A miter saw is a specialized saw that is used to cut miter, and sometimes bevels, in wood. However, using a miter saw can still be difficult for beginner users and may take practice to get the perfect cut. In this article, I will demonstrate how to cut angles on a miter saw. Further in the article I will explain the difference between miter and bevel cuts, different types of miter saws and their uses, and how to fix accuracy issues.
- How to use a miter saw to cut angles
- Do all miter saws make bevel cuts?
- Compound vs Conventional miter saws
- Types of compound miter saws
- Miter saw: How to check for accuracy
- Can the miter saw cut on 2 angles at the same time?
How to use a miter saw to cut angles
There are two types of angles that you can cut using a miter saw.
The first one is the miter cut. All miter saws can perform miter cuts which is a cut on the width of the wood.
The second type of cut is a bevel cut, which is an angled cut on the thickness of the wood.
How to cut miters using a miter saw
To perform a miter cut, you will need to follow these 4 steps.
- Mark the angle
- Adjust the base plate
- Align the wood
- Clamp the wood and cut
1. Mark the angle
First, you will mark the angle you want to cut on the wood.
2. Adjust the base plate
Next, you will adjust the base plate to the angle that you want to cut. Most miter saws have positive stops at common angle like 45 degrees.
If you are going to use other common angles then you should look for a miter saw with those positives like 22.5 and 31.6.
3. Align the wood
After the base plate is adjusted, then you will place the wood on the saw.
If your saw has an led light, then you will want to light to shine on the outside of the line of the piece that you are cutting off.
If you do not have the LED feature, then you will need to press the saw on the wood to see where it lands.
4. Clamp the wood and cut
After you got the right miter position and the wood aligned, it is time to clamp the wood on the saw base and cut.
How to cut bevels using a miter saw
The second kind of cut mentioned earlier was the bevel cut which is a miter cut along the thickness of the wood.
There are two methods to cutting bevel cuts in wood.
Method one: Using bevel adjuster
The bevel cut is very similar to cutting miters using a miter saw.
The only difference is that instead of adjusting the miter base plate, you are adjusting the bevel adjuster.
- Mark the angle
- Adjust the bevel adjuster
- Align the wood
- Clamp the wood and cut
Making bevel cuts may be more difficult because the miter saw may not have as many positive stops for bevel cuts.
Method two: Using miter base plate
If you are cutting smaller pieces of wood then you can make a bevel cut using the miter cut method.
The wood will have to be no wider than 2 inches for a 10 inch blade and 3.5 inches for a 12 inch blade.
To create a bevel cut, you will adjust the base plate like you are going to make a miter cut. Then you will place the wood long ways and proceed with the cut.
Not all miter saws can make bevel cuts and not all miter saws that make bevel cuts are created equal. By reading on you will learn the difference between the miter and bevel cut, which saws can create bevel cuts, the difference between single and dual bevel miters, how to fix miter accuracy issues, and a hidden miter trick.
Do all miter saws make bevel cuts?
A miter cut is an angled cut along the face or the width of the wood. A bevel cut is a mitered cut along the thickness of the wood.
Not all miter saws make bevel cuts. That is the main difference between a miter saw and a compound miter saw.
|Conventional Miter saw||Compound Miter saw|
|Uses||Cross cuts and miter cuts||Cross cuts, miter cuts, and bevel cuts|
A conventional miter saw can only perform miter cuts. So these saws only have an adjustable base plate.
A compound miter saw can perform miter and bevel cuts. These says have an adjustable base plate for miter cuts and a bevel adjuster for bevel cuts.
Compound vs Conventional miter saws
As you know a compound miter saw can make miter and bevel cuts while a conventional miter saw can only make miter cuts.
Most miter saws are compound miter saws. I would recommend buying a compound miter saw if you will need to cut bevels thicker than 2 inches. That is because you will not use the base plate method to cut bevels as mentioned previously.
Conventional miter saws usually lack important features like dust collection and effective clamping mechanisms.
I will almost always recommend a compound miter saw over a conventional one because most modern saws are compound and they tend to have important additional features.
Types of compound miter saws
There are single and dual bevel along with compact and sliding compound miter saws. While this terminology may be confusing, I will explain each type along with which one will be best for your needs
Single vs Dual bevel miter saws
Single bevel miter saws
- Only cut bevels in one direction
Dual bevel miter saws
- Cuts bevels in both directions
A single bevel miter saw can only cut bevels in one direction. To cut the wood in the opposite direction, you will have to flip the wood in the opposite direction.
A dual bevel miter saw will allow for you to cut bevels in both directions without flipping the wood.
Do I need a dual/double bevel miter saw?
The dual bevel is obviously better but comes with a higher price tag. It may be hard to justify the price increase for your workshop if you are not cutting bevels constantly.
I have a dual bevel miter saw and I barely cut bevels. If you are like me, then you can easily get by with a single bevel miter saw.
