Miter Saw

From Idea Shop Wiki
Compound miter saw.

A power miter saw, also known as a drop saw or chop saw, is a power tool used to make a quick, accurate crosscut in a workpiece at a selected angle. Commonly used for cutting of molding and trim. Most miter saws are relatively small and portable, with common blade sizes ranging from eight to twelve inches. The miter saw makes cuts by pulling a spinning circular saw blade down onto a workpiece in a short, controlled motion. The workpiece is typically held against a fence, which provides a precise cutting angle between the plane of the blade and the plane of the longest workpiece edge. In standard position, this angle is fixed at 90°. A primary distinguishing feature of the miter saw is the miter index that allows the angle of the blade to be changed relative to the fence. While most miter saws enable precise one-degree incremental changes to the miter index, many also provide "stops" that allow the miter index to be quickly set to common angles (such as 15°, 22.5°, 30°, and 45°). Compound-Miter saws add the ability to rotate the blade head at a range of angles from the board allowing you to enter the wood at an angle other than 90 degrees. Creates a ramp angled cut into the side of the wood. Allows for more complex cuts and is commonly used in trim work for homes.

Machine Details

Acceptable Materials to Cut

  • Wood
  • MDF
  • Protoboard
  • Metamine
  • Similar wood products

Materials like ABS and Acrylic, and other plastics should be cut using the bandsaw or panel saw.

Safety Instructions

Instructional Video:


  • Always wear eye protection when using the miter saw.
  • Use clamps to support workpiece whenever possible.
  • Provide adequate support accessories such as tables; saw horses, table extensions, etc. for workpieces wider or longer than the table top
  • Do not use this saw to cut pieces that are too small to be securely clamped, or that require your hand be placed in the “No Hand” area near the blade. When cutting small or irregularly shaped pieces first attach the workpiece to a jig/fixture.
  • Always disconnect the power cord from the power source before making any adjustments or attaching any accessories.
  • Inspect your workpiece before cutting. If workpiece is bowed or warped, clamp it with the outside bowed face toward the fence. Always make certain that there is no gap between the workpiece, fence and table along the line of cut. Also, make sure there are no nails or foreign objects in the workpiece.

Active Use

  • Turn on the dust collection system and close all gates, except that for the miter saw.
  • If supporting the workpiece by hand, you must always keep hand outside of “No Hand” area that is marked in yellow. Never feed the workpiece into the blade or cut freehand in any way.
  • Never cross your hand over intended line of cutting. Supporting the workpiece “cross-handed” i.e. holding the left side of the workpiece with your right hand is very dangerous.
  • Do not use the saw until the table is clear of all tools, wood scraps, etc., except the workpiece.
  • Cut only one piece at a time.
  • Let the blade reach full speed before contacting the workpiece.
  • If the workpiece or blade becomes jammed or bogged down, turn miter saw “OFF” by releasing the switch.

Clean Up

  • After finishing the cut, release the switch, hold the saw arm down and wait for blade to stop before removing work or cutoff piece.
  • Vacuum up all debris after cutting.

Machine Proficiency

In order for an individual to advance in machine proficiency they must demonstrate ability to perform certain actions or tasks. All levels include abilities and concepts from lower levels.

This section is primarily for student workers.

Level 0

Individual has demonstrated they are capable of:

  • Marking a guide line on stock material
  • Adjusting and locking the miter and bevel angles
  • Locking the slide

Individual understands the concepts:

  • Knowing to spin the blade up to speed before cutting and to let it stop before moving it after cutting
  • Know which materials can be cut
  • Understanding the laser is inaccurate

Level 1

Individual has demonstrated they are capable of:

  • Properly clamping stock material
  • Doing a basic cross cut 90 deg
  • Basic miter joint 45 deg cut
  • Cleaning out the dust bag

Individual understands the concepts:

  • Knowledge of the preset detent angles
  • ⅛” blade width kerf (the amount of material lost to the blade)
  • Blade diameter
  • Max material thickness able to be cut

Level 2

Individual has demonstrated they are capable of:

  • Using a digital protractor to attain higher accuracy cuts
  • Making small angle adjustments
  • Making thin cuts while safely securing or clamping the workpiece to prevent kickback
  • Using a stop block for repeat cuts

Individual understands the concepts:

  • Difference between miter and bevel cuts
  • When to use the telescoping slide

Level 3

Individual has demonstrated they are capable of:

  • Replacing the blade
  • Replacing sacrificial throat plate
  • Creating a compound angle cut:
  • Making and attaching an extended backstop out of wood for supporting longer pieces

Individual understands the concepts:

  • Difference between drop saw and chop saw blades
  • Difference between cross cut blade and rip cut blades
  • Anatomy of the miter saw components