Dedicated crosscutting machinery really started with the old Radial Arm Saw which emerged around the 1930s. In its day this was a revolutionary saw and for anyone who could afford one, it really picked up the production of the shop by leaving the table saw to do mostly the ripping, which is what it is best at. When the Radial Arm got really popular when it reached a price point more people could afford, it was realized just how dangerous this saw could be without proper instruction. Radial Arm Saws are great, but they are unforgiving if you make a mistake or slight miscalculation. Fortunately, as things go, the Radial Arm slowly got replaced with a much safer Chop Saw and later the Sliding Mitre Saw, but don't ever get complacent with these saws either, all saws are dangerous and need to be treated with utmost respect.
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Of course, like most tools, woodworkers are always adapting and making attachments and jigs to make these saw work even better, and often safer too and here are just a few of the things that can be done to make chop saws and sliding miters even more effective ...
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Crosscutting often means making a number of pieces the same length and to accomplish that, rather than measuring each one, we set up stop blocks once so we can make multiple cuts. You can use a scrap piece of wood for this as long as you can make it square to the base of your saw, but the best choice is to make one with a small cutaway in the bottom corner so that dust can't come between the stop block and your piece being cut. This way you can clear away the sawdust and ensure that all your cuts are going to be the same length.
Fine Cutting - Sizing
From time to time, I cut wood a bit too long, not much, just a hair width or so. It is near impossible to try to "trim" this small amount down, but what you can do, and what works exceedingly well, is to simply butt the piece of wood you want to "size" up against the stationary blade of the saw, then turn the saw on and allow the blade to lift. This will allow the carbide on the saw blade to ever so slightly graze the wood and take off about the amount of the thickness of a piece of paper or 2. If you need a bit more, do it another time or two and you will be amazed how little can be removed to make your wood a perfect fit.
The nature of dowels is that when we try to cut them with power tools they will often spin if they are not held very tightly. This spinning does 2 things, it can startle the operator (which is not a good thing around power tools) the other thing they can do is that spinning will often gouge the dowel, in some cases make it unusable. The solution cut a small "V" block on your table saw. You can make the "V" at 45 degrees but I have found a bit steeper angle tends to hold the dowels a bit more firmly and thereby get better, more consistent cuts.
Let Blade Stop Before Lifting
I get asked this question a lot ... Why do you let the blade stop spinning before you lift it off the work? the quick answer is that's how I was taught, was the safest way to use the mitre saw, and I fell into the habit of doing that, but there are some good reasons why. First of all, if you are using stop blocks, there is a very good chance the that the wood will bind between the uplifting spinning blade and the stop block. This means that often the wood with "flip out or off the saw", when this happens it often gouges or mars the wood, and in some cases will actually re-position your stop block as the unsupported wood flips out of the bind.
Support for Small Pieces
Sometimes I have a need to cut very small pieces and multiples of them such as making banding. I have found the quickest and safest way is to use a small toggle clamp to hold the small pieces of wood firmly in a jig that then lets the mitre saw make good, crisp saw cuts ... safely
Copyright - Colin Knecht