Power Miter Saw- The Definitive Guide

cutting wood with a miter saw

A power miter saw is a superb cutting tool for every woodworker. It’s versatile and easy to use, endearing itself to many professionals and enthusiasts alike. Using it is very easy. All you need is pull a mounted saw blade on a piece of lumber that you intend to cut on a flat surface. My neighbor wanted to buy a miter saw for his woodwork project and wanted information for the best miter saw to purchase. I scoured information about miter saw online, and the below is what I found. Read our Guide to Power Miter Saw to understand it more about miter saws.

A Short History of the Power Miter Saw

The first meter saw was a three-sided box that had slits for 45 and 90 degrees cuts. The slits guided the saw or the hand when in operation. Initially, it was a meter saw and a box. The design made the work tedious, and the cuts lacked quality.

In 1960 Mr. Ed Niehaus, a design engineer at Rockwell Manufacturing Co., was requested to improve the hand saw miter box to be powered by a motor. The objective was to create a tool that could crosscut, make angles on three by four lumber, and also miter crown molding efficiently. The design process took three years for the 34-010 model to be ready for launch. However, the company failed to patent the product giving other manufacturers the chance to make improvements on the miter saws.

What Is A Miter Saw?

A miter saw is a versatile saw that helps you to make crosscuts or angled cuts by pressing a motor-powered blade over a piece of wood. The saw’s versatility makes it great for a variety of work. Apart from making bevel cuts, you will cut across the grain and along it making it one of the must-have tools for a woodworker. However, you should know that they don’t make perfect cuts when it comes to ripping or cutting across the grain, but you can work with it in the absence of a table saw.

To start of the Guide to Power Miter Saws, you need to know the different types of miter saws. they include

Types of Miter Saws

Miter saws fall under three categories of standard, compound, and sliding compound miter saws. Variations to the above saws have resulted in other miter saws.

a) The Standard Miter Saw

A conventional miter saw has a blade fixed on an arm and mounted to the base. It makes cuts on a block of wood across the grains at angles ranging from -45 to +45 degrees. This saw is the perfect prototype of the other miter saw. The standard miter saw is ideal for making miter or angled cuts, as it’s easy to set and adjust. It’s perfect for projects that require joints, especially when making frames.

The saw is also very easy to use. You drop the saw on a piece to cut at a preset angle. With this saw, you will comfortably make straight and angled cuts quickly. However, it can only cut a length on a piece depending on the diameter of the blade.

b) Compound Meter Saw

A compound meter saw is similar to standard miter saw but comes with some added features that allow it to make a slopped (beveled) cut. Therefore, you can easily create a straight, angled, and beveled cuts with this saw.

Being compound means you can rotate its blade head to a variety of angles even beyond 90 degrees. The ability allows you to cut at an angle on the surface plane of wood. Therefore, you will quickly crosscut, miter/angled cuts, and bevel with precision. However, its cutting length is limited to the blade’s diameter.

c) Sliding Compound Miter Saw

The sliding compound miter saws give you the most cutting choices compared to the other miter saws. The sliding compound miter saw’s motor and blade are situated on a movable arm, making it easy for you to cut large pieces of wood. A standard sliding miter saw allows blade movement in a single direction, but with advanced ones, you can tilt the blade to the right or left during the cutting process.

The saw comes with corded and cordless versions that are battery-powered. The sliding compound miter saws are further classified depending on the direction the tip of their blades as follows:

  • Single sliding compound saws– The tips of the blade face one direction.
  • Double sliding compound miters saws– the blade tips face both left and right.

The saw is ideal for making crosscuts, miter cuts, bevel cuts, and a mixture of miter and bevel cuts.

What Do We Use Miter Saws For?

Woodwork professionals and DIYers love the miter saws for making three types of precise cuts.

  1. Miter cuts

A miter cut is any angled (other than 90 degrees) cut made on a piece of lumber across its length. The miter saw’s main job is to make angled cuts, which led to it being christened the miter saw. With a miter saw, you can make diagonal cuts from any angle. Changing the blade’s cutting direction allows you to make angled cuts comfortably.

Note that the blade itself does not make angled cuts. You have to set the blade to the desired angle to get what you need.

  1. Crosscuts

Crosscuts involve cutting a piece of lumber across the grain. The versatility of the saw makes it an alternative to table saws.  

  1. Bevel cuts

Take a piece of wood and cut along its thickness at any angle other than at 90 degrees. With beveled cuts, you can make frame joints.

