Lee Valley Tools Woodworking Newsletter
Vol. 2, Issue 1
September 2007
Using Splined Miters in Frame-and-Panel Construction

A tight-fitting miter is an attractive joint; however, on its own, it has little strength. To improve its durability, try adding a spline to the miter. Splined miters are strong and handsome joints suitable for cabinet doors, picture frames and boxes. In this article, I will focus on making splined miters for cabinet doors.

To begin, joint and thickness the stock. Miters are somewhat unforgiving of wood that isn't straight and flat, so check your stock carefully. Cut the profile for the inside of the frame, which includes routing the groove or rabbet and the inside-edge profile. If you are installing a panel in the groove, check the fit, taking seasonal wood movement into account. You'll want to take the time to sand the inside profile now, since sanding is difficult once the panel is in place. When I forgot to do this, I discovered that sanding the inside profile against the panel is a chore. (The outside profile can be sanded later, after assembly and splining.)

Cutting the profile.
Cutting the profile.
  Checking the fit.
Checking the fit.

Next, cut the miters. You have a choice to make—you can either cut the stiles and rails slightly longer and use your table saw to trim them to final size after trial assembly, or you can cut the pieces to their final dimension and finish with hand tools later. If you select the first option, add 1/16" to the length of your mitered stock, so that during final trimming you're taking 1/32" from each side.

Miter-cutting jig.
Miter-cutting jig
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