If you’re like me, the miter saw is one of the tools I use the most to build my DIY furniture projects. Today I’m sharing how we can make the most of one of the tools we use the most… 7 miter saw tricks every DIYer should know!
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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.
Miter Saw Tricks Every DIYer Should Know
1. Tune-Up Your Saw
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.
When tuning up your miter saw, you should be sure the blade is square to the table and the fence is square to the blade. Learn how to check your miter saw and get my full tune up procedure in How to Adjust a Miter Saw for Accurate Cuts post.
2. Replace the Stock Saw Blade
Saw blades with more teeth produce cleaner cuts and blades with fewer teeth produce rough, choppy cuts. Blades with more teeth are great for cutting pieces for our DIY furniture projects.
Blades with fewer teeth are good for cutting workpieces where we don’t care what the cut looks like. For instance, if we were cutting studs to build a house.
Unfortunately for us DIY furniture builders, most miter saws come equipped with a saw blade that is better for cutting studs than pieces for our furniture projects.
One of the first upgrades I made to my miter saw was installing a new miter saw blade. My go-to saw blade is the Freud 100 tooth Diablo Ultra Fine saw blade. This blade cuts through wood like a hot knife through butter. The cuts are smooth and crisp – exactly what I want for my DIY furniture projects.
How Do You Change a Miter Saw Blade?
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.
Is Your Saw Blade Dull or Dirty?
Every time we make a cut wood pitch builds on our miter saw blade. In the Tool Review: Blade and Bit Cleaners article by Wood Magazine they say over time residue left on a saw blade “can corrode the blade”.
Wood Magazine goes on to say “blades with excessive buildup are sometimes mistaken for dull.”
Regularly cleaning our saw blades keeps them cutting at their best. Plus, cleaning our blades is easy to do.
Need help cleaning your saw blades? Please skate over to Clean Saw Blades for Peak Performance and Quality Cuts to see which cleaner I use, the simple procedure I use to clean my saw blades and saw blade cleaning video.
3. Trim the Ends
Wood from the factory isn’t perfect. If you take a speed square and hold it against the end of a board, very rarely will you find a board that is perfectly square. To improve the quality of our DIY furniture we should always square the end of a board before cutting our pieces to length. Just simply make a cut on the end of the board. You don’t need to cut a lot off, just enough to make the end square.
Once you have squared the end of the board you’re ready to start cutting your board to length.
4. Leave the Line
I mentioned in 6 Resources to Supercharge Your DIY Skills that years ago I took a timber framing class. One of the takeaways for me was something the instructor repeated the entire week of the class… “leave the line.” His “leave the line” mantra is an important tip and one I’ve incorporated in my DIY furniture building.
He insisted we not cut on the line. Why? Leaving the line allows you to fine tune the cut if you need the board to be a little shorter. Because we all know, if we cut it too short, there’s no way to put it back on. Once it’s gone, it’s gone! So… leave the line!
5. Full Stop
When you make a cut with your miter saw, lower the blade all the way through the workpiece and let it come to a full stop before raising the blade. If you lower the blade and then raise the blade with the blade still running, the blade cuts on the downswing and on the upswing. This can change the length you intended for the board. Remember, we want to leave the line. To avoid unintentionally changing the length of the board, lower the blade and let it come to a full stop before raising the blade.
6. Set a Stop for Repetitive Cuts
One of the things I do the most with my miter saw, besides making cuts, is make repetitive cuts. Projects like the outdoor beverage table, garden cabinet, outdoor coffee table, and the DIY dog gate have many repetitive cuts. Rather than measuring and cutting each piece, I measure once and set up a stop.
The stop is a piece of scrap wood clamped to my miter saw stand with a Quick-Grip spring clamp. Once installed the stop allows me to slide a workpiece up to the stop and cut multiple pieces of wood to the same length. This ensures a proper fit for all of the project pieces and is a HUGE time saver.
Bevel the Bottom Edge of the Stop
After just one or two cuts sawdust can begin to build up in front of the stop. Even just a small amount of sawdust can prevent our boards from making contact with the stop. This means our boards might become shorter with each cut.
To prevent this from happening we should cut a bevel on the bottom edge of our stop. The bevel will allow the sawdust to push underneath the stop and our board to seat against the stop. It’s also a good idea to check the stop area before each cut to be sure it’s free of sawdust.
7. Use the Miter Saw Blade to Make Laser Accurate Cuts
I saved my best miter saw tip for last. This tip pulls all of our previous tips into one ultimate miter saw tip! The secret for making laser accurate miter saw cuts is using the saw blade to make micro adjustments to the length of our workpieces.
Step 1. Trim the End of the Board. First, we’ll use our miter saw to square one end of the board.
Step 2. Measure the Workpiece. Working from the end of the board we just squared we’ll measure the length we need our workpiece and make a pencil mark.
Step 3. Set a Miter Saw Stop and Leave the Pencil Line. Next, we’ll position our workpiece, so that we’ll leave the pencil line when we make our cut.
Many times I’m making repetitive cuts for my projects, so I’ll set a stop at the end of the workpiece. We don’t need to set a stop if we’re only cutting one workpiece.
Now, we can make our cut.
Let’s measure the workpiece. We’re good to go if the workpiece is the measurement we needed. We’ll move on to Step 4 if the workpiece is a little too long.
Step 4. Use the Saw Blade to Make Laser Accurate Cuts. If our workpiece is a little too long we can use the blade to help us make micro adjustments and cut the workpiece to the exact length we need.
With the saw turned off, lower the blade as far as it will go into the table, and gently slide the workpiece until it touches the side of the blade.
Keep the board in place and raise the blade. Reposition the stop (if we’re using one), so it’s touching the end of the workpiece. If we lower the blade (with the saw turned off) we’ll notice the teeth will just barely touch the end of our workpiece.
Raise the blade again, start the saw, and lower to make the cut. The blade will cut a micro amount off of the board.
Now we’ll measure the workpiece again. We’re good to go if the workpiece is the measurement we needed. We’ll repeat Step 4 if the piece is still a little too long.
Sometimes I may need to do Step 4 two or three times, but using this technique allows me to cut my board to the exact length. Please give it a try. Your workpieces will always be the precise length you need them for your projects!
Download the 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!
BONUS – Miter Saw Stands
Why would you want a dedicated miter saw stand? Because you know you’re guilty of this… you put your miter saw on your workbench to make some cuts, then move the miter saw to the floor, so you can assemble your project. Then you realize you cut one of the pieces too short, but your project is clamped on your workbench, so now you’re bent over cutting on the floor. Yup, we’ve all done it.
After you have a workbench, I would say a dedicated miter saw stand would be the next upgrade for your shop. No matter if you have a dedicated workshop or a space you can only use temporarily for DIY projects, I think one of these space-saving, easy to make DIY miter saw stands would be a great addition to your shop.
Thank you for stopping by to check out my 7 Miter Saw Tricks Every DIYer Should Know. Do you have a miter saw trick? 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?