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Tips for Mastering the Miter Saw Barre VT

At first glance, using a miter saw appears quite simple. But to get good results—that's another story! Here are a handful of techniques and jigs, for pieces large and small, to help you make absolutely straight, splinter-free cuts right on your layout lines.

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Tips for Mastering the Miter Saw

Tips for Mastering the Miter Saw

14 Ways to Make Safe, Accurate Cuts with No Tear-Out

by Tom Caspar


At first glance, using a miter saw appears quite simple. But to get good results—that’s another story! Here are a handful of techniques and jigs, for pieces large and small, to help you make absolutely straight, splinter-free cuts right on your layout lines.

Push Your Fence Back

Straight pieces of molding are easy to cut on the miter saw, but how about those snarly bent ones? If you have an extended fence, accurately cutting their ends requires one simple adjustment. Push the fence extension back and out of the way, so a bend won’t prevent you from holding the molding tightly against the saw’s own fence. Use this technique for flat boards that are bent, too.

One Blade Can Do It All 

Most miter saws come with a blade that’s fine for cutting 2x4s, when a bit of tear-out or a slightly rough surface really doesn’t matter. For better performance when cutting hardwood and plywood, replace the original blade with a blade that has a high tooth count and a negative rake. Leave this replacement blade in your saw for cutting all types of wood. 

A negative rake means the teeth lean slightly backward and cut less aggressively. A 10-in. high-tooth-count blade has 60 to 80 teeth; a similar 12-in. blade has 70 to 100 teeth. Plan to spend at least $70 for one; the price increases with the number of teeth.

Back Up Thin Stock

Make a sacrificial two-sided miter box when you’re slicing thin stock into short pieces. Mount a toggle clamp on the box to safely hold your work (see Source, below). Fasten the box to your saw’s fence so it won’t move. Then cut a slot partway through. Use the slot to align the layout mark on your workpiece. This box also acts as a back stop so the cutoff won’t fly away. It also prevents tear-out below and behind the cut.  

Carry It Compactly

Rotate your saw’s turntable all the way, left or right, to make the saw more compact and easier to carry. This puts the handle closer to the saw’s center of gravity, so it’s easier to balance.

Set Bevel Angles with a Block

When’s the last time you tried to read your saw’s bevel scale, the one that tells you how far the blade is tilted? Those scales are often divided by illegible lines and have crude cursors caked with dust. It’s much easier to make a setup block than to read the scale.

To make the block, leave the blade at 90 degrees with no tilt. Rotate the saw table to the angle you want. Place the block flat on the table and cut it. Rotate the table back so it’s square to the fence. Stand the block on edge to adjust the blade’s tilt. 

Check Your Throat Plate

Most throat plates are set slightly below the saw’s table, as indicated by this piece of paper. The throat plate should be level with the table t...

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