The Facts About Miter Saws

Miter saws are one of the most popular, most widely used power tools in the tool industry today. Because of their portability, convenient capacities, and overall accuracy, a miter saw can be found in nearly every wood-shop, garage, or pickup truck. Miter saws are generally designed to produce fast, accurate crosscuts into a workpiece, typically for framing or molding applications. The workpiece is pressed up against an angled fence to ensure the most precise cutting angles as you work. The fence generally sits at a 900 angle, but can be adjusted as needed for a particular cut. While most miter saws have a miter index that allows users to precisely modify their cut angle in one degree increments, most also have capacities which allow for quick and accurate cut stops at common cut angles like 150, 300, and 450. These precise miter cuts are made with the downward motion of a circular saw blade that spins with the power of the tool’s motor.

There are several types of miter saw available, the standard miter, a compound miter, and a sliding or compound sliding miter saw. The standard miter has a blade pivot from right to left to cut miters; this saw is however becoming less popular as compound miters have more applications and are only slightly more expensive. Compound miters have the ability to bevel cut, or tip the blade to either the left or right side (00 – 500). Some can bevel in both directions allowing operators to miter and bevel within the same cut (-500 through 500). A sliding miter saw is just like a compound miter but with extension rods that allow the saw blade and motor to move forward and back. This motion increases the blade cut capacity enabling the cut length to be longer than the blade diameter. Sliding compound miter saws also have a depth cut setting to cut dadoes into materials at a variety of depths. Sliding miter saws, because of bigger capacities and more applications, tend to be more expensive than the standard and compound miter saws.


As one would think, the price of the saw, and of the blades as well, tends to rise with the size of the saw and blade. Blade sizes range from eight, ten, and twelve inches; ten and twelve inches being the most popular sizes. Not only does the blade price increase with size, but also with tooth count. It is important that you use the proper blade for each application. Blade changes are generally pretty simple, so don’t avoid blade switching out of inconvenience. Using an improper blade can cost you much more in the long run than a few short minutes to pop on a new blade: when cutting, to achieve a cleaner, more precise cut, use a blade with more teeth, for a quicker, more rough cut, use a blade with fewer teeth, when crosscutting be sure to use a crosscut blade, and so forth.

Blade Changes:

To change your blade you first need to remove the guard and pivot the blade mount cover, or access plate, away from the blade and remove the center nut. Make certain to turn the nut in the direction indicated on the saw as most are reverse threaded. While this area of your saw is open you should blow any lingering dust or debris. Dust will accumulate around the center of the blade which can effect the blade’s alignment and consequently, the accuracy of its spin. You should also check the washer and mounting plate for security and for any dust or residual buildup. Simply use any standard scouring pad to remove rust or residue.

General Tips:

Miter Table Top: It’s not only important to keep dust away from your blade, its also crucial to keep dust off the miter saw table. Keeping the saw table surface clean keeps you safe and ensures a cleaner, more precise cut. It’s also good practice to not oil or lube the table top as you don’t want any materials sliding or slipping during a cut. Essentially, it’s important to keep the saw table surface clean, but also to keep it slip free for the security of your materials and fingers.

Miter Fence: A good fence is crucial for cutting accuracy. All miter saws come with a left and right fence that connect in the middle of the saw. These standard fences are very accurate and great for perpendicular cutting. Because they are aluminum, however, they can bend or break relatively easily so remain cautious with your saw even when just making adjustments. Independent fences are also available for purchase. These are remarkably accurate and tend to yield pretty commendable results.

Dust Bags: Because saw dust can be a problem with miter saws, dust bags are essential for shop cleanliness and safety. They make a surprising difference in keeping your tools and parts clean, but also save operators from inhaling airborne particulates. The dust bag connects directly to the miter saw and collects excess dust and debris during use. Some saws can also be hooked up to a shop-vacuum for easier disposal and better collection.


Brushes: Be certain to check your brushes every-so-often for wear and tear. It’s important to keep healthy brushes in your tools for performance purposes, but it also helps in diagnosing a problem. If you already know the condition of your brushes, you either know the brushes are bad, or that the problem lies somewhere else.

Power Cords:Check power cords for cracks or fraying. Faulty cords will obviously prevent power from getting to your tools, but they also present a safety hazard. Additionally, if you must use an extension cord, use the shortest length possible reach your project.

Cleanliness: Keep the tool blown out and your parts clean and tight. Lube the blade pivot joint around once per year depending on frequency of use. Wipe saw blades clean after every use.

Miter saws are a superior power tool to have on hand, and their accuracy, durability, and portability render them nearly indispensable for many woodworkers. For framing, molding, and other carpentry applications, miter saws are, by most accounts, the king of the wood-shop.