How to Use a Miter Saw to Cut Angles

Cutting bevel angles with miter saw.

Imagine you have been trying to cut angles on your workpieces, and you have already marked with utmost precision the lines of cut. But when you cut along the lines using your handsaw and set the pieces together, the pieces still do not fit together well. Well, such a thing usually happens, for handsaws are not perfectly accurate, and your hand more often would shake a bit when cutting. You can avoid such a problem if you shift to the use of a miter saw. 

Of course, the miter saw can make accurate crosscuts, beveled cuts, and angled cuts in a workpiece. The single compound miter saw, for example, can cut bevels onto your workpiece by only adjusting its vertical tilt axis. You can also find miter saws called double bevel compound miter saws that can tilt to both the right and left. But if you got extra money to shell out, you can go for miter saws with a pivot arm and a sliding rail system for cutting wider pieces of wood.

One distinctive feature of a miter saw is its miter index. This feature lets the blade’s angle change in relation to the fence. Moreover, most miter saws allow for precise incremental changes of one degree to the miter index. Besides, many miter saws come with stops to let you set the miter index at common angles.

Simple Steps on How to Set Up and Use Your Miter Saw

Setting up your miter saw to get those perfect angled cuts requires a good understanding of the miter saw and how it operates. Of course, the miter saw is easy to set up. All you need to do is make a few adjustments on it from time to time to ensure you get the desired angled cuts. Below is a rundown of the steps that you can follow when using your miter saw:

Step 1: Prepare Your Workspace and Your Workpieces

Before working on your workpieces and miter saw, it will be good to spend time preparing your workshop for the task. Ensure that your workshop has enough light and space. Bring into your workshop the materials you will be cutting. Moreover, it will be helpful to review the safety precautions when working with the miter saw.

Step 2: Get Some Scraps for Practice Cuts. 

Ensure that you practice before you make the actual cut on your materials. Since more often, you will not get a perfect angled cut on the first try, better make that first try on a scrap of wood. In this way, you can make the right adjustment before making the actual cut on your workpiece.

Step 3: Prepare Your Miter Saw

Besides gathering your materials and scraps and ensuring that your workshop is ready for the task, you should also prepare your miter saw. Check if it is clean. Make sure that the blade’s edges are sharp. Ensure likewise that you get your blade unwrapped correctly. 

Then, check the fence to ensure that your workpiece is firmly fixed in its position. Ensure also that the fence is perfectly squared. If it is not squared, you should remove its screws and adjust the fence until you got it squared. Then, screw back the fence on that position. 

Afterward, rectify the angle. Ensure that you position the pointer at 9 degrees. Then, set a square with one side of it against the fence. Lower the saw to its lowest position. Afterward, slide the square to the blade’s edge slowly. 

Afterward, adjust your saw! You will find a lever or knob on your saw for adjusting the saw. This knob will let you rotate the saw to the desired miter angle.

Step 4: Set the Wood for Cutting

Once the fence is squared, you can then position the wood against it. Then, mark a cut line as your guide. Check your mark to ensure that you have marked the wood correctly. Then, align the saw perfectly to your cutting line. You can adjust to ensure that the saw is properly aligned.

Step 5: Turn On the Miter Saw

Once you have set the wood and the saw is appropriately adjusted and aligned, you can turn on the miter saw until its blade reaches its full speed. Then, let the blade touch wood.

Step 6: Start Cutting

You can start cutting the wood once the blade is already at its full speed. Enable the saw to make a perfect cut by cutting according to its capacity. Of course, you can cut boards together simultaneously but make sure that the blade can handle them. 

It will be helpful to cut with materials on both sides of the blade instead of skinning the wood’s end grain. There is a big chance that the blade will deflect away from the end grain if you only skin the wood’s end grain, which can compromise the cut.

Nevertheless, if you set materials on the two sides of the blade, you can avoid deflection, and you will get a straighter cut. You can adjust the positions of the blade to get the correct angle or to cut at a different angle. Remember that you can improve your skill with frequent practice.

Step 7: Inspect the Cut

Once done with the cut, check the angles of the cuts. Position the jointed edges to figure out if you get a perfect fit. Inspect if there are gaps. If there are gaps, especially on top, then you did not get the correct angle. The error usually doubles up, which makes it imperative on your part to go for utmost accuracy. Adjust your saw and refer back to its manual if you are confused. Then, make a test cut again.

