I can fondly remember the day my old radial arm saw died. I hated that dangerous saw and too every advantage to upgrading to a sliding miter saw that was long overdue. Since then, I can't believe how dependent I have become on my sliding mitre saw. I make sure it is aligned and it gives me excellent quality cuts every time, but there are a few things I have learned over time to get even more from it.
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Once a sliding miter saw is set up and aligned to give you perfect, accurate cuts, they save so much time, but .. they still have limitations, and there are few things you can do to make them even better ...
Ignore the Carry Handle
I put this first because the first thing that most people do, is carried home or lift out of the box, their sliding mitre saw, and with many saws, this can throw them out of alignment, meaning your cuts can be off by a number of degrees. Most workshops are often being re-arranged to accommodate new tools, so when it comes to moving your sliding miter, pick it up by the base so you don't have to spend the time re-aligning after a move. Regardless of the brand, and even with my Makita Saw, I still transport it by carrying it with the base.
Replace the Stock Blade
Most saw blade manufactures purchase among the least expensive saw blades they can to give away with their saws when they are purchased. For some people, these blades are OK, if you are building fences or cutting up firewood, but for most of us, especially if we are doing fine woodworking, need to replace those blades with a much better quality blade. Remember, the quality of your cuts has little to do with the saw and a LOT to do with the quality of blade you install. Get a good blade so you saw can give you great quality cuts. One of my favorites is the Freud 90 tooth, I can't say enough about this excellent blade.
Good Side DOWN
After you have installed a good quality blade, now you want to have good consistent cuts and the best way to do this is to make sure the best side of the wood you are cutting is down because the best quality cuts you make are on that downside of the wood. Any tear-out will occur on the side you can see. We know this because of the direction of cut of the blade and where the teeth enter the wood first, which is underneath ... the same thing is true on a circular saw, best side down.
Sliding Mitre Saw manufacturers struggle with trying to explain who wide a cut they can make with their saw because it really depends on the how thick the material is that you are using. We use 3/4 inch frequently and for most saws wood of this thickness is cut on the lower side of the blade. If you need to cut wood that is a bit wider by say an inch or a bit more, in many cases, you can accomplish this by installing a sacrificial base. This idea raises the base so that more saw blade is exposed to the wood, therefore a wider cut is possible. Some woodworkers have installed a higher sacrificial base on their saws as a permanent fixture. Make sure to work safely by ensuring the base is supported on the back side with a fence and that it is securely fastened to the saws own base.
**** Whenever you are making adjustments like these, no matter what tool you are working with, MAKE SURE the wood you are cutting is supported so the blade cannot "grab" the wood which can be very dangerous.
All miter saws come with a fence but sometimes these fences are not adequate for the job that needs to be done. For example, anyone cutting a lot of short pieces, like plugs, would be wise - AND SAFER, to install a sacrificial fence so that small pieces cannot be tossed around by the cutting blade because they are supported by the fence on either side of the blade. Most saws have holes that can be used to attach a sacrificial fence too.
Fine Cuts and Fine Angle Cuts
Make very fine adjustment to cuts is easy with a miter saw and even angled cuts can have fine adjustments made to them without moving the angle of the base. Sometimes a very fine adjustment is necessary, especially in angle cuts and one of the best and quickest ways to do this is to simply shim the edge of your board along the fence, then butt you wood up the -turned off blade- or the mitre saw, THEN turn on the blade and allow it to lift and let the teeth make a very fine cut to the edge of your board. You can even make several passes like this to change the angle of a board by parts of a degree or more. A quick easy way of making very fine adjustments.
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Copyright Colin Knecht