How to Use a Miter Saw – Step by Step Guide
A miter saw is a circular bladed saw that allows precise wood and mold cuts, primarily when you want to cut angles. The base of the miter saw rests on a worktop table or bench, unlike the handheld circular saw that needs your own motion across the workpiece. There are different types of miter saws and before we get to know how to use a miter saw, let’s find out some of the most common types of miter saws which are classified as follows.
Standard Miter Saws
These are the most basic design of miter saw, featuring the blade on an arm and mounted onto the base. Standard miter saws are somewhat compact in size, being light enough to be carried around and easy to operate. They can make various angled cuts of up to 45 degrees. They are usually the cheapest miter saws.
Compound Miter Saws
Compound miter saws perform the function of the standard type i.e. making angled cuts while also offering the bevel cutting option. Bevel refers to inclined cuts. The blade of the compound miter saw can tilt up to 45 degrees for this function. The saw can either be single or double bevel capable i.e. the blade can either only tilt to one side or can tilt in either right or left directions.
Compared to standard miter saws, these saws are often larger and often not built with portability as an option. The added functionality means that they are also more expensive.
Like the name suggests, these saws feature an arm and blade that is mounted onto a sliding mechanism. The mechanism allows the blade to be moved up and down like the other two cases, but also back and forth. This increases the depths and reaches of cuts by a very large margin depending on the orientation of your workpiece.
Sliding miter saws are often the bulkiest and the least portable miter saws. They offer the most complex cuts of all the saws but are also much more expensive.
Using the Miter Saw
If you are looking forward to accurate and precise cutting on different materials, it is great if you learn how to use a miter saw. You also want to use it safely to avoid accidents during work.
Precautions When Using a Miter Saw
- Always wear protective gear. Goggles for the eyes, a dust mask and earmuffs or earplugs are important. You don’t want chips to enter your eyes or breathe in the dust, and the noise is too much at close range.
- If the wood is chemically treated, always wear gloves.
- Follow the instruction manual provided along with your miter saw.
- Do not cross your arms while you cut and keep your hands at a safe distance away from the blade, about half a foot away is best.
- Never reach under the saw while the blade is rotating.
- Your workpiece should be well supported, staying in position and with easy adjustability. The support will help keep your hands away from the blade as you feed through the blade.
- Once you have taken the necessary precautions, you can now finally begin working with the miter saw.
- Mark the board at the point to be cut, with a line that extends across the piece.
- Drop the blade to the piece and check the alignment, adjusting the material as necessary before starting the saw.
- Secure the material with your free hand or a clamp, making sure the edge is flush with the fence of the base and keeping the hand at the safe distance away from the blade, your other hand will be operating the saw.
- Start the saw i.e. press the trigger to start the motor and allow the blade to pick up speed while at the starting position.
- Bring the blade in lower towards the material and cut straight through as desired. Do not lift the blade up just yet.
- Release the trigger and let the blade stop spinning before you lift it back up. Lifting up the blade while it spins can damage the edges of the board that you just cut.
- Use a blade with more teeth. The more the number of teeth, the smoother the cuts and edges that you can make.
- When adjusting the miter setting, hold the angle adjuster until you lock in the saw in position.
- Do not lift the blade up from the workpiece while it’s still spinning, this can damage the edge that you have just cut.
- To save time when cutting pieces of the same size, you can measure on a masking tape and then cut one piece. Place this piece on the stand, flush with the fence. You can now cut without having to mark again.
- Do not force the saw through the wood, the blade should do all the work. Move it at a steady pace until the cut is made through.
- When cutting multiple angles on one piece, cut one before marking and cutting the other.
- Having a workbench that allows more length and support for the material is also a good thing.
Final Words of How to Use a Miter Saw
When the saw is used for cutting molding, choose a blade with more than 90 teeth. This gives a very smooth cut and holds a good edge. Most miter saws come equipped with a standard blade of about 50 teeth; it is advisable to swap it out for a higher teeth count.
When you are buying the miter saw, think of exactly the kind of use you’ll put it to. If most of what you wish to do are just basic cuts and you want something portable, a standard miter saw will do nicely. If bevel cuts are necessary and the budget is not too high, a compound miter saw is what you need. For more complex and varied cuts, when the cost isn’t an issue, get a sliding compound miter saw.
Always remember to follow the instruction manual of your specific type and brand of the miter saw, they offer plenty of good information about how to use the power tool.