Doing any type of do-it-yourself task requires the use of some kind of power tool. One of my favorite power tools to use is a Miter saw (drop saw), especially when working with wood. Cutting different angles is such a breeze, and it got me thinking about the usefulness of these saws.
What can a miter saw be used for?
You use miter saws in construction, carpentry, cabinet making, and even for your DIY and home improvement projects. They are most commonly used for woodwork, cutting trim, and moldings. It is handy to cut materials at perfect angles. Miter saws can also be used to cut materials other than wood, but it requires the correct blade.
The use of a Miter saw is no longer limited to professionals. Do it yourself enthusiasts have been using miter saws for a while now to get a professional finish to their projects. In this article, I will discuss the different uses of the basic, compound, and sliding compound miter saws.
Miter Saw Uses
Power tools have changed many lives for the better in terms of saving time and getting work done looking more professional. I can still remember doing the work of a miter saw manually using a backsaw and a miter box during my early days. Once I started using the drop saw, it has become an essential tool in my shop.
Let’s look at the uses of different Miter saws.
Basic Miter Saw Uses
Most people confuse a miter saw for a chop saw, with the main difference being the ability to make cuts at an angle. Basic Miter saws do not have the bevel function, and you use them for the following:
- Crosscutting: This refers to a 90° cut across the length of the workpiece to achieve square edges.
When using a miter saw, the workpiece should be held against the fence part of the saw,and it ensures a precise angled cut between the plane of the blade and the plane of the longest edge. When cutting in a standard position, the cutting angle is precisely 90°.
- Angled cuts: A huge advantage with a miter saw is how you can rotate the blade to many different angles, most commonly 45°. It allows users to make quick angled cuts for any number of projects. So, unlike a chop saw, the miter saw can cut different angles, including the 90° crosscuts with excellent repeatability.
Compound Miter Saw Uses
The difference between a simple drop saw and compound miter saw is that the later has a tilting head. This gives the power saw the ability to do a cut that is not perpendicular to the thickness of the material.
- Crosscut and Miter: Similar to the basic version of the saw, you can use a compound saw to do crosscuts and miter cuts of different angles. Additionally, it can also cut bevels and compound angles.
- Bevel Cuts: When you title the saw head and make the cut, you are cutting the thickness at an angle. This is called a bevel cut.
- Compound cuts: With a compound saw you can do an angle and bevel cut at the same time which is known as a compound cut. This means, you are rotating the bed of the saw to cut any angle other than 90° and the blade head is titled.
The compound saws come in two variations, single bevel and double bevel.
Sliding Compound Miter Saw
Sliding compound Miter saws works in the same way as the basic version of the saw except for two differences, the slider and bevel functions. It means that the saw has a better reach because of the sliding function allowing it slice through wider boards. A sliding compound miter saw is used for the following:
- Crosscutting– 90-degree cuts are still possible with the sliding compound miter saw, but because of the sliding action, it can do crosscuts to even wider materials like laminate flooring.
- Angled cuts: You can cut 30, 45, 60-degree angles, but because of the bevel and sliding action, it can do long compound cuts.
- Bevel cuts- The sliding compound miter saw can also do cuts that are relative to the face of the material. One of the other terms for bevel cut is incline cut.
What Can You Cut on a Miter Saw?
Following are some of the materials that a drop saw can cut.
- Wood: Miter saws are primarily designed for cutting wood. They can cut all the softwood and hardwood. You will find this saw extremely useful for doing a simple miter joint picture frame to woodworking projects that require complex wood joinery.
- Cut Plastic: Miter saws slice through most plastics including nylon, PVC, HDPE, etc. You can do crosscuts and angled cuts to PVC pipes using a wood cutting blade.
- Crown Molding: Installation of crown molding often requires complex angles to be cut to match the corners. Miter saw makes it possible to cut compound angle with high accuracy and repeatability.
The other option is to use a coping saw. It is not only time consuming and labor intensive, but also difficult to achieve straight cut edges unless you are an experienced carpenter.
- Baseboard: The skirting board or baseboard often requires bevels to be cut at the corners. Any compound miter saw can do this job. Plus, you can also trim your shoe molding or quarter round to correct length and angle.
- Plywood: As one of the most commonly used building materials, carpenters and cabinet makers often need to cut plywood. You can use a miter saw to cut plywood, MDF, particle board, engineered wood etc.
