How to Use a Miter Saw

What is a Miter Saw

A Miter saw is a power tool used on lumber to cut accurately, it can also be used for molding and it’s especially useful when it comes to cutting angles. Here’s the article about how to use a Miter Saw effectively

The name comes from its original use of cutting miters, a wide-faced cut with an angle. If you then turn the wood on the edge you can also cut a bevel. Depending on the type and brand of saw you can cut from 90 to 45-degree angles, though some saws will allow cuts of up to 55 degrees.

A miter saw uses a large diameter circular blade that that is pulled down onto the workpiece by hand. The workpiece can be handheld or held against a fence depending on the design. For most miter saw’s the angle between the plane of the blade and the plane of the workpiece is set at 90 degrees. The angle of the blade can be changed in 1-degree increments but the most commonly used often have preset for 15, 22.5, 30 and 45-degree settings. Blades usually come in 10 or 12-inch sizes and the larger the blade the wider it can cut.

Types of Miter Saw

Miter saws come in a variety of different types. A standard miter saw has a vertical pivot that is fixed onto a cutting table to create horizontally angled cuts while the blade remains in an upright position. This is the most simple type and the blade cannot be tilted.

A compound miter saw, on the other hand, will allow you to tilt the blade and create bevels on two planes. This is especially useful when cutting molding. Not all compound saws will tilt on both sides which means they come in single and dual action.

Both can make the same cuts, the difference is whether you will need to flip the workpiece between cuts. There is also a sliding compound saw that has horizontal sling arms to slide the blade further out, increasing the width that the blade can cut beyond its own diameter. Swing saws can also be single or dual action.


Before starting use with a miter saw you’ll need basic safety instructions. Eye and ear protection should be used when operating the saw as there will be debris and loud noise. Check to make sure any power cables are away from the saw blade area and that guard is securely in place before turning the machine on. Keep hands 6 inches away from the blade at all times and away from the turntable.

You should never use your hands to push the workpiece behind the guard if the piece is too short. Support your saw on a flat and level area or stand and avoid crossing your arms as you are cutting.

When you are cutting do not raise the blade once the wood has been cut through until it stops spinning. This will help prevent small pieced being tossed into the air and the motion causing the blade to mark the ends of your cut.

How to Use a Miter Saw

How you cut using a miter saw will depend on the angle you want and the thickness of the wood. The rule of “measure twice and cut once” is especially important here.

-Mark the wood across the entire stock and before turning the blade on lower it to the matching cut to make sure you have the alignment correct. You’ll want at least half your stock on the saw table for support. If you can’t do this add a stand with a support for the stock to sit on so it does not wobble or bend.

-Place the stock flush with the fence at the back of the saw and hold or clamp it in place 6” away from the blade. You may now put your safety gear on and turn on the blade.

-Starting from the top of its operating position allow the motor to run at desired speed and then slowly and firmly draw the blade down and through the wood. Use a smooth motion that continues until you have cut the wood all the way through before releasing the trigger and letting the blade stop.

-Once the blade has stopped you may raise the blade.

Tips & Time Savers

Always cut the factory milled end off of a board for a cleaner fit and for less sanding as your saw will leave a smoother edge. Do not force the blade through the wood as it may get stuck and break, if the piece is too thick you will need a larger saw or a different power tool. The more teeth that a blade has the smoother the cut that the blade can produce, for example, a 50 tooth blade will be found for construction while a 90 tooth blade will work better for molding.

Treated lumber has a greater moisture count and will need a lower tooth count as this will lower the strain on the motor and help keep it debris free as it works. If you are cutting multiple pieces to the same length you can mark the length on to fence before starting, this will allow you to move the wood piece along the fence cutting as you go. Similarly, you can also use a stop block to make your cuts more accurate.

A stop block is created by using a 3/4” crap and taping it to the fence. Without turning the saw on the measure from where the blade comes down to a point that is equal to the length of the part you want to cut. Place the taped block on to the fence at this point. When cutting slide your wood piece up to the block before cutting then clearing away any debris and repeating as many times as necessary and all your pieces will be the same length.

Leave a Comment