We explain how to measure mitre cuts and bevels making sure that they are accurate. The easiest method for doing this is by using some type of power mitre saw. All mitre saws can make mitre cuts. However if you also need to make bevel cuts, then you will need a mitre compound saw which can also do bevel cuts as well as the standard mitre cut.

If you are skilled enough you can also make these cuts with a hand saw. There are also the options of a hand mitre saw which some users prefer. We will explain how to all of these below. Let's begin with the mitre saw.

Types of Wood Cuts that a Mitre Saw can make

A mitre can saw can make 4 different types of cuts in wood. We have summarised those below and then covered those in more detail below that.

  1. Cross Cutting - this is simply a straight cut at 90 degrees, also known as a perpendicular cut
  2. Mitre Cutting - this is a cut along the width of the material, which can be made at different angles, but will have a straight edge, and is used a lot when making the corners of a picture frame. The most common is a 45 degree angle.
  3. Bevel Cutting - this is a cut along the thickness of the material, which can be made at different angles, and will have an angled edge, and is used for tasks such as smoothing out the edge of a table to prevent having sharp corners.
  4. Compound cutting - this is a combination of both a mitre cut and a bevel cut.

Check out this very useful video, which shows each of the four cuts being made on a mitre saw, and why each of these are slightly different. The video also shows you how to do these so as you get accurate results every single time.

Now that you have watched the video, you now have the knowledge to know what types of joints you will need to be able to make. That should in turn help you decide which type of power saw you actually need.

Mitre Saws and Cuts

If you need to make a lot of mitre cuts then it is ideal if you own a standard compound mitre saw or a sliding compound mitre saw. Either of these saws can be used to make a basic cross cut, mitre cut, bevel or compound cut. if you need to make wider cuts, then you will need a sliding compound mitre saw. You can read the differences between a standard mitre saw and a sliding mitre saw by clicking here.

However, we want to explain the types of cuts these mitre saws can make in more detail.

Cross Cuts on a Mitre saw

This simply gets its name as you are cutting across the grain. It is without any doubt the simplest and the most common type of cut that you will make. This is a straight cut at 90 degrees and is almost always used to cut a piece of timber of wood to the right length.

Most people will use a normal hand saw for this purpose but you can also use a chop saw or a mitre saw with the normal 90 degree setting. Power tools simply take the effort out of manual sawing and will always be more accurate. There are many saws that can make this simple cut and those include table saws, band saws, circular saws etc.

Mitre Cuts on a Mitre saw

People buy mitre saws to be able to make mitre joints. Essentially, you have two pieces of wood that you want to join together, and you want the job to look neat and tidy. This type of joint is common in picture framing, framing doors and also for coving and skirting boards. The video below explains this very well indeed.

The mitre cut is used a lot for making picture frames, window frames and door frames. This is also a stronger joint than simply doing a normal butt joint. Mainly though it is used to give a more professional looking finish. If you don't own a mitre saw, you can also make this using either a mitre box or a mitre precision saw.

With these options you need to do the physical act of sawing whereas with the power version of the mitre saw, you just push a button and push the blade down. You can also use a circular saw and a square and that is commonly used on a building site, but generally that is for rougher work or for working with rougher wood.

Bevel Cuts on a Mitre saw

Bevel is a pretty popular joint that is used in wood working. Its main purpose is to remove hard edges and soften their look, and also to make them safer.
Think of the edge of a table and you will understand what we mean. It is classed as a decorative type of joint that is also very strong and will last a long time. These are mainly used in furniture and some cabinet making.

Compound Mitre Joint on a Mitre saw

These are used when doing crown moulding. They can also be used for a variety of other purposes. It is most commonly used in roofing work, and a good way to describe it is to think of times when two pieces of wood have to meet, but at different angles. There are jigs available that help make this a great deal easier.

They are also used for making boxes or containers that will have sloping sides. Sometimes it is just simpler to see this happen, rather then try to explain how these types of cuts are made. Check out the video below and you will see how they are made and come together.

As you can see if you buy a compound mitre saw, then you can pretty much do all the various types of mitres and bevels and combine those if you need to.

How to Measure Mitre Cuts for a Frame?

The most common use of a mitre joint is used for a picture frame. The mitre joint is where two pieces of wood need to joined together to form a 90 degree right angle. In a frame we will need four mitre joints, one in each corner. The first thing you need to do is calculate the size of the frame that you will need.

