Wisdom from the Pro to the Apprentice
There are several types of joints that fasten two pieces at a 90 degree angle. For all other angles, a miter joint is required. We like that because it means we have an excuse to buy a new tool. Maybe you’ve seen the classic miter box for use with a handsaw and elbow grease, but today’s power miter saw is easier, faster, and more accurate. The concept started life as a basic chop saw and added a pivoting base to create angles. Compound miter saws brought in the ability to bevel (tilt) and sliding saws gave us the ability to make longer cuts. Here are some tips on how to use a miter saw like a Pro.
How to Use a Miter Saw Like a Pro: Safety First
1. Wear eye protection. It’s a good practice to put on eye protection any time you enter the shop or the jobsite. Even if you’re only planning to sweep up, it’s easy to get started on another project and forget to protect yourself. Ear protection and gloves are another good idea and may be required by your employer.
2. Push the stock against the fence and use a hold down. If the stock isn’t snugly against the fence, you’ll experience a kickback as the blade slams the stock back and then in an unpredictable direction. The hold down (also commonly referred to as a vertical or miter saw clamp) allows you to keep your hands away from the blade and prevent wood movement. It can be removed when cutting material like crown molding and switched to left or right.
3. Make miter and bevel adjustments before plugging the saw in. Call us paranoid, but the bevel adjustment on many saws is in the back, which means you’ll probably be leaning over or reaching around the blade. Simply leave it unplugged until all angles are set. Although you select miter detents on the front of the saw, it’s still wise to leave the saw unplugged when you are focusing on anything other than making the cut.
4. Make sure longer pieces of wood are supported with a stand or table. Long pieces that are cut will fall away from the saw if they aren’t supported. Your natural instinct to catch a falling object may send your arm into the blade or the blade may catch and kick the falling piece. Be sure you don’t lose control of any material during or after the cut.
5. Bring the blade to the wood *before starting the saw* to ensure an accurate cut. Cutting 101 says that you’ll lose the width of the saw’s kerf in the cut, so if the blade is right on the line, the piece will end up too short. Make accurate measurements and markings that account for blade width.
How to Use a Miter Saw Like a Pro: Making the Cut
6. Bring the blade up to full speed before it touches the wood. Starting the cut too slow or when the blade is in contact with the wood will impede the cut and cause tearout.
7. Always cut from front to back with a sliding miter saw. This matches the spin of the blade and works with to push against the fence. Cutting the opposite direction start to push the material back toward you and can quickly create table saw-like kickback if it twists.
8. The cut is a one-handed job if you have a hold-down, so keep your other hand out of the way. If you find yourself naturally resting your hand on the wood, make sure it’s outside the hold down clamp. Also be sure to never cross your arms in front of you while using a miter saw.
9. Let the blade come to a complete stop before raising the motor head. A still saw is a safer saw. You can still nick yourself on a tooth, but it’ll be much shallower that what you’ll get at 4,000 RPM!
We hope you these tips help you get started on how to use a miter saw like a Pro! There’s more to talk about when it comes to actually setting your angles, but we wanted to make sure you have the basics down first. If you’re a Pro and you have miter saw tips, add them in the comments below—or contact us with your own Pro tips.