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School of Tools: Miter Saw & Fun Projects

School of Tools: Miter Saw & Fun Projects

What is a miter saw?

The miter saw is your best friend when you need a precise, efficient and versatile cutting tool for your DIY woodworking projects as well as repairs and improvements around the house.

The miter saw will make precise 45º cuts for corners and beveled edges for baseboards, crown molding and door casings. It’s also guaranteed to give you a precise 90º cross cut, and a range of angles. Another advantage is that the miter saw will save time when cutting several pieces of the same size.

You’ll find miter saws in a variety of models, from easy-to-transport lightweight versions to larger, heavier models.

The Miter Saw and Safety

Seasoned professionals emphasize the importance of reading the product manual and taking extra care to follow all safety precautions to avoid serious injury. Wear eye protection to keep your eyes safe from flying debris, and protect your hearing with noise-canceling ear muffs.

Miter Saw Safety Features

The miter saw has many safety features to prevent injury. A few of them are:

  • Blade guard to protect you from the sharp blade, and to prevent dust from getting into your eyes and lungs.
  • Safety clamps to keep the wood or other material in place.
  • Power switch – always turn it off when not using your miter saw.
  • You should also lock your miter saw in place when you aren’t using it.

How does the miter saw work?

The saw itself is stationary, and you activate the blade by holding the safety handle to pull the blade down onto the item to be cut.

The circular blade cuts through the wood or other material, making precise cuts in the angles you have set on the saw – crosscuts, angled miter cuts and bevels, or a combination of angled and bevel cuts. To make a bevel cut, you will need to turn the board on its side.

The miter saw pivots to make perfectly angled miter cuts, and some models also make compound angle cuts.

When you are cutting longer pieces, you can put your miter saw on a wide worktable or bench, a frame with extensions, or on the floor.

If your project requires many pieces of identical length, simply use your miter saw’s stop-block feature to pre-measure, instead of having to measure each piece.

The miter saw is an effective tool for cutting not only wood, but also masonry, metal and even plastic with the right type of blade.

Types of Miter Saws

The miter saw comes in three main versions: the compound miter, dual compound miter and sliding compound miter. All have many benefits depending on your wood cutting needs.

A popular choice is the compound miter saw, which lets you cut both angles and bevels in one motion for such items as picture frames and crown molding.

The dual compound miter saw does the same job, cutting both angles and bevels, but has the advantage of tilting to the left or right for angled cuts.

When working on projects that need wider pieces of wood, the sliding compound miter is a great choice.

Deciding Which Miter Saw to Purchase

If you plan to use your miter saw mainly at home, you can set it up on a workbench in your workshop. In this case you could go with a larger, heavier model depending on the type of work you are doing. If you are transporting it to different locations, the lighter-weight miter saws will make it much easier for you to do this.

Try Out Your Miter Saw

It’s a good idea to get to know your miter saw before using it for the first time by making a few practice cuts on a scrap piece of wood.

Measuring Angles

To measure the angles correctly, you can use the angle scale and angle indicator on the miter saw. The guiding laser beam on some models ensures that you make a precise cut.

Blades

Blades for miter saws come in a range of sizes but most use 7-1/4”, 10-inch or 12-inch blades. There are also specific blades designed to cut different materials, as well as multi-purpose blades. The higher the tooth count in a blade, the finer the finished cut. Keep your blade in good condition and check it regularly for sharpness.

Crosscut blade: The miter saw works well with a blade that has a high tooth count. It is also best to use a blade with a negative hook angle to keep the blade from pulling itself into the wood.

Combination blade: This blade is effective for making clean cuts through materials other than wood such as MDF, veneer, particle board or plywood.

Carbide-tipped miter saw blades: Carbide-tipped blades are ideal when you need to cut dense hardwood.

Miter Saw Costs

Prices range from $150 for smaller miter saws, to $400 to $1,000 for medium-sized mitre saws.

Fun Projects to Build with a Miter Saw

There are many beginner to intermediate level projects to help you master your miter saw skills. Here are a few ideas to give you hours of enjoyment.

Project #1: Bluebird Nest Box

Building a bird box for the Eastern Bluebird is a fun way to help you hone your cross-cut skills, and you’ll be providing a safe place for these beautiful songbirds to nest. Check out these instructions and start attracting Bluebirds!

How to Build a Bluebird Nest Box by Audubon - Bluebird Nesting Box

Project #2: Compost Box

A compost bin is another useful project to get started on to develop your miter saw skills. This is a fun project involving the whole family. You can learn more from this article’s instructions.

How To Create The Perfect DIY Compost Bins by Old World Garden Farms - Compost Bin

Project #3: Picture Frames

Learn how to make an attractive picture frame. This project aims to keep it simple, but it’s still a good challenge for the novice.

Build an Angled Picture Frame by Canadian Woodworking & Home Improvement

Project #4: Planters

Here’s a thrifty planter box project that will help you learn how to use your miter saw without having to invest a lot of money in materials. You’ll build a beautiful planter box that you’ll be proud to add to your garden.

DIY Planter Box by LRN2DIY

Check out the great instructional video too! LRN2DIY Planter Box Video

Project #5: Wooden Bookcases or Shelves

You can never have enough shelves for books, storage, keepsakes or décor items. Check out these shelf and bookcase project instructions for three great shelving projects.

Building Shelves: Tips, Techniques and Three Great Plans (14-page PDF) by Popular Woodworking 

One Last Miter Saw Tip

To help you cut accurately for your projects, you can rough-cut the wood about ¼” longer than you need.

Remember to take your time, read the product manual and all safety instructions carefully. You’ll be amazed at what you can accomplish with your miter saw!


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