Whether you are looking to build a simple picture frame or cutting crown molding, understanding the differences between bevel vs miter cuts will take your woodworking to the next level. This tutorial is written for beginner woodworkers looking to understand the difference between these two common cuts, making it possible to read woodworking plans and create beautiful projects.
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One of my most popular posts is my 2×4 barstools. The plans call for both bevel and miter cuts.
The two pictures below demonstrate a bevel cut vs a miter cut on a 2×4.
I will get right to it and show you how to set the angles on a miter saw, then follow up with some examples of each angle. Deal? I hope you get a better understanding after this!
Bevel vs miter: Setting the angles
A compound miter saw is your best tool to cut both bevels and miters. This is a version of the one I have. Mine is a sliding miter saw. Both are great, but the one below is less expensive. My husband got a deal on mine on a holiday sale. I really love it but sometimes I wish I had a smaller one, since most of my projects are from scrap wood and my big miter saw is kind of massive :).
The miter angle is set at the bottom of the saw. See that little black thingie sticking out at the bottom? Move it right and left and set your angle.
The bevel angle is set behind the handle. This makes the top part of your saw mobile. Once your angle is set, lock it in place and you’re ready to cut your bevel.
Bevel vs miter: The Cuts
I will use some 2×4 drawings to illustrate the difference in the cuts.
Bevel vs miter: Parallel vs Non Parallel
Sometimes plans will refer to parallel cuts vs non parallel. Don’t fret! Whether bevel or miter, this just refers to the direction of the cuts.
Bevel vs miter: Some Examples
If you are here, chances are you are new to woodworking. Perhaps you just bought your first compound miter saw (congratulations!) and you found a fun piece of furniture you want to build. However, you may be trying to read a set of building plans and -while scratching your head- are struggling with the angles.
Once of the most challenging things I faced when I started building was figuring out the difference between bevels vs miter angled cuts. At first, I actually thought they were the same, but I quickly learned there was a difference.
My first project using both types of angled cuts was my farmhouse entryway bench. The plans for this bench had both beveled AND mitered cuts, which made it clear there was a difference. It took some trial and error to get the angles right (thank heaven for scraps!), and when I finally got the hang of it, I realized I needed to write a tutorial and teach others who may be as confused as I was.
If you look at the photo of the bench, the four vertical pieces that make the legs have a beveled cut on each end, making the legs slant ever so slightly, instead just sitting straight up and down. A slight beveled angle makes a piece so much sturdier. The diagonal pieces in the center have mitered angles on each end. Can you see the difference?
I used the same concept to design my 2×4 barstools.
Notice how the legs slant out just slightly? It’s because of the 10 degree bevel on each end of the legs. The pieces between the legs are mitered at 45 degrees.
Bevel vs miter: Crown Molding?.
If you are installing crown molding, you get to combine bevels and miter cuts (lucky you!). That is what makes this a really complicated project. I installed crown molding in my little tiny powder bathroom.
I used this awesome tutorial from Sawdust Girl and I got it done!
What do you think? Are you ready to tackle your project? Any other tips I missed? Share them in the comments!
And be sure to pin for others who need help cutting angles! 🙂
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Janice Thomas writes detailed tutorials for novice woodworkers and DIYers. She also works as a university professor in the health care industry. Have a question for Janice? Feel free to send her a message here!