Hello and welcome to the very first Tool Tutorial Friday! Come right in and have a seat. If you give me less than 10 minutes of your time, I will empower you with some new power tool skills! Today, I’m going to show you one of my favorite power tools. In fact, I dreamed of owning one for years. Using a hand saw and a cheap plastic miter box was really putting a cramp in my DIY style (if you know what I mean.)
My Makita 10″ Sliding Compound Miter Saw (I just love saying that) was a Mother’s Day present to me a few years ago. That’s right, I don’t ask for jewelry for big occasions. Pretty Handsome Guy knows to ask one thing before a upcoming holiday, “So Honey, what power tool do you want now?” It’s true, I’m a power tool junky.
Here is the deal, I really want these workshops to be interactive, so don’t be shy! Ask questions, leave comments, let me know you are learning something new.
Okay, let’s get started…
This is my Sliding Compound Miter Saw (affiliate link). She’s a diva of a power tool and therefore demands a little respect.
Miter saws come in all shapes, sizes and colors. The size (usually from 7.25″ up to 12″) refers to the diameter of the blade on the saw. The larger the blade the wider the boards it can cut. However, if you purchase a “sliding” miter saw, you can usually cut a few inches wider than your blade diameter. Miter saws run anywhere from $80 up to $800 depending on the features and brand you choose.
A non-slide (regular) miter saw will not slide forward and back. Most of the lower end models will still cut a miter and a bevel. Sometimes, these “lower end” models are affectionately referred to as chop saws.
I highly recommend a sliding miter saw, if you can afford it. Being able to cut a few inches wider means the difference between using your miter saw or having to break out the circular saw or table saw.
The modern miter saws have a trigger built into the handle. Some also have a safety button that you must push with your finger or thumb before you can squeeze the trigger. To start a straight downward cut, press the safety button, squeeze the trigger and wait for the saw to reach maximum rotation. Then slowly lower your saw into the board you are cutting. Never force the saw through the wood. Let the saw cut and then guide it downward. Once you have completed the cut release the trigger while the blade is in the wood. Let the saw come to a stop before lifting it out of the wood.
A compound miter saw has a blade that will cut miters and bevels at the same time (thus the name compound, as in compound cut.) The diagram below shows the bevel and miter adjustments.
Most miter saws should have a fence. The fence lets you rest the back of your board against. It keeps the wood steady and helps your miter saw cut true to the degree setting you have chosen.
My miter saw has a clamp, if yours has one, use it! Let the clamp be your right hand man (literally). If you don’t have a clamp on your saw, be sure to always position your hand far away from the blade as you hold your board up again the fence. AND NEVER reach under the saw while it is rotating (guard or no guard!)
When using a sliding miter saw, there is a proper way to make a sliding cut (used to cut wider boards):
- Start by putting your board against the fence and clamp it.
- Before you start the blade, pull the saw toward you until the blade is directly over the board’s edge that is closest to you.
- Squeeze the trigger to start the saw and wait for it to reach peak rotation speed. Then pull the blade down and into the wood.
- While the blade is still rotating, push the saw back and away from you as your blade cuts through the rest of the wood (see photo below.)
- Once the blade has finished cutting through the wood, raise the saw and release the trigger to stop the saw.
Before you watch the video — a few necessary words of caution:
The viewer assumes all responsibility and liability associated with the hazards of woodworking. Pretty Handy Girl is not responsible for any errors or omissions that may be present in this tutorial. She also assumes no liability for any action or inaction of a viewer.
Please use extreme caution when using power tools. Read your tool manual thoroughly and wear protective safety gear. Take your time familiarizing yourself with a tool before using it. (If you are missing the manual, you can easily find it online by going to the manufacturer’s website or google your saw’s make and model + manual.)
Please recognize that I have tried to put together a basic miter saw usage tutorial to get you started. I have tried my best to show the safest way to use a miter saw. That being said, I am not a professional (I only play one on this blog ;-).)
And now, let’s get you more familiar with using a miter saw!
I hope you have been empowered! Go on and give the miter saw a try if you own one. If you decide to buy a new miter saw, I recommend buying a reputable brand with a decent amount of features. My goal has always been to save up to buy a saw that will last my lifetime, and not settle for a cheap saw just because that is what I could afford at the time.
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