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    How to Make and Use a Mini Miter Block

    My father often reminded me to use the "right tool for the right job." He was right and over time that wisdom developed into many jigs in my shop. After all, jigs are nothing more than custom tools. One of the simplest and most useful jigs is the common miter box which I regularly use when I need to cut small or narrow pieces of wood. In this case, I made a smaller version with thin-kerf saw guides minus the typical bottom and sides, so I call it a "mini miter block."

    I use my original mini miter block for nearly every project. The jig facilitates controlled hand saw crosscuts and miter cuts for trim, molding, glass stops and other smaller parts. For instance, when making a small cabinet door or picture frame, creating a profile along the inner edge of the frame will normally be done one of three ways; routed into the frame stiles and rails before assembly, routed after assembly, or added as separte parts after assembly. I prefer the latter for flexibility and opportunities to integrate complimentary or contrasting wood. When it comes to small molding, nothing provides better transition or concealment between plain, overlapping joints.

    The Example

    In order to better illustrate, I made a small cabinet door with a mitered frame and a flat panel insert. The result was
    adequate, but can easily improved by adding a profiled inner edge. Making mini molding does not require tiny router bits either. I used a normal sized roman ogee bit over the edge of some scrap wood. The entire profile doesn't necessarily have to be used, as is the case here. I ripped consistant, narrow strips with plenty of effective profile still intact.

    The Block

    To make the miter block, I laminated three layers of cherry to end up with a final dimension of approximately 12" x 5" x 2.75". Once the block was true and square, I used a stacked dado blade to cut out a deep groove like a trough. The first cut was done in two passes at 1/2" deep, rotating the block 180 degrees to ensure the groove was perfectly centered. The second cut finished the depth to one inch. The groove is about 1 1/2" wide making this setup comfortable for me to grip and hold down the wood during the cut.

    The Saw Guides

    The saw guides represent the precision aspect of this jig. I find these work best when used exclusively with saw that created the kerf. Using a combination square, mark off a couple off opposing 45-degree angles. Remember to leave plenty of room for your hand to get a good grip overall. It's not a problem if the guides cross over each other and you may want to even add a right angle guide.

    To cut the guides accurately, I used a strip of 3/4" MDF lined up perfectly using a combination square and then clamped down. With another piece of wood that has a matching and trued edge, hold the saw blade in position with hand pressure only and begin to cut the guide. Once the kerf is established about a quarter inch deep, the holding block can be removed. The clamped down edge guide may need to be removed also in order to allow clearance for the saw blade or handle. Repeat the process for the opposing miter guide.

    The Application

    With the jig ready for use with its matched saw, I was able to complete the cabinet door accent molding. I like to fit each strip to its specific place one piece at a time. Start by cutting a miter near one end of a molding strip. Place the corner point in its intended spot and mark the end using a small combination square. Place the strip in the block and attempt to cut the pencil line in half. Repeat the process for each strip and you will have a snug fit all around. A little glue with a pin or brad nailer will effectively secure each piece without the need for clamps.

    The results frequently epitomize the difference between a decent product and a fine woodworking effect. These minor steps and components offer a relatively uncomplicated method to customize and accentuate your work. The simplicity allows for endless experimenting which eventually leads to just the right look and impact. Although the mini miter block represents a seemingly unimpressive jig, it enables the user to achieve complex-looking outcomes easily and safely.