General Uses of A Mitre Saw

On this page I would like to cover off the main uses that you can get from your mitre saw. There are plenty of them, and if you are new to woodworking, then it truly opens up a whole new world of tasks that you will now be able to accomplish. We shall start with the basics and then work our way through the different types of cuts and joints that you can make.

Making The Basic Cross Cut

cross cut in sawing

A simple cross cut

A cross cut is simply a straight or perpendicular cut against the grain, and is without any doubt, the one that you will use the most often.

This is used to cut lengths of wood or timber to length, or to leave you with a nice square end on your wood. It is the most basic of cuts and is widely used. In the image to the left you can see a typical cross cut.

A rip cut is a cut along the grain, and this is usually done on either a band saw, a table saw or with a circular saw.

It is a cut that is usually made to create various strips of wood, or to cut large pieces of wood into thinner pieces. A mitre saw is not used for that purpose, and almost always a table saw will be used.

The Basic Mitre Joint

After the cross cut, the most popular use of your mitre saw will simply be to cut a basic mitre joint. I have shown an image of a simple mitre joint below.

image of a basic mitre joint

As you can see this allows two pieces of wood, going in the opposite direction, to be joined together. This is achieved by cutting an angle that allows the two to be joined together without any seams. The most common angle for a mitre is 45 degrees, and on most saws, this will be a pre-set on the saw itself. This is also a simple joint to make, and is used widely for making door frames, window frames and picture frames.

It is also used on skirting boards to make both inner and outer joints, and you can read more detail about how to do that here.

This type of joint can also be made to make hexagonal or even octagonal framing by simply cutting the pieces of wood at different angles. To make hexagonal the board need to be cut at 30 degrees, so as when the two boards join you for a 60 degree angle. For octagonal you cut at 22.5 degrees to for a 45 degree angle when joined. This allows you to make different styles of frames.

The main purpose though is that you make a nice neat joint, and most importantly, none of the edges of the wood are showing when you have finished. the alternative to this is to make a straight joint, often referred to as a “butt joint.” That type of joint is fine for work that will be covered up, but would not be suitable for framing, or any type of ornate work.

Making The Mitre Joint

When the wood has been cut, then typically these are then glued together. For additional strength some people will use small panel pins to hold them together. More often that not, though the glue will be strong enough to do the job. You can, when you get some experience add keyhole cut outs and pop ins at the rear of your joint. That however is a pretty advanced technique and will not be required by most people.

Here is a great video on how to make butt joints, pocket joints and mitre joints. I found this one to be very useful, in terms of explaining the three basic, but completely different joints.

As you can see from the video above, these really are all very basic joints. That said, it is always good advice to practise on some old wood until you are confident enough, to be able to make these look really neat and tidy. That will make whatever project you are working on, look professional and well made when finished.

For almost every person who buys a mitre saw, these two joints, the butt and the basic is what you will use your saw for about 90% of the time. That is why I suggest to most people thinking of buying a mitre saw, to simply go for a good quality basic saw.

Making Bevel and Compound Joints

Now a basic version of a mitre saw will not do these joints and you will have to go for the compound version. The reality is that these type of joints are not used that often. Here I will show you what they are, and you can then make your own mind up, if you will ever need to use them.

Bevel joints can be used for joining or splicing two pieces of wood together. Below I have included a video that shows you how to do a spice joint. This is an ideal joint for joining something like two long pieces of skirting board.

Some people would simply choose to do a standard butt joint to achieve this, but I think the bevel type of joint just looks a whole lot better. It is certainly a great deal better looking to the eye as it has a much neater finish.

The More Complex Compound Cut

This one is certainly more tricky and is so easy to get wrong. If you want to get this one right, it will take quite a bit of practise. Let’s have a look at how it is made, and you can then decide. It is complex because you have to cut both a mitre and a bevel at the same time. The good news is that I personally seldom ever have to make or use this type of joint. Here is a video that shows it being made.

As I already mentioned, there are not that many cuts where you will use these type of complex cuts or joints. That said, should you want to practise those, then after a few attempts, you will be well on your way to mastering all of the different uses for your mitre saw.