Whether you’re becoming a professional woodworker or want to expand your DIY knowledge, there are 4 types of woodworking cuts every woodworker should know how to make.
The essential cuts a woodworker should be able to easily cut are rip cuts, crosscuts, miter cuts, and curve/circle cuts. These cuts are simple but incredibly useful in various woodworking projects.
There are multiple methods how to make these cuts. You don’t need to have a large workshop with a lot of power tools in order to make those. The most common tools for making these cuts are a table saw, a circular saw, a band saw, and a jigsaw. Each of them is more suitable for a certain type of cut.
Below, we’ll find out what these types of cuts are, how they’re cut, and what they’re commonly used for. This article focuses on how to make these cuts with power tools, not hand tools.
Table of Contents
*Safety is your responsibility. Make sure you know what you’re doing and take all necessary safety precautions while working with power tools. Safety comes first!
Always be cautious and careful when using any power tool.
What is a Rip Cut
A rip cut is a cut that slices along the grain of the wood, or down the length of the piece. This type of cut splits wood pieces in half, quarters, or more lengthwise so they are thinner than the original. This cut is similar to how an axe splits a log of wood down the grain, but it is smoother, cleaner, and more precise.
Together with the crosscut, these are the most common cuts you will make.
How to Make a Rip Cut
There are multiple methods of cutting a rip cut, most often using a table saw, a circular saw, a band saw, or even a jigsaw. Although all of these tools will help achieve the desired result, a table saw is the preferred choice to make a rip cut.
1. Using a Table Saw to make a rip cut
A table saw is truly the only really accurate method of making a rip cut unless the lumber piece is very small. For any length, you need a table saw with a rip fence. Make sure the fence is parallel to your blade. It definitely pays off to spend some extra time to get it right.
You should also never use your bare hands for this type of cut (sometimes the cuts are narrow and you should avoid having your hand too close to the blade). Instead, use push sticks or even a GRR-RIPPER/push block. These tools keep your fingers safely out of the way.
To make the cut, slide the board slowly forward along the spinning blade while applying gentle pressure downward and toward the fence simultaneously. This will keep the board perfectly steady so your cut will be precise and straight.
2. Other Saw Types
It might be difficult to make a straight and accurate rip cut with a circular saw or a jigsaw using the tool freehand. However, a straight-edge guide or a track guide will help you. There are many track guides available on the market, although you can build one yourself that fits your saw. The resulting cuts are very good.
If you want to use a band saw to make a rip cut, you’ll need to have a well-tuned saw with a wide blade to help with precision. It is almost impossible to make an accurate cut on a cheap band saw. Here, you will need a quality tool to get a great result.
Applications for a Rip Cut
Rip cuts are used to
- Narrow a piece of wood
- Cut multiple thinner pieces from one wide piece
What is a Crosscut
A crosscut is the most basic type of cut, and it’s used in virtually every project you’ll take on as a woodworker. Crosscuts cut across the grain direction of the wood, or its length. These cuts serve an incredibly basic purpose: cut a long piece of wood shorter or into smaller pieces.
How to Make a Crosscut
Crosscuts can be cut with any type of saw. Most woodworkers choose a miter/chop saw or a table saw since these produce the most precise results.
1. Using a Miter Saw to Make a Crosscut
Cutting a crosscut with a miter saw is very simple. All you have to do is follow these easy steps:
- Place the piece of wood firmly against the fence to keep it steady
- Secure the workpiece and make sure your hand is out of the way of the saw blade
- Release the trigger and slowly lower the blade
- Bring the blade slowly through the wood piece
- Wait for the blade to stop spinning before lifting it back up
2. Using a Table Saw to Make a Crosscut
Making a crosscut is equally simple with a table saw. There are two main ways how to make a crosscut with a table saw.
- Use a Miter Gauge
A miter gauge will provide nice cuts. Hold the wood steady while you work. Once it’s secure, make sure to let the blade speed up fully before starting your cut.
- Use a Crosscut Sled / Crosscut Fence
Use a crosscut sled for perfect 90-degree cuts. A crosscut sled will provide even better results than a miter gauge. If built correctly you will always get accurate square cuts. This is my preferred method of making crosscuts.
A table saw allows you to cut a wider piece of lumber than your miter saw blade may be capable of accommodating
3. Other Saw Types
Applications for a Crosscut
Crosscuts are used in almost every woodworking project you’ll take on. Here are a few examples of why a crosscut is needed:
- Your piece of lumber is too long
- You need multiple pieces cut from one long board
- You need to shorten the piece before performing other types of cuts (such as a rip cut)
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What is a Miter Cut
Miter cuts are any cut that isn’t at a 90-degree angle. The blade is perpendicular, or straight up and down, as it cuts the board to leave a straight edge. Most commonly, miter cuts are used for things like boxes and picture frames that have four corners and need exact 45-degree angles to connect together.
Miter cuts are sometimes confused with bevel cuts. Make sure to check this article to understand the difference between these two cuts – understanding the difference between a miter and a bevel cut.
How to Make a Miter Cut
Most saws can make miter cuts. For best results, you should use a miter/chop saw or a table saw.
1. Using a Miter Saw to make a Miter Cut
Making a miter cut using a miter saw is very simple. The motor and blade can be moved to any angle you need, and since it locks in place, it is very precise. Most miter saws have a positive stop at the 45-degree mark to make common projects easier. You’ll then make your cut just like you would with a crosscut.
2. Using a Table Saw to make a Miter Cut
If you’re using a table saw for a miter cut, the setup process is pretty quick. Often, your table saw can achieve better results than the miter saw if you have the right equipment. As in the case of crosscuts you can make miter cuts using a miter gauge or a miter sled.
- Use a Miter Gauge
In the case of a miter gauge, all you have to do is adjust the blade to the angle you need, hold your wood piece against it, and make your cut.
- Use a Miter Sled
If you commonly make 45-degree angles and don’t need many other angles for your projects, using a miter sled calibrated to 45 degrees can provide even more accurate cuts for a perfect result. Plus, it reduces the setup time required before you can make angled cuts on your table saw.
3. Other Saw Types
You can certainly use a circular saw or jigsaw for making an angled cut, but you’ll want to use a square guide when doing so. Unfortunately, saws other than the table saw and miter saw won’t provide the precision you need for most woodworking projects, but they can be used in a pinch for rougher construction projects.
Applications for a Miter Cut
Here are the most common applications for a miter cut:
- Making 45-degree cuts for things with four corners, such as boxes and picture frames
- Wall trim
- Crown molding
- Miter joints to hide an unattractive end grain of a wood piece
Curve Cuts and Circle Cuts
What is a Curve/Circle Cut
A curve or circle cut allows you to explore much more creative and aesthetic woodworking projects. A curve cut is any cut that doesn’t follow a straight line. A circle cut is a full circle rather than a partial curve cut.
How to Make a Curve/Circle Cut
There are two (three) options for making a curved or circle cut: band saws, jigsaws, and trim routers.
1. Using a Jigsaw
A jigsaw is typically the best choice for making curved cuts or cutting circles. This is because you can begin your cut anywhere in the piece, even if you don’t have an entry point. For best results, take your time to prevent the blade from flexing during your cut and causing some unintended beveling along your edges.
2. Using a Bandsaw
A bandsaw is a precise tool for curves and circles, but it does have limitations. For example, your wood piece must fit inside the throat capacity of the saw since you may need to turn the piece quite a bit to cut your curved line. However, it is the best choice for cutting curves into thick pieces of wood.
3. Using a Trim Router
I love using a trim router for cutting perfect circles. A router might not be able to cut wood as thick as a jigsaw or band saw but the result is great. In combination with a circle-cutting jig and the right bit, you can easily cut perfect circles.
Applications for a Curve/Circle Cut
Curved cuts are useful for more creative projects. Use curved cuts for:
- Cutting holes out of pieces
- Cutting curves
- Cutting waves
- Cutting relief pieces
The rip cut, cross-cut, miter cut, and curve cut are the main cuts you’ll be using for almost every woodworking project you take on. Once you’ve mastered these four types of cuts, you’ll be able to impress friends, family, and customers with the pieces you can create.
As shown in this article you can use different tools to make these cuts. There is no need to get them all. My recommendation is to start with a jigsaw and a table saw. You can add more tools to your workshop as you go.