Step 8: Inspect and Check the Bevel

Bevel cuts are necessary for carpentry and crafting, and you usually do them to soften the edges of the workpieces for additional safety, joining pieces, and aesthetics. A bevel cut is unlike a miter cut. It goes along the wood’s vertical plane, unlike the miter cut that goes along the wood’s horizontal plane. Thus, you do a bevel cut when you cut the workpiece edge at any angle other than that of 90°. 

You can do a bevel cut by tilting the miter saw’s head to one side. The double-bevel compound miter saw that moves to left and right is perfect for this task. You only need to unlock the saw head and tilt it to the angle that you want. Then, line up your stock and clamp it. If you lock the stock in place, you will get a clean bevel cut.

Step 9: Making Multiple Angled Cuts!

When making multiple and similar angled cuts on several wood pieces, you can use a stop block. The only time I am not using a stop block, for example, is when I am cutting only one piece of wood. But if you are cutting multiple wood pieces of the same length and angles, it will be useful to utilize a stop block. 

Setting up a stop block is relatively easy. You need to determine the length of the wood you are going to cut. Then, clamp a piece of wood at that spot. Then, line the board up against the stop block and start cutting. The resulting cuts will be of the same length and angles.


Extra Tips When Cutting Angles Using Miter Saw

Besides knowing the steps you need to follow when making angled cuts using the miter saw, you can also benefit from knowing the following additional tips when cutting using a miter saw:

Proper Angle Adjustment of the Miter Saw

When doing miter cuts, you need to adjust the table to 0°. You can do a test cut on the timber to check if the miter saw is rightly adjusted. Use a carpenter’s square to measure the angle. If the resulting cut is off, then adjust the table and make another trial cut. Adjust the table until you get the perfect results. You should also adjust the pointer so that it points directly at 0º.

You can also do this procedure when doing beveled cuts. You will find the bevel scale at the saw’s back, where you will also find the cutting head that pivots at the sliding rails. You will find a limit screw for setting the travel end of its cutting head. Once you get the right angle, you can tighten the screw. You can also turn the scale pointer if it is movable.

Always Tune Up Your Miter Saw

It will be helpful to tune your miter saw up to get perfect cuts. Tuning up the miter saw is not a complicated process. You must only make a few adjustments now and then to ensure your 90 degrees are perfect, both vertically and horizontally. 

Miter saws of different brands may come with their specific adjustments, yet, overall, most miter saws are tuned up almost the same.. 

Miter saws of different brands may come with their specific adjustments, yet, overall, most miter saws are the same when it comes to tuning up. 

You will need two different adjustments with your miter saw: horizontal and vertical adjustments. The horizontal adjustment involves the fence, while the vertical adjustments involve the bevel stops.

Fine Tuning Your Miter Saw with Test Cuts

Before you make the actual cuts on your wood piece, you should never hesitate to make test cuts. You can use a scrap wood piece that has straight edges for your test cuts. Then, hold this piece against the miter saw fence. Afterward, cut off the scrap wood’s edge. Then, inspect the cut if it is square. 

If the cut is not perfect, you will notice a gap at the wood’s back or front. You can adjust the fence to zero in on the ideal angle setup. You can adjust the fence by loosening the second bolt and adjusting the fence. Then, make a test cut again to see if you have made the correct adjustment.


Frequently Asked Question (FAQ)

You can also check this frequently asked question to learn more about what people are asking about the use of miter saw for angular cuts:

What is the Better Alternative For Cutting Angles?

Of course, the miter saw is not the only tool that you can use to cut angles. However, a miter saw will give you a more precise angle cut most conveniently.

Alternatively, you can use, for example, the table saw, jigsaw or bench saw. Yet, you can never be sure whether the cut would be perfectly square when using another tool. The good thing about the miter saw is that it is perfect for an angled cut. 

For example, you will find it hard to make a square cut using a jigsaw. You will need years of experience to master cutting angles using it. Of course, you can also make angled cuts using a handsaw with a miter box. It may be more challenging, but you will end up with a good angled cut. Nevertheless, using a miter saw, everything becomes easy when cutting miter or beveled cuts.  


Conclusion

If you want to kickstart your woodworking career, you will find the miter saw a convenient tool for completing your projects. But when working with a power tool like the miter saw for the first time, you should consult its manual. Moreover, if possible, seek the help of someone who knows how to use the miter saw. That person can give you insights into how to use your miter saw the right way. 

Never be complacent with your safety. Always ensure that you wear the proper safety gear to reduce the risk of injury while working with this power tool. Always remember that the risks involved in using power tools are high, and more often, the injuries are grisly.

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