A miter saw is a table mounted saw that can be used to cut wood at an angle such as the molding around door frames, picture frames or along base boards and windows. A manual miter box and saw combination is a much smaller and more portable way to make miter cuts in wood, but a table-mounted, motorized miter saw can cut a more exact angle in a much shorter period of time. A wide assortment of cutting blades is available to allow the user to cut various types of woods and metal. The table can be, and usually is, purchased separately from the electric/motorized miter saw.
Before purchasing an electric miter saw, also called a drop saw (for the way the saw drops down toward the cutting surface), speak to the sales associate at your local hardware store or home improvement center and tell them what you want the saw to cut. They will help you purchase the right size saw, the correct blades for your project and the correct safety gear. Motorized miter saws are expensive. They range in cost from $120 for a Sears Craftsman 10″ blade Miter Saw, to $1000 for saws with laser precision adjustments. Cost varies depending on the size of the motor, design of the measurement system and the design of the cutting mechanics.
What are the precautions for using a Miter Saw?
Miter saws are either manual or electric/motorized, which must be plugged into a 120vac wall outlet for power. They are generally mounted to a table top or have clamp down legs to secure the saw to a flat, solid surface; positioning the cutting surface about waist high. Depending on what you will be using the saw for, make your selection based on your needs, not just appearances, cost, or convenience. Make sure what ever model you buy, it has a self-retracting hand protector cover for the blade. An electric miter saw can remove a hand or finger quicker than you can say “emergency room doctor.”
13 Safety Tips for the Miter Saw User.
NOTE: Never use a saw or any power tool while under the influence of drugs or alcohol.
1. Wear safety goggles or a face shield to protect your eyes and workman’s gloves to protect your hand and fingers.
2. Tie back loose hair, tuck in long beards and remove dangling jewelry or watches.
3. Make sure your sleeves are tight at your wrist and will not catch on the wood or saw edges. Wearing long pants is recommended when wood working.
4. Use the correct clamps to secure the material you are cutting to the saw cutting base. You do not want the wood or any material you are cutting to shift while you are operating the saw.
5. Always unplug and turn off the saw when you are changing or tightening the blade. Select the correct blade for each type of material you are cutting. Do not use a metal blade to cut through wood surfaces and do not use a wood blade to cut metal or tin. Also, make sure your saw cutting speed is set for the type of material you are cutting.
6. Install the blade with the teeth facing the correct direction. Check the owner’s manual for correct blade installation instructions for your model and make of saw.
7. Unless the machine is unplugged and turned off, never place your hands nearer than six inches from the blade.
8. Never start the saw while the blade is touching the wood/metal.
9. Do not start cutting until the blade is running at the proper speed.
10. Always clean the cutting surface with a soft hand broom to remove all debris. Don’t use your hand or you may get a splinter and metal shards in your fingers.
11. Check under the cutting surface and your overhead clearance to make sure you have enough clearance for the blade to go down through the wood/metal and then up again without hitting any thing.
12. Never reach in front of the saw or over the saw while the saw is operating.
13. After cutting your angles, watch for burrs and splinters on the cut edge of your materials.
Read your owners manual for additional tips and safety features.
Now that you know how to use a saw safely, decide on your first project. Pick something simple, that way it won’t matter if you mess it up. Doing a practice project before starting your planned project will give you the confidence you need to do an excellent job. One project you can easily make is a Framed Mirror. This is a great practice project to become familiar with using your new saw.
A Simple Miter Saw Project
You will need a pencil, a piece of molding 12 feet long (to allow for errors), a medicine cabinet size unframed mirror, and some spray paint. Once you have all your supplies and safety gear on, determine the length of the sides of the mirror and measure the wood to fit the four sides. Decide on the angel of the cut, which will probably be at 45 degrees. With a pencil, mark on the molding where you want the cuts to be. Place the molding in the saw. Following your owner’s manual guidelines, set your saw to the correct measurements and degree angle.
With the saw turned off, the blade up and not touching the wood, gently bring the blade down. Match the blade to the measurement mark you drew on the molding. When you are sure you have placed the wood correctly, move the blade back up and clamp the wood in place using actual clamps. Do not hold the wood with your hands!
While keeping your hands clear of the blade, turn on the saw. With a downward motion, gently pull the saw down toward the drawn lines and cut the molding. Repeat the process for each measured length. Use a sanding block to smooth the edges of the molding.
To connect the frame corners, use wood glue, clamps, staple gun or framing hardware to assemble your frame. Paint or stain the molding frame. Position the frame over the mirror and fasten the mirror to the frame with the appropriate glue or hardware. Once you are familiar with the saw and how it is set up for the various angles, you should have no trouble completing your planned project.
Recommended Products and Websites
Safety Goggles or face shield, safety gloves, hand tools, wood or other cutting material, a variety of sizes and types of cutting blades, sanding blocks or sand paper.