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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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.
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.
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.
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
A crosscut is made across the grain of the wood.
A miter cut is an angle cut made on the face of a piece of wood.
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.
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.
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.
Before we fire up our miter saw or pick up any tool for that matter we need to think about safety. Read, follow, and understand the safety instructions for your tools. If you don’t understand, contact the manufacturer or ask a pro. You also need to protect your eyes with safety glasses, your ears with hearing protection and your lungs with a quality respirator.
How to Adjust a Miter Saw for Accurate Cuts
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 speed square like 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 Miter Saw Blade Square to the Table?
The first thing we need to check is if the saw blade is square or 90 degrees to the table. Disconnect the power and hold the blade guard out of the way.
Place a speed square flat on the miter saw table. Lower the saw blade down towards the table. Move the speed square against the side of the saw blade making sure to avoid the teeth.
The saw blade is properly adjusted when we sight down the blade, and the edge of the speed square makes complete contact with the side of the blade.
If there is either a gap at the top or the bottom edge of the speed square, then the saw blade is not square to the table and will need to be adjusted.
How to Adjust the Miter Saw Blade
To adjust the saw blade on this Hitachi miter saw first loosen the bevel handle at the back of the saw.
Then, adjust the bevel of the blade until it makes complete contact with the speed square and tighten the handle.
With the saw blade square to the table adjust the stop bolt until it meets the stop. Now if the bevel is changed, and then returned to 0 (zero), the bolt will stop the blade, so it’s square or 90 degrees to the table. Lastly, adjust the indicator, so it points to 0 (zero).
NOTE: Check the stop bolt if you’re having difficulty squaring the blade to the table. The stop bolt may be preventing the blade from being adjusted to 90 degrees. Drive the bolt further into the table and recheck for square.
Is the Miter Saw 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 speed 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 the Miter Saw Fence
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.
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.
Another Reason for Crooked Miter Saw Cuts
Other factors can contribute to crooked 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.
How to the Change Blade on a Miter Saw
Need help changing your miter saw blade? Please skate over to How to Change the Blade on a Miter Saw for a tutorial and quick video.
7 Miter Saw Tricks Every DIYer Should Know
Want to learn more about your miter saw? Then you NEED to check out my 7 Miter Saw Tricks Every DIYer Should Know! It’s packed with helpful tips and useful tricks for getting the most of your miter saw. Check it out now!
Download Your FREE Miter Saw Tricks eGuide
Master your miter saw with this FREE eighteen-page Miter Saw Tricks eGuide! The eGuide includes miter saw tips like:
- Why you should “leave the pencil line”.
- Why you should let the blade come to a complete stop.
- How to use the blade to make laser accurate miter saw cuts!
Plus 3 Bonus Sections:
- How to Adjust a Miter Saw
- How to Replace the Blade on a Miter Saw
- How to Clean Your Saw Blades
Click the link below, and I’ll skate over to your inbox with your FREE Miter Saw Tricks eGuide NOW!
Thank you for stopping by to learn how to setup a miter saw for accurate cuts. Do you have any tips or tricks for adjusting a miter saw? Share it with me in the comments! Oh, and if you found this helpful, would you please take a moment and pin it to Pinterest?