A few days ago I was looking at my wall in the lobby and something was missing. It’s a nice painting that would do great on that wall. So I started thinking and researching how to use my table saw to cut angles to make a picture frame. And man, I found a lot of useful solutions!
How To Cut Angles On A Table Saw?
There are two ways to use the table saw to cut angles:
- Tilt the saw blade to create inclined board edges (bevel cuts).
- Use the miter gauge or a miter jig to create tapered boards (taper cuts).
Here’s a cute graphic I’ve made to show you the difference between a bevel cut and a taper cut:
I’ve already shown how to use a table saw safely and accurately in this article. So go ahead and prepare your workspace according to the steps presented in the above-mentioned guide.
Once you’ve unplugged the table saw, grabbed the protection glasses, earbuds, and the push stick, it’s time to align the blade. For taper cuts, the table saw blade needs to be square to the table, while for bevel cuts you need to adjust its angle.
So let’s start with the adjustments for the taper cuts, and then learn how to make bevel cuts.
Taper Cuts Guide
A tapered cut is a rip cut along the board, at an angle to the board’s edges, rather than parallel to them. Taper cuts are often used in woodworking to make picture frames, or table or chair legs that get more slender from top to bottom. You can check your wooden chair or table at home and I bet it has this kind of legs.
I’ve learned to make taper cuts when I was working on my painting frame. You can’t have nice looking 90-degree angles in a frame if the taper cuts aren’t perfectly done. And to make a safe, fast, and easy taper cut you need a great jig. Not just a good jig, but a GREAT one.
Now, let me explain to you why I don’t use the basic 2-arm jig for taper cuts, and what I use instead.
The basic jigs are very dangerous. I mean, you can do the work with them, but that’s not safe at all. And the most important rule in woodworking is to stay safe, at all times.
This jig is dangerous because you don’t know exactly how to hold the workpiece (especially a narrow one) against the jig when you’re pushing everything through. And you might end up getting the push stick, or worse, your hand, too close to the table saw blade.
Also, there’s a tendency of this jig to pull away from the rip fence and that can lead to a kickback, which is a very dangerous situation.
So I use a better and safer taper jig from Rockler. And the great part besides safety is that it is very easy to use.
How To Use A Jig To Make Taper Cuts
Here’s how to make taper cuts on a table saw with this jig:
Step 1: Mount The Taper Jig
Remove the rip fence from the table saw and put the taper jig instead because this kind of jig doesn’t rely on the rip fence.
Step 2: Mark The Cut
Mark the face of the workpiece with the angle you want to cut and wrap those layout lines around to the edge and end.
Step 3: Align The Mark
Set the workpiece on the jig base and adjust it so its layout marks align with the edge of the jig closest to the blade.
Step 4: Fix The Adjustable Fence
Slide the jig’s adjustable fence over and against the workpiece until the back of the workpiece is flush against the fence’s adjustable metal stop. Then tighten the adjustable fence down with the star knobs.
Step 5: Fix The Workpiece
Set the clamps to hold the workpiece down and tighten them. At this moment, the workpiece should stay fixed on the jig.
Step 6: Make The Taper Cut
Now that the workpiece is fixed on the jig, you can put on your protection glasses and earbuds, and turn on the table saw. Push the jig through the saw blade slowly to make the taper cut.
This is how I use my jig to make a perfect taper cut.
But still, this jig wasn’t helpful for my frame project because you can’t make large angled cuts with it. So I couldn’t use it to make 45-degree taper cuts for my painting frame.
And while researching for another method to cut my frame, I came across to this awesome way to make taper cuts, even without a jig. Now I’m using this simple method to cut tapers on the table saw even more than I use the Rockler jig.
Making Taper Cuts Without A Jig
Here’s how to make precise taper cuts only with the rip fence and an auxiliary board:
Step 1: Set Up The Rip Fence
Grab a plywood board you can sacrifice, and make sure it has a straight edge. Place it on the table, with the straight edge against the fence.
Slide the rip fence until the blade is underneath the board, at about one inch from the edge of the board. Secure it and don’t move it anymore.
Step 2: Make A Cuff On The Auxiliary Board
Make sure you choose an auxiliary (sacrificial) board that is wider and longer than the workpiece.
