Getting the Most Accurate Cuts with Your Miter Saw

Using a miter saw is a great way to make accurate angled cuts in wood of many sizes. Whatever angle you need the lumber to be, a miter saw is the tool that does it most conveniently. Because it is weighted and secured and provides a backing fence for the wood, cuts are made with relative ease. However, it is possible to make mistakes with miter saws. Any time angles are involved, miscalculations or misplacements can be costly. To get the most accurate cuts when using your miter saw, consider some of the following tips and suggestions.

Know the Angle

It may seem obvious, but to an inexperienced carpenter, getting the angles straight can be a little confusing at first. It is quite easy to forget the direction the angle should face. When cuts are made, you sometimes do not realize until afterwards that you mixed it up, forcing you to make another cut on a new piece of wood. The best thing to do is take your time and sort out the angles in your head or better yet, on paper. Rather than switching the angle of the miter saw back and forth, you can make all the cuts on one side first then adjust and make the opposite cuts.

Account for Blade Thickness

When you cut with a miter saw, you start by measuring out the proper angle on the piece of wood you wish to cut. Next, you set the miter saw to the appropriate angle and lock it into place. The final step is to hold the wood in place and make the perfectly angled cut. It can be as easy as it sounds, but make sure you account for the thickness of the blade when making the cut. If the length of the wood does not matter, this is not so important. However, if you cutting wood for trim or frames, the length is extremely important. A miter saw blade is usually about 1/8 inch thick. Before making the cut, bring the blade down onto the wood. Close one eye and check to be sure the blade is in the right position. If the mark on the wood indicates the exact length it needs to be, make sure cut on the outside edge of the line, not through the line. Otherwise, your piece might end up too short by a hair’s breadth.

A Trick for Angles

A little trick to help keep the effect of the saw blade in perspective is to keep a marker on the plate of the saw itself. Miter saws have slit in the plate that allows the blade to go through when cutting. This slit moves when you adjust the angle of the blade. Lengthwise over this slit lay a piece of blue masking tape. Turn the saw on and bring it gently through the tape so it stays stuck but makes a hole in it running its length. This slit in the tape tells you exactly where the blade will come down (provided the tape stays in place). Whenever you adjust the angle, the tape goes with it. When you set a piece of wood against the back fence, the hole in the tape shows you where the blade will cut and you can make your marks accordingly.

A miter saw is a must-have for even the most inexperienced carpenters. They are a great tool for making accurate angled cuts. However, be sure you know how to use the tool properly so you don’t end up making cuts at the wrong angle or fail to take the blade’s thickness into account.