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How to Use a Miter Saw – Beginner’s Guide

How to Use a Miter Saw – Beginner’s Guide
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What is a miter saw?

A miter saw is a large saw that is used to make perfect bevel cuts and crosscuts with the use of backsaw or circular saw blade which is mounted. Because of the type of cuts that a miter can make, it is good for you to know how to use a miter saw.

It works by using the mounted spinning saw blade to make short, quick, and ordered motions. It makes it easy to cut woods faster at selected angles. It can also be referred to as a power miter.

The power miter saw is also known as drop saw. Since it is large, it is mounted on a tabletop. Therefore, you have to take the wood to the worktable to make the cut. It is also known as mitre saw outside the United States.

 watch the video for the basics of using a miter saw

video showing the basics of using a miter saw

What Are The Types Of Miter Saws?

The types of miter saws are:

1. Standard miter saw: This type of miter has limited ability. It can only cut 90 degrees or 45 degrees. It is mostly relevant for angled cuts and perfect for molding. It is the most common type.

2. Sliding miter saw: The sliding miter saw has the same cutting ability as the standard and compound miter saws. But its main distinctive feature is that it can cut a larger expanse of wood than the others. This is because it has rails that give you the ability to move it forward or backward while cutting. It can expand up to 12 to 16 inches which is basically more than double the reach of the other miter saws.

3. Compound miter saw: A compound miter saw can rotate its blade at varying angles. It creates an inclined angled cut on the sides of the wood to create more allowance for other complex cuts. You can use it to make angles of more than 90 degrees and other complex cuts.

4. Sliding compound miter saw: This type of miter saw combines all the benefits of the compound and sliding miter. It allows you the convenience of using it for varying crosscuts and angles, while at the same time gives you a long reach to make cuts on wide boards.

5. Dual/Double compound miter saw: This type has all the attributes of the compound miter saw and at the same time can be bent either to the right or to the left to help cover all the possible angles you wish to cut to much more easily.

how to use a miter saw
photo credit: Alex Borland, needpix.com

What is the purpose of a miter saw?

The purpose of a miter saw is to help you make those special cuts that your normal chainsaw will not be able to give you. Furthermore, it is easy-to-use equipment for even the most inexperienced person. Its ability to cut at perfect angles and give good miter cut has made it remain relevant despite all the new technological innovations.

What are the uses of a miter saw?

The uses of the miter saw are:

1. Making regular crosscuts. With the use of the miter saw, the difficulty of cutting woods or boards in half is reduced. The reason for this is because the saw is mounted on a miter table because it is quite heavy. It gives you a stable platform to make a perfect cut without the fear of the saw shifting.

2. The miter saw can be used to cut through any type of wood

3. It can be used to cut through at a very perfect line without any mistake. This is because you can see where the blade will be cutting quite easily and make an accurate cut.

4. It is also used in making the cutting of miters very easy. As against crosscut which cuts the wood on a parallel line, miter cuts the wood at a diagonal angle at varying degrees.

5. It can also be used by contractors who are working on fences and roofs to make accurate cuts to their materials.

How to Use a Miter Saw

As we have already explained above, making a bevel cut or a miter cut can be really time consuming and tedious. Once you are making these angled cuts, your work gets much easier and neater when you use a miter saw.

 What Are The Steps Follow In Using A Miter Saw?

The steps involved to use a miter saw are:

1. Choose the size and type of miter saw needed

2. Decide the power of the miter you need

3. Set up your workbench

4. Read the user’s manual

5. Know the various parts of your machine

6. Unlock the saw

7. Power and cut

8. Try out angles with the scrap materials

9. Practice and practice

Choose the Size and Type of Miter Saw Needed

Before you start your work, you need to decide what size and type of miter saw you need that will best suit the work you plan to do. As they have a different function, so also are they suited for various types of cuts.

Decide the Power of the Miter You Need

The wood you wish to cut may be a tough one or not so tough. That should guide you on the horsepower of the machine you need. The muscle or power that a machine can release at a particular time is what we refer to as the horsepower.