Plywood is thin layers of wood glued and these layers have opposite grain directions. The glue will cause HSS blade to get heated and will dull faster, resulting splintering. will I always use a carbide-tipped blade to cut plywood.
- Cut non-ferrous metals: Non-ferrous metals can also be cut with a drop saw. You need to install a carbide tooth saw blade to the saw first, though. Non-ferrous metals include, amongst others: Aluminum, Brass, and copper.
Read this article to learn more on cutting metal with a miter saw.
- Paneling: Outdoor siding and indoor shiplap installations often need the panels to be cut to different lengths. Your drop saw can cut wood panels as well as faux shiplap planks.
- Vinyl Flooring: Vinyl flooring is a synthetic flooring material with layers of material, primarily Poly Vinyl Chloride (PVC). These are easy to cut with a fine 80 teeth blade.
To cut thick parts such as a brick or cinder block, use a wet saw or masonry saw.
- Laminate Flooring Planks: Cross cutting the planks to the required length is a breeze on a mitre saw. You will need an 80 0r 100 teeth carbide-tipped blade and preferably a sliding miter saw.
The width of laminate planks usually varies from 5 to 9 ½ -inches. The maximum with you can comfortably cut on a 10-inch miter saw is 6-inches. If you want to cut a wide flooring plank, you either need a 12 inch saw or a sliding compound miter saw.
- Ceramic Tiles: While I do not recommend using a miter saw for cutting tiles, it can be done with a diamond blade. A wet tile saw or score and snap tile cutter would be my choice.
To cut thick parts such as a brick or cinder block, use a wet saw or masonry saw.
A drop saw is an extremely versatile power saw with one major limitation. You can not use a miter saw to do long rip cuts.
If you are mainly working with plywood or sheet goods, you may need to cut along the length to cut the large boards to a manageable size. A table saw or a track saw is ideal for ripping sheet goods.
This power saw is also not suitable for metalworking and masonry cutting.
Using the Correct Blade When Using A Miter Saw
The Miter Saw is a versatile power tool that, when used, does not require a lot of training to get used to using. One of the things to be very mindful of is to use the correct blade to the application of material that you are working with.
We are going to look at three types of miter saw blades.
1. Carbon Steel Blade
A carbon steel circular saw blade is a commonly used blade on a drop saw, and most of the time, it is also the blade that comes with the machine. This type of miter saw blade is suitable for use when working with softwoods and plastics like PVC.
2. High-Speed Steel Blade
When using a miter saw for work with hardwoods regularly, it might be better to use a high-speed steel blade instead. They do not become dull as fast as the carbon steel blades. So if you use a saw to work with hardwoods like Mahogany or Maple often, then this is the blade for your machine.
You can use an HSS wood blade to cut moldings and other plastics.
3. Carbide Tipped Miter Saw Blade
When using a miter saw to cut softer metals like aluminum or copper, it is crucial to use a carbide-tipped blade. Even though these blades are expensive, carbide tends to retain the cutting edges at much higher temperature which is important when working with metals.
If you are regularly cutting hardwood, I recommend getting a carbide tooth blade since they can last a long time without the need for sharpening.
4. Diamond Saw Blades
You need a diamond blade when cutting, very hard materials such as glass, ceramic, porcelain tiles etc. They are very expensive and is not required for most of the jobs that are intended to do a drop saw.
Safety Tips When Using A Miter Saw
Using a Miter saw can still be dangerous, so experts recommend following the manufacturer’s recommendations; here are a few tips:
- Always use the prescribed personal protective equipment, including eye protection, hearing protection, mask for lung and body protection, and safety boots.
- Do proper inspections of the machine, guards, and the blade before using it. Ensure that everything is working the way it should; if you are unsure, read the instructions.
- Make sure that you use the correct blade type in the machine and that everything is securely fastened.
- The machine must be at the correct height; most experts would recommend to be at waist height.
- Correct body posture is essential when using a miter saw; position one hand on the switch and the other hand on the material you are cutting. Keep your hands and your fingers away from the blade.
- Proper housekeeping needs to be done after any task; make sure to clean your work area and machine.
A Miter saw was designed for wood, wood composites, and plastic; it can do crosscuts, angled cuts, and bevel cuts. You can also use this saw to cut some metals, but it requires a different blade. A Miter saw comes highly recommended because it is versatile, and with a bit of practice, it gets projects done safely.
- Miter Saw Uses
- What Can You Cut on a Miter Saw?
- Using the Correct Blade When Using A Miter Saw
- Safety Tips When Using A Miter Saw