22 Handy Hints for Getting the Most Out of Your Miter Saw
A miter saw is a must for any home workshop, and these seriously smart tips and tricks will show you how to use it in ways you’ve never thought of before.
Sacrificial Miter Saw Fence for Safety
Cutting small parts on a miter saw is dangerous. There’s typically a wide gap between the fence halves as well as in the throat plate. Without full support for the workpiece, offcuts can (and will) go airborne. Even worse, if the blade “grabs” the workpiece, pulling it into these gaps, it can take your fingers along with it. To solve this problem, I attach a sacrificial fence. I attach a piece of 1/4-in. plywood to a 1x board, screw the 1x board to the miter saw fence and cut a kerf into the assembly with the saw. This not only adds a great deal of safety, it also makes it super easy to make accurate cuts. Just mark the cut line on your workpiece and line it up with the kerf. – Brad Holden. These are the best sliding miter saws out there.
Safely Cut Thin Pieces with Your Miter Saw
When offcuts fall into the miter saw’s throat plate, they become projectiles. When the offcuts are actually the finished pieces – like these thin coasters – it’s not only dangerous it’s maddening! My solution is to place a couple layers of tape over the saw’s throatplate and cut a kerf. My parts no longer go airborne and it gives me a great place to mark cut lines. – Will Leighton
Exterior tape works best for this tip, here’s a link to our favorite tape!
Photo courtesy of Steve Christakis
Slick Miter Saw Stand From A Reader
“I used to cut something at my miter saw stand, and then take my tape measure and pencil elsewhere in the shop. Then, when I went back to the stand to cut something else, I would forget where I left my tape measure and pencil, and I’d have to go searching for them, which was a hassle. So, I came up with a couple hacks so that I always have my tape measure and pencil handy at my miter saw station. I cut about 6 in. of some 2-in.-diameter PVC pipe and put a cap on the end, forming a cup. I mounted it to the side of my stand with a pipe bracket. The cup is full of pencils, and I always have a pencil ready for marking wood. On the opposite side of the stand, I mounted a little picture frame hanger as a holder for my tape measure. I simply clip my tape measure on to the holder with the clip mounted on the back of the tape measure. Now, it’s always at hand and in the same spot, so that I don’t have to look around for it. These hacks have made my shop time easier and more enjoyable.” — Steve Christakis
Want another reader-submitted shop project? Check out this handy plywood storage system!
Upcycled Stand: From Patio to Workshop
This year we finally got a new gas grill. But I hated the idea of just throwing away our old one. One day while I was using my miter saw on the ground, it occurred to me that my old grill could provide the perfect base for the saw. I removed the grill housing from the frame and built center framework that allowed the saw to sit flush with the wings of the grill. I can remove my saw and store it underneath, giving me a mobile workbench as well. — Troy Heller
Need a new grill after employing this trick? Check out this amazing combo smoker-grill.
Simple Miter Saw Stop
I use binder clips for a lot of things around the shop, and here’s one that I thought I’d share. When I need to make multiple cuts all the same length, I just clamp my jumbo binder clip to my fence and use a 1/4-in.-thick wood scrap pinched in the clip as a stop. Works like a charm! When it’s not in use, I clamp it to the cord so it’s always nearby. — John Muchow. Binder clamps are great to keep on hand in your workshop, buy a bunch of them here.
If your miter saw has a removable throat plate, you can customize your saw with a “zero-clearance” throat plate that makes it easy to line up the cut. With this tip from reader Robert Irwin, you’ll be able to line up crosscuts faster and cut boards with less tear-out.
Here’s how: Remove the original throat plate, and cut a plywood piece to the thickness and width of the saw’s original throat plate. They’re easy to make, so cut a few extras. Mark, drill and countersink any screw holes and install the wood throat plate. Now cut into the new wood throat plate with your miter saw blade to create a zero-clearance opening. To use, mark the cuts along the board edge, line ’em up with one edge of the zero-clearance opening, and make perfect cuts every time.
Now that you have this brand new throatplate, try this zero-clearance project.
If your miter saw isn’t cutting square, the problem is easy to ﬁx. Unplug the saw, loosen the fence bolts, and hold a framing square against the fence and blade. Be sure the square touches only the saw’s plate and not the carbide teeth so you can make an accurate adjustment. With the blade down as deep as it will go in the throat plate, slide the .002-in. thick blade of an automotive feeler gauge ($3 at auto parts stores) between the blade and the square. Adjust the fence until you feel uniform resistance all along the frame and blade, then retighten the bolts. Check a few test cuts for square, and you’re done. Thanks to reader Darrel Ohs for putting our miter saws back to square one. Watch this video to learn how to cut a wide board on a miter saw.
Easy Scrap Disposal
If you keep your miter saw on a workbench, cut a hole in the top next to the saw. Every time you have a chunk of waste to get rid of, drop it through the hole. Slip a recycling bin directly under the hole to store the scraps until you’re ready to throw them on the burn pile. No more scrap clutter all over your workbench. — Travis Larson
Safely Make Small Cuts
Recently I needed to cut some small furniture legs on my miter saw. With their irregular shape, they were impossible to hold safely, so I attached each leg to a scrap 2×2 with a dowel screw. These assemblies stayed straight and kept my hands far from the blade. — David Alexander. Learn more about using a miter saw safely.