Raise the blade about 1/16 inch above the table, just so you can “scratch” a bit the surface of the auxiliary board. This way you’ll mark the board for the taper cut.
Now you have a nice and straight cuff on the auxiliary board which will be used as a guide mark for the workpiece.
Step 3: Adjust The Blade
Put the workpiece on the table, near the blade, and raise the blade until it’s slightly taller than the height of the workpiece.
Step 4: Mark And Align The Workpiece
Use a pen to mark the face of the workpiece with the angle you want to cut and wrap those layout lines around to the edge and end.
Put the workpiece over the auxiliary board and line up the pen mark with the cuff line on the auxiliary board.
Step 5: Secure The Boards
Use a couple of screws to secure the workpiece on the auxiliary board.
Step 6: Make The Taper Cut
Place the boards with the workpiece on the table and the auxiliary board up. Make sure the straight edge of the auxiliary board is against the rip fence and start the table saw. Slide the boards through the blade and that’s it!
This is an awesome way to make angled cuts when you don’t have a jig. It’s simple, easy to follow and the result is exactly as you’d expect: a nice tapered cut.
What’s not so great about this setup is that, if you have multiple workpieces to cut, you need to align, secure, and cut them one by one. This process can be time-consuming when you have like twenty identical workpieces to taper.
But don’t worry, I also have a solution for this situation.
Making A Jig For Repeated Cuts
In most cases where an adjustable jig is not useful, you need to create your own jig. And even though this takes a lot of time, sometimes it is totally worth it, especially when you need to make repeated cuts.
What you need:
- Miter gauge;
- Auxiliary board wider than the workpiece;
- Two small pieces of plywood.
Here’s how to make a simple jig for repeated taper cuts:
- Get an auxiliary board with straight edges and fix it on the miter gauge.
- Use a pen to mark the face of the workpiece with the angle you want to cut and wrap those layout lines around to the edge and end.
- Put the workpiece over the auxiliary board and line up the pen mark with the straight edge of the auxiliary board.
- Once the workpiece is positioned correctly, secure it with the two pieces of plywood. Use screws to fix these small pieces. Don’t worry, you’ll see where to place them once you have the workpiece in place. You need to secure two edges of the workpiece so it doesn’t move at all. Check the image below for a visual idea of this jig.
That’s it! Now you have a jig you can use for repeated taper cuts. Go ahead and cut your first workpiece and repeat as many times as you need.
This is a great miter sled you can use to cut 45-degree angles, 22.5-degree angles, or any kind of angle you might need. And it’s super simple to use:
- just draw the cutting line on the workpiece,
- align it with the edge of the auxiliary fence,
- and then fix two stop blocks on the board.
So whether you’re using the jig that came with your table saw, a custom jig you bought from the store, or making yourself one, there is always a better way to do the work you need to do.
In the end, it doesn’t matter how you do it, but rather the result is what matters. So do it your style, but make sure to put your safety in the first place whenever you’re using the table saw or any other tools in your workshop.
Now let’s learn some joinery and how to make accurate bevel cuts with the table saw.
Bevel Cuts Guide
A bevel cut is a rip or cross cut that creates an angle on the edge of a board. You can do bevel cuts on a table saw by tilting the blade. Bevel cuts are often used in woodworking to make the joint between two pieces more aesthetic. You can check your home furniture because I’m sure you’ll find there some bevel cuts.
Most table saw blades will tilt in one direction and have some sort of scale to indicate the angle of the bevel. If your table saw isn’t a super-professional and expensive one, these scales will get you close to the result you want, but they aren’t very precise.
So I prefer to use a digital level box, which is pretty simple to use:
- Place it with the magnetic strap on the table and press the Zero button;
- Then stick it magnetically to the side of the blade;
- Now you can tilt the blade until it’s set to the angle you need.
For a beginner, there’s no need to get a level box if the table has an angle scale. But if you plan to turn your hobby into a business and eventually sell your end products to clients, then you definitely need to do the bevel cuts as precise as possible. So it would be a smart idea to invest in such a helpful tool.
How To Rip Bevels On The Table Saw
Here’s how to make bevel cuts on a table saw with the help of the rip fence:
Step 1: Adjust The Blade’s Angle
As I told you above, I’m using a level box to tilt the blade to the exact angle I need. Of course, you can also use a square to adjust the blade to a rough angle. But if you want to make a perfect bevel cut, then you need to use this simple tool.
