Any home or building is incomplete without wood. There are doors, windows, frames, false walls, etc, made out of wood. And a miter saw is one versatile woodworking tool that is excellent for both beginners and professionals. And today we’ll be learning all about power miter saws. By the end of this article, I am sure that you’ll have a clear idea about miter saws, their types, operation, working, and usage.
What is a Miter Saw?
A miter saw is an essential tool for carpentry jobs. They come in various shapes and sizes to accommodate different materials. While using this saw, you move the blade on the lumber rather than pushing material towards the blade. And such control over the blade results in precise cutting every time.
Not only for miter cuts, but you can use this powerful tool for crosscutting and ripping lumber. The adjustable mitering table is one of the biggest advantages of miter saws. In fact, many electric power saw brands provide in-built miter adjustments. This allows you to adjust the angle quickly and accurately for better cutting.
In addition to an adjustable worktable, you can also pivot the blade of a miter saw. Mostly, woodworkers set the blade angle at 45° for common carpentry works. But you can also set it at other angles as per the project demands.
Types of Miter Saw
If you think that a power miter saw is the only type of carpentry tool then that is not the case. There are different types of miter saw ideal for doing various work. Check out the types below to pick the right type according to your work/usage. Below listed are 4 popular miter saw types(1). Let us know more about each saw type in detail for a better idea.
Sliding Miter Saw
A sliding miter saw comprises rails. These rails provide a great reach to cut long lumbers. Unlike standard miter saw, you can cut materials deep measuring up to 1×12 or 2×12. Here, you no longer need to readjust a wide board dual ways. Simply put the blade on the wide lumber and cut it from front to back. The great reach of sliding miter saws makes them perfect for projects that involve cutting wide sheets of lumber.
Compound Miter Saw
A compound miter saw is capable of both miter and bevel cuts. In addition to angled cut, you can also pivot the blade to one side for bevel cutting at the same time. Such units are also known as single compound miter saw as the blade pivots only to a single side. This provides you the flexibility to work on different projects.
Compound Sliding Miter Saw
If I were to label the best type of miter saw out of all then it would be the compound sliding miter saw. This highly versatile tool is an excellent choice for professionals and carpenters as you get a table, sliding rails, and bevel cut option. Thanks to the rails that increase crosscut capacity while the left bevel blade lets you soft-edge material quickly. With such models, you can easily cut large lumbers measuring up to 2×12 inches.
Dual Compound Sliding Miter Saw
The only difference between a compound sliding miter saw and a dual compound sliding miter saw is beveling capability. Here, in the dual compound model, you get a blade that pivots to both sides, i.e, left and right. This dual beveling eliminates the need to lift and flip the material for a bevel cut on the other side. You can simply rotate the blade to the other side for a smooth bevel cut on both sides. This dual bevel design increases productivity by saving you from the hassle of flipping large lumbers.
Miter Saw Vs Circular Saw
This is a common confusion faced by many beginners. And I think it is quite understandable as both miter and circular saw looks very much similar. But there are a few differences between a miter saw and a circular saw that make them suitable for specific woodworking projects. Find out more in detail below.
- A miter saw features a fixed blade that results in more accurate cuts in one go. The blade in a circular saw is also fixed but instead of an arm or lever, you need to guide the blade with your hands.
- A handheld circular saw is an excellent choice for making short and intricate cuts whereas a miter saw is more ideal for making deep and angled cuts.
- Miter saws cut way more quickly than circular ones, thanks to the mounted blade design. This makes them best when working on a large woodworking project.
- While a miter saw can reach as long as the blade allows, you can pass long lumber towards the blade of a circular saw. In short, size is not an issue with electric circular saws.
- In terms of safety, miter saws are safer than circular saws. Thanks to its mounted blade and blade shield that protects your fingers and hand while cutting thick sheets of wood.
Miter Saw Parts
To get a better idea of a power tool it is important to understand its anatomy. And below is the brief anatomy of the miter saw that will help you understand the tool better.
Usually located on the handle-top, a power switch triggers blade rotation. It is important to press the power switch till your finish cutting the material. Release the trigger once the cut is done to let the blade stop before pulling it up again. Do not confuse the power switch with the tool’s main switch as the only purpose of a power switch is to start blade rotation.
The handle of the miter saw goes up and down to help you make smooth angled cuts. This handle is where the power switch is integrated. Instead of passing the material towards the blade, you use the handle to cut the lumber from front to back. It is important to know that the cutting capacity of such a saw depends hugely on its arm’s reach.
