Woodworking Tools Angle Scales and Terminology

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Not all woodworking machinery angle scales are created alike. In fact, there are two different conventions for the calibration of angle scales in common use on woodworking machinery. One type of scale is calibrated to treat a square cut as a 90 degree cut, while the other scale treats a square cut as a 0 degree cut. Along with that, the terms used in woodworking to describe angled cuts don’t make the origin of the angle measurement perfectly clear. The result is often some confusion about what it means to cut a piece of wood at a certain angle. Fortunately, the confusion is easily clarified by looking at a couple of woodworking terms that refer to angled cuts (“miter” and “bevel”) and at how the two saw scales are set up the measure angles.

Miter Gauges, Miter Saws and Miter Cuts

The term “square cut” means to cut a board at a 90 degree angle relative to one of it’s edges. The term “miter” – when it’s used describe an angled cut – implies a comparison to a square cut. To make a miter cut means to make an other-than-square cut in a material in preparation for making a miter joint. In keeping with that, miter cuts are measured with respect to a square cut. Making a 22-1/2 degree miter cut, for example, means making a cut at 22-1/2 degrees in one direction or the other from square across the board.

You may have noticed that most power miter saws are adapted to this terminology. Most miter saw angle scales are set up so that the saw

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