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Power miter saws are designed to cut precise angles in molding, trim work, rafters, and in general carpentry. They can be set to any angle and have stops that make it simple to set the saw to angles you'll cut most often. The cuts are precise, clean, and quick, and miter saws have become as important to the professional carpenter as the circular saw, hammer, and drill. It's a simple tool to operate, but there are a few things that are immediately obvious:
Although saws are adjusted at the factory, vibration during transport can knock the saw out of alignment. Check to see if the cut is square and the bevel accurate before your first project.
A board clamped at both ends will pinch the blade during the cut, possibly throwing it violently away from the saw. Clamp only on one side of the blade.
There are two types of miter saws. Basic miter saws cut a miter - the angled cut you see when you look at the top of the board - and only a miter. Compound miter saws will cut either a miter, a bevel (the angle you see looking at the edge of the board), or both.
Most carpentry - including crown molding - doesn't require a compound miter. A compound miter saw comes in handy, however, when cutting angles on the ends of wide boards, when cutting rafters, or when making custom frames.
The geometry of a compound miter means that the angle of the miter and bevel are set to something other than the final result. If you're cutting a 45-degree miter that also has a 45-degree bevel, for example, you would set the miter gauge to 35.26 degrees and the bevel gauge to 30 degrees. Check the saw's manual for the proper setting, and plan on making make plenty of test cuts.
Cutting slowly reduces splintering.
Always bolt or clamp the saw to a stable surface.
Making a cut
The miter saw cuts precise angles that would be difficult to get with other saws. While you can set it to any angle, there are also preset stops for the most common angles. Loosen the handle, depress the lock plate, and swing the miter table until it snaps into the desired setting. Retighten the handle before making the cut. To cut a bevel or make a compound cut, loosen the bevel lock knob, set it to the desired angle, and tighten.
When Using Power Miter Saws
Like all saws, the miter saw is potentially dangerous. Keep your hands well clear of the blade, and wait for the blade to stop spinning before you remove any scraps. Small pieces can fly out of the back of the saw, and bounce back, so remove any scraps before making a cut. Do not wear rings or other jewelry, or loose clothing. Wear hearing protection, safety glasses, and a dust mask when making cuts.
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