In this edition of Training the Apprentice, we’re taking a look at a couple of terms relating to mainly miter saws and table saws, though others are also part of the conversation: bevel vs miter. If you’re just getting into construction or woodworking, the terms “bevel” and “miter” might be unfamiliar to you. Not to worry, though. After just a day or two on the job, you’ll know exactly what we’re talking about.
Bevel Vs Miter: What’s the Difference?
A miter cut simply means that you’re changing the angle of cut from a perfect 90° cross cut or rip cut to a different angle across the top. The angle you’re cutting moves through the material from front to back since you’re changing the horizontal angle.
A common cut is making two 45° angles so that your material comes together to make a perfect 90° connection like when you connect two sides of a picture frame.
On a miter saw, you unlock the table and pivot the motor and blade to the angle you want to cut. Your material still lies in the same position no matter what miter angle you need.
Table saws usually include a miter guide that changes the angle of the material while the motor and blade don’t move.
No matter which saw or miter angle you’re using, the blade still cuts perfectly perpendicular to the table surface.
Conversely, a bevel cut allows the blade to tilt left and/or right from its 90˚ angle to the table surface in order to make cuts that move through the board at an angle from top to bottom. It’s a change of the blade’s vertical angle.
You might use two 45° bevels to bring a pair of baseboards together in a corner.
For bevel cuts, the motor and blade tilt to make the bevel rather than the material or table surface. The exception here is using a free-standing or benchtop band saw – these may have a table that tilts so you can cut a bevel. Circular saws, worm drives, track saws, and jigsaws can all make bevel cuts as well. With them, you’ll adjust the angle of the shoe to cut your bevel.
When we describe a miter saw as a “compound miter saw”, what we mean is that it has the ability to perform both types of cuts simultaneously. Combining a miter cut with a bevel cut is called a compound cut and you see it on more complex installs like crown molding.
Getting a miter saw that bevels both left and right (a dual bevel saw) saves a lot of time since you don’t need to flip the material to make your second cut. Rails allow your miter saw to slide back and forth to have a longer cut. When you see a “dual bevel compound sliding miter saw”, it means you can bevel left and right, miter, and slide – it’s the ultimate in versatility for cutting angles.
Technically, a table saw can also make compound cuts, but this isn’t as common on a job site as using a miter saw for them.
So there you have it – when it comes to the bevel vs miter cutting conversation, you’ll know exactly what Pros are talking about. No matter what kind of saw you’re using, grab some scrap material and make a few cuts of each type to see what kind of results you get. Before long, you’ll be making imperfect walls look like a presidential palace when you install crown molding, baseboards, and chair railing that are a perfect fit!