How To Make and Measure Bevel Cuts On A Table Saw

Many of us have a miter saw in our woodworking shop.  It’s easy to operate and can make quick cuts on our workpieces both at right angles and at miter angles.  Whether a single bevel, double bevel, compound, or even sliding miter saws do the trick well and fast and are very convenient to use.

This speaks to relatively small workpieces, though, and when making precision cuts to prepare for assembly.  Sometimes, though, we need to make bevel cuts on lengthy pieces, lumber that needs to be ripped with another saw – a table saw.  

Many of us also have a table saw in our shop.  It serves a number of purposes for us, and if our table saw is a recent purchase, it includes a number of safety features now required in them.  All power saws have some inherent danger in their use, and these safety features go a long way in saving flesh from being cut.

Ripping lumber with a bevel cut is the challenge, and table saws can be up to the task.  However, there are some precautions that must be taken in doing so that go a little beyond the normal care needed when using a table saw.  

Bevel Cuts

Let’s make sure we understand what a bevel cut is before we go further.  Bevel cuts are those cuts made at an angle other than 90 degrees.  It’s an angled cut against the thickness of the piece of wood rather than against its width and length.  

Usually, we would turn to our miter saw for a bevel cut.  For a miter cut, the cutting blade will be brought against the piece of wood in an upright angle, whether making a straight cut or a miter cut (angled against the width).  For a bevel cut, whether at a right angle to the width or a miter angle, the blade itself is angled to the desired degree of angle against the wood’s thickness.

Table saws are able to make bevel cuts, also.  In one respect, the process is similar to the miter saw in that the table saw blade is angled, rather than perpendicular to the table in an upright position.  

The blade can be adjusted to the desired angle from beneath the table.  The mechanism beneath the table that tilts the blade is calibrated just as a miter saw is, and is as easy to adjust.  Just make sure the table saw is not running as you turn the wheel to tilt the blade.  

Table saws today include a splitter that tilts along with the blade, and this is a great safety feature for all cuts, including ripping a bevel cut.  If your table saw is an older model and doesn’t have a splitter, some extra care will be required when making the cuts.  

Precautions When Ripping Bevels On a Table Saw

Table Saw Blade

There are two concerns when ripping bevel cuts on a table saw:  one is how best to make the cut; the other is safety.  Following these precautions will satisfy both concerns:

  • Be sure to use a sharp blade.  This is generally good advice at all times, of course, and it will make ripping a bevel cut on lumber much easier and safer.
  • Make sure the stock is dressed flat, is square, and with parallel edges.  Any warp, deviation from square, or angled edge, can lead to blade burn or to the stock being lifted from the table and risking kickback.  So, machine your stock to be flat, square, and straight.
  • Be sure to use a splitter if you have one that tilts with the blade.  The splitter plays an important role in all table saw cutting, holding the kerf wide as the blade continues to cut so as to prevent the blade from being pinched.  Kickback can result and injuries can be caused.

If you are unable to use a splitter, some extra precaution is required.  If it doesn’t tilt with the blade and can’t be used, you will want to ensure enough pressure is applied against the fence to keep the workpiece from drifting toward the blade.

  • Orient the piece of wood so that the beveled edge of the piece you will keep will be above the tilted blade.  If the bevel is trapped beneath the blade in the workpiece, burning can be caused; or, if there is a bow in the workpiece, rough cutting could also lift the wood.  Wood needs to be flat on the table at all times for an accurate and safe cut.
  • Usually, the rip fence is to the right of the blade, and we become accustomed to its placement there.  However, if the blade tilts to the right, the fence will be on its left, and it might take a bit of time to get beyond the awkward feel of this.  

Typically, though, the rip fence has limited space to the left, so wider stock will require you to leave the fence to the right.  This means the bevel will be trapped beneath the blade, something we mentioned earlier.  When this is the condition under which you must make your ripping bevel, you’ll want to make sure enough downward pressure is applied to keep the workpiece from lifting as it is being cut.

Fortunately, left-tilting saws are the most common table saws today, and with the now-required addition of blade guards and splitters, and the availability of riving knives, safety is addressed in all table saw use.

  • It’s wise to attach and use a hold-down on the fence.  A feather board and clamps can help you accomplish this to keep the workpiece tight and snug against the fence as it is being pushed against the blade.  If you are cutting a bevel on both edges of the workpiece, the hold-down will keep it from climbing up the side of the fence.

Here’s a good informational video about ripping bevel cuts on your table saw.  It’s not long and covers all the bases.

We’ve spent time in this article talking about safety, something that we are very big on in our woodworking shop.  When using a table saw, there are two major concerns:  cutting flesh, and kickback.  We’ve mentioned kickback several times here, and want to show you a video of a table saw bevel cut that could have resulted in truly serious injury but for luck.  It’s worth a watch.

Ripping a bevel cut on a table saw is very doable, and with these precautions taken, can be safe and easy.  If you have a bevel rip cut to make on your table saw, follow these steps and you’ll be fine. 

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