How Is a Bevel Cut Made on Wood

Donald Miller

There are several ways to cut a bevel in a piece of wood. One is to set the blade of a table saw at an angle and set up the saw’s rip fence to guide the piece of wood stock. (A table saw’s rip fence is an upright straight edge that helps guide the wood into the blade.

) Feeding the piece of wood along the fence will rip (cut with the grain) a bevel as the wood slides along the fence and through the blade. Using the miter gauge on the table saw is another way to make a bevel cut. In this case, the piece of wood is cross cut--made across the wood’s grain--rather than rip cut. As long as the table saw blade is tilted, the resulting cut will be a bevel.

Another means to make the beveled cut is with a circular saw. The circular saw is operated by hand so the cut may not be as precise as with the table saw. By using a square to keep the blade running along a straight line, and tilting the blade so that it passes through the wood at an angle, it is possible to make beveled crosscut with the circular saw.

A chop saw or a miter saw is another piece of woodworking machinery that will allow for a beveled cut in a piece wood. The blade can be tilted to the desired angle and a piece of wood stock held on the saw’s flat cutting surface. The operator draws the blade down onto or pulls the blade through the wood stock and the desired bevel is cut. Chop saws and miter saws are designed to make crosscuts, not rip cuts.

Skilled woodworkers can cut a bevel in a piece of wood with a hand saw, either a crosscut saw or the so-called "back saw." The back saw is a specialized handsaw with a rectangular, rigid blade and a reinforcing piece of metal along the top edge of the blade. The back saw can be used freehand but is commonly used in a device called a miter box, an apparatus designed to hold a back saw securely along a cut line. In this way, a more precise cut can be made than if the cut were to be done freehand. The miter box allows for setting the saw at different angles. A woodworker or carpenter typically uses a miter box to cut what is called a miter joint in a piece of wood. However, this is still an angled cut and, depending upon how the piece of wood is going to be used, this cut can be considered a bevel.

In colonial America, skilled craftsmen used hand planes of various kinds to shape the surfaces and edges of wood. Each plane had a special blade and configuration. One of these was designed to cut a simple bevel. These antique planes have largely become mere curiosities or collectors’ items now. Some purists and aficionados of old-style woodworking continue to use them for woodworking.