbench.
If you want a cheaper option you could just go with a non-adjustable steel miter box. This will cost you about $20 and it will last forever. You won’t get an included saw and it’s not adjustable, but it’ll get the job done, you can clamp to it, and you won’t need to get out the power extension and buy a $300 powered miter saw to do your cutting.
- What is a miter saw?
A miter saw is a power tool that is used for cutting wood at an angle. It is composed of a powered circular saw, a handle to pull the saw down, and a mechanism for holding the wood in place. The saw is able to turn from -45 to 45 degrees while the wood stays stationary.
- Can you make a miter box?
You certainly can. To do this you will need three sturdy pieces of wood, glue and screws to fasten them together, a carpenter's square (or some other way of marking your angles), and a saw. The saw should ideally be large enough to make cut the miter box's slots in a single cut.