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How can I cut already installed 4x4 cedar fence posts to match the beveled post caps on my other posts?

I'm very aware that doing this the right way would be to do it before installation! Too late now...

I'd be fine buying a purpose built jig/tool for this similar to this one for a different cut. I would like to avoid buying expensive new tools that I don't already have beyond a circular saw, handsaw, jigsaw, and of course a reciprocating saw.

Left side is the uncut newly installed fence posts and on the right is an example of a previously installed fence post with the desired bevel.

Fence Post Bevel

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I use 2 large C clamps to hold a board in place. You can screw a guide board to the post if you don't have large C clamps. Then use a circular saw with the blade adjusted to the angle you want. By using a board the cut will be straight. Then move the board to the next side and repeat. There will be small screw holes in the post if you use screws but I have done this in a pinch when I did not have my clamps handy.

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I would use a multi-tool and freehand it. multitool

I would mark the horizontal cut line on the top and sides, and the angle cut line on the sides. Work your way around cutting sideways. Clean up any irregularities with a large rasp or Shureform-type tool.

A multi-tool is a great addition to any shop.

 Images and links are illustrative only, not an endorsement of goods or sources.
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If it absolutely must be PERFECT then buy a beveled fence post cap and glue/screw it to the post - or remove the post and use a miter saw like in this video: https://youtu.be/-O6oVDHQ8sk?t=2m51s

However I suspect it does not need to be perfect and there are many ways to accomplish this job without removing the post. I would choose one of these methods based on which tool I'm most skilled with:

  • circular saw (blade at a 45 degree angle) and a straight edge clamped to the post to guide the saw. Saw will ride on the sides of the post - not the top - and blade will be facing away from you.
  • sawzall - but only if you're very skilled with one
  • multi-tool but, again, you'll need to be skilled with one to get a good clean cut all the way around and it will be slow going
  • a coping saw or carpenter saw
  • I wouldn't recommend a jigsaw unless you have a really nice one with an adjustable angle.
  • large, sharp chisel (might want to remove most of material with an above method)

If you'd like to practice your skills then use a different method for each side! :)

  • Appreciate the answer, I figured that many methods could be used - but wasnt sure if there was one obvious best method I had overlooked since this isn't exactly my expertise. This gives me a good idea of the options! – dpollitt Jan 19 '17 at 16:13
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I know this is too little too late but I have experienced this exact same problem and this is how I solved it.

  1. Mark it out with a pencil.

  2. Use what ever power, hand saw or chisel to remove the majority of waste timber MAKING SURE NOT TO GO DEEPER AND TO LEAVE THE LINES. Does not have to be exact cuts just don't go over the lines.

  3. Finish it off with a 120 grit belt on a belt sander down to the lines. I have done this many times and it works fine on Australian hard wood so Pine would be easy. And you can achieve a sharp edge/bevel if you take just a little care. I've even used the belt sander to correct mistakes with the circular saw on the odd occasion. You can get the corners to line up exactly etc.

Do a practice one first if you are worried about your skills or just want to get a little experience about how the belt sander handles on that type of timber.

  • Hello, and welcome to Home Improvement. Thanks for the answer: keep 'em coming! – Daniel Griscom Dec 18 '18 at 12:48
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Amazon has a tool call the Topper on their website. It's a jig you slide down over a post to make a cut with a circular saw. Model 1a will fit a 4x4 post. I like mine, as I use it a lot.

To cut at the angle you want, you would have to set the angle of your saw where you want it, then slide the Topper down where you want it, then make your cuts. I think it would work well for what you need.

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This seems straight forward. You can adjust the angle of most all circular saws. 1. Mark a line all around the post, about an inch and a half from the top. 2. Set your circular saw at 45 degrees. 3. Cut along the line.

  • Thanks for the idea. Any thoughts on how I could make this as safe as possible? This seems a bit risky to me. The post is 4' up, cutting with a 10" blade exposed towards my body, basically hovering the saw in the air on a very small base - makes me nervous a bit. – dpollitt Jan 19 '17 at 2:54
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    The blade should be away from you. But if you really hate the circular saw idea (truly, there's nothing wrong with that stance), this would be easy with a wide sharp chisel. – Aloysius Defenestrate Jan 19 '17 at 4:00
  • Yes, the blade should be away from you. This cut is relatively safe in the world of power tools, but if you don't have much experience with a circular saw, I can understand why you would be hesitant. – Edwin Jan 19 '17 at 5:06
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    Stand with the post between you and the side of the post you're cutting (the bottom of the blade facing away from both the post and you). – James Olson Jan 19 '17 at 16:20
  • Are we all on the same page? I read the answer to imply that the base of the saw was on the side of the post. Precariously pivoting on the 3.5x3.5 top would be awful. – User95050 Jan 20 '17 at 2:06

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