​​​​Alternatives To Buying A Mitre Saw

How To Cut Mitre Joints Without A Mitre Saw?

There are a few choices available to you that you can make if you have the need to make a mitre joint for any project that you might be working on. These are all options that do not involve any type of power tools, and you will have to all of the manual sawing yourself. These include:

  1. Doing it by hand
  2. Using a mitre box
  3. Using a precision saw (A manual operation)
  4. Hiring out a saw

So as you can see from the choices above you have a few alternatives to getting the job done, without the need to buy an expensive power mitre saw. Let’s have a look at these in more detail so as you know how to go about each of the above.

These are probably your best option if you only have a small number of cuts to do on a small project. There is no point in buying a powered version if you only ever plan on doing a few simple mitre cuts.

The Old Fashioned Way – By Hand and Measurement

This is the way that carpenters and joiners did this for years. It sounds really easy but the reality is that it is not. Trust me, there is a very good reason why they invented mitre boxes and saws. Trying to cut a 45 degree angle in a straight line through a piece of wood, needs a fair bit of practice and skill.

To make a mitre joint like this you need to be able to draw a 45 degree line on the two pieces of wood that you want to join together. For that you will need something like a protractor. Once that is done, then you need to cut carefully along the lines with a saw. Check out this video below to see how it is done.

Hopefully after watching that you will now understand why mitre saws were made in the first place. Clearly it works, but it takes forever to make a single joint. You can of course mark out a square and then draw a diagonal line to get a nice accurate 45 degree angle. That still takes a bit of time and if you have to make a lot of mitre cuts, that will really slow you down.

The biggest problem with this old fashioned method is learning to cut the lines perfectly straight. This takes a lot of practise to get right and most of us just don’t have the time to do that. There was a reason all those years back why a woodworking apprenticeship lasted 5 years.

Using A Mitre Box

the traditional mitre boxThe good old mitre box has been around for years, and in my opinion still will be for a few years to come. For someone who does not fancy the first idea I have mentioned above, you can skip out the tricky bits and just buy a box, with pre-cut angles.

All you have to do then is place the wood to be cut inside, and simply follow the cut outs on the mitre box.

These can be picked up at most DIY shops such as B&Q, Screwfix and Wickes for under £10. They are pretty useful if you only need to make a few cuts and are also easy enough to store away when you are finished. Just make sure that whatever box you buy is wide enough to accommodate the width of your piece of wood.

This is a very cheap solution and you can read more about mitre boxes here.

The Precision Saw

precision mitre sawThe first method is still a tricky business despite the guy in the video saying that it is easy. It probably is easy if you have done it a hundred times, but for the person who is new to this, or hasn’t done it for a while it is a pain in the rear end.

The mitre box I mentioned above works well and I have used that many times myself. Personally I don’t own a good quality tenon saw and just use a standard crosscut saw that I have in my garage..

Even with a tenon saw, trying to hold the wood in place, and saw at the same time can still be awkward and not that accurate. That is where a precision mitre saw can come in useful.

precision mitre saw


As you can see this comes with a small stand, a base that swivels and a saw that is built on guides. These are useful if you have a few small jobs to do about the house. They are also a lot more accurate than a mitre box or doing it all by hand. The big disadvantage of these is storing the saw away when it is not needed.  You can read more about them here.

Hiring Out A Saw

for rent sign for tool hireAs you know there are usually a number of places where a tool can be hired out for a day, a few days or even a few weeks. Many people are under the impression that all you can hire out at these shops are tools like cement mixers. The opposite is actually the case and you can just about hire out any type of tool you need from these shops.

They are also a lot cheaper than many people may first think. There are many such as the National Tool Hire shops.When I checked there last it was around £20 for a day to hire out a mitre saw and that included VAT and damage waiver insurance. So if you were doing some skirting boards in a room, then you should be able to hire one of these and get the job done in a day.

These are the alternatives to buying a power saw. At least you now how to cut mitres without a mitre saw and most of these alternatives are also cheap and affordable to do. If you only have a few cuts to do then just get a cheap mitre box. It is enough to do your job in most cases.

The manual or precision saw I would give a miss. It is expensive enough and you may as well spend just a little more and get a power saw, rather than fork out your money for one of the manual ones. They are a pain to store, they rust in damp conditions and unless you plan on doing a lot of cutting, then the smaller box will do.

Types of Mitre Joints and Cuts

There are a few different types of mitre joints. These need to be cut in slightly different ways. For example a 45 degree angle may be suitable for square frames, but a different mitre angle is needed for a rectangular frame. Likewise there may be times when you want a straight bevel. An example is if you are trying to join together skirting boards, and make a really neat job of it.

There are also times when you will need both a mitre and bevel, known as a compound joint. You can find out more about how to do this by clicking here.

Mitre Joints vs Butt Joints

It may not always necessary to make a mitre joint. More often than not a simpler butt joint will do. This is true if you are building stud walls or decking. I have done an article here, that explains the difference.

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