An important safety feature that has saved the fingers of many beginners. This is usually a transparent cover that protects both you and the blade. Make sure to install the blade cover and use it wisely to avoid any unfortunate accident at the workplace.
After installing the guard, you must notice that the upper half is immovable while the bottom half is connected to the hinge. This hinge swings open the cover as you lower the blade, creating a safer work environment. Similarly, the lower part of the guard goes up when you pull the blade back up again.
The size of the blade differs according to the material you wish to cut or the size of a saw. Usually, standard or sliding miter saws use blade sizes measuring 5-7 inches.
Also, it is important to note that miter saws come in 4 different sizes(2). These are 7-1/2-inch, 8-1/2-inch, 10-inch, and 12-inch. Out of them all, 7-1/2-inch miter saws are common with DIYers, hobbyists, and professionals.
The integrated miter scale is the best part about owning a power saw. This scale helps set the blade angle for precise cuts. Many leading electric saw brands provide a miter scale with positive stops. These positive stops are nothing but popular cutting angles like 45°, 90°, and 22.5°. It allows you to set a common miter angle quickly for quick cutting of various materials.
It is a long perpendicular surface against the worktable that allows setting the lumbar at 90 degrees. The long fences help to make straight and accurate cuts in one go. Rip cuts are extremely easy by setting the lumbar against the fence.
Some high-end models allow moving the fence in different positions for better and quick cutting of materials at a certain angle.
Table is also known as workspace. This flat surface is where you put the material for cutting. Fixed to the saw, the table serves as both the work area and the base of the tool.
Many power saws feature a clamp that helps secure the material to the worktable. In between the table you can find a sleek slot. This slot is where the blade will go while cutting/ripping.
The stability of materials is important especially if you’re planning to use the tool for cutting large pieces of the lumbar. And so, many new miter saws provide a vise grip on one side of the tool. This vise grip helps to stabilize the saw onto the flat surface as well as holds longer workpieces in place. As a result, you get desired cut results in a single go.
What is Miter Saw Used For?
Do go by their name, as a miter saw is capable of doing more than just miter cuts. However, they are not as versatile as handheld circular saws but definitely the best at what they’re capable of doing. Below listed are some popular cuts that you can do using the saw.
Easiest and most basic of all cuts, crosscut is popular with miter saws. Here, you cut the material along the grain or through the length. Fences are extremely helpful while making crosscuts as you can simply place them perpendicularly. For example, you can place a board measuring 2×4 to rip it down to 2×3.
The other name for miter cut is angular cut. The angular cut is done by placing the material straight on the worktable and adjusting the blade angle. And thanks to the power saw that already features a miter scale to help you set the blade angle accurately. Angular cuts are often diagonal. But here, instead of a manual maneuvering blade, you simply take the lever down for cutting the material from front to back.
To do a bevel cut, you need to pivot the blade. And thankfully, many miter saws provide an option to tilt the blade at an angle for flawless bevel cuts. Bevel cuts take away sharp edges off as well as provides a smooth finish to lumber. You use a bevel cut for decorative purposes and to hide joints between 2 wooden pieces.
Safety Tips and Precautions
Operating such a large and sharp tool comes with various challenges. But you can overcome the challenges by keeping your safety first(3). Follow the below-listed safety precautions while using a miter saw to ensure a safe work environment.
- Safety glasses are a must while operating a miter saw. They prevent tiny and potentially harmful debris from damaging your sensitive organs.
- Always use blade guards to prevent your fingers.
- No loose clothing.
- Avoid using clamps on both sides while making a miter cut.
- Always use a clean and sharp blade. This will result in better cutting of material with few kickbacks.
- Use the right blade as per material for a safe and flawless cutting experience.
- Secure the blade properly to the saw head. Make use of provided wrench if necessary.
- Allow the motor to reach full speed before lowering it for cuts.
- After releasing the trigger, wait for the blade to stop completely before lifting the handle.
- Work in a well-lit area.
- Attach the unit to a shop vac if the materials throw off a lot of dust and debris.
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Miter saws are a great woodworking tool. They are more versatile than you think. And I am sure now you know about their capabilities very well. Also, there are different types of miter saws ideal for various woodworking projects. Framing and crown molding are popular uses of a miter saw but you know you can do much more than that. I hope you’ve gathered enough information about the tool which will help you buy the best miter saw for your money.