Mark Your Saw For Quick, Accurate Cuts
Plenty of carpentry jobs require a bunch of short boards cut to the exact same length. Instead of measuring each time you make a cut, try this: Measure once, line up your board like you’re going to make the cut, and then make a light mark on your saw with a pencil. Now, any time you need a block cut to that specific length you can just slide your board to the mark and make the cut, no measurement required. — Jeff Reading. This tip is super-useful for making this favorite backyard game.
Measure and Cut from Both Ends of a Board
When I’m on a jobsite where time is money and I need to make a couple cuts on the miter saw I measure my cuts from both ends of the board. I only need to take out my tape measure and pencil once. Over the course of a day, that time saved adds up. – Travis Larson
This is great for crude projects. Try this classically designed tailgate game.
Backers Banish Blowout
Even the sharpest saw teeth sometimes leave splinters where they exit the wood. When “blowout” is unacceptable, set a scrap under and/or behind your workpiece for a splinter-free cut. We’ve got 36 more miter saw tips and tool reviews here.
Copy Boards like a Printer
When I need a just a few boards cut to the same length, instead of setting up a stop, I use the first board as a template. Just set it on top of the next piece, line up the ends, slide the template piece against the blade and cut. – Brad Holden
This tip is perfect for this classic project.
The Family Handyman
Scrap Bin on a Roll
Here’s a low-rolling wood scrap bin that’ll capture all the cutoffs while you work on your next project. Bolt swivel casters to the base of a storage bin ($6 at discount stores) and it’ll scoot right where you need it. Sure, you can take extra time to beef up the casters-to-bin connection by bolting plywood on before attaching the casters, but it’s easier to bolt them right through the thicker, reinforced area of the bin’s bottom. Thanks to Zachary Lesko for this handy idea!
Mark Once, Cut 10 Times
If I’m cutting a bunch of boards to roughly the same length, I mark them all at the same time. With every mark, I add 1/8 in. to allow for the blade thickness. For example, if I’m cutting 12 in. boards, the first mark is at 12 in. The second is 12-1/8, the next one is 12-1/4, then 12-3/8 and so on. I don’t use this trick for precision, but is a great way to save some time on the job site. – Travis Larson
If you need more exact measurements, try one of these precision marking tools.
Bump and Shave
When you need to trim just a smidgen off a board or molding, try this: Lower the blade of your miter saw and press the end of the workpiece against it. Then raise the blade, pull the trigger and cut. Depending on how hard you pushed against the blade, you’ll shave off from 1/16 to 1/32 in. Once you get the feel of it, you’ll be able to adjust the pressure and the width of the shave. Check out our favorite miter saw tips and reviews here.
Installing Miter Saw Temporary Fences
Temporary wood fences have a wide variety of uses. And as you learn to work with them, you’ll think of even more. Most miter saws have holes drilled through their metal fences for screwing on these wooden fences. If your saw doesn’t have these holes or they aren’t where you need them, don’t be afraid to drill some 1/4-in. holes near the ends of the fences on both sides of the blade. Use any straight board for your temporary fences and choose screws that won’t penetrate the other side. If you use softwood fences, you won’t even have to drill pilot holes. To install a temporary fence, just clamp it tight against the saw’s metal fence while you drive screws into the wood.
This is an incredibly easy beginning to some awesome jigs. Check out these 13 other dirt simple woodworking jigs.
Great Jobsite Miter Saw Table
This simple miter saw table has some great advantages and takes less than an hour to make. Just cut a 21-in. x 96-in. piece of 3/4-in. plywood and screw it to a pair of 8-ft. 2x4s, as shown, for the base. Mount the miter saw to the base with screws or bolts. Next measure the height of the saw’s base and make outfeed tables to the right and left of the saw. Then align a fence with the saw’s fence and screw it to the back of the outfeed tables.
Here’s how to make the table even more efficient. Buy two adhesive-backed measuring tapes (one right and one left) and trim and stick them to the tops of the fence for making cutoffs without fumbling for a tape measure. Then buy another and align it with the end of the large base for measuring and marking miters without a standard tape measure.
You can find 6-ft. or 12-ft. left-to-right or right-to-left adhesive-backed measuring tapes at woodworking stores or by searching ‘self-adhesive measuring tapes’ on the internet.
Want more jobsite toys? Try this industrial coffee maker, perfect for any day on the site.
Employ Intelligent Stop Blocks
Screw two blocks of wood to the miter saw stand to act as a stop for repetitive cutting to the same length. Set the lower block back about 1/2 in. so that if sawdust or wood chips pile up against it, they won’t affect the cutting length.
Safety is always important to keep in mind. Watch this short video for some more important safety tips.
Use a Shim to Cut a Back Bevel
Cut a back bevel on miter joints that are open in front but touching at the back. To create a back-beveled cut on a standard miter saw, place a pencil under the molding. If you have a compound miter box, tilt the blade a degree or two to cut the back bevel.
Click here for more information about installing moulding!
Extended Stop Block Fence
If you’re using a miter box to cut lots of pieces all the same length, install a temporary fence with a stop. Clamp a stop block to the fence a little bit farther from the blade than the length you’re after. Cut the first board, measure or test-fit it, and move the stop slightly toward the blade and try another cut. Repeat until you’ve reached perfection and then cut the rest of the pieces. But make sure to clamp the stop well so it won’t slip. Don’t use wimpy spring clamps!
Making consistent cuts is incredibly important. Try it out on this project.
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