Miter saws are customarily one of the first semi-stationary tools that new woodworkers buy. Because the blade moves up and down while the wood remains in place, it’s easy to cut pieces accurately and precisely. The width of the cut is limited to the diameter of the blade, so the saw’s primary use is for crosscutting boards across the grain rather than cutting wide sheets of wood.
Anatomy of a Miter Saw
The blade’s attached to a head that swings down to make the cut. A spring lifts the head and holds the saw in an upright position when you’re not cutting.
A blade guard keeps you safe and helps direct sawdust through a rear dust shoot and into a bag or a vacuum to keep your shop clean. Never use the miter saw without the blade guard.
A miter adjustment at the front of the saw allows you to cut boards at an angle, usually up to 45 degrees in relation to the fence.
A compound miter saw has a head that tilts to create bevels.
Most saws sold today are compound saws.
The saws usually are manufactured with blades of 3 different sizes: 7 1/2 inches (pretty small), 10 inches (pretty good choice for our woodworking purposes), and 12 inches (handy, but replacement blades are pretty expensive).
A slider saw allows you to cut wider boards. I don’t have one, and for most woodworking projects that require a wider cut, a table saw will work.
My recommendation? A 10-inch non-sliding compound miter saw.
A miter saw is a little safer than a table saw might be, but the miter saw demands the same level of respect, awareness, and caution that a table saw does.
For example, unplug the saw before changing a blade.
Never use your miter saw without a blade guard.
Use a clamp to hold your workpiece in place before making your cut.
Do an imaginary, dry-run cut first, without engaging the blade, so you know how you’re going to position your hands and body before making the actual cut. Keep hands far away from the blade when cutting. Make sure the blade comes to a complete stop before raising it after a cut, which is especially important if you’re using a stop block.
Here are a few pictures of some slider miter saws that can be used for wider boards:
Using the Miter Saw
Despite its name, the most common type of cut you’ll make with a miter saw is a cross cut. Draw a line on your wood and cut on one side or the other of your measurement line.
Here’s are some pictures of the procedures you can use to make a stop block. A stop block allows you to cut several pieces of wood to uniform measurements.
As you can see in the video’s “dramatic, slo-mo recreation,” sometimes the small piece of wood you’re cutting will catch on a blade tooth when the wood piece is pressed between the blade and the block.
This piece can fly up and cause injury. That’s why it’s important that you allow the blade to come to a complete stop before raising the head—especially true when using a stop block.
The table area of most miter saws is small, so if I’m cutting a long board, I usually just stack a couple of two-by-fours under the overhanging end of my board to support the long piece when I’m cutting.
If the measurements of the pieces you want to cut are longer than the table of your miter saw, you can make an extension fence with a stop block at the end. The video explains how to do it fairly quickly and easily. There’s often a provision on your miter saw for creating this extension fence.
The miter saw allow you to cut miters.
The miter saw also allows you to cut bevels.
And a compound miter saw allows you to . . . wait for it . . . cut compound miters.
Here’s a compound miter that includes a miter cut and a bevel cut.
The miter saw is a nifty tool that will help you with many of your woodworking projects. You won’t regret the investment.
Thanks for watching, folks!
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