Before deciding on which mitre saw you need it is important to understand the types of cuts that it can make, and then how those cuts turn into a variety of joints that you can use. There are really only four basic types of cuts that a mitre saw can make. These are:
- Cross cut – this is simply a straight cut at 90 degrees
- Mitre cut – 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
- Bevel cut – 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 the edge of a table to prevent having sharp corners.
- Compound cut – 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.
For the basic cross cut and mitre cut, all you will need is a compound saw. If you need to be able to make bevel cuts, then a compound mitre saw is all you will need for those as well. These are by a very long way the most popular options available in the market. It is this type of saw that will do most jobs for most people.
Then finally, if you need to make longer cuts, then you will need a sliding compound saw. Let’s look at that in just a little more detail.
Cross Cutting Explained
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.
When Do You Use A Mitre Cut?
Essentially you have two pieces of wood that you want to join together, and you want the job to look neat and tidy. The video below explains this very well indeed.
This 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.
You will have noticed in the video that the guy uses either a mitre box, a hand mitre saw and then a power version, but essentially they all do the same job. With the first two options you need to do the physical act of sawing whereas with the power version, you just push a button and push the blade down.
He also uses 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. If you would like to see how to cut mitre joints without a mitre saw, then please click here.
Bevel Cuts Explained
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 I 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 Joints
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.
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.
However if you have some sort of help in being able to make the joints, than all you really have to do is figure out what type of joints you use in what situations.
The straightforward cuts are easy enough and a mitre is used to create a nice finish without any edges showing. Bevels are used for a neat finish, but also to give added strength.
One main use for these is for example joining large pieces of skirting boards together. A butt joint would look bad, whereas a good bevel joint will make the joint look seamless.
Mitre Joints vs Butt Joints
Quite often people use mitre joints when a simple butt joint will do the job perfectly well. I have done an article on butt joints which you can read. Mitre joints should be used when a neat professional finish is required. For rougher work, or for work that will be hidden, the good old fashioned butt joint will do the job.