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How to Use a Miter Saw – The Ultimate Calibration & Cutting Guide

Here’s a detailed guide on how to use a miter saw. What types of cuts can they make? What's the right cutting procedure? Let's find out.

Purchased your first miter saw or planning to buy one? Wonder what’s the right way to use it or what are its cutting capabilities?

You’ve knocked on the right door.

We’ve designed this guide in a step-by-step fashion, from the cutting choice up to the release of the power switch.

We hope you’ll find all the information you need to learn what miter saws allow us to do and how to use them safely and effectively.

What Cuts Can Miter Saws Make?

Types of Miter Saws and Their Cutting Capabilities

How to Use a Miter Saw

Keep reading to find out how to use a miter saw or click any section above.

What Cuts Can Miter Saws Make?

Miter saws are designed to make crosscuts and different types of angle cuts.

Do not use them to make rip cuts as they are not designed for that. This could also be dangerous.

Talking about ripping, do not mount a rip blade on a miter saw. Miter saws are powerful and precise tools that fall into the realm of fine woodworking. They are sensitive devices that are capable of making furniture. So, why would you want to remove its capabilities with a rough-cutting rip blade?

Depending on your miter saw, you’ll be able to make some or all of the following cuts:

  • Crosscut: a cut made perpendicular (90°) to the wood grain. This is the type of cut you perform when making long boards of lumber shorter.
  • