Whether you’re a hobbyist or a professional woodworker, miter and bevel cuts are two of the most common cuts you’ll be making for a number of projects. But what exactly sets these two apart?
There are two significant differences between a miter cut and a bevel cut. First, for a miter cut, the blade cuts through the wood vertically. A bevel cut, on the other hand, slices the wood at an angle. Second, miter cuts cut the wood at any angle besides a 90-degree angle, but a bevel cut follows a 90-degree, or straight, path through the wood.
It might be quite confusing for a beginner woodworker to understand the differences between these two cuts.
Below, I’ll dive deeper into what sets these two cut types apart, how to cut each, and how they are each used differently for woodworking projects.
Table of Contents
- What Is a Miter Vs. Bevel Cut?
- How to Cut a Miter vs. a Bevel Cut
- Miter Cut Using a Miter Saw
- Bevel Cut Using a Miter Saw
- Miter Cut Using a Table Saw
- Bevel Cut Using a Table Saw
- Bevel and Miter Cuts With Other Saw Types
- What is a Compound Cut?
- How Bevel and Miter Cuts are Used in Crown Molding
- When to Use Bevel and Miter Cuts in Woodworking
- Final Thoughts
*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 Miter Vs. Bevel Cut?
Miter and bevel cuts are similar in that neither uses a 90-degree angle to cut. However, miter cuts adjust the angle of the cut without changing the angle of the blade, but the bevel cut is the opposite.
For example, a miter cut may cut through the wood at a 45-degree angle, but the blade will be perfectly perpendicular to the wood. In contrast, a bevel cut will run through the wood from one side to the other completely straight, but the blade will be angled to 45 degrees rather than straight up and down.
How to Cut a Miter vs Bevel Cut
Making miter and bevel cuts is actually quite simple, which is good since woodworking demands these cuts quite often on a number of different projects. There are plenty of power tools that can be used to make these cuts.
You can cut both miter cuts and bevel cuts with a table saw, a miter saw, a circular saw, or even with a jigsaw. All these tools will help achieve the desired result if used correctly. Using woodworking jigs in combination with these tools can greatly impact the final result.
Let’s take a look at how to make these cuts using different tools:
1. Miter Cut Using a Miter Saw
Using a miter saw is one of the best tools for making miter cuts (as the name implies). It is simple to use and the results are great. When cutting a miter cut the blade needs to be square to the table. Use stop blocks for precise length.
- Unlock the table
- Pivot the blade and motor to the desired angle of the cut
- Make sure the blade is completely straight, or “square” to the table
- Secure the workpiece in place
- Make your cut
2. Bevel Cut Using a Miter Saw
There are two options for how to cut a bevel on a miter saw.
- First, adjust the angle of the motor and blade. Proceed in the same way as in the case of a miter cut. This time rotate the board and hold its face against the fence. This method is suitable for cutting short bevels.
- In the case of longer cuts set the miter saw blade so it is angled to the workpiece rather than straight up and down. The angle of the blade is usually set behind the miter saw handle.
NOTE: Remember, the cut material should always remain completely flat on the table. Therefore, the second method is more suitable to cut bevels.
3. Miter Cut Using a Table Saw
Using a table saw to cut miters is my preferred method, although there should be no need to use a table saw if your miter saw gives you accurate cuts.
To cut a miter cut on a table saw, you can either use the miter gauge a miter sled, or a crosscut sled in combination with a miter jig.
- Miter gauge: Set the desired angle on the miter gauge, hold the workpiece against it (either using hands or clamps), and make the cut.
- Miter sled: a miter sled gives always perfect miter cuts. Its strength lies mainly in the repeatability and precision of the cuts (usually at 45 degrees).
Making miter cuts with a miter sled
4. Bevel Cut Using a Table Saw
Making a bevel cut with a table saw is quite similar to using a miter saw since the blade makes the change in angle rather than your material or the table itself.
