Once you learn how to use a miter saw, making angled cuts will no longer be the ordeal it is with anything less than a radial-arm saw. Whether you need to make miter joints in window or doorframes, picture frames, moldings, or furniture, you can save time, money, and material by using a miter saw, designed for exactly those kinds of cuts.
Miter Saws Differ From Other Power Saws
The miter saw was first known a “chop saw” or a “power miter box” because of its special purpose, and a do-it-yourselfer who discovered how to use a miter saw was able to precisely and quickly make numerous angled cuts. Using only a handsaw, such cuts are only possible with a standard wooden miter box, and the job is slow and tedious in comparison. The radial-arm saw is also well-known for its angle-cutting ability and can be used in many other ways; however, the cost for some homeowners is prohibitive or they simply don’t have the need for many of the radial-arm saw functions, which makes the miter saw a better choice.
The miter saw is a circular blade mounted on a low metal stand with a round, rotating table. The saw pivots at its rear and the blade can be brought down at any angle to the material to be cut – wood, laminate, or vinyl. The saw is available in three popular designs:
1. standard miter saws;
2. compound miter saws; and
3. sliding compound miter saws.
The standard miter saw is a portable, effective tool for most home improvement projects and cuts 2 x 4’s and trim with a chopping action. The compound miter saw is much more versatile, and, for example, allows the saw to pivot to one side for cutting bevels. Both the standard and the compound miters have a 10″ limitation on the length of crosscuts they can make. For the greatest flexibility in angled sawing, the sliding compound miter saw has added a power head that slides along twin rails, in a similar fashion to that of a radial-arm saw. It considerably increases the length of crosscut it can make, and it can cut angles along two planes at once. Big time saver.
How to Use a Miter Saw
1. Take all the normal precautions required when using a power saw of any kind (e.g., don’t forget your goggles; keep your free hand away from the blade).
2. Set the angle for the cut and lock the saw into position, and clamp the wood (or material to be cut) firmly against the saw fence.
3. Mark the cutting line.
4, Turn the saw on. Let it come up to speed before using the upper saw handle to slowly lower the blade onto the wood. Make a preliminary cut beyond your intended cut (on the waste side) as a test cut. Correct the blade’s position if necessary before repeating the steps to make the final cut. Raise the blade only after it has come to a full stop.
1. If a board is too wide for the saw mouth, cut it in two passes.
2. If the table won’t provide enough support, use an extension table. If you are cutting a plank, use additional supports (a stand made out of scrap wood will do).
3. Smoothness of the cut can be improved by using a sharp blade with a minimum of 60 teeth.
Before deciding which miter saw to buy check reviews and consumer reports to make sure you are getting the miter saw you need at a price you can afford. When you learn how to use a miter saw to its best advantage, you can save a lot of time and money. And, hey, stay safe! Read all the manufacturer’s instructions before you make your first cut, and always use all the safety features and recommendations.