How to Use a Miter Saw

How to Use a Miter Saw

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Miter saws are one of the best friends that anybody working with wood can have. When it comes to cutting wood, they have many different uses, and they aren’t difficult to use either.

That said, although not difficult to use, these are big and powerful saws with blades that spin at high speeds, so you do need to know what you are doing. Today, we are here to explain to you how to use a miter saw properly and safely.

How to Use a Miter Saw

Alright, so using a miter saw is not a step-by-step kind of thing. This is not something we can just generalize into a single guide, as it all depends on what you are using the miter saw for. So, right now, we are going to provide you with a little guide on how to use a miter saw for a variety of purposes.

There are two main types of cuts that miter saws can make, including miter cuts and bevel cuts, so let’s take a look at both.

The below assumes you have the right blade in place. If you need to learn how to replace it, read this guide.

How to Make a Miter Cut with a Miter Saw

The first type of cut that a miter saw can make, and the most common type, is the miter cut. Miter saws can pivot the blade, usually up to 45 degrees to both sides, thus allowing you to make an angled cut along the horizontal plane, or in other words, angled from side to side.

Follow the below steps to make a miter cut with a miter saw. Remember that miter cuts can just be 90-degree cross-cuts too.

  1. Make sure the saw is secured in place and has power running to it. Get the wood that you plan on cutting, measure the line you want to cut (as well as the angle if making an angled miter cut), and mark it using a pencil or chalk.
  2. Take the board you plan on cutting and place it on the miter saw so that the long edge of the board rests against the fence. This is necessary both for safety and for accuracy.
  3. If you need to make an angled miter cut, loosen the handle on the miter gauge, depress the lock handle, and pivot the blade to the desired position. Now, tighten the handle on the miter gauge.
  4. Without turning the saw on yet, move the blade down to make sure that it lines up with the mark you make in the second step. You can adjust the position of the wood as necessary.
  5. Hold the board firmly in place with your hands at least half a foot away from where you plan to cut the wood.
  6. Turn on the saw, wait for the blade to achieve full speed, and then move it down through the wood in a fluid motion. Don’t apply much pressure. The saw should do the work for you.

How to Make a Miter Cut with a Miter Saw

How to Make a Bevel Cut with a Miter Saw

The other main type of cut that a miter saw can make (as long as you have a compound, sliding compound, or dual compound miter saw), is a bevel cut. A bevel cut is also an angled cut, but instead of the angle being on the horizontal plane, it’s on the vertical plane, or in other words, the angle is from top to bottom, not side to side like with a miter cut.

  1. Make sure the saw is secured in place and has power running to it.
  2. Get the wood that you plan on cutting, measure the line you want to cut (as well as the angle), and mark it using a pencil or chalk. If making a miter and bevel cut in one, you will need to account for both angles.
  3. Take the board you plan on cutting and place it on the miter saw so that the long edge of the board rests against the fence. This is necessary both for safety and for accuracy.
  4. Adjust the bevel gauge on the miter saw so that it is at the proper angle. Remember, if making a bevel cut, you need to adjust the saw’s bevel. If making a miter cut, you need to adjust the miter angle. If you are making both a miter cut and a bevel cut, you need to adjust both on the saw.
  5. Before turning the saw on, just move the blade down to see that it lines up properly with your markings. If need be, you can adjust the position of the wood.
  6. Hold the wood down firmly, turn the saw on, and move the spinning blade down through the piece of wood to make your cut.

How to Make a Bevel Cut with a Miter Saw

The Basics of Miter Saw Safety

Something to remember here is that miter saws, although useful, are high powered and dangerous tools. It’s not uncommon for people to cut themselves, lose a finger, or worse. Therefore, you need to follow the safety tips as outlined here in order to keep yourself safe:

  • Always keep your miter saw unplugged when it is not in use.
  • Miter saws need to be bolted or secured to a very stable surface, such as a good sawing table or workbench. Never use a miter saw that is not bolted down.
  • When cutting wood, either use a clamp to secure the stock in place or, if you are using your hands, make sure to hold the wood at least six inches from the blade. That said, never clamp both ends of the wood being cut.
  • Never wear any sort of loose clothing that may get caught in the blade, as this can pull you into the blade. On that same note, long hair needs to be tied up when using a miter saw.
  • Always wear safety goggles when using a miter saw. You don’t want any debris flying into your eyes.

Standard vs. Compound vs. Sliding Miter Saw: Differences in Use

What you need to know here is that there are of course different types of miter saws out there, and the main types include the standard, compound, and sliding miter saw (as well as a compound sliding miter saw). Let’s talk about the main difference in use between these types.

  • A standard miter saw can make cross-cuts and angled cross-cuts, otherwise known as miter cuts. For this type of miter saw, all you can do is pivot the blade left or right, and then move the blade down through the stock. This is the simplest and most basic type of miter saw.
  • A sliding miter saw is the next step up from the standard miter saw. The only difference between the two is that the blade of a sliding miter saw is on a track that allows you to slide it from back to front, thus allowing you to cut much wider pieces of wood, something that a standard miter saw cannot do.
  • The next type of miter saw is the compound miter saw. Unlike the previous two types, this type also allows the blade to bevel left and right. Instead of just pivoting on the horizontal plane, the blade can also be pivoted or beveled along the vertical plane, thus allowing for bevel cuts.
  • The most advanced type of miter saw is the sliding compound miter saw, which effectively combines every single one of the features that all of the miter saws come with.

Using a Miter Saw

Mistakes to Avoid, Tips & Tricks

Besides the various safety rules that we discussed above, there are some other tricks to using a miter saw that will help make life easier and safer.

  • One of the biggest tips that we can give you here is that you always need to use the right kind of blade. There are differences in the amount and the size of teeth that blades have, as well as the materials that the blades are made of. You need to have the right kind of blade for the job at hand.
  • If you plan on using the miter saw for work-related purposes, and you will need it a lot, it is best to go for the most advanced type of miter saw with the most features.
  • Some people might think that it is wise to wear safety gloves when sawing wood, but the fact is that gloves reduce your overall grip, they can get in the way, and they can make it much harder to feel what you are holding onto.

Summary

The bottom line is that there are many miter saws out there and many types of cuts that they can make.

We hope that us covering the basics of how to use a miter saw has helped make life easier for you!