One of the most frustrating things that can happen when you’re working on a project is realizing halfway through that you’ve cut your material at the wrong angle.
Even being just a degree out can cause problems when it comes to putting everything together, so it’s important to get this bit right, or the rest of your hard work will have been for nothing.
If you’re not an experienced carpenter or woodworker, don’t panic.
There are some tips and tricks of the trade which we’ll share in this article so that you’ll be able to cut perfect 45-degree angles, every time.
Say goodbye to frustratingly imperfect finishes and say hello to smooth and seamless joints!
Before you get started, it’s important to think about some of the key safety aspects.
Don’t be tempted to skip the safety check, as this could be the difference between saving time and saving a finger.
After all, hand saws can be a dangerous tool in the wrong pair of hands, so always follow the safety rules we’ve listed below.
- Wear a pair of safety glasses and a mask to protect your eyes and to prevent the inhalation of too much dust. We also recommend wearing gloves when you’re working with a saw to protect your hands from any splinters in the wood.
- Make sure to remove any nails, screws, or any objects protruding from the material. These pose a safety hazard to you and your saw, as hitting something as you’re cutting could damage the blade.
- Only work on suitable surfaces that are stable and won’t move as you’re sawing through your material.
- Secure the wood or whatever material you’re cutting using clamps so it won’t wobble or move while you make the cut.
- Ensure you have enough space to perform the sawing movements, and room for the cut pieces to fall away.
So, now you know how to keep yourself safe, let’s cut to the chase.
A Perfect Angle
There are plenty of reasons why you might need to cut at a 45-degree angle, including for home projects such as making door frames, skirting boards, or shelves.
Using a 45-degree angle cut means you’ll have a larger surface area to work with, which is ideal for using adhesives or glue for additional support for the structure.
Joining two 45-degree angled pieces of wood together creates a 90-degree angle which also provides more support.
If that’s not enough, you can also join 45-degree angles with screws or dowels which are hidden for aesthetic purposes.
If you’re working on something where you’ll need seamless joints and a smooth finish, a 45-degree angle is a perfect choice.
Measuring The Angle
You should start any cut by making precise measurements and marking where you need to cut on the wood or material itself, as this will help guide your saw.
There are number of different useful tools you can use to make accurate measurements, including:
- A protractor: This will allow you to make measurements up to 180-degree angle
- A compass: Similar to a protractor, but you have a full 360-degree rotation
- Speed square: This is a ruler in the shape of a right-triangle that features a lip on one side, allowing you to position it against the wood to create precise measurements.
- Framing square: This is essentially an L-shape and is made of metal. It features a diagonal scale, a board foot scale, and an octagonal scale.
- Sliding T-bevel: A sliding T-bevel is useful when it comes to laying out and transferring angles. It has a metal blade which is double ended, with one side rounded off and the other side at a 45-degree angle, and this is attached to a handle.
The next steps depend on what type of handsaw you’re using, which we’re about to walk you through.
Cutting With a Crosscut Saw
A crosscut saw is an excellent multi-purpose hand saw that can be used for a range of applications.
It should feel comfortable to hold and if you flex the tip, it should twang straight back to the center.
To make a 45-degree angle cut using this type of saw, first, hold it in an upright position and slowly draw the blade in an upwards motion to create a notch.
This will help to guide the rest of the cut. You can use the knuckle of your thumb to keep the blade in place as you do this, just be careful not to slip and cut yourself with the saw’s sharp edge.
Cutting With a Miter Box and Backsaw
A backsaw is another great option for cutting 45-degree angles.
The spine of the saw helps to keep the blade stiff which ensures straighter cuts, and it also has fine-cutting teeth for enhanced preciseness which makes it a particularly good choice if you’re cutting moldings or trim.
You can choose to make your cut using a push stroke or pull stroke depending on which you prefer.
For a push stroke, attach the blade with its teeth facing away from the handle, or towards it for a pull stroke.
Most people tend to use a miter box with this type of saw, which is a useful guide that helps create 90 or 45-degree angles.
They’re typically an inexpensive piece of equipment, and one worth investing in, although the metal versions tend to cost more as they can be adjusted, making them a more precise option.
Cutting With a Coping Saw
Coping saws have a thinner, tauter blade which is quite wiry, and a rectangular frame that makes it useful for curved cuts or cuts you need to make near the edge.
For improved control, you should use clamps or some other method to secure your wood in place and keep it steady while you’re cutting with a coping saw.
If you’re making a cutout, drill a hole that’s big enough for the saw to fit through. Detach the blade from its frame and place it through the hole, then reattach it again.
Tips and Tricks
Once you’ve measured your angle correctly, and you’re confident with the technique that’s suited to your saw, there are a few other basic things you can do to improve the accuracy of your cut.
- It might sound obvious, but keep your hand steady as you’re making a cut. This isn’t a job to try and get done when you’re tired!
- Don’t exert an excessive amount of force as you’re cutting, let the saw do most of the work for you.
- Sand down the edges for a smoother, more seamless looking finish.
- If your wood or the material you’re using is too long, it’ll be harder to cut, so it’s worth shortening it before you cut the 45-degree angle.
If you follow these tips you’ll be able to cut neat, precise 45-degree angle cuts for a professional looking finish on your next project.