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What is a Bevel?

Mary McMahon
Updated May 17, 2024
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A bevel is quite simply an angle made by the meeting of two surfaces. By definition, it cannot be at a 90° angle, although all other angles are perfectly acceptable. The term is widely used in all sorts of industries to describe everything from a setting for jewelry to the blade of a knife; the meaning is usually quite clear from the context.

The origins of this term appear to lie in the Old French baivel, which is derived from bayer, “to yawn,” a reference to the commonly wide angle of a bevel. People have been using the word as a verb since around the 1600s, when beveled edges were coincidentally very popular in architecture.

Commonly, the term is used to describe an angled cut. In woodworking, for example, many pieces of furniture are beveled to create soft edges and to ease the transition from one surface to another. An angled edge that connects two surfaces is known as a chamfer; chamfers are often used to create bridges in ornamental trim or on legs of furniture. Angles are also used in jewelry cutting to bring out the brilliance of a stone; diamonds may have multiple bevels, for example, creating a highly refractive surface which causes the stone to sparkle.

In architecture and design, a bevel rule or sliding bevel is a tool that is used to measure and draw angles. The tool consists of two arms mounted on a hinge with an embedded protractor which indicates the degree of an angle. By using this device, someone can ensure that an angle is properly measured and described; this can be crucial when making architectural drawings. These tools are also sometimes used by artists and designers who wish to create precise angles in their work.

In conversation with people in certain trades, people may hear edges with oblique angles referred to as bevels, as in for the strikeplate of a lock, which is classically beveled so that the lock slides in and out easily. Construction workers may also talk about beveling the edge of something when they talk about cutting an angle, as might be the case when trimming a banister to create a smooth edge so that people do not hurt themselves on the sharp point of a 90° angle.

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Mary McMahon
By Mary McMahon

Ever since she began contributing to the site several years ago, Mary has embraced the exciting challenge of being a About Mechanics researcher and writer. Mary has a liberal arts degree from Goddard College and spends her free time reading, cooking, and exploring the great outdoors.

Discussion Comments

By Perdido — On Jun 22, 2011

I had to take a printmaking class in college as part of my studio art degree program. We learned how to make bevel cuts when cutting mats to frame our artwork.

We used a big mat cutter with a sloping blade that could cut a window in a solid piece of mat board. The board was pretty thin, but it served its purpose of framing the paper.

I loved the look of the beveled window frame so much that after I graduated, I only bought beveled mats for my artwork. I could not afford a mat cutter, but the mats themselves are very inexpensive. I think it gives drawings a professional touch.

By wavy58 — On Jun 21, 2011

@manykitties2 - I think that beveled amethysts are absolutely beautiful. They come in lovely shades of my favorite color, purple, and the bevel brings out many variations of this hue.

I own a lovely amethyst ring, which I love to hold up to the light and move around to create various effects. When the light hits the bevels on a multi-faceted amethyst, I have seen many colors, ranging from orange and yellow to white. I think the true charm of an amethyst can be brought out by bevel cuts. The different angles reflect light in ways that bring out blue-purples and red-purples in addition to solid purple.

By manykitties2 — On Jun 21, 2011

If you are shopping for engagement rings you will come across a huge variety of stone cuts to choose from. I found the bevel cut to be gorgeous and the angles seem to capture the light really well.

You'll recognize a bevel cut diamond easily as it generally looks like a rectangle with the edges sloping down. In my opinion this cut is best for larger stones, as smaller ones seem to get lost with this design. You really need some room for the top surface of the gem so you can really have sparkle.

Is there any other jewelry that you like that you think looks best with bevel cut stones?

By drtroubles — On Jun 21, 2011

If you are looking into working with wood a bevel cut is quite easy to do. All you need is a solid piece of wood that is free of nails and anything that could damage a saw blade.

Once you have your piece of wood you want to clamp it to a table securely, with the end hanging off so you can have access to the cutting area. Before you cut mark where you want your bevel to start.

Your power saw should have a list of angles on it. You can choose say, 30 degrees for example than power up your saw.

Follow your guideline slowly and remember to be careful as not to injure yourself on the equipment. Once the piece is cut you'll have a perfect beveled edge.

Mary McMahon

Mary McMahon

Ever since she began contributing to the site several years ago, Mary has embraced the exciting challenge of being a...

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