Rout your mitres for super accuracy

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Blog entry by stefang posted 07-04-2014 04:26 PM 2661 reads 5 times favorited 20 comments Add to Favorites Watch

Now that I’m getting into marquetry I will have to have something to glue it to. Furniture isn’t an option for me because I wouldn’t know what to do with it and it would take way too much time away from my marquetry work.

My plan is therefore to continue making small things that don’t overtax me physically or economically and which are more fun to build in my small shop and which are good gift items. There are lots of options such as; boxes, lamps, picture frames, and other stuff I haven’t even thought of yet (or I have thought of it, but already forgotten).

It seems to me that mitered joints are perfect for marquetry work because there is no visible joint to telegraph through the thin veneers, especially when the marquetry is not just on the lids. The same would apply to other boxy forms. Miter joints for smaller items don’t need reinforcing with splines either since they are a combination of short and long grain and testing has shown these joints to be a lot stronger than many think.

I have never done miter joints with a router before so I checked around for some tips on good ways to do this. I found an excellent video by Matt Kenney here demonstrating a foolproof method that I tried out and it was so good that I thought I would make you aware of the video and also share my personal experience with the method.

Here is my set-up with the 45 degree chamfer bit buried in the fence. This is the main trick. The router bearing needs to be behind the fence surface so only the fence is used to guide the workpiece. I tried a fence made from fir first because I had a piece long enough to reach both ends of my router table for clamping, but that didn’t work well because the sharp edge on my mitres cut into the soft wood on the out feed side leaving the fence just uneven enough to ruin all my mitres. I didn’t have any hardwood long enough for the whole fence, so I just cut a long notch in the fir and inserted a length of oak and that solved the problem. You have to cut a small notch in the fence to accommodate the router bearing and then pull it into the bit with the router on (careful and take it slow and easy). It’s a good idea to do the miter cuts in a couple of runs, adjusting your fence a little for the 2nd run to get a smoother final cut. The flat piece of chipboard shown was used to push the workpieces through and to prevent chip out on the end grain cuts.

Here are some photos of the little test box. The mitres fit perfectly and I also did a mitred bottom just to see how good a fit I could get. It came out perfect. The box is just held together with tape so you can see some very small gaps in the bottom piece that will completely close up with glue.

The work went real fast. I just put a stop on my miter saw and cut equal 6 equal length parts at 90 degrees. I used two of those pieces to make the bottom with. I mitered all four sides of each piece with the router, but I had to cut a little off two lengths so I could joint them in the middle to make a bottom piece. A top piece can of course also be mitred into the top and the lid cut off lower down after the glue dries,

I liked this easy and accurate method so much that I ordered a long shaft Amana router bit that gives me the length I need for use in the router table and which has a miter height of 3/4”. I can’t imagine making something more that 3/4” thick, so I think this bit will cover my needs for things with 90 degree miters. I might also buy the same bit, but with a 60 degree angle for 6 sided things later.

I’m sure this is nothing new for many of you, but I thought it worth blogging for those who are looking for a better method to do their miters. Thanks for reading.

-- Mike, an American living in Norway.

20 comments so far

View waho6o9's profile


8750 posts in 3061 days

#1 posted 07-04-2014 05:33 PM

Good idea, thanks for posting.

View Schwieb's profile


1891 posts in 3945 days

#2 posted 07-04-2014 06:05 PM

I like it Mike. Going to try it on my next box. Wish I could get the marquetry bug as bad as you, Paul, and others have it. I have the want to but time and other projects seem to keep getting in the way.

-- Dr. Ken, Florida - Durch harte arbeit werden Träume wahr.

View stefang's profile


16717 posts in 3818 days

#3 posted 07-04-2014 06:29 PM

I hope you do the marquetry thing Ken. So far I have been doing more talking about it than actually producing anything. However, I am pretty well prepared now. I have all or at least most everything I will need to get started. For the time being I am spending a little time in the shop here and there. I really don’t want to feel rushed when I finally get started again because working with the thin veneers and all the associated work will be new to me so I have to be able to focus on it properly.

-- Mike, an American living in Norway.

View Druid's profile


2142 posts in 3279 days

#4 posted 07-04-2014 07:15 PM

Nice way to get those accurate joints. Thanks for sharing it.

-- John, British Columbia, Canada

View Dan'um Style's profile

Dan'um Style

14181 posts in 4467 days

#5 posted 07-04-2014 11:18 PM

Thanks for posting. Fun read. Will try this method.

-- keeping myself entertained ... Humor and fun lubricate the brain

View Philip's profile


1277 posts in 3023 days

#6 posted 07-05-2014 03:00 AM

Looks nice and tight Mike, nice job.

-- I never finish anyth

View PASs's profile


596 posts in 3582 days

#7 posted 07-05-2014 04:11 AM

Thought of you when I saw this.
The art of Japanese parquetry using razor-thin slices of wood mosaics

-- Pete, "It isn't broken, you just aren't using it right."

