Picture Framing Mitres


Help Support UKworkshop.co.uk:

This site may earn a commission from merchant affiliate links, including eBay, Amazon, and others.

Saint Simon

Established Member
19 Feb 2009
Reaction score
North London
Over the years I have successfully made lots of picture frames using the school table saw with a shop-made jig. But now in preparation for retirement, when I probably won't have such a saw, I am trying to repeat the process using hand tools only.
Preparing the moulding is fine but cutting the mitres is proving very frustrating. I've made a 45 degree shooting board but am finding using it very tricky. I cut the angles as close as possible by handsaw and then onto the board for finishing. Not very successful. Whereas with a 90 degree shooting board there is no force pushing the work-piece away from the plane this is obviously not the case with my flat mitre shooting board. I've tried applying sandpaper to the board faces to stop the wood moving but this makes feeding it through whilst planning very hit and miss.
Is it time for a mitre guillotine? Advice please.
My ex was a picture framer - I went through the process of setting up with her and took care of the machinery. She started with a Nobex mitre saw and an axminster mitre trimmer - that gave decent results but took time to trim it in just so.

Buying a morso guillotine was a proper game changer though - one cut no need to check straight to the underpinner. They are pricey but the good thin is they don't change, don't wear and if y9u're sensible and get a good 2nd hand unit you won't lose much/any on resale. I'm thinking of getting one to do the 20 mitred kitchen doors for my kitchen - then I'll flog it on.

You don't say if you use finished moulding but the guillotine will tend not to chip the finish unlike a saw.

How many frames do you envisage making? If it is just a few for yourself and friends, then perhaps a manual mitre saw is best. Nobex proman is quite good. I recently got an Ulmia 352 on eBay. They are about the best you can get but mentally expensive new. I got mine in need of heavy restoration quite cheap, though it was all complete. Look for one of those and you won't regret it; rock solid cast iron base and it cuts dead on upright and precisely to the angle it is set to. Avoid any DIY mitre saws, they are all horrible and inaccurate.

If you are doing lots of frames, then you can't beat a Morso. But they are spendy for a hobby. The small mitre trimmers, such as the Lion clones are good, the mitrs are very well cut, but length stops for repeat cuts are a faff. They are best used to trim the nearest amount off the mitre once cut with a saw, but getting all the lengths of frame moulding to correspond requires a bit if trial and error.

An electric mitre saw of good quality and a suitably high quality blade is a good option too, especially if you make a custom back fence with cut stops.

Mitre shoot will work though, if you make some sort of hold in to stop the wood moving backwards. A feather board will work, I'm sure you could make an effective mitre shoot and save yourself money.

Using your mitre shooting board, you might be able to clamp the workpiece in position. Unless it's a very plain moulding, you would need a "filler" piece to clamp square against​. Sometimes an offcut put the other way round can work.

Or else a mitre jack, as Corneel suggested, which clamps the piece in place.
I've never understood why the Morso machine isn't more popular outside picture framing. For most useful sizes of stuff, it can chop any angle you want precisely and with a finished cut that's second to none. It can shave off the tiniest sliver if required. The only quibble I've heard of is some say it's difficult to setup the blades when replacing / sharpening. Personally I've never found it anything but easy.......if you keep your fingers away from the extremely sharp edges!

I often see them come up secondhand for very good prices, especially if you can get in quick with a picture framing business that's closing down. I would highly recommend one to anyone doing pictures, and form of door framing, windows, panels, in fact anything that needs accurate repeatable angles cutting.
They are very useful in a joinery shop for bead cutting.

We have 2 and are used every day.

The last morso I bought was £380 from an ebay auction and included 1 spare set of blades. Its a bit old looking and a bit dirty, but works like a brand new machine.
For wider section framing, say greater than 40mm, I have used my track saw with MFT table top and Parf dogs. Very accurate.

I recently sold a Morso to make room for re-laying out the workshop. I'm missing it already! Buy a decent one second hand and you won't lose a penny when and if you ever decide to re-sell.

The advantage of a Morso isn't just the glass like cut quality, perfect mitres, and built in rebate support mechanism to prevent twisting; it's also the ease with which you get each opposite pair of the frame sides measured and cut to the absolutely identical length. Some of these benefits simply don't come with table top guillotines like the Lion or Axminster versions, if you're serious about framing the proper floor standing Morso is the way to go.

For occasional mitres for carpentry or cabinetmaking moulding trim using a shooting board is a reasonably practical option. But for the higher level precision required for good quality picture framing the hand tool routes need real skill (i.e. long hours of practise) plus an awful lot of tool fettling.
Another thought on mitre cutting.

I know some very accomplished woodworkers who use a disc sander loaded with self adhesive (so not velcro attached), fairly fine (say 180 or even 220 grit) sandpaper. I've seen their work and it's faultless.

The downsides are that it requires a fair bit of tinkering to get the mitre fence absolutely dead on, you may have to temporarily attach filler blocks to the fence to support the rebate on a picture frame (which then means two fences as a rebate support makes the fence "handed"), and working up to a knife line requires a lot of patience and trial fitting. So it's not the quickest way of getting the job done, but it's fairly low cost and if you're a careful worker the results can be excellent.