How to Use a Drop Saw

What You'll Need
Drop saw (miter saw)
Wood trim
Tape measure
Sliding bevel
Carpenters pencil
Blue masking tape

Properly using a drop saw is not so much a matter of operating the saw blade itself as it is ensuring you make the right cut. Although the saw consists of a loud, high-powered blade that cuts very close to where you place your hands and should be operated with care, new drop saws have many safety features. Precaution should always be taken when using power tools or serious injury could result. That being said, the most difficult aspect for beginners using a drop saw, also called a miter saw, is getting their angles right. Drop saws are used in finish carpentry to make cuts on wood trim, molding and frames. All require precise cuts to make sure the corresponding angles match up. Making cuts with the right angles and compensating for the thickness of the blade are important steps when using this saw.

Step 1: Give Yourself a Cutting Guide

You have to compensate for the thickness of the saw blade when making a cut or else your length will be off. A little trick you can use to know exactly where the blade will come down on a particular piece of wood is as follows. On the bed of the saw there is an cylindrical opening with half circles at the edges. This allows the saw blade to dip below the plate to fully cut through a piece of wood. Cover this opening with a strip of blue masking tape and secure it all around. Turn on the saw and bring it down through the tape. If you do it right, the tape will stay in place, leaving a perfectly formed cut through it. No matter at what angle you place the blade, this tape will move with it. When you hold a piece of wood up against the fence, you will have a point of reference.

Step 2: Measure the Trim

Assuming you are cutting simple wood trim to frame a window, you will need 4 pieces each cut with 2 45 degree cuts facing in towards each other. In other words, each piece of trim will be a trapezoid. Draw a reveal line on the jamb of the window you are framing. The trim will leave this area exposed once installed. It is usually no more than 1/4 inch from the inside edge. Measure and mark the trim along its inside edge, using the reveal line as your starting and stopping point. Set your sliding bevel to 45 degrees and mark the complete line on the trim.

Step 3: Set the Drop Saw

The drop saw is designed to be adjusted to make angled cuts anywhere from a few degrees in either direction. The range is technically from 0 to 180 degrees, but in practice neither extreme is possible nor necessary. Loosen the handle at the front of the saw and adjust the angle of the blade accordingly. Refer to the hashmarks on the saw plate to guide you. Once set at 45 degrees in the right direction, tighten the handle.

Step 4: Position the Trim

Hold the trim firmly and flush against the backing fence of the saw. Line up the mark on the wood with hole in the tape. Remember, that hole represents the thickness of the blade. Don’t hold the trim directly over that hole. If the scrap piece of trim is to the right of the blade, align the mark on the wood with the left side of the tape hole and vice versa.

Step 5: Make the Cut

Wearing safety glasses, hold the wood steady, push in the safety, and in one motion press the trigger and bring it down onto and through the wood confidently. Let the blade up and release the trigger.

If measured correctly and held steady, you will have made a perfect 45 angle angle cut in the trim. Repeat this process, making sure to adjust the direction of the saw when necessary.