Miter Saw

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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. 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 a compound angle cut to be made in one step.

Work gloves should never be used with the miter saw. Loose hanging clothes, like loose sleeves or hoodie strings, should be secured and out of the way. Accessories such as rings, bracelets, and watches should be removed prior to using.

Here in the Idea Shop, we have a compound miter saw with extension arm that allows material as wide as 13" to be crosscut at an angle.

Machine Details

Permitted Materials

The default blade on the Idea Shop's Miter Saw can cut the following materials:

  • Cardboard, Chipboard, and Foam Core
  • Rigid Foam (EPS, XPS, Polymide, etc.)
  • MDF, Plywood
  • Soft Woods (Cedar, Pine, etc.)
  • Hard Woods (Walnut, Maple, etc.)
  • Soft Plastics (PVC, PP, PE, etc.)

Safety and Operation


  • Wear safety glasses at all times.
  • Remove accessories such as rings, watches, etc. Roll up sleeves and secure loose and dangling items of clothing (hoodie strings, etc.)
  • 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, or use a different saw.
  • 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.
  • Turn on the dust collection system and close all gates, except that for the miter saw.
  • Before cutting, ensure the following are secured:
  • Telescoping arm (if applicable)
  • Table (theta angle)
  • Blade tilt (phi angle)

Active Use

  • Hold or secure the workpiece securely against the fence. Kickback, blade damage, and/or an uneven cut are just some of the things that can go wrong if the stock is not firmly secured against the back fence and table. Additionally, loose pieces may ricochet and be launched from the saw.
  • Ensure your hands are clear of the "No Hand" zone on the bed (blue neckpiece).
  • For warped or cupped boards:
  • Cut with board in a "smiley" orientation so that each side of the board falls away from the blade after being cut to avoid pinching the blade.
  • Cut board with side that fits closest to flush with the fence to avoid pinching the blade after a cut.
  • Depress the safety button and squeeze the trigger, allowing the blade to come up to full speed before advancing into your material. Advance through your material in one smooth consistent motion.
  • Cut only one piece of material at a time.
  • To cut through thicker pieces (over 2"), partial cuts are be necessary to avoid pinching the blade. See a staff manager for assistance.
  • After finishing the cut, release the safety+trigger, and hold the saw arm down at the bottom of the cut and allow the blade to come to a stop before raising the saw arm.

Clean Up

  • Vacuum up all debris after cutting.
  • Close the damper on the dust collection
  • Return the saw to the default setup (Theta angle at 0 degrees, Phi angle set to 0 degrees)

Safety Tips and Best Practices

  • Be sure to take warping or cupping into consideration when cutting your material (see previous section).
  • For workpieces longer than can be adequately supported by the extension leaf, use a roller stand or other support
  • Always disconnect the power cord from the power source before making any adjustments or attaching any accessories.
  • 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.


Instructional Video:

Guide and calculator for miter, bevel, and compound angle cuts:

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:

  • Allowing the blade to come up to speed before cutting and letting it come to a stop before after cutting
  • Know which materials in the shop can and cannot be cut

Level 1

Individual has demonstrated they are capable of:

  • Properly clamping stock to fence
  • Executing a basic cross cut at 90 degrees
  • Executing a 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)
  • 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

Individual understands the concepts:

  • Anatomy of the miter saw components


Location of the Miter Saw in the Idea Shop Maker Space