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I'd like to cut a miter along the width of a wide board using hand tools. I've searched online and have not found any resources so maybe I'm using incorrect terminology.

Say I have a board that is 12 inches wide and I want to make a mitre cut along the end to join it to another 12 inch board. How can I cut this with a hand saw? My miter saw can only cut to about a 2 inch depth.

I use hand tools and prefer Japanese saws. My goal is to make a cabinet with waterfall joints.

Here are some photos that hopefully help illustrate what I'm getting after.

line to cut along

line to cut along 3/4 view

  • The traditional tool for this sort of hand work is a "shooting board" or a "shooting box" Ref: woodworking.stackexchange.com/q/1315/5572 (There are versions that allow for 45deg cuts, but it isn't shown here.) – jdv Jan 15 '19 at 20:30
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    @jdv are you referring to a "donkey's ear shooting board"? amgron.clara.net/donkeysear69.html – NoobsArePeople2 Jan 16 '19 at 0:44
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    The standard way to do these mitres with hand tools is to largely, or completely, do it using planing. It seems like a ton of work (and it's hardly a trivial amount of effort I can promise, plus a little more difficult in pine that it would be in for example oak, as odd as that might seem) but it works and works well when done with care. I wouldn't however suggest it as a route for the rank beginner to planing though, so if you'd class yourself around there you might want to rethink the need for this joint at all. – Graphus Jan 16 '19 at 7:57
  • Re. the terminology to look for, these are now often referred to as "case mitres" (AmE, "case miter") which will help a little on finding info on doing these by hand that would be worth your time reading. – Graphus Jan 16 '19 at 8:01
  • @NoobsArePeople2 I've heard that term, yes. I've never used one, but upon researching I see that a project I did last year might have benefited from cobbling up a jig instead of misusing a mitre box. For the best fit and finish, as Graphus says, planing is your best bet, though challenging. – jdv Jan 16 '19 at 15:30
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You can freehand the cut with a hand saw.

Start at one corner, carefully lining up the saw with your 45° angle mark, then slowly work into the cut. You'll want to cut primarily along the edge of the board to establish the angle, but also into the face so you're moving along the face while you establish the angle.

To help get the angle correct, you can use a speed square (or other block with an accurate 45°) to rest the blade of the saw against to get started. You can move the speed square along the face of the wood as you cut to maintain the angle if you find that helps.

As you're cutting stay a little proud of the line so that you can finish the cut with sandpaper to get precisely to your measurement if you need it to be that accurate.


You can plane it.

A simple block plane should make pretty quick work of this soft pine. An advantage of the plane is that you don't need to be precisely on a 45° angle until you're cleaning up and finishing the cut. If your hand wobbles a bit, it won't matter as long as you don't go so far that you're dipping past your "Cut Here" line on the face or past the corner on the back.


You can sand it.

It'll be slow and tedious and you'll go through a lot of sandpaper, but you'll get there in the end. It has a similar advantage to the plane in that your angle doesn't have to be precise until you're reaching a finished edge.

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    +10 on planing it. Even when done largely by saw these would invariably have been cleaned up by plane in the past (as almost all board ends were, regardless of angle). – Graphus Jan 16 '19 at 8:02
  • A 40 grit belt sander belt, stretched over a block of wood, will not be slow or tedious, is cheap, and doesn't need to be maintained the like a plane. – Abhi Beckert Apr 16 at 4:00
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To expand slightly on FreeMan's answer:

You can free chisel it - a wide chisel and a mallet with also work.

Extras - Generally, sawing and a plane is the quickest for a large board, and chisel with or without the plane for smaller work.

You mentioned a preference for Japanese saws. When cutting with a saw with a clean (non-rusted) blade, you can see a reflection of wood you are cutting. By watching that reflection as you cut, you can easily maintain the 45 degree angle by looking for an 90 degree angle between the wood and the wood reflection.

Take a peek at https://www.popularwoodworking.com/techniques/almost-forgotten-handsaw-tricks-2/ for this a couple other tricks.

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  • Wow, that's a seriously polished saw blade if you can see the reflection of the wood in it. (Either that, or I've only ever used cheap saws that don't reflect. Which is equally likely) – FreeMan Mar 31 at 15:14
  • I've always been able to see the reflection of the board in my pull saws. I just used the reflection trick to cut a compound mitre in order for a new bench to match the angles of the table legs it'll be sitting next to. I didn't expect it to work as well as it did, but i marked a 97 degree line with a knife, set the saw across it, and tilted the saw until the reflection looked like a continuation of the board. It matches the table legs perfectly! Now I just need to figure out the relationship between the horizontal plane's angle and the vertical plane's angle... – Brad Fair Apr 23 at 17:11

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