That means if you wish to cut a large or tough piece of wood, it may be advisable to use an industrial level machine. This type is heavier and stronger.


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Set up Your Workbench

The miter saw needs a comfortable workbench that it has to be set up on. This workbench needs to be balanced and have enough space to accommodate the material that needs to be cut.

Read the User’s Manual

If the machine comes with a user’s manual, it will be wise to go through it. From there you can get information on the safety precautions you need and the safety gears to put on.

It will also inform you on the type of wire extension that will be suitable for the miter saw and the electrical requirement of the machine. This is to prevent any electrical damage being done to the motto or any other electrical part of the machine. 

Know the Various Parts of Your Machine

It is important that you know the various parts of your machine. These parts include the angle indicator and the angle scale which is located at the front side of the saw bed, trigger or power switch, and the lock mechanism.

There are some other features that miter saws come with, but they vary according to the type you are using. They are the laser guides, the locking clamps used to secure the workpiece and the saw tilt scale.

photo credit: pixbay.com

Unlocking the Saw

You have to get familiar with your saw by raising and lowering the saw many times. This will help you understand the path that the blade will take as it saws on the wood.

This will help prevent any mistakes or accident when you start to cut.

Power up and Cut

Connect the saw to a power outlet suitable for it. But before you start cutting the main material you wish to work with, it is a good idea to test it with a scrap material.

When you want to start your cut, make sure that the stock you are working with has enough length. This is for you to have enough space to hold on to while cutting without putting your hand close to the blade.

Try Out Various Angles with the Scrap Material

As it is your first time of using the miter saw, you need to do a little practice. This is to be sure that you are getting it right before trying it out on the working material.

Using your scrap material, try to cut at various angles and see how easily miter saws can make angled cuts. To form a joint, cut at half of the angle that the joint will form when joined.

For example, if you are making a 90 degrees (square) corner, then you have to cut the two ends of the wood at an opposite 45° angle. When joined, the two will form a 90 degrees corner.

Practice and Practice

Continue practicing with your scrap material until you are comfortable with your handling of the saw. Also test the different features that your saw comes with. Make use of the various adjustments and speed.

Once you have mastered how to handle the miter saw, then you are good to go. Go ahead and start the work you need done.

Using a miter saw is quite easy and fun. But always observe all the safety rules.

Here are other awesome post you might be interested in:

How to Operate a Chainsaw

What is a Jigsaw

What is a Reciprocating saw

What Was The Original Purpose of the Chainsaw

What is a Compound Miter Saw

When was The Chainsaw Invented

Video: How to Use a Miter Saw (A Beginner’s Guide)

If you would prefer the video, watch the attached youtube video

Safety Tips

Although the miter saw is a very simple machine to use, it is still a power machine. It could maim you or injure people around you if the safety measures are not followed.

What are the safety measures to observe when using a miter saw?

1. The safety measures to observe are as follows:

2. Always keep the power machine unplugged whenever it is not in use or when you are changing its blade.

3. Your fingers must not be closer than 6 inches to the path the blade is cutting. Although some saws make this safety precaution easier to observe by indicating the danger area which you hand must not go beyond.

4. Always wear your earplug and safety glasses whenever you are operating the machine.

5. Do not put your hand anywhere near the blade whenever it is spinning.

6. Allow the blade to completely stop whenever you finish each cut you are making before you lift it.

 7. Never operate the saw if the blade is not covered by the safety cover.

Delta Power Equipment Corporation S26-262L 10" Shop Master Miter Saw with Laser

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Do You Really need a miter saw?

The need for miter saw depends on where your interest lies. It’s not an essential tool that everyone must have at home. But then if you are the ‘do it yourself’ kind of person, it will surely come in handy at times.

But if you are into carpentry work or a contractor for that matter, it is very important that you have it. It is a tool that performs a function that no other tool can. There are no substitutes that can be used to achieve the same results.

In conclusion, the miter is a specialized kind of saw that makes miter cuts and angle cuts look neat and stress free. If you are planning on getting one, always remember to check the features of the different types that we have already mentioned. That will help you purchase the type that suits the job you want to do.

