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    How to Use a Miter Saw

    A miter saw, also called a chop saw, is handy but affordable power tool. Unless you are a pro who installs lots of moldings and trim, you don’t need a fancy one that can angle itself both left and right.

    Some miter saws have smaller blades (7 – 10 in. dia.) and slide on rails to crosscut wide boards, and others have larger blades (12 in. dia.) and simply pivot downward into the wood, but most can crosscut an 8- to 10-in. board.

    With a decent blade, a miter saw can make near-furniture quality cuts, good enough for most woodworking projects, and plenty good for carpentry projects around the house. A lot of woodworkers use their chop saws to cut long boards to rough length before bringing them to other machines like the jointer, planer, and tablesaw to be cut to final size.

    These saws are very simple to use, and safe if you do the following: Use one hand to hold the workpiece firmly against the table and fence, and always leave at least 4 in. of space between your fingers and the slot where the blade comes down.

    With the simpler type of miter saw, you just pull straight down into the workpiece. But sliding miter saws are a bit different. Be sure to pull the saw all the way toward you before plunging it down into the wood and pushing it through the cut.

    You can angle the blade by tilting it to make bevel cuts, and my rotating it sideways to make angled cuts, and there are stops at common angles, like 45 and 90 degrees. Make some test cuts and check if your stops are accurate. There is usually some way to adjust them.

    And down the road, you’ll want to build or buy some kind of stop system (see second photo above) that sticks out the left-hand side of the saw so you can cut multiple pieces to the same length without measuring and marking again and again. You should also support long pieces with some kind of table or stand.