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We’re all about spending what’s necessary to buy a tool that’ll last, but we also know that sometimes a cheap alternative may be the only alternative. 

So with that in mind, we ask you: are plastic miter boxes — starting at just $5 — a decent option for someone just getting started?  We can’t imagine that they’ll last as long as a decent $35 metal one — or work as fast as a $100 powered version — but are they worth a Lincoln?

Let us know in comments.

Street Pricing (Plastic Miter Boxes) [Froogle]


21 Responses to Hot or Not? Plastic Miter Boxes As An Economy Option

  1. Greg Epps says:

    I’m gonna vote hot! In a cramped shop that also holds cars, the powered version is typically stowed under a bench or on a shelf. You can whip out the $5 version and cut that one peice of quarter round you forgot to install after redoing the dining room floor, or that 1 inch dowel that needs to be cut for a kids homework project. Maybe they won’t last as long as the $35 metal one, but I never had any problems with mine.

  2. mike says:

    let’s not forget those without shops or garages. when i was stuck in an apartment, a plastic mitre box on my balcony, accompanied by a cordless drill/driver, allowed me to build at least rudimentary projects without inciting hatred from the neighbors (and subsequent threats from the management)

  3. John says:

    I’ll say hot. It’s not the tool for installing crown molding throughout the whole house, but for quickie cuts, it’s a great tool. One suggestion I’d add is to have a good selection of clamps to hold the box down to the table/workbench/etc and to hold the piece in the box. What I ended up doing is attaching the box to a plank of wood to make clamping it to the work surface easier. Also might want to have a better crosscut saw, the one that came with my cheap plastic miter box couldn’t make a clean cut to save your life.

  4. theminor says:

    I too have been through the woodworking on a balcony of a tiny apartment stage. The plastic miter boxes can be had for next to nothing and do a somewhat decent job. They can be a bit inaccurate, but usually come close enough. Hot.

  5. Jay Kominek says:

    Hot. Just use the matching saw; it is more rigid than a random wood saw, and has a lip on the top that hits the top of the miter boxes and keeps you from sawing through them.

  6. Randy says:

    Hot enough for $5. Mine is a little bit wobbly due to some grinding on the sides by the saw teeth, but if it gets bad enough, I’ll replace it.

    At least at my local Lowe’s and Home Depot, I have not seen a nicer metal one, or I would buy it. Maybe I’m just overlooking them.

  7. Roscoe says:

    Very hot, for a few cuts, I’d rather add chair rail or 1/4 round in a room than lug out the power miter saw.

  8. james b says:

    I’m going to go against the prevailing tool heat and proclaim this not hot. When I was doing the front porch and/or balcony thing, a C-clamp was a better $5 spent than one of those boxes. They get chewed up fast and aren’t worth the space they take up. In combination with a C-clamp they are OK, but if it was one or the other, I would take a clamp any day and use a protractor to lay out the cuts.

  9. Myself says:

    Although the wooden make-it-yourself version works just as well, the right kind of plastic can be quite slippery and thereby resist binding the blade, which is great for inexperienced or ungraceful would-be carpenters. A spritz of silicone lubricant on the slots improves the effect, but the residue will keep stain or paint from soaking into the wood, so be judicious in its use.

  10. hj says:

    I’ll agree with the single (so far) not hot.

    There certainly are folks for whom this would be a decent tool (if you’re going to use it once or twice) but for what I imagine is the vast majority of readers here these are way too flimsy to be of much use.

    Too many people are comparing it to a power miter, and while it IS more convenient for quickie jobs, these plastic things have about a dozen or so jobs in them before they start to get crapped out. You’d be much better off with a good miter box (there WAS life before the ever-popular chopsaws that everyone has these days, and people DID hang molding) if throwing it away after a dozen or two uses is going to make you feel ripped off.

  11. James says:

    I have a cheap plastic miter box, which is also my first and only miter box. It’s not very accurate, but I have found it very handy for sawing small pieces that would be dangerous to cut with a power tool and where building a jig is overkill. (making a jig, for example)

    I have also used it for cutting non-wood materials, like plastic and metal pipes. I have even used it with a reciprocating saw to cut metal, since I do not have a metal cutting chop saw.

    Unfortunately, clamping is a pain. I’m going to take another reader’s advice and attach a base. Hopefully, it will make it easier to deal with.

    Meanwhile, I’ve been looking at Lee Valley’s miter boxes, like this one:


    Has anyone used one of these? Are they worth the $50?

  12. eschoendorff says:

    Definitely NOT hot. I was struggling with one of those POS plastic miter boxes until my dad let me borrow his old Stanley miter.

  13. ambush27 says:

    Its, definitely good value, but if you can get something better, do it.

  14. shot_in_the_head says:

    i’m with the “living in an apartment working on the balcony” camp of folks here – and i’ve gotta say i think both have their places – the plastic ones absolutely get the job done – almost as well as the higher-end ones.

    does it work as well as my dad’s stanley? almost, and for way the hell cheaper.
    will it last as long? doubtful. but hey, it was $5. win-win from where i’m sitting.

  15. Crashin says:

    I’m voting hot as well. I have one and would like to upgrade to a metal on at some point, but it does the job and I don’t have room or money for the powered version at this point.

  16. Mike says:

    Hot. There are definitely better options out there, but for $5, sometimes good enough is good enough.

  17. james b says:

    I’m going to weigh in again, this time with an alternative. I have a bench hook that I made from a couple of scraps in about two minutes. This is what I use for cutting dowel stock, and other parts that are too small to go in the chopsaw. It gets used for larger stock when the kids are sleeping upstairs as well, and works great. This doesn’t even require a clamp to hold it down, as long as you are using a normal saw; not a Japanese pull-saw. It is good for anything that would go into one of those plastic miter boxes and will keep the saw off the deck railing.

  18. Michael W. says:

    Cold. Find a decent wood or metal one at a tag or garage sale. Plastic ones are inexpensive because they’re cheap. They can warp very easily and look like cr*p almost immediately because the plastic gets torn up so quickly.

    Other than that they’re ok.

  19. Eric Corson says:

    I never could understand guys with chop saws in there garage and no other power tools, but always kept my thoughts to myself. I have a “helpful neighbor” who every time sees my sawhorse/s and handsaw wants to lug over his friggin cheapass delta homeowner chopsaw and extension cord. I prefer to save the space and commune with my old fashioned ways. I like to lay out my lines and clamp a guide then happily saw away, using both either hand saw or circlular saw. If I need perfect accuracy, I cut a little off the line and shoot off perfect with a wood plane!

  20. WardenStreets says:

    I’ve got a small corner of the garage to store my tools, and used a plastic stanley miter box for a couple years before buying my chop saw. It’s good enough for cutting window trim and light woodworking. Is it worth 5 bucks? Yes. Could you do a lot better for 35-50 dollars. Absolutely. I got my chop saw for 100 bucks at Lowes and I’m glad I did – but I know I got my money’s worth out of the cheapie miter box too.

  21. Mel E. says:

    Not hot, just to janky. If you already have a powered circular saw and a vise of some sort they just aren’t needed.

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