How To Use A Miter Saw- Related Frequently Asked Questions

Can I Replace The Miter Saw Blade?

You can replace the miter saw blade. To do this, here are the steps to follow:

  • Unplug the miter saw.
  • Remove the spindle cover and turn the blade guard to the top position. After that, loosen the front screw of the spindle cover, then remove it. 
  • Remove the blade and press the spindle lock to lock the spindle properly. Remove the bolt and washer too.
  • Replace the blade with the new one. Use the direction arrows on the blade to fix it in the right direction. Replace the washer and bolt and press the spindle lock and tighten the bolt with the 10mm wrench. Afterwards, replace the spindle cover screw and lower the blade guard.

Can I Get A Non Electric Miter Saw?

You can get a non electric miter saw. It has two components – a hand saw with teeth used in crosscutting and a box which helps to make correct angled cuts. The box is made large enough to contain the breadths of the wood to be cut. 

Additionally, slots are made on the walls of the box at particular angles to aid cutting. The slots in turn, provide the guide for the saw to follow. Even with all these, using an electric miter saw is much better than using a non electric miter saw as it’s more accurate.

How Do I Mount My Miter Saw?

Here are the procedures to enable you mount the miter saw accurately:

Place the saw on the workbench or plywood, depending on what’s available. Mark the four saw mounting holes on the surface. Drill the holes for screws if you are mounting to work on a bench but when drilling to mount on plywood, drill for bolts. 

Turn the other surface of the plywood and countersink for the nuts so that the bolts will not protrude. Ensure the plywood is even, with the surface on which it will sit, then attach the hardware. Mount the saw (using the correct screwdriver or wrench). Clamp the plywood-mounted saw at its bolt, not just any place to prevent interference during saw operations. 

Can I Cut Metals With My Miter Saw?

You can cut your metals with your miter saw. You have to consider the softness of the metal to know the right blade to use. Soft metals (copper and aluminum) are easier for miter saws to cut. Harder metals such as steel will take longer to cut, even with the right blade. 

When getting blades for cutting metals, note that there are blades for cutting ferrous and non-ferrous metals. In cutting a soft metal, the blade for that task should be a high tooth count blade. 

Cutting metals produces sparks. So you must make sure that your work surface is clear of saw dust and debris because sparks easily ignite old saw dust.

How Can I Make A Bevel Cut?

To make bevel cuts with your miter saw:

  1. Bevel a board or plywood along its length with a table saw (you can adjust the blade to do this).
  2. Change the blade angle by turning its angle adjustment control which is at the front of the machine. Remember to unplug the saw while doing this. 
  3. Set the fence in a way that the blade tilts away from it to prevent the wood from kicking back. 
  4. Measure the width of the cut from the fence to the far side of the blade. Tighten the fence and turn on the saw. 
  5. Release the angle adjustment nut on the saw. Pivot the blade, then tighten the nut. After that, turn on the saw and cut.

How Do I Make Correct Angle Cuts Using The Miter Saw?

To make correct angle cuts, follow these procedures: 

Get two boards ready, the edges have to be straight (you can check it by joining the edge). The wider the board, the better.

With the jointed edges which should be against the fence, make a cut. Set the blade so that it can have materials on both sides, this will help make the cut straight and you will not get a deflection.

After that, if the board shows a gap at the top of the cut, it means the saw is not cutting at 90 degrees. Check your user manual to adjust the saw as required, then make another cut. When the cut edges touch uniformly, you are done. 

Why Is My Blade Not Steady?

The blade is not steady because it is warped. This means that if you turn the blade on its face, it will not lay flat. Trying to make cuts in this situation will not yield effective results especially when trying to make a straight cut.

Don’t overlook it even if it is slightly unsteady. If you do, it can lead to more problems which will affect other parts of the miter saw. To fix a blade that is not steady, replace the blade. While doing this, make sure that the new blade is not warped too. Note that miter blades do not have an infinite lifespan.

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