How To Cut Angles in Woodworking

Mastering Corner Cuts in Woodworking

If you are planning to build anything out of wood – and you are not a wood sculptor – eventually you will run into building a corner. The mark of good cabinetry is the ability to make a truly square, flush corner. Furniture and cabinets with such corners not only look professional, but also are more secure and more likely to fit properly once installed.

There are many different ways to make corners – including biscuit joining – with each methodology having its own purpose and ideal use. While it is possible to make straight corners (corners made with the edge of one plane and the face of another), it is more likely that you will find yourself making angled cut or mitered corners. These are edge-against-edge joints with the edges expanded to increase surface area. These expanded edges make for a very stable platform and increased area for cementing, and for mounting attachment points such as tacks and screws. For about 75% of all of your corner cuts, you will likely be making a miter cut.

This article will explain how to make a miter cut for corner making, with and without a tabletop circular saw.


(Courtesy: Pixabay)


Making Corners When Using Power Tools

Modern tabletop circular saws allow the user to adjust the horizontal angle of the blade. Advanced models also allow you to adjust the vertical angle, allowing for complex angled cuts for crown moldings and other decorative pieces.

If you do not have a tabletop circular saw with an adjustable cut angle, a good place to find one is OVIS. OVIS is a family-owned business that carries a broad line of quality products for the woodworking professional, hobbyist, and homeowner.

To begin, you will need to set the cut angle. With the saw powered down, release the lock at the front. The cutting head is connected to a swing arm that is controlled by a spring-loaded lever. The lever is underneath a handle in front of the cutting head. Holding on to the handle with one hand, compress the lever. This will allow the arm to swing free.

Swivel the cutting head to the left or right while holding down the lever. Either above the cutting head or on the base, there will be a gauge indicating the angle of the cutting head. At the major cutting angles (45 degrees, 22.5 degrees, etc.) you will feel a click, indicating the blade has settled into a preset position. Move the head until the gauge reads the angle you are looking for and release the lever to set the cutting head.

For most corners, you will need a 45-degree cut that has no vertical bias. You should occasionally test your cutting angle with a speed square to ensure accuracy. Marking the planned cut in pencil on the wood using a speed square is also good practice.

Place the board underneath the blade so that the blade is just on the outside of the pencil mark. Use a stick or a piece of scrap wood to push the board against the fence. Hold on to the handle, and start the saw. While holding the board with one hand and the saw handle with the other, bring down the saw blade to make the cut. Keep the saw blade spinning until it has returned to its original position. Wait until the saw blade has stopped spinning before clearing the board and cuttings.

You will need to set up a reciprocal cut for the other board. You can do this by setting the saw up to make a 135-degree cut, or by flipping the second board upside down before making the cut. If you opt to flip the board over, you must be careful not to splinter your presentation side. Go slow and stop if it feels as if the wood may splinter or break.


(Courtesy: Pixabay)

Making Corners When Using Handheld Tools

If you go the handheld route, you have a couple of options. If you are using a handsaw, you can use a miter box. To do so, mark the cut using pencil with a speed square. Place the board in the miter box so that the marked line is aligned with the proper angle groove. Hold down the board, place the saw in the selected angle’s grooves, and slowly cut the board with full strokes. Set the other board for the reciprocal cut just as you would with a tabletop saw.

If you are using a handheld power saw, you will want to use a miter guide attachment. First, adjust the cutting wheel for the necessary cutting depth. Next, using a stick as a fence for the attachment, use the attachment to align the angled cut. For a 45 degree cut, you will want to use the angled edge against the stick. For any other angle, you will need to use the attachment’s outside edge, aligning to the attachment’s angle indicator. Clamp down the attachment and, using the attachment as a fence for the handheld saw, make the cut.

Regardless of what method you use, take your time. Measure twice, cut once. Wear your safety equipment, brace the board securely before cutting, and make sure that keep your fingers away from the blade’s path.

Understanding how to make proper corner cuts is essential for professional cabinetry and woodworking. If you intend to make furnishings that will look great, last a long time, and be stable, being able to make a mitered cut confidently is a skill worth mastering and consistently practicing.