Wednesday Woodworking – The Miter Sled

Last week I showed Heather’s canvas frame box and this week continues the painting theme. Heather has finished a few paintings and wanted frames for them.  Custom frames can be expensive as I discovered when we had one of her paintings framed.  Pre-made frames are a bit cheaper, but then you’re tied to what you can find on the shelf and they can add up if need one every month or so.

Heather’s pointed out a few times that I could likely make frames in my shop.

Well, I could if I had the tools and jigs needed to make them.  Likely I could make them  cheaper than she could buy them and the real advantage would be the design would be our own.  This ability to design and build our own frames to match her paintings is a compelling reason for this project – the miter sled.

Standard picture frame design relies on the 45 degree mitered corner.  It looks good and is a standard feature.  It’s also very difficult to cut accurately.  Most of my shop tools aren’t that accurate and most times my mitered corners don’t match and end up looking like something out of the scrapyard.  The solution is to build one of these:

The miter sled fits on the table saw to cut the 45 degree angle.  This isn't fully complete as it still needs a few more parts.

The miter sled fits on the table saw to cut the 45 degree angle. This isn’t fully complete as it still needs a few more parts.

I made this one using MDF as I wasn’t really sure if it would work on this saw and it’s the first time I’ve ever built one.  Also, I’ve never made picture frames before so I didn’t want to invest too much while I was figuring out how the whole process works.  If making frames really becomes something I do a lot, I’ll likely rebuild this with lessons learn out of birch plywood with hardwood for the rails.

The jig ensures that all cuts are precise and when mated together, form a perfect 45 miter in a 90 degree corner.  Here is my test piece:

A test corner cut from shop scraps.  It actually worked!

A test corner cut from shop scraps. It actually worked!

Turns out it was a perfect fit.

There are a couple of things left to do on the miter jig: Make a stop block, add a grove for the hold down clamp and put a light coat of varnish on it.

The other tools for framing I already have: Corner clamps, a router table, router bits, and various hand tools.  The next step is to make a test frame and then there is a backlog of about five frames to make.

There is one other jig I’d like to make for framing – a spline jig, but that is a project for another day.

If you need me – I’ll be in the shop


About Andrew Reynolds

Born in California Did the school thing studying electronics, computers, release engineering and literary criticism. I worked in the high tech world doing software release engineering and am now retired. Then I got prostate cancer. Now I am a blogger and work in my wood shop doing scroll saw work and marquetry.
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17 Responses to Wednesday Woodworking – The Miter Sled

  1. P.S. I opened the slider last night to toss out a leaf I found on the floor, and the cat was standing there. We had a nice visit. 🙂


  2. pommepal says:

    I know what you mean about the price of frames, I just can’t work out why frames cost so much. Possibly the money saved on doing one or two frames will pay for all the tools needed. Then you can go into business.


  3. vonholdt says:

    awesome jig andrew, i’m a big fan of your stuff! i’ve slowly been building up all the tools needed for framing myself. i used the 50% off coupon michaels puts out every month or so to get a logan mat cutter. i haven’t had a chance to play with that yet.


  4. authorjim says:

    I think you did a good job on the miter sled and, if it were me, I wouldn’t bother with making another on out of better material. Why? Because it won’t do a better job than this one. More durable perhaps but I’m betting this one will last as long as you need one. As for craft shows, it may be different in your area but, where I live, you are lucky if you can get enough for good craft work to pay for your materials and expenses. You get nothing for your time. I can do a little better with knick knack stuff that doesn’t take much time but, even then, by the time I haul the stuff to the show, pay for a space, and get set up I am doing it just for the fun of it. Keep up the good work.


    • Yeah, likely I just use this one till it falls apart or I get a new table saw. If I do sell my stuff, likely it won’t be at the craft show or the ‘art and wine festivals’ they do a lot of here. Tricky at best to make money there. If I do sell anything, likely it will be to people I know or through some on-line something. I know a few artists around that might buy some of my frames.


  5. Carrie Rubin says:

    Your talents never cease to amaze me. You could sell your wares at local craft shows. Or maybe you already do?


  6. Allan G. Smorra says:

    Nice solution, Andrew.


  7. I’ve spent a small fortune on frames, especially when my kids were growing up. This is a much better solution. I can’t wait to see the finished project.


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