How much do you know about cutting angles? Have you ever had to use a square (which is really a triangle) in order to measure and mark your angles? When you use a miter saw, it is actually designed to measure and then cut at a specific angle for you.
Most miter saws allow you to adjust the angles up to a certain amount. In most cases, the angle that you need will be 45 degrees but this may not always be the case. However, 45 degrees is the most common angle.
The miter saw is a really great tool for cutting angles if you just know how to use it properly. Follow the tips in this guide to help you through the process.
What Types of Cuts Will a Miter Saw Make?
The miter saw is relatively easy to use. It’s actually designed to make angled cuts so it makes cutting at 45 degrees or any other angle pretty simple. While it’s known for cutting angles, it will cut several different types of angles.
The miter saw will clearly make miter cuts but that is not all that it is good for. If you need an angle that is within the allowable angle range of a miter saw, you can cut it. These are the 4 basic types of cuts that a miter saw can make.
- Miter cut
- Bevel cut
- Cross cut
- Compound cut
The most common types of cuts that most woodworkers make are the miter cut and the bevel cut. In this particular guide, we are focusing on the bevel cut.
What is a Bevel Cut?
A bevel cut is basically an angled cut but the angle is specific to the edge of the board. The majority of bevel cuts are 45 degrees, much like the angle we are discussing in this guide. Bevel cuts look nice because they cut at an angle but they don’t’ take away from the forward-facing piece of the material.
This allows you to cut at an angle so that pieces can fit together but it doesn’t give you any rough edges or leave behind any evidence of the cut and joint when you piece those edges together.
They will almost fit together one over the other when you join the pieces, giving you a smooth transition. They are attractive but the real reason people like the bevel cut is because it actually adds strength as well.
If you cut trim or crown molding, the bevel cut is probably what you will use the most. Of course, the bevel cut can be used for plenty of other things too, this is just a common example.
What is a Miter Cut?
Miter cuts are also at an angle. In fact, if you have a compound miter saw, you be able to cut a miter and a bevel at the same time. That’s what a compound cut is.
The miter cut is what the miter saw is named for. As we mentioned earlier, that’s just the beginning of its capabilities.
Just like a bevel cut, a miter cut is also made at a 45-degree angle. The difference between the two is basically just how you place your material on the saw. With a miter cut, it’s angled across the face of the board.
Miter cuts are also popular for trim and crown molding and really for similar reasons to the bevel cut. It’s clean and your ends will fit together like a puzzle.
Take a look at this diagram from House Grail for the directional difference of the cuts.
See how the miter cut is diagonal on the entire surface while the bevel angles back from the face of the board? This is how those cuts are set apart.
Regardless of the type of cut, they are both at 45-degree angles, which is why we have touched on each of the types of cuts for you here. We will share the process for both of these as well.
How to Cut a 45-Degree Bevel Cut
Let’s start with the bevel cut. While miter cuts and bevel cuts are both 45 degrees, they clearly require different processes so we’re going to talk about both of them. The process may differ slightly if you have a standard saw or a compound saw so we will try to touch slightly on this as well in the steps.
Follow these steps to make a 45-degree bevel cut.
- Take your measurements and mark your board appropriately before you make the cut. Measuring and marking should help with accuracy so don’t skip this step.
- Place your board on the saw and line it up.
- With a miter saw, you will place the bottom edge of the board against your fence at an angle. It doesn’t lay flat in this case.
- With a compound miter saw, you will place the flat side of the board flush against the saw, or you will place the flat side facing up. Push your bottom edge flush against the fence.
- Set the angle of the miter saw to 45 degrees. Most miter saws have specific adjustments for the angle so follow the directions of the saw for the angle.
- Before turning the saw on, pull the blade down towards the wood as a test and just double-check that they line up properly.
- If everything appears to be in order, power up the saw and let the blade come to speed. Make sure your board is securely held in place, pull the saw blade down and make the cut at a steady pace.
There you have it! A simple bevel cut at a 45-degree angle. The hardest part was adjusting the saw really.
How to Cut a 45-Degree Miter Cut
Ok so now let’s cover the miter cut just to be thorough. Follow these steps to make a 45-degree miter cut with your miter saw.
- Measure your materials and mark them appropriately to know where you need to make your cut.
- Place your board flat on the base of the saw and push the edge flush with the fence on the miter saw.
- Adjust the saw to a 45-degree angle on the head of the saw. You might need to follow the instructions for the saw to make this adjustment. Usually, there is a handle or a lock that you can move to tilt the head of the saw and the blade to 45 degrees.
- Once you’ve adjusted your angle, be sure to lock the blade into position.
- Do a test pull first. Without turning the machine on pull the blade down and make sure it lines up with the place it should on your material.
- If necessary, make any adjustments here.
- Now, you can power on the saw. When the blade comes to full power, lower it down to make the cut.
There you have a 45-degree miter cut!
The miter saw is specifically designed to make angled cuts so adjusting the saw and preparing to make a 45-degree cut is a fairly simple process. If you follow these tips and guidelines, you will have beautiful angles with very little effort!