How to Cut Angles Without a Miter Saw

How to Cut Angles Without a Miter Saw

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If you have pieces of wood that you need to cut angles into wood, the number one tool at your disposal is always going to be the miter saw. However, with that being said, you might not always have one on hand, and if you don’t, then cutting angles is going to become a little bit more difficult, albeit not impossible.

There are a few different ways of cutting angles without a miter saw, and of course, it depends on whether you want to make a miter cut or a bevel cut. Let’s jump right in.

Can You Cut Precise Angles Without a Miter Saw?

OK, so what is important to note here is that in terms of overall accuracy and precision, a miter saw is of course the best way to go. Miter saws come with fences and guides for making extremely precise cuts. These things are precise to within a fraction of an angle. With that being said, although a miter saw is the easiest tool to use for this task, it’s not the only tool that you can use. Of course, your own accuracy is going to be called into question here.

If you do not have a miter saw, exactly how accurate your angles are without using a miter saw is going to depend on how well you work. If you are not using a miter saw, how precise you end up cutting those angles really all comes down to your own skill and ability. Cutting precise angles without a miter saw is technically possible, but it is, of course, going to be a little harder, especially if you have to hand measure the angles and then use a tool that isn’t exactly ideal for the job.

How to Cut Angles Without a Miter Saw

OK, So what we need to make very clear here is that this is going to be a two-step process. The reason for this is because a miter saw takes care of both things for you, both the measuring and the cutting. However, if you do not have a miter saw, you will most likely need to use two different methods, one for measuring and one for cutting.

Right now we are going to go over all of the possibilities that you have at your disposal. Keep in mind that to keep things relatively simple, here we are talking about 45-degree angles such as are often used for baseboards and crown molding.

Using a Mitre Box

Mitre Box One of the easiest ways for cutting some of the most common angles is using a mitre box. That is simply a jig that you can place your board in and that has guides for your hand saw. The advantages are that it’s relatively simple and accurate. The disadvantages are that this method only works for smaller wood pieces of standard width.

If you cannot use a mitre box, continue reading.

3 Ways to Measure and Mark the Angle

Seeing as a miter saw does the measuring of the angle for you, if you do not have a miter saw, you will first need to find a way to measure the angle that you will cut into the board. Let’s figure out how to measure an accurate angle right now.

#1: Using a Premade Example

Whether you are cutting a 45-degree angle or any other such angle, something that you can always do is to take another board that already has that angle cut into it and then simply trace that same pattern onto the board that you plan to cut. So, if you have a 2 x 4 that has a 45-degree angle miter cut in it, and you need to replicate that cut on another board, then simply hold the cut board over the other one and use a pencil or other marking utensil to trace the angle of the cut onto the new board.

#2: Using a Protractor

Marking Angles for Cutting with Protractor When we are talking about a protractor, yes, we’re talking about that small piece of plastic that looks like a half-moon that you used back in grade school math class to measure angles.

You might not have thought that that protractor would come in handy again after math class, but the simple reality is that this is a very useful tool in woodworking, and yes, it is something that you can use to measure all sorts of angles. All you have to do is to use that protractor, just like you learned back in math class, and then measure the angle on the board you plan to cut, use a pencil to mark it, and then you are good to go.

If you are measuring an angle that is very long, you may also need to use a T-square or a secondary tool in order to extend the line outwards from the protractor.

#3: Using a Piece of Paper

This might sound a little odd, but you can also use a normal piece of paper to measure a 45-degree angle on a piece of wood. Take the piece of paper and lay it down on a flat surface with the length laying along the surface while the width laying across the surface.

All you have to do here is to take the upper right corner and then fold it down until the left corner becomes a point. Therefore, what you should be left with is a large triangle that still has a small paper rectangle at the bottom. Now the long edge of your triangle is effectively a 45-degree angle. You can now use that to trace onto a piece of wood.

3+ Ways to Cut the Angle

Now that you know how to measure and mark that 45-degree angle on a piece of wood without a miter saw, let’s talk about how to make the cut without a miter saw.

#1: Using a Circular Saw

Cutting Angles with Circular Saw Perhaps the best tool to use for this particular job is a circular saw. A circular saw has the ability to make very straight and precise cuts. Moreover, if you only need to cut a few pieces and if you need something that is portable so you can work on the job site no matter where you are, then a circular saw is the best option to consider. Also, most circular saws also allow the blade to bevel to various angles, thus allowing you to not only make miter cuts but also bevel cuts with a circular saw.

#2: Using a Hand Saw

Now, if you only have one or two pieces that need to be cut and you just don’t have any power tools on hand, then you can always use a handsaw such as a foxtail saw, to make that cut. Of course, exactly how precise the cut ends up being does depend on your own skill level, so make sure that you know how to use a handsaw to cut wood.

As mentioned earlier, this is also the only option if you are using a miter box.

#3: Using a Table Saw

Depending on the angle, you need to cut the board too. You can always use a table saw for this task. Just make sure that you angle the board correctly on the table before you pass it through the blade. If possible, you also might be able to use the fence of the table saw to help make the cut more accurate.

…and More…

Of course, there are tons of other tools and types of saws out there that you can use to cut wood. If you have a very steady hand, you might even be able to use a jigsaw or demolition saw for this task. Any type of saw that is designed to make straight cuts in wood or has the ability to make straight cuts can be used for this purpose.


Now that you know what all of the different methods of measuring an angle on a board are, as well as all of the different ways to make the cut, you can now get to making miter cuts without a miter saw.