Here’s how to adjust the blade angle with a magnetic level box:
- Magnetically stick the level box on a straight area of the table saw near the blade.
- Press the Zero button to set the table saw as the reference for your angle.
- Take the level box and magnetically stick it to the side of the blade.
- Use the wheel at the base of the table saw to tilt the blade until the level box shows the angle you need.
Now that the angle of the blade is set up, you need to place the workpiece on the table and adjust the blade’s height until it’s slightly above the workpiece. You need to set the height of the blade after you set the angle to make sure to cut through the entire height of the workpiece.
Step 2: Position The Rip Fence
Get the rip fence closer or further from the blade, as per your needs.
Sometimes you might need to calculate the distance between the rip fence and the blade. If that’s the case, you already know the length of the final beveled piece and the angle of the bevel. So how do you calculate the distance where the fence should be placed?
For 45-degree bevel cuts is simple: subtract the height (thickness) of the workpiece from the length of the final beveled piece. Let’s see an example to better understand this:
- You have a plywood board that’s 5 inches wide and 3/4 inches thick.
- The final piece needs to be 3 inches wide with a 45-degree bevel.
- Place the rip fence at a distance of 2 1/4 inches from the blade (3 – 3/4 = 2 1/4).
Here is an image to help you accurately calculate the distance between the rip fence and the blade when making 45-degree bevel cuts:
Now, most of the bevel cuts you will make, especially in the beginning, will be at 45 degrees. But if you need to make bevel cuts at different angles, there is a bit more math to do. Here is the formula:
L = U – (H * tan(angle)),
- L is the length between the rip fence and the blade (which we need to find out to properly position the fence);
- U is the length of the final beveled piece;
- H is the height (thickness) of the workpiece;
- tan(angle) is the tangent of the bevel’s angle. (You can calculate the tangent of an angle with the calculator on your phone.)
Make sure the rip fence is positioned on the opposite side of the blade than the direction where the blade is tilted. So if your blade tilts to the right, the rip fence should be positioned on the left side of the blade, and vice versa.
The position of the rip fence is a safety measure to prevent kickbacks.
Step 3: Prepare The Workpiece
Always run the part of the workpiece you want to keep along the rip fence and let the cutoff piece fall away. Believe me, you don’t want the small cutoff piece get trapped between the blade and the rip fence. This can cause it to kick back at you.
Also, I always like to stay a little to the side of the blade in case something does get thrown back. Think of positioning your body inlined or further from the rip fence, but never between the blade and the rip fence.
Step 4: Grab Your Push Stick
Always use some sort of a push stick or push block when doing bevel cuts to keep the workpiece against the rip fence and your fingers away from the blade. Just make sure you have it in your hand before starting the table saw.
Now, I’m not a huge fan of push sticks because they don’t offer enough stability and pressure on the workpiece. So what I use to push the workpiece through the table saw blade is a push block from MicroJig. It’s an amazing tool not just for bevel cuts, but for any kind of work around the table saw and any other kind of saws.
Step 5: Make The Bevel Cut
Now that everything is set up, you have your protection glasses and earbuds, it’s time to make the bevel cut.
As you can see, it’s very easy to make a bevel cut with the help of the rip fence. But sometimes you don’t even need the rip fence to make bevel cuts. Let me show you how to cut bevels with the miter gauge.
How To Make Bevel Cuts With The Miter Gauge
If the bevel cut is not along the length of the workpiece you can use the miter gauge to make the bevel cut. This is a much easier solution, but it works only when you need to make short bevel cuts.
Here’s how to do it in a few simple steps:
- Remove the rip fence and install the miter gauge on the table saw (it doesn’t matter on which part of the blade it is positioned).
- Adjust the blade’s angle just like you did above to rip bevels. Just make sure the blade is tilted agast the miter gauge and is slightly above the workpiece.
- Position the workpiece at the distance you need from the blade and lock it down with clamps and/or stop blocks.
- Push the miter gauge with the workpiece through the blade to make the bevel cut.
As you can see, you don’t need a push stick or a push block to make a bevel cut with this method.
Hopefully, this article will help you to make safe and accurate taper and bevel cuts with the table saw. These are the methods I use now, but as I learn more, I’ll definitely share them here at Top Table Saws.