Handy Tools – Miter Jack

In late 2017, I bought a miter jack, thinking that I would need to be making some 45 degree miters for the box swap in early 2018. Since then, I've changed my plans for what I'm going to build (I got better at dovetails, mostly) and might not be doing miters, but figured that I would play with my miter jack a little before I get started on the box construction for the swap. After all, who doesn't enjoy a little procrastination?

For those who aren't familiar, a miter jack is basically a vise with angled jaws. I've read of ones that have both 45 and 60 degree angles, but the one I found on eBay just had 45 and 90. That's probably just as well. I don't plan on making hexagonal boxes. And the 90 will mean I don't have to dig out my shooting board as often.

Workbench with miter jack, plane, back-saw, holdfasts, and a mitered corner

While waiting for oil to dry on another project in February 2018, I set it up and took it for a spin. I clamped a piece of ½”x6” poplar in the jaws, got out my jack plane (pretty sure the jacks aren't related) and started removing wood.

Jack plane on miter jack, planing a miter

It works pretty well. One thing I need to watch out for is some spelching if I don't chamfer the far end, but that mostly gets trimmed away when I get down to level with the jaws. The other is that if I'm not paying attention, I can end up planing off a bit of the miter jack, which might change the angle from a perfect 45°︎ over time. Shouldn't be too tough to avoid though, and I can see where previous owners have dinged up the jaws a little.

Mitered end on a board

But if I do my part, it looks like creating near-perfect miters is pretty easy. Here are my two test pieces of poplar, just standing up next to each other on the bench. That's a good enough miter that I should be able to make a nice box corner with almost no extra tuning. And while it's basically just another configuration of shooting board, having it be a vise means that I don't need a bunch of extra hands to hold the piece I'm working on.

Mitered corner

Finally, my square says that's 90 degrees. It's just the photograph that looks a little off because of the extreme close-up.

Bob Summerfield wrote a good post on sharpening a saw for use with a miter jack.


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