If you constantly use bevels to create picture frames and boxes for example, then you may benefit from the ease of use and added efficiency in a dual bevel miter saw.
Sliding vs non-sliding miter saw
A sliding miter saw can extend towards to cutter to cut longer pieces of wood. A non-sliding miter saw does not slide outwards and can only cut thinner wood pieces
Non-sliding miter saw
- 10″ blade cuts 6″ wide
- 12″ blade cuts 8″ wide
Sliding miter saw
- 12″ blade cuts 14″ wide or more
A non-sliding miter saw can normally cut wood 6 inches wide with a 10 inch blade and 8 inches wide with a 12 inch blade.
A sliding miter saw can normally cut up to 14 inches or more.
One thing to consider when purchasing a miter saw is that the cut length is for 90 degree angle cuts. The cut size for 45 degree cuts and lower will be shorter.
My sliding miter saw has a 14 inch cut limit for 90 degrees and a 10 inch cut limit for 45 degrees.
This is important because is you decide to go with the non-sliding miter saw, the cut length may be shorter for cuts at varying degrees
Should you get a sliding miter saw?
A sliding miter saw allows for you to wider wood pieces in comparison to the non-sliding miter saw. It of course does come with a higher price tag. However, depending on the projects that you create, it is likely that you will need it.
If you want a miter saw for more larger projects then you should get a sliding miter saw. However, if you know exactly which projects that you will create and if you know that you will not need to upgrade, then a non-sliding saw will suffice.
I find that getting a sliding miter saw over a non-sliding miter saw more justifiable than getting a dual bevel miter saw over a single bevel one. You will be able to use it in a lot more projects. A sliding miter saw brings more value than a dual bevel saw.
If you find value in both features, you can get a dual bevel sliding miter saw, which are very common.
Purchase Dual bevel miter saw: Amazon link
Miter saw: How to check for accuracy
The accuracy of the miter saw is extremely important. When cutting bevels and miter, a degree or a fraction of a degree will lead to an inaccurate cut.
While this imperfection may not mean the end of the world, the inaccuracy will kind of defeat the point of having a miter saw.
- Step 1: Cut two 4×8″ pieces of plywood
- Step 2: Cut a straight edge
- Step 3: Cut a 90 degree angle
- Step 4: Place both pieces together
Step 1: Cut two 4×8 sheets of plywood
One simple way to check for the accuracy is to have two sheets 4×6″ pieces of plywood. The longer the sheet the better and if your miter saw can support 10 inch or 14 inch cutting lengths then you can use a 4×10″ or 4×14″ inch piece of plywood.
A half inch thickness of plywood is ideal. A three quarters inch thickness will allow for more imperfections to show but it is more expensive.
Step 2: Cut a straight edge
Next you will cut a straight edge on both pieces of wood. It is essential to ensure that these two pieces of wood are perfectly straight.
If not, then you may unaligned a perfectly aligned miter saw.
Step 3: Cut a 90 degree angle on both pieces
Have the straight edge flushed with the miter saw back plate and cut less than an inch off of both pieces.
Step 4: Place both pieces together
Next, you will place the cut sides of both of the pieces together. A perfectly accurate miter saw will create a perfectly flushed joint.
However, if you see a gap at the top or bottom of the joint, then you will know that the saw is not accurate.
Can the miter saw cut on 2 angles at the same time?
You can use a miter saw to cut on 2 angles at the same time. However, this will only work if the opposite angle is the angle that you are trying to cut as well.
For example, if you cut a 45 degree angle, then the opposite angle will also be 45 degrees to make up 90 degrees.
If you need two 45 degree angle cuts then it works out.
If you cut a 55 degree angle then the other angle will be 35 degrees. If you need those two angles then everything works out right? Well, maybe not so fast.
While it is possible, it may not be as easy as it looks. You need to take into account the blade thickness when cutting wood.
When you cut wood normally, you cut on the outside of the line. However, if you are trying to use the same cut for two pieces you will but cutting on the inside of one line.
What does that mean? You will have to adjust your measurements to ensure that you are not cutting one piece of wood too short.
This is not difficult, but you will have to take into account the additional calculation when cutting two angles at the same time for your projects.
The benefit of taking the additional time for the calculation of cutting two angles at the same time for a miter saw is that you may not need a dual bevel miter saw.
A dual bevel miter saw is a lot easier if you need to cut angles in both directions. But if you want to take the extra time in the calculations, then it will be easier to get by if you do decide to stick with the single bevel miter saw.
Additionally, performing one cut instead of two will ultimately save you a lot of time and resources.
In this article, we discussed the uses of a miter saw and how to cut miters and bevels using one. Additionally, we discussed the different types of miter saws and how to check the miter saw for accuracy. Lastly we discussed how to cut two angles at one time using a miter saw.
Thank you so much for taking the time to read this article and I wish you luck on your woodworking journeys!
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