Angles and woodworking go together like tea and biscuits or cheese and wine, and while you may know how to make certain kinds of cuts, do you know how to cut a 60° angle using a table saw?
Angles are all around us and there are many situations where they’re very important. Construction, physics, art, and even golf rely heavily on angles, and carpentry is no exception.
Table saws are some of the most versatile and useful power saws out there and contrary to what a lot of people think, they are most definitely capable of cutting a 60° angle.
Whether or not they’re the ideal type of saw for the job is irrelevant, the fact remains that if a table saw is all you have at your disposal, you’ll still be able to get that 60° angle down!
What’s the Significance of a 60° Cut?
60°, as well as many other angles, is often used to create a bevel in a piece of wood. Bevelling is a very handy technique in woodworking, especially where furniture building is concerned, as two bevelled pieces of wood can more easily be joined without a really obvious fault line (in other words, the two joined pieces of wood look like they could be a singular piece rather than two).
Joints are usually made in this way using two complimentary angled bevels. For anyone whose high school geometry knowledge is dwindling, complimentary angles can be any two angles as long as they add up to 90°. In the case of our 60° bevel, this would mean adding a bevel of 30°.
60° is a common angle for building boxes and containers, along with other bits of furniture and storage solutions so if you’re planning on kitting out your house or honing your skills, learning how to do 60° angles could be very useful.
Preparing for the Cut
Before we get into the steps for making the actual cut, there are a few preparations you need to make first. These range from personal safety measures to ensuring the wood you’re cutting is secure prior to slicing it.
Some things to consider include:
- Protective equipment to ensure your own safety – thick, protective gloves and safety glasses or goggles are a must! You might also consider wearing a mask or respirator to stop wood dust in the air from getting into our lungs. Earplugs will protect your ears from continuous loud noise if your table saw is noisy.
- Having a sharp blade appropriate for the task – as with any woodworking job, bevelling requires a sharp and stable blade. Ideally you want a blade that isn’t too thick but is also fairly inflexible.
- Securing the wood to be cut – for reasons that will become clear later on in this guide, it’s vital that the wood you want to cut is secured to your table saw fence or another guide.
Once you’ve completed this little checklist, you’re ready to move onto the next step of the process for making a 60° cut with your table saw. With that said, let’s get on with it.
One Final Precursor
There’s one other thing to note before starting the cutting process and it might sound a bit confusing. Once you’ve made the necessary adjustments though, you’ll be good to go!
Generally speaking, majority of table saws are only designed to be able to cut up to 45° angles. This is clearly going to be an issue when we need to cut an angle a fair deal larger than that. Great, so what do we do now?
All is not lost! There is a way around this small but inconvenient impracticality.
For angles larger than 45° on a table saw, you’ll need to ascertain the necessary angle of the blade by subtracting 45 from the angle you want to achieve, in this case 60°. This, of course, leaves us with 15°.
Now that we know this, we need to set the blade to 15° using the blade adjustment lever or knob before we start cutting. You might be thinking “ok but how is a 15° angle on the blade going to cut a 60° angle in the wood?” and that’s a completely reasonable question. The answer will reveal itself shortly!*
Cutting a 60° Angle with Your Table Saw (for real this time)
After all this preparation and calculation, we’re finally ready to begin making the cut. Follow these steps closely:
- Position your wood – the wood you want to bevel will need to be placed vertically on the table rather than flat. To eliminate the risk of the wood falling over whilst being sawed, you’ll need to secure it to the table saw fence with a clamp, or if your table saw fence is incapable of sliding then build a makeshift guide for it with some scrap wood. Whatever happens, it is essential that the wood remain vertical and even.
*inverting the wood vertically rather than keeping it flat against the table enables the 15° angled blade to cut a 60° bevel.
- Set the blade height – you’ll want to raise the blade so that enough blade is visible to get through the thickness of the wood you’re using. You can raise or lower the blade using the blade adjustment lever.
- Make the cut – once all the different components have been calibrated, you can turn your saw on and allow the blade to get up to full speed. Then gently and consistently push the wood forwards towards the blade, keeping the same pressure until the entire cut has been made.
- Tidy up the finish if necessary – it’s probable that you’ll need a couple of goes before you fully master this technique so don’t be dismayed if you see your bevel edge is imperfect. You might see some slight unevenness or chips but these are usually easily smoothed over using a handplane or even some sandpaper depending on how persistent they are.
Alternatives for Cutting 60° Bevels
So, we said early on in this guide that a table saw isn’t necessarily the first tool that comes to mind when you think of cutting bevels. Here’s a list of some other tools that might be better suited to the task:
- Circular Saw – easy to modify angle of the blade due to tilting baseplate, and you might have more control over a circular saw as the majority are handheld.
- Mitre Saw – mitre saw blades are easily adjustable and therefore easy to set to different angles.
- Router – routers are more specifically designed to hollow out sections of wood, but the same action can be used for the function of bevelling.
- Hand Saw – this is for very experienced woodworkers only as it can be quite risky, but it is possible to create a bevel using a handsaw – after all, how did people make furniture before power tools were invented?
Whatever your tool of choice, make sure you take every necessary precaution to protect yourself as well as ensure the integrity of your tools and materials. There’s no sense in trying a technique recklessly and either injuring yourself or damaging your equipment.
You should now know a bit more about bevel cuts and angles in relation to woodworking, and should hopefully have a better framework for using your table saw to cut a 60° angle in a piece of wood.
This might go without saying but using quality lumber is a key factor in getting smooth and refined results, as is ensuring your table saw blade is sharp, clean, and calibrated correctly.
If this is your first time attempting a bevel cut with a table saw, then go slowly and cautiously. There’s no rush, and even if there is some kind of time pressure involved, it’s better to take a bit of extra time and do things properly than to have an accident whilst hurrying!
Saw blades are sharp; respect them.