What’s a Miter Square?

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A miter square is a tool used to mark angles for making miter joints, typically consisting of two 45° angled pieces of material. Some miter squares are adjustable for other angle measurements. They can be made of steel, aluminum alloys, wood, and other materials. A folding miter square is portable, but accuracy is important. A Japanese miter square is used to set up saws to cut 45° angles.

A miter square is one of several types of squares. This tool is used to mark the angles to make a miter joint. An oblique joint is a corner joint, usually made by bringing two ends together at 45° angles. Generally, carpenters use miter squares, but they can be used in any procedure where a worker needs to measure an angle. Some miter squares only measure a 45° angle, while others are adjustable for other angle measurements.

Typically, a miter joint consists of two 45° angled pieces of material that come together and create a 90° angle. A common example is a picture frame. Some miter joints need to have different angles, like a hexagonal frame. An adjustable angle square is useful for accurately measuring trim for projects where the angles may not be a perfect 45°. An example of this is older homes where the walls aren’t perfectly square.

One person uses a fixed 45° oblique square by placing the straight edge against the long side of the board and then marking the board along the angled edge of the square. Many houses have a fence or overhanging edge that secures the box tightly against the board. The adjustable horns have an arm that rotates to the desired angle. One person holds the straight edge along the board as a fixed oblique square and rotates the angled edge to the desired angle tick mark. For example, if a person wants a 65° angle, he lines up the 65 mark on the edge of the board; the resulting angle will be 65°.

Manufacturers sometimes combine miter squares with framing squares, test squares, or common squares for efficiency. They are made of steel and aluminum alloys, wood and other materials. The best squares are made from the strongest materials because they are least likely to warp and lose accuracy. Accurate measuring helps ensure the tightest join.

Some companies offer a folding miter square that is conveniently portable. When purchasing a folding square, a buyer should check to see if it holds a corner tightly or if it slips. It is important to have accurate measurements, otherwise the quality of the project will suffer.

A Japanese miter square looks like an oversized frame. This box-shaped square has 45° angles on both ends. Carpenters use it to set up saws to cut 45° angles. The square has no gradation marks because it only makes a 45° angle.

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