From where I stand, the Lion Miter Trimmer from Pootatuck Corporation makes the standard miter box obsolete. It’s accuracy is unmatched by a standard miter box plus it cuts miters, bevels, rounds, compound miters, square ends and chamfers.
The Lion Trimmer is a lever (rather than gravity) operated guillotine whose in-feed table can be adjusted from somewhere just outside of square to somewhere just inside of 45 degrees with positive stops at 45 and 90 degrees on both cutting areas. This guillotine action provides a razor-smooth cut rather than the sawn cut from a standard miter box. Part of the reason for the tool’s great accuracy is that its bed is a single massive casting, one of eight carefully machined, cast-iron pieces. It comes with honed razor-sharp knives ready to use. Its 90 and 45 degrees stops have been carefully preset at the factory. Pootatuck’s thorough instruction guides contribute to our ease in using their tools accurately, though the design is so “right” one can almost operate it intuitively.
The technique for its use is to cut the piece roughly to length at roughly whatever angle you want, and then to trim off a 65th or less at a time, until its fit is perfect.
I clamp the trimmer to my work-bench when I need it, and store it out of the way the rest of the time. In a framing shop, or other shop where the tool is in constant use, it might be more advisable to screw or bolt the tool to the table to keep it from moving. This makes operating it accurately much easier. Though if you use it as a trimmer rather than as a chopper, the lever action is quite easy even without the clamping. I have, on occasion, chopped through some heavy stock that required all my strength and all my weight (between them considerable – even though I don’t claim to be terribly strong), but that is not really the correct way to use this device.
My trimmer is now seven or eight years old and despite regular use, the tool has shown no special need for sharpening. When it does, I will leave that sharpening to the manufacturer. They charge only $50 for a re-grind, including return shipping charges, and give one-day service by keeping the irons they are sent and mailing a sharpened, matched set from stock. And I’m sure they will do a better job of sharpening them than I am likely to do in my own shop.
Pootatuck also offers excellent attachments for its trimmer. When I bought my machine, a measuring attachment was available. It extended the cutting channels by nearly two and a half feet, and with a little judicious use of spring clamps, one could set a length for precise repeat operations. That attachment has changed little in price over the years. When I bought one recently, I was pleased to note that it now features a stop block that can be screwed into place, and one can use it to walk the piece being cut into the cutter-head in such minute measure that it is a real aid to achieving micrometer-like precision.
Apparently, good sales of the attachment have led to another very desirable change, this one in the trimmer itself. The measuring attachment is held in place with a couple of wing nuts on the main trimmer. Older models – like mine – require turning the trimmer on edge to apply the measuring attachment. The newer ones have threaded holes so the bolts to which the wing nuts attach the accessories are permanently screws into place. I love that!
Another new accessory is the top-trimmer – it is the device one needs for cutting mouldings whose outside edges are tapered, hollow, or curved. The top trimmer clamps on the gauge when it is set at 90 degrees, and it holds the moulding at 45 degrees up from the bed; the moulding can then be cut with the blades first coming in from the top, not the side, with the bottom of the moulding pushing against the gauge, rather than the back of the moulding, as it would without this accessory. I also have a vision of using this jig to cut the compound miters to make a perfect-fitting persons table, without some of the complexities that piece might otherwise require.
Interestingly, I have seen no degrade in the tool from one production run to the next. The Pootatuck people don’t appear to be ready to cheapen their product to achieve any sort of false economy. (Would that some other manufacturers would follow their lead…) If anything, there have been some real improvements. This is one of precious few tools about which I can say I’d rather have a new one than a new copy of the 1920 model.
If these comments have not convinced you that a Lion Trimmer would be great in your shop, seek out someone who has one, sample it, and you will be convinced. Everyone I know who has one has probably “sold” at least one: I bought mine on the basis of a friend’s, and when we brought mine to high school one evening for a project we were working on there, the head of the industrial arts department was so impressed that he ordered one for the school; that one has surely sold at least several others. If you’re in the market for a precision miter box, be sure to sample the Lion Miter Trimmer.