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How to Adjust a Miter Saw for Accurate Cuts

September 27, 2016 by Scott - Saws on Skates

If you’re into DIY projects, building DIY furniture or want to get into it, one of the tools you’ll use the most is a miter saw. Today we’ll look at when to check your saw for accuracy and how to adjust a miter saw for accurate cuts every time.

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For your convenience this post contains affiliate links to products or tools I used to complete this project. Click here to visit my site policies.

A few weeks ago I shared with you I was chatting with my cousin about DIY projects and she said “I have a garage full of tools, but don’t know the names of the tools or how to use them!” Her comment inspired me to look at a handful of saws commonly used for DIY projects.

To address the second part of her comment, I thought we should look at how to use some of those saws. We’ll start with the miter saw, since I use that saw the most for building my DIY furniture projects. But before we look at how to use a miter saw, we should first look at how to set it up for accurate cuts.

hitachi miter saw 45 degree cut 2

Note: This is meant to be supplemental information. Always refer to your miter saw manual for safety information, how to adjust your specific saw and how to use your miter saw.

What is a Power Miter Saw?

A power miter saw has an overhead mounted interchangeable rotating saw blade. The wood to be cut, or workpiece, is placed on the table and against the fence. The saw blade is lowered to make the cut and then released to return to it’s original position.

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The default miter saw angle is set for a 90 degree crosscut. The table features a handle that allows you to change the angle to common preset angles like 22.5 degrees, 45 degrees or angles anywhere in between. The preset angles feature a detent, or catch that prevents the table from moving during the cut. Angles without a detent are held in place by tightening the handle.

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The miter saw is a great choice for cutting parts for DIY furniture projects, home decor projects, outdoor projects, installing baseboard molding, moulding around windows and doors, crown moulding, plus much more.

Types of Cuts

Crosscut
A crosscut is made across the grain of the wood.

Miter Cut
A miter cut is an angle cut made on the face of a piece of wood.

Bevel Cut
A bevel cut is an angle cut made on the edge of a piece of wood. A bevel cut changes the profile of the wood.

Compound Miter Cut
A compound miter cut combines a miter cut and a bevel cut. Compound miter cuts are needed to install crown moulding.

Types of Miter Saws

Compound Miter Saw
A compound miter saw can make crosscuts, miter cuts, bevel cuts and compound cuts. Some compound miter saws are single compound, in other words, it only cuts a bevel in one direction. Other miter saws are dual compound and can cut bevels in both directions.

miter saw

Sliding Miter Saw
A sliding miter saw, just like a compound miter saw, can make crosscuts, miter cuts, bevel cuts and compound cuts. The difference is the saw blade sits on sliding rails which allows the saw to cut much wider widths of wood than a compound miter saw.

sliding-miter-saw

Safety First

Be sure to disconnect the power before making any adjustments to your saw. Never make any adjustments with the power connected. Always refer to your miter saw manual for safety information, how to adjust your specific saw and how to use your miter saw. Anytime you’re operating a saw be sure to wear eye protection, hearing protection and a dust mask.

Adjust your Saw for Accuracy

You should check your saw for accuracy anytime you buy a new saw. Saws are set at the factory, but can come out of adjustment during shipping. You should also check for accuracy when you have kickback. You know, when you unexpectedly hit a knot in the wood and the saw kicks back?! That’s a good time to check your saw. Also it’s good practice to check the saw a few times throughout the year, because they can come out of adjustment during use.

What you’ll need…
To check and adjust the saw you’ll need a square like this one or this one. I also like to have a 3′ level on hand. Next, begin by setting your saw on a stable work surface or miter saw stand. For this demonstration I setup my Hitachi miter saw on my folding workbench.

Is the Blade Square to the Table?
The first thing to check is if the blade is square or 90 degrees to the table. Disconnect the power and hold the blade guard out of the way. Place the square flat on the table. Bring the saw blade down towards the table. Move the square against the blade making sure to avoid the teeth. The blade is adjusted properly when the edge of the square is completely in contact with the saw blade. If there is a gap either at the top or the bottom edge of the square the saw blade is not square and adjustment is needed.

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How to adjust…
To adjust the saw blade on the Hitachi miter saw, loosen the bevel handle at the back of the saw, adjust the bevel of the blade until it makes full contact with the square and tighten the handle. Adjust the bolt until it meets the stop. Now the saw blade is square to the table. Plus, any time you adjust the bevel and return it to 0, the bolt will stop it at the proper position.

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Is the Fence Square to Blade?
The next thing to check is if the fence is square or 90 degrees to the blade. Disconnect the power and hold the blade guard out of the way. Place the square flat against the fence. Bring the saw blade down to the table. Move the square against the blade making sure to avoid the teeth. The blade is adjusted properly when the edge of the square is completely in contact with the saw blade. If there is a gap either at the front or the back edge of the square the saw blade is not square and an adjustment is needed.

how-to-adjust-a-miter-saw-for-accurate-cuts-check-fence

How to adjust…
To adjust the fence on the Hitachi miter saw, loosen the two bolts on the left hand side of fence, adjust the fence so the square makes full contact with the saw blade and tighten bolts.

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Loosen the bolts on the right hand side of the fence, place a level across the fences, adjust until the right fence is even with the left fence and tighten the bolts.

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Inaccurate Cuts

Other factors can contribute to inaccurate cuts. Remember the kickback after you hit that knot in the wood you were cutting? Well, your blade could be bent. Disconnect the power. Carefully and slowly spin the blade with your fingers. Does the blade wobble? If so, you’re blade is likely bent and will need to be replaced.

Roughly cut wood or lots of splinter could indicate a dull blade. If it’s been a while since you replaced your blade or have never replaced your blade, it might be time for a new one.

Thank you for stopping by to learn how to setup a miter saw for accurate cuts. Now that our saw is properly adjusted, soon we’ll look at how to use a miter saw.


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6 thoughts on “How to Adjust a Miter Saw for Accurate Cuts

  1. Bob W. says:

    This was a very informative post — thanks, Scott!

  2. Alberto says:

    I find your stuff very educational

  3. LaDena Burns says:

    Thought you might like a woman’s perspective…..I am a faithful reader ever since I discovered you. You are a great information provider/writer…clear, concise and informative. (I just discovered your Bobs Miracle Furniture Finish and Can’t wait to try it!) I have a saw that hasn’t been checked in a while…I think I’d better get on it! Thanks, LaDena

    • Scott - Saws on Skates says:

      Thank you so much for the compliments and for being here with me! Can’t wait to see what you build after you get your saw tuned up 🙂

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