Start by measuring the size of the glass/photo that you want to surround with a frame. Next measure the width of the frame material you’ve chosen. Double that width and and add it to the length and width of the glass you want frame. Those numbers will be the length and width of your frame material. Here is an example.

Let's assume you are trying to make a frame for a 10 x 8" glass/photo. The width of the wood for the frame you are going to use is 1/2". You would then double the width to 1" and add it to the 10" length and to the 8" width. You would then cut 2 x 11" lengths and 2 x 9" widths. When you make your 90 degree mitre cut, the glass/photo would fit perfectly inside the frame.

How to Measure by Hand

Ideally a mitre cut is best made by using a power mitre saw. If you don't own or want to buy one of those, then a cheap mitre box and saw is the next best option. If you don't have one of those then you will need to mark out a 45 degree angle when you want the mitre cut and then make the cut using some type of handsaw. Some people prefer to use a protractor. You can read more about mitre saw protractors here.

  1. Mark the angle of the joint on the two pieces of wood.
  2. Use a protractor or angle-finder to make sure the two pieces match up correctly.
  3. Use a hand saw to cut the angle on each piece of wood. Make sure to cut along the marked line and at the proper angle.
  4. Once the cuts are complete, use a chisel and a hammer to remove any excess wood from the joint.
  5. Finally, use a file to smooth out any rough edges. This will ensure that the joint is secure and won’t come apart.

How to Measure for a Table Saw

  1. Measure the length of the mitre joint from the outside edge of the saw blade to the opposite end of the joint. This will tell you the total length of the mitre joint.
  2. Measure the width of the mitre joint from the outside edge of the saw blade to the inside corner of the joint. This will tell you the width of the mitre joint.
  3. Measure the depth of the mitre joint by measuring from the top of the saw blade to the bottom of the joint. This will tell you the depth of the mitre joint.
  4. Measure the angle of the mitre joint by measuring the angle of the saw blade against the miter joint. This will tell you the angle of the mitre joint.
  5. Measure the gap between the mitre joint and the saw blade by measuring the distance between the saw blade and the outside edge of the mitre joint. This will tell you the gap between the mitre joint and the saw blade

How to Measure Mitre Cuts and Angles?

Basic Mitre Angle Calculation

To calculate a basic mitre angle, to use the following formula: Angle = arctan(mitre length/wall length)

The mitre length is the length of the piece that is being cut and the wall length is the length of the wall the piece will be attached to. For example, if the mitre length is 10 inches and the wall length is 20 inches, the angle of the mitre is 26.56 degrees.

Basic Bevel Angle Calculation

To calculate a bevel angle, you will need to know the slope or grade of the surface you are working with. To calculate the bevel angle, use the following formula: Bevel Angle = Arctan (grade/100)

For example, if the slope is 4%, the bevel angle would be equal to Arctan(0.04) = 2.27 degrees

How to Measure with a Mitre Saw?

  1. Measure the material you wish to cut accurately with a tape measure. Always double check your measurements (check twice cut once)
  2. You then need to adjust the mitre saw’s fence so the blade will line up with the desired cut mark.
  3. We would recommend securing the material to the saw table with some type of clamp.
  4. Turn the mitre saw on and slowly and carefully lower the blade, making sure to keep your hands away from the blade while it is in motion.
  5. Cut through the material and double check your measurements. If necessary, make adjustments to the saw blade and fence to ensure accuracy.
  6. When you are satisfied with the cut, turn off the saw and unclamp the material.

Hopefully this has helped you understand the different types of mitre cuts that you can make, and how you can then create different jobs for different tasks.

These are the main types of joints that can easily be produced depending on which type of mitre saw that you have. Serious woodworkers, professionals and those who like to do a lot of work around the home will want to buy a sliding compound mitre saw. If you own one of these then you can just about make any type of mitre joint, on most lengths and widths of wood and other materials

It is worth mentioning that all of these joints can be made by hand. However that would honestly require many years of training and experience. It would certainly be outside the capability of most people. Measuring accurate mitre cuts takes a lot of patience and practise.

If you are new to DIY, then we strongly recommend using some scrap wood before beginning your main job. That will allow you to practise and get your confidence up. The good news is that once you understand the angles required and how to measure angles, then it does become a lot easier.

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