What is a Chamfer?
From metalworking to woodworking, various industries use a cut to remove the 90-degree edge on material. These small cuts, typically 45-degrees, are called a chamfer. Another term often used is bevel. There are numerous uses for a chamfer as well as various methods for achieving it.
For woodworking, a hand plane can make the 45-degree trim cut; however, it probably is the most challenging method. Sliding the plane along the edge, the blade shaves off a small amount of wood with each pass. The difficulty is in keeping the plane level and steady throughout the length of the cut, and it generally is not recommend for long passes.
It is possible to achieve a chamfer with a table saw as well. The saw blade can be set at an angle and adjusted for depth and width of cut using the rip fence. While this method sometimes takes a bit of setup, it usually allows for more consistent cuts than using a hand plane.
Some tools are specifically designed for this type of cut. Chamfer router bits can reliably create these cuts without much preparation work. A router installed in a special table with a fence usually provides the most desirable and cleanest results. The router is mounted upside down beneath the table with the router bit protruding through a hole in the table top. The material then is run parallel along the fence over the router bit to make the cut.
Chamfering tools also can be used in milling. For vertical cuts, such as boring a chamfered hole, specialty chamfer bits are used. Wood, metal, and plastic are some of the materials that can be drilled this way. The bit is mounted and used similarly to a traditional drill bit but creates a chamfered edge at the top of the hole.
Another variation on this type of cut is a lark’s tongue chamfer. This type removes the 90-degree edge of the material just as the traditional chamfer; however, the ends of the cut end before the piece of material in a smooth upward curve. Woodworkers can use this type of cut for decorating pieces of crafted furniture.
The opposite of a chamfer is called a round-over. It commonly can be called a bullnose, as well. The material is removed creating a half-round effect on the 90-degree edge of the material. Round-overs usually are used to produce a smoother edge on the material since it leaves no hard lines after the cut.
For my money a router is the easiest tool to use to achieve a quality chamfer cut. I have tried all the other methods with carrying levels of success, but a router is quick, easy, effective and most importantly, cheap. If you have to make a lot of chamfer cuts, one after another after another, a router is definitely your best bet.
My father worked in woodworking for most of his career and it was kind of a personal crusade of his to achieve a personal chamfer by hand. Amongst woodworkers this is considered a pretty refined skill. Toward the end of his career he got remarkably good at it. My brother and I would use a special tool that measure angles to test the quality of his cuts and he was consistently within a degree or two. Just goes to show what you can accomplish after a lifetime of practice.
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