How to Use a Miter Saw

Crosscuts and miters are common woodworking cuts. Here's how to perfect them with a miter saw.

Go back to basics and discover our top tips for using a miter saw.

Miter saws, also known as chop saws, are known for their efficiency and precision when making a number of important woodworking cuts. This specialized tool is rarely necessary for a project, but they definitely make it go faster. Use a miter saw when you have to make many identical cuts, saw at an angle, or form perfect miter joints. 

When learning how to use a miter saw, you might be a little intimidated at first. After all, the saw is bulky with a big, powerful blade. But armed with confidence and our step-by-step guide, you'll be sawing like a pro in no time. We'll show you how to safely use the saw, make miter cuts, and make angled cuts. 

Use your miter saw to make this chevron wall art.

Step 1: Mark Material

Taking blade width into account, measure your cut. Use a pencil to gently mark the lines. Then place your marked wood piece against the fence at the back of the saw base.

Editor's Tip: The old adage "measure twice, cut once" applies to cutting with a miter saw, too. Since the blade is roughly 1/8-inch-thick, it's important that you take its width into account when measuring super-precise cuts. 

Step 2: Position Clamp

Protect yourself with a miter saw clamp. This handy tool keeps your hands away from the blade. Place the clamp at least 6 inches from the blade, and tighten until secure. Most have a small knob that can be tightened and loosened as needed.  

Learn how to use four more types of clamps.

Step 3: Prep Saw

Make miter and bevel adjustments as needed according to manufacturer's directions. The bevel refers to the saw's vertical angle, while a miter is the saw's horizontal angle. If you plan to saw without mitered or beveled edges, set both the bevel and the miter to 0 degrees. Depending on the project, you may adjust one or both settings to get the necessary angle for your cut. Once the saw is set, squeeze the trigger to turn it on, and bring the blade up to full speed before pulling it down towards the wood.

Step 4: Start Sawing

Make your cut, moving from front to back. This movement matches the spin of the blade and prevents kickback. Once the board is cut through, release the trigger and let the blade come to a complete stop before raising it.

Install your own crown molding with the help of a miter saw.

Step 5: Make a Miter Cut

If you need to make miter cuts, adjust the turntable by squeezing the miter lock handle until it's at the desired angle. Keep in mind that a perpendicular cut would be set to 0 degrees, then adjust accordingly. Once the saw is set, lower the blade and cut through the wood, moving from front to back. 

Step 6: Make an Angled Cut

If you need to make angled cuts, tilt the blade arm at an angle to the bed of the table. This cuts both a bevel and angle at once. Most saws can tilt in both directions, but some only bevel towards one side. Also keep in mind that a square cut would be set with a bevel of 0 degrees, and most saws have a maximum bevel of 45 degrees. Once adjusted as desired, lower the blade and cut through the wood, moving from front to back. 

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