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, crisper cuts, while blades with fewer teeth produce rough, chippy cuts. Blades with more teeth are great for cutting pieces for our DIY furniture projects, blades with fewer teeth are great for cutting studs to build a house where you don’t care what the cut looks like. Unfortunately for us DIY furniture builders, most miter saws come equipped with a saw blade that is great for cutting studs, not 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. The 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?
Wood pitch builds up on our miter saw blades as we make our cuts. In the Wood Magazine article Tool Review: Blade and Bit Cleaners 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.”
Cleaning our miter saw blades is really easy to do. 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. Use the Blade to Make Micro Adjustments
Remember how we want to leave the line? Well, what if we need to take off a micro amount or just a “whisker” in order to make the board the right length? It’s easy and we’ll use the blade to help us. With the saw turned off, lower the blade as far as it will go into the table and slide the board until it touches the side of the blade.
Keep the board in place and raise the blade. When you lower the blade (with the saw turned off) you’ll notice the teeth will just barely touch the board. Raise the blade again, start the saw and lower to make the cut. The blade will cut a micro amount off the board. Using this technique allows you to make micro adjustments until your board is trimmed to the perfect length.
7. 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.
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?