What are the different woodworking cuts?

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Navigating the Art of Woodworking Cuts

Woodworking is an art that combines skill, precision, and an understanding of materials and tools. One of the fundamental aspects of this craft is the variety of cuts used to transform wood into functional and artistic pieces. From basic cuts that shape and size lumber to complex techniques that enable intricate designs and durable joinery, each type of cut has its specific purpose and application.

Whether you are a seasoned woodworker or a novice looking to enhance your skills, understanding these cuts is crucial. They are not just techniques; they are the building blocks of every woodworking project, influencing everything from structural integrity to aesthetic appeal.

Types of Cuts in Woodworking


A crosscut is made perpendicular to the wood grain. This type of cut is essential for sizing lumber and is often used to cut a board to the desired length. Crosscuts are fundamental in almost all woodworking projects, from basic framing to intricate furniture making.

The common tools for making a crosscut include beam saws, crosscut saws, miter saws, and circular saws. Power tools like beam, miter, panel and circular saws offer speed and efficiency.

Rip Cut

A rip cut is made along the length of the wood, parallel to the grain. This cut is used to reduce the width of a board and is a primary method to dimension lumber. Rip cuts are crucial in
cabinetry, flooring, and any project where the width of the wood needs to be adjusted. They are essential for sizing boards for specific parts of a construction or a furniture project.

Rip cuts are typically made with table saws, gang rip saws, band saws, beam, panel or hand saws specifically designed for rip cutting. Table saws or rip saws are preferred for their precision and ability to handle longer cuts.

Miter Cut

A miter cut is an angled cut on the face of the wood, usually made at a 45-degree angle. This cut is primarily used for fitting two pieces together at an angle. Miter cuts are often used in creating frames, decorative trims, or any project requiring angled joints. They are key in achieving neat corners in both functional and decorative pieces.

The most common tool for miter cuts is the miter saw. However, a table saw with a miter gauge or a hand saw with a miter box can also be used for making these cuts.

Bevel Cut

A bevel cut involves cutting the edge of the material at an angle that is not 90 degrees. Unlike a miter cut, which is along the face, a bevel cut changes the profile of the material’s edge. They are used in joinery for creating edges that fit together seamlessly, often seen in complex furniture, cabinetry, and trim work. They add aesthetic value and functional angles to various woodworking projects.

Bevel cuts can be made using a table saw, circular saw, or a miter saw with beveling capabilities. The angle is adjustable depending on the requirement of the project.

Specialized Woodworking Cuts

Dado Cut

A dado cut creates a slot in a piece of wood that runs perpendicular to (or across) the grain of the wood and is primarily used to fit another piece of wood snugly inside it. It is essential for creating sturdy, seamless joints, particularly in bookshelves, cupboard construction, and drawer assembly.

Dado cuts are typically made with a dado blade on a table saw, though they can also be achieved with a router or a CNC machine.

Groove Cut

A groove cut is a slot in a piece of wood similar to a dado but runs parallel to the grain of the wood and is primarily used to fit another piece of wood snugly inside it. It is essential for creating sturdy, seamless joints, particularly in bookshelves, cupboard construction, and drawer assembly.

Groove cuts are typically made with a dado blade on a table saw, though they can also be achieved with a router or a CNC machine.

Rabbet Cut

A rabbet is a recess or groove cut into the edge of a piece of wood. It’s often used in conjunction with a dado cut to create a joint. It is commonly used in the construction of cabinets and bookcases, window and door frames, and in the back of picture frames, where the glass, picture, and backing need to be secured.

Rabbet cuts can be made using a table saw with a dado set, a router, CNC machine or a hand plane specifically designed for this purpose.

Kerf Bending

Kerf bending involves making a series of cuts (kerfs) in a piece of wood, allowing it to bend. This technique is used to create smooth curves in woodworking projects. Kerf bending is particularly useful in creating curved furniture parts, decorative elements, and in architectural woodworking where curved forms are required.

A table saw, CNC machine, or a circular saw is typically used to make kerf cuts at regular intervals.

Mortise and Tenon Joint

This involves cutting a mortise (slot) in one piece of wood and a tenon (tongue) on another to fit them together. It’s one of the strongest joints in woodworking. The mortise and tenon joint is widely used in furniture making, particularly in chairs, tables, and other items where a strong joint is critical.

Mortiser, router, CNC machine, hand chisels, and a tenon saw or a table saw with a dado blade are commonly used to create these joints.

Complex Woodworking Cuts

Compound Cut

A compound cut combines both a miter and a bevel cut. It is used to cut an angle on two planes simultaneously, which is essential for intricate joinery and decorative pieces. It is commonly used in crown molding, picture frames, and other projects where edges meet at multiple angles, such as geometrically complex furniture or architectural details.

The primary tool for compound cuts is a compound miter saw, which allows the blade to be set both in angle and tilt. Some table saws equipped with tilting blades can also be used for simpler compound cuts.

Jigsaw Cut

Jigsaw cuts are used to make curved and irregular shapes in wood. The versatility of a jigsaw allows for both straight and intricate curved cuts. Jigsaw cuts are ideal for decorative projects, custom furniture parts, and detailed work like scrollwork or cutouts in panels.

The jigsaw is the tool of choice for this type of cut. With various blade options, it can cut through different materials and thicknesses with precision.

Plunge Cut

A plunge cut is a type of cut where the blade enters the material at a point that is not an edge. It’s used to create an opening in the middle of a piece of wood without having to cut from an edge. Plunge cuts are frequently used for creating slots, mortises, or starting a cut for an interior cutout, making them essential for joinery, inlay work, and custom fittings.

Plunge cuts are typically made using a plunge router, CNC machine, or a circular saw with a plunge-cutting capability. These tools allow the blade or router bit to descend vertically into the material.