Using a Lion Miter Trimmer

A couple of weeks ago I posted on a Facebook page called “The Collectors of Antique/Vintage Tools” about a Lion Miter Trimmer I just restored. A few people in the group replied to my post asking what the tool did. I was surprised that so many people weren’t aware of this tool, that I decided to talk about it here.

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I’ve owned an AMT miter trimmer for over twenty-five years and love it. They are simple tools that were popular for people who made picture frames back in the day. You use it by swinging the arm pulling the knife through the piece of wood, slicing off perfect little curls precisely at whatever angle you set the fence at.

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The miter trimmer has fences on each side that can be positioned between 90 -45 degrees. There are adjustable stops at 90 and 45 that can be fine tuned with a screwdriver. Once you swing the fence to whatever angle you want, you tighten the wing nut on top locking the fence in place. As you can see in the photo, this machine also has layouts for 60 and 67 1/2 degrees.

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After fiddling with the machine for a few minutes, I positioned the adjustable stops precisely were they needed to be. As you can see, the stop is a little shy from the 45 degree scribe line on the bed. I’m not sure why this is, but the tool is probably over 100 years old, so it’s allowed to be off a little.

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You can see how the tool slices off perfect little shavings. When I was restoring the tool, I took the knives off and sharpened them on my Tormek using the Tormek knife jig. Before I sharpened them, the knives couldn’t cut butter.

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The main reason I love my miter trimmer is that it cleans up the cuts that are made from my miter box and saw. For safety reasons when doing delicate trim work, I like to use my little miter box instead of a powered miter saw.

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However, the saw doesn’t leave the wood with a nice enough cut.

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Not only that, the miter box doesn’t even produce a perfect 45 degree angle throwing the two pieces out of square.

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Here are the two pieces after they’ve been trimmed up with the miter trimmer.

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The proof is in the pudding here. All the joints fit nicely together and the frame is a perfectly square inside. No wonder why picture framers loved these things.

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Another good use of a miter trimmer is doing outside corners like attaching molding to a bookcase or cabinet. Here is a piece of molding that I cut with one of my molding planes.

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If I stick the piece in my miter trimmer and try to trim it up normally, you can see how the inertia of the cut pulls the molding off the bed. There’s simply not enough surface area in the front of the molding to keep the piece stable.

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The cut it produces this way is garbage. Not only is it not 45 degrees, it’s not even a straight cut.

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The way to get around this, is to take the body off a combination square and clamp it to the fence of the trimmer. Use a scrap piece of wood and cut a 45 degree angle to the end with the trimmer. Then use the cut as a gauge to accurately place the combination square under it. It’ll take a little time and a few test cuts, but once you have the combination square properly position, you’re ready to go. Note: You can buy an attachment from Grizzly for about $30 which does the same thing as this, but I’m not sure if it will work on old Lion Miter Trimmers.

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Now you can use the bottom of the molding to rest against the fence for support and make a perfect 45 degree cut.

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Repeat on the other side of the trimmer for the other side of the molding and you’ll get a super clean and accurate joint.

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Unfortunately, the website for the original Lion Miter Trimmer no longer works which makes me believe they are no longer in business. It’s a shame because the tool is truly an awesome piece of machinery.

14 thoughts on “Using a Lion Miter Trimmer

  1. It’s a great tool, my grandfather had one and used it a lot. I remember as a teenager him teaching me how to use it. When he passed, my cousin got most all of his tools. I go to a lot of local auctions and have never found one. Nice post!


  2. Grizzly sells one for about $225 you can buy on Amazon. I probably paid that much for my AMT miter trimmer about 25 years ago. I don’t know how the Grizzly compares to an original Lion, but my AMT works very well. If I was a betting man, I’d say the Grizzly and the AMT are and were made in the same Asian factory. I picked up the Lion at an antique show last spring. They are great tools.


  3. I have the Grizzly version, it is awesome. I use it to square picture frames. Note, left and right sides don’t need to be at the same angle as long as the resulting corner makes 90 degrees (or the final angle you are looking for). Cut the pieces 1/16th long and trim top and bottom to same length, and left and right to same length. Presto, perfect frame.


  4. David

    Just getting ready to list a Brand New in Box AMT Miter Trimmer that I picked up at an estate auction. Unbelievable amount of NIB tools this guy had all purchased in the late 80’s through mid 90’s. From reading your feedback on teh AMT I’m thinking this wont last long on Ebay.


      1. Curtis Waskey

        I love mine, wished I had purchased it years before I did. To the fellow selling this, I marvel at the items for sell from estates that the seller puts an unknowing price on. I once saw a thirty year old sears table saw that sat outside for twenty years listed as “the best money can buy, $800”. People need to be reasonable, not saying this seller isn’t. What some people think is a rare fine are just ordinary. But hey, sometimes it works the other way. Good luck..


  5. Ben Murray

    I have a miter trimmer that belonged to my father, a master carpenter. This is not a joke but the name on it is Bosch. I have cut countless miters on this machine and it still amazes me. Not sure what it is worth but to me it’s priceless.


    1. Bosch is a world conglomerate that started in 1886 by Robert Bosch in Stuttgart Germany so it’s possible that it’s the same Bosch as of today as they delved into many things over the years. Most antique miter trimmers are worth around $200 mainly due to the fact that most woodworker’s don’t realize their value, however once you use one, you know how valuable they really are. I still use my AMT miter trimmer I bought 30 years ago and absolutely love it.


  6. Luis T. Sanchez

    I just bought a Lion miter trimmer on ebay. It had a lot of rust, but it is cleaning up fairly well. It is a stout machine. I bought attachments at Rockler and new set of knives. As soon as I received it, I started cutting 45s. It leaves a mirror finish and the cut is dead on. I am building small boxes and starting on picture frames. I also bought a vintage miter saw for small detail work. Needless to say, I am having a blast.

    Liked by 1 person

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