To cut a bevel cut on a table saw, you can either use the table saw fence, or again a crosscut sled.
- Table saw fence: The bulk of the material should be on the side of the blade closest to the fence, which you’ll use as a support to keep the material still and the cut even. This method is suitable for cutting thin long wood pieces
- Crosscut sled: A crosscut sled is suitable for cutting bevels on larger sheets of wood.
Bevel and Miter Cuts With Other Saw Types
Bevel and miter cuts can be made with other saws as well, such as a circular saw, or a jigsaw.
- When using these saws for making miter cuts, you’ll adjust the angle of the tool itself by using a speed square or any other straight guide.
- When using these saws for making bevel cuts, you’ll adjust the angle of the shoe (the tools have a tilting base).
However, these tools do not guarantee an accurate cut and are therefore suitable for fast cutting where precision is not needed.
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What is a Compound Cut?
A compound cut in woodworking is a type of cut that combines both a miter cut and a bevel cut in a single operation. It allows you to create angled cuts along two planes simultaneously, resulting in complex and precise shapes. Unlike a miter cut, which is made horizontally, and a bevel cut, which is made vertically, a compound cut involves tilting the saw blade both horizontally and vertically to achieve the desired angle.
Compound cuts are commonly used in projects that require intricate and decorative designs, such as crown molding, picture frames, and door trims. The ability to cut compound angles is especially valuable when working with materials that need to fit together perfectly, as it ensures seamless joints and professional-looking results.
To make a compound cut, you’ll need a compound miter saw, also known as a dual bevel miter saw. This specialized saw allows you to tilt the blade both to the left and right, and it can also be adjusted for various angles. Alternatively, you can use a regular miter saw and adjust the workpiece position or use jigs to achieve the compound cut. You can also use a table saw or a band saw to make compound cuts.
How Bevel and Miter Cuts are Used in Crown Molding
Crown molding is used to hide the seams where the wall and ceiling meet. Because of this placement, it requires the use of bevel and miter cuts. Here’s how to cut crown molding using bevel and miter cuts, also known as a compound cut:
- Set your miter angle to 31.6 degrees. This angle is specially marked on most saws
- Set your bevel angle to 33.9 degrees. Again, this should be marked on most saws
- Set your crown piece flat on the table with the top of the molding against the fence and cut
- Reverse your settings (left to right or vice versa depending on inside or outside cut) and repeat
When to Use Bevel and Miter Cuts in Woodworking
Miter cuts and bevel cuts are one of the basic and most used cuts in woodworking. They are essential for cutting crown molding, but when else are they used?
Why Use Bevel Cuts
Bevel cuts are commonly used to soften the edge of a piece (such as a table to remove sharp edges, for wear resistance, or for aesthetics), for wall trim, and for mating one piece of material with another.
Why Use Miter Cuts
Miter cuts are quite helpful in a number of general carpentry tasks such as rafters, trim work, and any other general task that requires an angled cut; this could be anything from building a picture frame to a birdhouse. Miter cuts are also used to make miter joints which hide an unattractive end grain in lumber.
Overall, miter cuts and bevel cuts are simple, versatile cuts that are the bread and butter of many woodworking projects. These cuts are easy to differentiate with the miter cut providing angles in the length or width of a piece and the bevel cut delivering angled cuts to the depth of the piece.
Frequently Asked Questions
How do I adjust a miter saw for different angles?
To adjust a miter saw for different angles, release the miter lock, rotate the miter gauge to the desired angle, and lock it in place.
What projects require compound cuts?
Projects like crown molding, picture frames, and door trims often require compound cuts to achieve seamless joints and intricate designs.
Can I use a miter saw for bevel cuts only?
Yes, you can use a miter saw solely for making bevel cuts by setting the miter angle to 0 degrees and adjusting the bevel angle as needed.
Can a compound miter saw cut bevels on both sides?
Yes, a compound miter saw can cut bevels on both the left and right sides, making it ideal for creating intricate angles and precise cuts.