If you've just bought a brand new miter saw (or a used one for that matter), there are a few things that you might want to do to get the best performance out of your machine. After all, a new miter saw doesn't come with a low price tag, and yes it is a simple machine to use and will work straight out of the box, but making a few adjustments will get you the equivalent of a much better saw.
Miter Saw Tip #1: Upgrade that Blade
The miter saw will no doubt come with a basic blade. For example, my Dewalt DWS780 came with a 60 tooth carbide blade which is actually better than what most saws will come with. (Most will have a basic 40 tooth carbide blade.)
This blade will be fine for construction work, or a carpenter cutting 2x4's but for the woodworker who's needs are a bit more refined this blade just won't cut it. (A little humor there) Actually, the basic blade will be great rough cutting lumber when using a miter saw for this purpose.
You will definitely want to upgrade the blade if you are planning on cutting any hardwoods or doing any precision work to avoid any kind of tear out. For that, you'll need to upgrade to a higher performance blade to at least something like this 12 inch DEWALT DW3216PT 60 Tooth Crosscutting Saw Blade . The higher the tooth count the smoother the cut.
Miter Saw Tip #2: Don't Pull Up Prematurely
After making a cut, wait until the blade stops spinning before lifting it. There are a few reasons. First is that the piece of wood that you are not holding on to may fly away as the spinning blade comes in contact with it, lifting it into the air, especially if it is a small scrap piece. Secondly, it''ll avoid the mistake of possibly getting your arm cut as you reach for the piece on the other side of the blade.
Thirdly, if you lift the spinning blade, those teeth will touch the workpiece again. But this time the blade won't be spinning as fast. The cutting edge of your workpiece will get scraped by the blade. If that edge is exposed in the final product, just wait till you get to the finishing and you'll notice those little scars if you didn't take the extra time to sand it properly.
These score marks may not be visible initially, but this end grain has been chalked in order for you to more clearly see the cut lines that were produced when raising the miter saw blade before it has stopped spinning.
Miter Saw Tip #3: Use Preset Angles For Bevels
This relates more to compound miters than for non-compound miters but the practice is the same on all saws (including table saws). Instead of relying on the pre-indicated numbers on the angle gauge, make very precisely cut angle blocks and use those to find you saw blade angle instead.
Let's face it, on many saws, the angle gauge is more of a suggestion than an exact number. While it is fine enough for rough cutting, if you are planning on putting together four 45 degree angle pieces that you cut on your miter saw to make a rectangular frame of some sort, good luck, because I'll bet the corners won't be as perfect as you would like.
So, what you do is you use your table saw, which can be dialed in to a much more precise angle, especially if you use a
digital angle gauge
to measure the blade angle. Then you cut a block of wood at a desired angle, like 45 degrees, which would be the most common. Now you have a quick and easy way to adjust the angle on your compound miter.
Of course you can always use the angle gauge directly on the blade to measure as well. But I find that cutting on the miter saw I'll need to adjust the blade back and forth to cut different angles, especially when doing molding work. The adjusting goes much quicker with a preset block than having to deal with the measuring gauge every time.
Miter Saw Tip #4: Add a Better Table and Fence
To keep using the same Dewalt 780 pictured above as an example, lets take a look at the fence system. This model is quite good actually as it is adjustable in a few different ways, but we can make it better. It's quite easy really. All you have to do is add an extra two boards to the existing fence.
Your saw most likely has some holes pre-drilled to allow for some screws to pass through for this exact purpose. Basically it's as easy as creating an 'L' shape out of two pieces of MDF. Then screwing the auxiliary table and fence into position.
There are a number of benefits that this new setup provides. Firstly, it will as a zero clearance fence and throat plate. The original fence does not provide this advantage. So there will be less tear out on work pieces whether they are upright against the fence or laying flat against the table.
Secondly, you will be able to see exactly where the blade will be cutting. A laser line is an often added feature to a miter saw nowadays, but even if it is exactly accurate, it only shows you one side of the kerf.
Thirdly, you can take the time to accurately pre-cut those 45 degree angles (or other commonly used angles) in the fence so you don't have to fiddle around with adjustments. Just drop the handle to make that the blade is sliding in the right spot, then lock the position.
And finally, the bottom board is adding some height to the table, this actually extends the cutting length of your saw. As your workpiece is higher, more of the blade can come into contact with it. If you don't have a sliding miter saw sometimes this extra little bit of reach will be a huge help.
This addition to the miter saw is really a no brainer as it provides many great advantages and it is so simple to implement. If you perform many cuts at different angles and the sacrificial fence is getting chewed up, it's also easy to replace.
Miter Saw Tip #5: Extend the Table
At the same time that you are performing the step above, you can also extend the support table. Not only does it add extra support for long work pieces so that they don't tip over after the cut is made.
It also allows you to quickly add a stop block using a clamp so that you can cut multiple pieces to the same length while only measuring once.
In fact, not shown in this example, but adding a ruler guide to the extended fence would make it even better. Since you know exactly where the blade will come down, just measure from the kerf and put a measuring tape line starting at the proper place.
So, just to recap:
• Get a better blade than what came with the saw
• Wait till the blade stops spinning before you lift the handle
• Create some preset angle blocks to quickly find angles and bevels
• Add a sacrificial zero clearance fence
• Extend the table support
Except for adding a new blade, none of these ideas requires you to spend money to buy any expensive accessories. All you need to become an expert miter saw user is a few pieces of mdf or plywood, and some patience.