The Ultimate Beginner’s Guide To Use A Miter Saw

Miter Saw

Whether you’re into woodworking or have a job in construction, a miter saw is the most basic yet essential power tool to have. A miter saw is a very efficient tool for making precise, identical, straight, and mitered cuts.

With a miter saw you can cut across a board at several different angles. Miter saws are designed for cross-cutting rather than ripping. Since a miter saw doesn’t have a stationary blade it’s not suitable to cut large pieces of wood. Learning how to operate a miter saw can be a bit intimidating at first. Even though it’s safer than many stationary cutting power tools, it still has a large powerful blade that spins very fast. Before we begin, let’s get acquainted with the varieties of different miter saws out there.

Types Of Miter Saw

A miter saw is a pretty functional tool for both beginners and professional woodworkers. You should know different types of miter saws before you choose the right one for you.

  • Sliding miter saw: There is a rail system in the sliding miter saw, that allows the blade to slide from front to back across the wood. It offers a maximum depth of cut.
  • Compound miter saw: A compound miter saw is used to cut a piece of board at a beveled angle. The blades of these saws swivel left and right to make angled cuts.
  • Sliding compound miter saw: This saw combines the feature of both sliding and compound miter saw. It offers the flexibility of a compound saw as well as a greater depth of cuts provided by the sliding miter saw.
  • Dual compound miter saw: Dual compound miter saw comes with adjustable blades that bevel in both directions. Thus you don’t need to flip your board while cutting. It also features rails and a miter table.
Miter Saw

How Does A Miter Saw Work?

In terms of making a clean cross-cut, nothing can beat a miter saw. In this article, we have put together a step-by-step guide so you can safely operate a miter saw and make your project with utmost precision. 

Get To Know Your Saw

Before you start sawing it’s important to get acquainted with your tool. Besides, you need to be aware of all the locks and adjustments of the saw. The first thing is the blade, which comes with a protective guard, and when you lower the saw the guard moves up. Then there’s a fence, where you place your board. The fence helps to keep your board straight and steady while cutting. Miter saws are mostly known for their angled cuts.

So there is a miter gauge on the table to make angled cuts across the board. Besides, there is a knob to swivel the table and get the desired angle for your cuts. The beveled gauge should be under or behind the blade. It helps to measure how much you want to tilt your blade. Finally to operate the saw you need to hold the handle and push the trigger.

Adjusting The Saw

If you want your crosscuts to be accurate you have to make sure your blades are clean and sharp. Spin the blade to check for bends, broken teeth, or other abnormalities. Now you can start calibrating a miter saw by squaring up the fence. Bring the blade down while locking the arm in position using the pin. Then lift the guard up and put a paper towel inside to keep the guard away from the blade. To detect any gaps, you can slide a combination square or a plastic triangle against the blade and fence.

If there’s any gap between the blade and the square, it won’t cut accurate miters. To fix this issue, remove the bolts that attach the fence to the table and square it up in a way so there’s no gap left. Afterward, tighten the bolt carefully but make sure the fence doesn’t move throughout this process. You can also alter the bevel angle by using a bevel adjustment bolt which is located in the back of the miter saw.

Flip Test

You can do a flip test to ensure you have adjusted your saw properly. It’s pretty simple, first, you need to cut the end piece of the board while keeping your saw at a 90-degree angle. Then, make another incision, but it should be a couple of inches long. Take the smaller piece of board and flip it over 180 degrees. While keeping the fence perfectly straight, place both pieces of board together against the fence. This will give you an idea of how close your cut is. However, there will be a triangular gap between the pieces if the miter was not precise 90°.

Setting An Angle

Before spinning up the blade you need to double-check the cutting angle. Most saws allow you to miter in both directions, so to perform a simple miter cut, you need to unlock the miter gauge, and move it to the required angle. After setting an angle, don’t forget to lock the table so it doesn’t move during the cut. 

When performing a bevel cut, keep the miter gauge at 0° and the bevel gauge unlocked. Most saws have detents to set a common angle, however, you can also get your desired angle by using the bevel gauge lock.

Among other things, cutting compound angles is mostly required for installing crown molding. The right angles for crown molding are already built into most compound miter saws. If your saw doesn’t have that, set the miter angle to 31.6 degrees and the bevel angle on the saw to 33.9 degrees. 

Setting an Angle milter saw

Mark The Board

Keeping the blade width in mind, you have to mark and measure your board. You can draw a straight line with a speed square where you wish to cut. Then you need to place the board against the fence and lower the blade without pushing the trigger. Once you’re satisfied with the positioning, you can start sawing. With more practice, you would be able to perfectly align the blade with the cutting mark.

Start Sawing

After marking the board you can make your cut from the front to the rear. This motion corresponds to the spin of the blade and prevents backlash. Continue lowering the blade while allowing the saw to retain a high RPM until the cut is done. When you’re done cutting through the board, release the trigger. While lifting the blade make sure the spinning is completely off. 


Using this kind of power tool is usually pretty simple, however, there are a few things you need to keep in mind before you start operating a miter saw. For instance, make sure to unplug the saw while changing the blade. Always wear safety glasses and avoid wearing loose clothing. While cutting, keep your fingers at a safer distance from the blade. Gloves and ear protection are other useful additions to your safety equipment. 

A miter saw is a must-have piece of equipment for nearly any sort of woodworking project. We hope the steps mentioned above will help you to understand the fundamentals of miter saw as well as tips and tactics for achieving the best results possible.

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