Meter saw features 

Blades

A circular saw blade
A circular saw blade

The size of the blade matters a lot when working with the miter saw. The size of the blade is equivalent to the cutting depth of the saw. Therefore, the larger the blade, the larger the width of the stock it will cut and vice versa.

The most common miter saw blade size is 7.5 inches although the regular sizes are 7.5″, 8.5″, 10″, and 12″. Many experts and DIYers buy blades as large as 12″ as they can comfortably take them to job sites.

Handle/Power Switch

Most miter saws have a trigger like power switch as part of the handle. The design allows you to power the saw as you lower it down towards what you are cutting.

The power switch allows you to have control over the saw blade with a single hand. Most handles have an ergonomic handle that fits like a glove making it easy to lower the edge down as you are cutting lumber or any other material.

Fence

The miter saw fence is a flat and robust surface where you place your working material against to keep it stable during the sawing process. It is perpendicular to the saw 90 degrees position and gets mounted directly on the table. Many advanced miter saws have adjustable fences to allow for convenient angle cuts.

Table 

The table of the miter saw serves as the working area where you place the moving materials. It’s also the large flat surface where the saw blade is connected. The table may come with other attachments like clamps. It also comes with a slot that allows the blade to go through when you lower the blade to cut lumber.

Miter Scale

The miter scale is essential when it comes to making any miter cut with a miter saw. You measure the angles you want to cut using the miter. The miter has an indicator built into a place where you rotate the handle to your preferred angle measured in degrees.

Advanced miter scales have locks on popular angles like 45, 90, or 22.5 degrees where you lock them in place. Saws capable of cutting bevels have an additional scale on the saw’s arm to help you set your required angle.

Guard

Miter saw blade guards are essential as they protect both the blade and the user whether the saw is in use or not. The blade guard covers the entire top half of the blade with the bottom part connecting to a hinge. The hinge swings open as you lower the blade creating an opening equivalent with how far you have opened it. The bottom guard part also completely retracts when your workpiece gets introduced, keeping it out of the way. The working mechanism of the blade guard works in such a way that it does not hinder the working of the miter saw but also keeps you safe.

Vise

Many miter saws come with clamps to hold the working material in place. Clamping materials on at least one side makes it easy for you to cut large pieces of wood. The support offered by the vice stabilizes the material you are working on, ensuring a clean and accurate cut as well as providing you safety from kickback injuries.

Slide rails

Slide rails are guides that ensure the saw head moves back and forth, making it easy for you to make a deeper cut on lumber.

Laser guide

Some expensive versions of Power miter saws have laser guides that project a beam of light on where the blade is supposed to penetrate the lumber. As a result, you can make precise and accurate cuts with the saw curtesy of the laser guide. While it may not be a necessity, many beginner woodworkers find it helpful, especially when making those accurate cuts.

Depth Stops

Depth stop helps you set the cutting depth, especially when making rough dado cuts or when using repeat shallow kerfs. You can set the depth stops when you require them and remove them when you want to have standard blade cuttings.

Digital Display

Traditional miter saws have measurements on miter and bevel scales, which may be hard to read depending on the material used to make them. Digital display simplifies everything since it’s easy to set measurements resulting in precise and accurate angle cuts.

Extension Arms

If you move from one site to another a lot and you lack an outfeed table for support, a miter saw arm offer you support when working on long pieces of lumber.

Dust collectors

Dust collectors ensure that dust does not spread to all parts of the workshop. If you buy a miter saw without a dust collector, you can easily purchase an attachment to help you dispose of the dust better. Either way addition of accessories makes any miter saw expensive, but considering the health implications associated with sawdust, getting dust collectors is vital for every miter saw the owner.

Personal Safety Precautions When Using a Miter Saw

You need to take precautions when using a miter saw to prevent injuring yourself. Just like other types of power saws, the miter saw may cause kickback injuries if you don’t take proper care. We have talked a lot about safety while operating any power saw, and they are the same. If you want to learn more about safety measures when working, a miter saw, it has been well articulated under the table saw guide.

Conclusion

A power miter saw is an expensive investment, and purchasing one requires proper research. As you have learned, this beast is versatile, making it worthwhile to buy it. The simple ones are affordable, but the price increase with the addition of more features. However, the more features the saw has, the more value it gives you. if hope you found our  Guide to Power Miter Saws helpful.

 

 

 

Tom

I am a woodwork enthusiast who is in the Financial Industry. I come from a woodworking family and started handling woodwork tools from a young age. For me, it's not a hobby. its a way of life.

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