How to Use a Compound Miter Saw – The Basics

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A miter saw is a machine that is really good and fit to cut wood stock. It is in fact very adaptable in many situations, thus it can make clean crosscuts on the wood. The compound miter saw is a capable to be beveled in position while the main blade is making its cut on the wood. Moreover, you can do several motions while cutting the wood such as pulling it forward or backward, or even sliding the meter. It is truly one of a kind machine.

The compound miter saw is regarded as one of the most accurate and efficient tool in woodcutting. The saw can even allow you to cut at different angles such as the square or an acute angle. The precision of the device even though it is doing this kinds of cutting will definitely astonish you. Definitely, the machine will require delicate and precise hands in order to work in an optimal level. Now, how does one operate a complex machine such as a compound miter saw?

Materials Needed

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There are several materials, as well as protective gears and equipment you need to have in order for you to work and study the compound miter saw. Here are the things you need:

  • Compound Miter Saw
  • Practice Wood Block
  • Working Table
  • Safety Goggles
  • Safety Gloves

If you are still practicing in using the saw, you might want to use a softer kind of wood so that you can easily maneuver the compound saw miter while cutting it. Furthermore, since the saw dust would go around flying in every direction, you should really wear something to protect your eyes such as the safety goggles or glasses. There are also variants of safety gloves that are cut-resistant. This will allow you to have a slight protection for your hands. You just have to keep in mind that being the gloves being cut resistant does not mean it is cut-proof. The compound miter saw is a high-powered saw that is really powerful in cutting anything. Remember to practice with caution and try to seek professional help if there is someone knowledgeable around you.

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Familiarize yourself with the common parts involved in a compound miter saw. This will help you be more accustomed to the instructions in the manual. For the basics here are the functions of some of the mentioned parts above.

  • The on/off trigger - is the one you push to turn on the saw.
  • The bevel adjustment - it is the one you should use to adjust the angle of the blade. For a more precise angled cut, you should calibrate and check the positioning of the bevel.
  • The safety clamp - for the precision and safety when cutting the wood, use the safety clamp to put the wood in place.
  • The slide bar – this bar will help you cut in a more linear fashion since the movement is guided by the bar.
  • The dust bag – most of the compound miter saw has a built-in sawdust bag in place. This will help minimize the flying wood chips and dusts in your workroom.
  • The fence – this part is the one that will be the resting area of the board. It will keep your wood board in place when the cutting begins. Partnered with the clamp, it will be secured in a tightly fitted way.

Step 1: Choose the appropriate compound miter saw

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Different projects require different sizes of compound miter saw. Before you start any wood cutting for your project, you should try to ask yourself how big is the needed compound miter saw. This will not just allow you to save space but also will allow you to partner the machine with the scale of your project. This perfect fit will allow higher cutting precision which will, in turn, give you more accurate cuts. The size of the compound miter saw will also correspond to the diameter of the blade to be placed on the machine.

Moreover, choosing the right compound miter saw also means that you need to know how much power the machine needs to be. This means that the electrical power drawn by the machine needs to correspond to the scale of your project. A normal, human-sized project can be done perfectly well with a 12-15 ampere-compound miter saw. Nevertheless, you may want to choose a higher ampere rating if you will be working with projects in a larger scale. Also, remember to fully read the instruction manual to completely comprehend how to operate the compound saw. This will allow you to have an understanding of the technicalities such as the power button, off button, blade guard, and the like.

After you have done this, setup your working room and the working table and you are good to cut the wood. Just ensure a proper lighting so that you can see the curves and angles you will be cutting.

Step 2: Properly align the blade with the stenciled line

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If you are attempting to cut a straight line out of the wood, the first thing you need to do is mark the measurements with a pencil. Once, you have marked and lined the proper cutting line you want to do, place the blade in line with the mark before turning the saw on. If you are now satisfied with the alignment, carefully remove the blade guard from the miter saw. Turn the saw on, wait for it to reach its top speed, and then gently allow it to cut the line you have marked. This is a fairly easy process since the saw can move and slide back and forth to allow you to have a cleaner cut. The key for having a straight-edged cut is to have a steady hand. Maintain a firm grip so that the blade will not be shaky while doing its cut. Do not worry if you did not get it for the first time. Doing this alignment will be easier as you do it every day. The most important part is that you are following the right procedure every time you do a straight cut.

Step 3: Turn the angle knob to make miter

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In order to make a fine-tuned angle cuts, you need to perfectly adjust the angle knob to match your desired specifications. This will allow the machine to move while cutting the wood in accordance to you wishes. In order to do this, loosen up first the blade then twist it to match the angle you want. After that, lock it up tight so that it will not wobble in that angle. Some of the experts in wood cutting suggested that it is advisable to add 1 or 2 degrees in the angle miter since most of the compound saw miters does not fit in the desired angle for the first time.

Some of the experts in woodworks also suggest that you use an external angle reference so that it will be easier, just in the case that the angled miter does not work. You might want to use a block that is part of your project that has also been cut in a way that you needed to. This will give you the sense of uniformity since all of your blocks will be cut in an angle uniform to each other.

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Step 4: Wait for the blade to stop turning

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Of course, in order for you to make a clean cut out of the wood, it is essential that you wait for the blade to stop turning. This will allow the blade to complete the cutting process. Moreover, it will reduce the risk of unnecessary accidents such as accidental cuts, both for you or the wood. Furthermore, it will produce a smoother finish when compared to the cut made by the abruptly pulled out blade.

Another issue about this is regarding the wood chips flying off the blade. It is really dangerous if these wood ships get inside your eye. The best thing to do to stop this mess is to wait for the blade to stop. It is really not that hard to do. All you need to follow is “do not lift the blade until the blade stops turning”.


The compound miter saw is a wonderful machine that can help you with all the woodwork projects you have. Nevertheless, it is still important to know how to properly operate this complex tool so that no harm will befall you or your project. Just remember to follow the guidelines mentioned above, as well as the instructions specified in the manual of your machine. Remember, also, to keep your hands away from the blade when the saw is turned on. Different brands are offered in the market so it is important that you know the difference of your preferred machine to the others. And most importantly, seek help when you can find one so that you will have someone who have the expertise to supervise you when doing your woodworks.


  • October 24, 2017
  • DIY