Highland Woodworking
Tool Review: Miter Trimmer
By Jeff Fleisher

Click on any picture to see a larger version.

There are some tools that perform a specific function and are not high on your tool list when setting up a shop, but then you get that "how did I ever work without this?" reaction once you have one. The Miter Trimmer falls into that category. The Miter Trimmer shaves the end of a board to a glass-smooth surface giving you a perfect miter joint. The obvious use is for making picture frames but it can also be used to trim molding to size.

As you can see in the picture above, the Miter Trimmer is a guillotine style cutter with two razor sharp blades. The trimmer does not cut a 45 degree miter but rather shaves them with paper-thin accuracy. You use a table saw or chop saw to get close to a final length and then use the trimmer to shave that last thousandth of an inch. You can 'sneak up' on that final size much more easily and safely than on a chop saw and the resulting surface is glass smooth.

The trimmer doesn't look very fancy but its massive cast iron body and positive, adjustable angle stops hold stock securely at any angle from 45 to 90 degrees. The two steel knives are razor sharp and skewed for a shearing action and hold the stock down during the cut. The blades are moved by a long cast iron handle which gives you tremendous leverage. Rack and pinion gears make the movement of the blades very smooth. The trimmer can handle a board that is up to 4" thick and 6" wide. There are two optional accessories, a Top Trim Attachment allows for cutting a 45 degree bevel (rather than a miter) and a Measuring Attachment that lets you repeat lengths from 4 to 28 inches, which is very important when picture framing. The following pictures show the trimmer setup with the measuring attachment in place.

I use the Miter Trimmer for two different applications which are picture frame construction and making molding for trim on furniture.

Picture Frame Construction

I buy precut picture frame molding from a local lumberyard in 14' lengths as shown here.

Below is what I want the final joint on all four corners to look like. I want the joint to be tight on both the front and the back. This requires a perfectly square cut that is extremely smooth.

Once I have my four pieces cut, I'll use corner clamps to hold them in place while the glue sets. I use Bessey Corner Clamps to get a nice, tight glue joint.

The first thing to do when making a picture frame is to figure out how long each piece needs to be. I'm making a frame for an 11" x 14" mat and glass so the inside measurement from one rabbet to the opposite side is either 11" or 14". To get the overall length of the piece I have to add the width of the remaining board as shown below.

In this case here it is about 1-1/4". This is the extra length needed at both ends of the board. I'll also add a little spacer to give the glass some movement and not be a tight fit....say 1/16". So my final board length for two sides is 16-9/16".

I'll make my first 45 degree cut on one end of each of the two boards and then take them to the Miter Trimmer and clean up the end. The overall length doesn't matter at this point since I'm just creating the first surface.

Now I cut the opposite end, slightly over-sized, on the chop saw. I'll bring the board down to final length on the Miter Trimmer. I set the stop on the measuring attachment at my final length of 14-9/16". By using the stop on the trimmer, I get an exact length on each of the two boards.

Next, I make my final, to-length, cut on the trimmer.

I found the cutting action to be very smooth and it has the same sound you hear when hand planing a board. Below is what the shaving looks like coming off the back of the blade.

Although it's hard to see in the picture, the end-grain surface is glass-smooth and you have a nice curled shaving!

Once this is done for all four joints it's time to put the frame together. The Bessey Corner Clamps pull the joint together really well and are very easy to use.

I like to glue-up opposite corners first and then put the whole frame together. Doing it this way is both easier to handle the individual pieces and I think it provides a more accurate glue up.

Below are pictures of the frame all clamped up followed by the final frame!

The Miter Trimmer gives me extremely tight miter joints which are possible because the opposite sides are exactly the same length and the joint surfaces mate perfectly.

Moldings in Furniture

I also use the Miter Trimmer to make moldings for furniture. For example, below is a chip carved keepsake box with moldings applied around the front and sides of the lid. I use moldings here because I want the edge to extend down and cover the seam between the top and side of the box.

Here is a sample piece of molding (not the same as used on the box) that I've made at the router table. The Stanley Anniversary Tape Measure is included to give you some scale as to the size of the molding.

Using the Miter Trimmer I can easily make my miter joints so that I get a nice, tight fit.

What is nice is that I can get either an inside or an outside 90 degree corner depending on how I want the molding to fit. This is much like the inside and outside joints you would have with floor board molding.

If you do a lot of picture framing or molding work then I highly recommend you purchase this Miter Trimmer. The cast iron body makes the tool extremely rugged and the shearing action of the large blades makes creating fine shavings very easy. Once you have one you will be saying to yourself, "How did I ever live without it!"

Click here to find out more and purchase your own Miter Trimmer from Highland Woodworking.

Jeffrey Fleisher has been a woodworker for approximately 20 years and a professional woodworker for the past 6 years. He is the president of his local woodturning club, the Woodturners of the Virginias and past president of the Northern Virginia Carvers. You can see some of the furniture he has made at www.jeffswooddesigns.com. He can be reached by email at furnmkr@gmail.com

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