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I want to cut a few hundred stakes from scrap 2x4 lumber. The stakes would be 4ft long, and have a 70 degree taper at the end.

enter image description here

The most efficient method I can think of for cutting the tapers would be to use a compound mitre saw. However, the most severe angle/taper that can be cut with the compound mitre saws I've seen is 60 degrees.

enter image description here

Unfortunately, 60 degrees is not a severe enough angle for my purposes. The 60 degree taper does not penetrate hard clay soil well enough when pounded with a sledge hammer.

As I mentioned, I'm really hoping that I can use a compound mitre saw for this purpose (rather than a circular saw), because I think the mitre saw would be the most efficient method--in terms of time--by far.

How can I cut a 70 degree taper using a compound mitre saw?

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    I kind of think you're asking the wrong question. Going into hard ground, a slightly narrower taper isn't going to help much IMO. Pre-digging the hole would be more effective I think. – The Evil Greebo Jul 19 '18 at 16:28
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    Agree this is the wrong question. For example, instead of a sledge hammer you can use a post pounder (the simple kind you pick up and drop) and get better results. The other thing is to cut all 4 sides to make a point, instead of just one side. – user3067860 Jul 19 '18 at 20:42
  • Is each stake a full 2x4 with a point on the end or are you ripping down 4' lengths of 2x4 to create stakes that are actually 3/4" x 1 1/2" in cross section? The difference will be significant in the length of the taper cut and could determine the appropriate saw to use. – Michael Karas Jul 20 '18 at 9:50
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    Take a file and make an extra notch at the 70 degree point. Select a saw that has a large enough blade and room to swing that far. This saw appears to have a notch at 90 degrees so might be suitable. – KalleMP Jul 20 '18 at 20:56
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Cut it perpendicularly.

70 degrees from 90 degrees (ie: a right angle) is 20 degrees.

Square the end of your taper and put a mark in the middle.

Set your saw on 20 degrees and place the mark so that the taper makes a T with the cutting rail, cut one side, flip the taper over, cut the other.

If you're concerned about stability - make an L shaped jig which you can put up against the rail and hold the taper against to keep it straight.

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    The idea about the jig for stability is key. – Wilson Jul 19 '18 at 16:24
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    meh. It's a taper. It's gonna get pounded into the ground. Perfection is hardly required. :D – The Evil Greebo Jul 19 '18 at 16:25
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    Back in high school shop class, they taught that making rip cuts with a compound mitre saw is unsafe. While a 20 degree cut isn't exactly a rip cut, it is fairly close to a rip cut. From your experience, if the wood is stable, is this kind of cut safe? – Wilson Jul 19 '18 at 16:27
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    A rip cut is a cut you make lengthwise along a piece of wood, where you're (at least in my experience) moving the wood along the blade. You're not doing that. You're gonna hold the wood still and bring the blade down onto it, just like any other cut. Your hands won't be moving towards the blade. – The Evil Greebo Jul 19 '18 at 16:29
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    I can't speak for or against @Wilson's shop teacher's rule, but a rip cut is defined as a cut parallel to the grain. I suspect the danger with using a miter to rip is that you would only have a few inches to hold on to, putting your hands too close to the saw blade. At least with this current situation, you have a whole 2x4 to hold on to (for better or worse). I would still use a jig, clamped to the saw, to minimize moving for safety's sake. – stannius Jul 19 '18 at 18:31
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At the risk of sounding like a complete idiot why don't you clamp a block to the saw fence so that the stake is skewed 10 degrees when flat against the block and fence? Then you can just set the saw at 60 and chop.

For cutting hundreds of them a circular saw may be quicker and easier though. Once you know the length of the taper you can place a bunch of stakes staggered by that much on a set of saw horses and gang saw them. A set of stair gauges or a board clamped to a framing square let you set the angle without measuring, and you can but a straight edge jig (or track if you've got the fancy tools) against it. Less than a minute to set up for each cut and you can do a half dozen or more at once.

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This doesn't have anything to do with saws, but it's too long for a comment.

Instead of trying to come up with a better stake, maybe come up with a completely different solution.

My first thought at seeing the "penetrating hard clay soil" was to use a wood/spade drill bit to drill a pilot hole in the ground before trying to tamp in the stake. There are also wood augers that might work better, as they are similar to the standard twist drills, except with a much larger groove for removing material.

Spade bit:

Spade drill bit

Wood auger:

Wood auger drill bit

https://pjcplantservices.co.uk/wp-content/uploads/Wood-Augers-Bit2.jpg

I have a feeling that the stake won't maintain it's cutting edge with such a long tip, so you might be hurting your changes, rather than helping, them by making the angle more pronounced.

Of course, this depends on if you or someone else is driving the stakes in, as well as if you have an extension cable long enough or a battery powered drill powerful enough to do it.

Ok, so this part uses a table saw: Using a sled, you can rig up a jig to allow you to make your 70 deg cuts. Even radial arm saws might not have the travel you need to cut the 70 deg angle you're looking for, but you shouldn't have a problem with the right sled on a table saw.

Table saw sled:

Table saw with saw sled

Also: You might want to invest in a fence post driver, since slinging a sledge hammer at a 4' fence post isn't going to be easy. Also with them being wood, you're likely to crack them with a sledge. A driver is likely to give you a centered hit that is much less likely to split the wood.

Even if the stake splits/mushrooms the end, the driver will help you keep the stake in one piece, since it would encircle the split wood, helping to prevent it from splitting it further.

Believe me, a driver like this is much easier to handle than a sledge, in many ways. Guaranteed hits, no bruised feet/shins/knees/ankles, no broken bones, better balance, and they stay on the post when you need to take a break (just to name a few benefits).

Fence post driver:

Fence post driver

  • +1 for thinking outside the box. Fence post driver would be the way to go. – FreeMan Jul 19 '18 at 19:36
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    @FreeMan, I don't think I've ever seen this "box" you and others keep talking about. Is it oak, maple, pine, or cedar? And did "they" use dove tail, butt end, or finger joints? Ok, I'll shut up now. ;-) – computercarguy Jul 19 '18 at 21:15
  • Another tweak - try watering the ground a bit too. Might not do a lot for heavy clay, but its easier to drive through wet or damp soil than hard dry soil. – Criggie Jul 20 '18 at 0:05
  • And if you do use a sledgehammer on fence posts, always use scrapwood in between (duct taped to the top of the post, for example, just to stop it falling/bouncing off) – Chris H Jul 26 '18 at 15:04
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You could make a jig out of scrap wood. If you make a 25 degree jig, you could set the saw to 45 degrees. 25 + 45 = 70.

Once you cut one side, lining up the other side will be a little harder. You'd want to make a mark on the jig or maybe even make a second, more complex jig for the second cut.

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Use a chainsaw. It won't look pretty, but it doesn't have to: remember, you're trying to stick a piece of wood in the ground, not build a cabinet. This would by far be the fastest and simplest method. You could even stack a bunch of 2x4s on top of each other and make multiple cuts at once.

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A bit out-of-the-box but I was going to suggest a Tenon cutter (used to make log furniture). It would work best if (2) 2x4's were attached together to start with a square shape. Amazon Link

However Tenon cutters tend to be (1) expensive, (2) they require a very heavy duty drill and (3) they can be dangerous if not used correctly.

But along those lines there are jigs that you could modify to create tenons with an angle:

This guy has a great idea just using a Drill and a holesaw (you may or may not want to gang 2 2x4's together for this: Cutting a Tenon using a Drill and a Holesaw

This would also work but not sure how safe it would be: How To Cut Tenons with a Circular Saw

Good luck

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