A zero clearance insert reduces tear-out and helps us make cleaner miter saw cuts. We can buy an insert but it’s easy to make a DIY insert with scrap wood.
Brian recently left a comment on the 7 Miter Saw Tricks Every DIYer Should Know post. Brian said:
Great article, one thing I would add is to make a zero clearance insert for your miter saw. This helps reduce tear-out and if you are like me and mainly use your saw primarily with no angle the insert will last a while. However, they are easy to make so if you need an angled cut and the gap gets larger it is easy to replace.”
That’s a great idea! Thank you for the suggestion, Brian. Let’s talk tear-out and how our miter saw cuts can be cleaner with a zero clearance insert.
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What is Tear-Out?
Let’s make a cut on a board with our miter saw and then flip the board over. What do we see? The bottom side of our cut looks chipped or jagged. That’s called tear-out.
Don’t worry we’re not doing anything wrong. Tear-out can happen no matter if we’re using a DeWALT, Bosch, Rigid, Makita, Hitachi or any other brand of miter saw. Tear-out happens because the fibers of the wood are not supported.
Can You Reduce Tear-Out?
Let’s take a look at the throat plate or insert in the table of our miter saw. We’ll disconnect the power to the saw and lower the saw blade towards the table. What do we see? We’ll notice there is a gap between the insert and the blade. This means our board is not supported over this gap.
If we could make this gap smaller our board would be better supported and the chances of tear-out would be reduced. We can make this gap smaller and support the wood with a zero clearance insert.
Notice the gap between the blade and the stock insert (top) and the minimal gap between the blade and the zero clearance insert (bottom).
What is a Zero Clearance Insert?
A zero clearance insert replaces our stock miter saw throat plate. The insert reduces the gap between the edges of the insert and the blade. This provides support for our board and reduces the chances for tear-out.
We can buy a store-bought zero clearance insert or we can make a DIY zero clearance insert with scrap wood.
How to Make a Zero Clearance Insert for a Miter Saw
Making a zero clearance insert for our miter saw is an easy DIY project. I made this insert for my miter saw with a piece of oak scrap wood.
- Scrap Wood
- Tape Measure
- Miter Saw
- Table Saw
- Thickness Planer
- Forstner Bits
Step 1. Measure the Throat Plate
First, I measured the width and height of the stock throat plate in my miter saw. My stock insert measured 2” wide by 3/8” high. I used my thickness planer to plane the oak to 3/8” an then ripped to width on my table saw.
I understand everyone might not have a thickness planer. What you might be able to do in that case is glue up pieces of different thicknesses to get the height you need for your insert.
In other words, for my zero clearance insert, I could have glued a piece of 1/8” plywood to a piece of 1/4” plywood to get the ⅜” thickness I needed.
Step 2. Cut the Insert to Length
I used my stock insert to determine the length of my zero clearance insert by tracing the stock insert onto the oak. Then I cut the oak to length with a jig saw and sanded it smooth.
Step 3. Drill the Mounting Holes
I used my stock insert to determine the location of the screw holes on my zero clearance insert. First I used a 5/8″ Forstner bit to make a recessed area for the screws. Then, I used a drill bit to make a hole for each screw.
Step 4. Install the Zero Clearance Insert
First, I installed the zero clearance insert upside down in my miter saw and made a cut in the insert. Next, I removed the insert, flipped it from front to back, and reinstalled in my miter saw. Then I made another cut in the insert. Now we’re ready to make crispy clean cuts!
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.
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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
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A zero clearance insert reduces tear-out and helps us make cleaner miter saw cuts. We can buy an insert but it’s also easy to make a DIY insert with scrap wood.
Thank you for stopping by. If you found this information helpful, would you please pin it to Pinterest? Other DIYers would appreciate it and I would too! Thank you – Scott
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