View robscastle's profile


6308 posts in 2688 days

#8 posted 07-05-2014 08:00 AM

Nice post Mike,

I would not have thought of doing miter jounts that way, although I have the means to do so.

I shall have to give it a try and post the results with appropiate credits!!

I had better be good as it looks like the competition will be tough!

Its a bit cold AM here in Brisbane about 5 to 8 degrees C but I guess thats a heat wave for you !!

-- Regards Rob

View stefang's profile


16717 posts in 3818 days

#9 posted 07-05-2014 09:16 AM

Thanks guys. The credit for this method should go to Matt Kenney at Fine woodworking. I’m just ‘resharing’ it.

Pete Thanks very much for the link. Of course this fantastic Japanese woodworker has taken this technique to a level I can’t even dream about. Awe inspiring work. I would be willing to work for free for this guy for 30 years just to be able to do that. The work he is doing there is called ‘stick work’ in England. I have actually done a bit of it myself. Here is an example from an old project I posted a few years ago and another one here (not enough contrast in this one).

On my projects the sticks were cut at 45 degrees across the grain of a board to form diamond shaped profiles, glued together with some square sticks and then turned round and thin slices were cut off the cylinder to be inlaid. I have been meaning to do a blog on this for some time to introduce the method to others, but haven’t gotten around to it yet. Fun work for a turner like yourself, hint hint.

Robert I hope you will give it a try. Now if I could just find out how to do compound miters with a router!

-- Mike, an American living in Norway.

View SPalm's profile


5334 posts in 4366 days

#10 posted 07-05-2014 12:44 PM

Nice post Mike.
I have never tried it, looks like fun. And looks easy once you got it set up.

I kind of also reminds me of Brit Box Maker’s EZmitre technique. Different, but same. I have not tried that either, but that would let you work with the marquetry already in place. Too much stuff to try.

Take care,

-- -- I'm no rocket surgeon

View stefang's profile


16717 posts in 3818 days

#11 posted 07-05-2014 01:10 PM

Thanks Steve. I have taken a look at Martyns EZ miter method. He gets a great result with it. I haven’t tried it out because It seems to me that it would be good mainly for small boxes and I want a method without any practical limitations, but I want the same quality fit.

I’m having a lunch break right now, but I am going to the shop to make a complete cube box similar to Martyns so I can glue it up to see the actual result. I can see myself making several good sized boxes with this way ready for glue-up in just one day. I don’t see any problem with using this method with pre-veneered surfaces. I cut miters on some cheap plywood and that came out fine with no chipping, and that is after all just a veneered surface. I think the secret is to make the last run a very light cut and to make sure the bit is not higher than the top edge.

This is R&D work for me and a lot of fun. The only current problem is that the standard bit I’m using has a very limited range of miter height, so I’m concentrating on about 3/8” thickness of stock which is close to the max. that can be cut with it. This will change when I take delivery of my new Amana bit with an extra long shank and cutters which can do a full miter in 3/4” stock. Then things should get really interesting.

-- Mike, an American living in Norway.

View kiefer's profile


5673 posts in 3151 days

#12 posted 07-05-2014 01:48 PM

That looks promising and fast with good glue surface to make it strong and easy to assemble .
Now lets see one with marquetry ,that new CHEVY needs some work .


-- Kiefer

View helluvawreck's profile


32086 posts in 3350 days

#13 posted 07-05-2014 03:11 PM

Thanks for the tip, Mike. I also have to watch the size of the projects that I make because of my back and knees. Unfortunately I had to make some large projects for my new shop and I had to be especially careful. I had to have them so I didn’t have much choice. Boxes are a good choice for me and it’s always good to learn of new ways to do things. Thanks.

helluvawreck aka Charles

-- helluvawreck aka Charles,

View stefang's profile


16717 posts in 3818 days

#14 posted 07-05-2014 05:12 PM

Thanks Klaus and Charles. I will be starting on the marquetry pretty soon.

Here is another little test box I did today. It was one of those days when everything seems to go wrong. First I was resawing some wood for the new test box and I found out that my bandsaw table was not a perfect 90 deg. to the blade. Got that fixed and then found out that the fence was then not 90 deg. to the table. Got that fixed and started plane the sawn side of the resawn board, and my vacuum was too full and had to be emptied. After planing I used the table saw to cut the boards to width and although I didn’t find out until after routing the box pieces, the angle lock on the table saw blade was loose and didn’t cut a 90 deg. edge on the board for the box pieces. Since the wood for this box was a little thicker, I had to adjust the height of the router bit and I raised it while running. Not a good idea, it wrecked my jury rigged fence so I had to do that over again too. In other words Just another normal day in the shop.

In spite of all the mishaps the box still came fairly well, though not as good as it should have. Anyway, here is the result. I’m particularly happy with it, but at least I know why it didn’t come out as good as it was supposed to. All sides, top and bottom are mitred.

-- Mike, an American living in Norway.

View PASs's profile


596 posts in 3582 days

#15 posted 07-05-2014 09:23 PM

You sound like me.

-- Pete, "It isn't broken, you just aren't using it right."

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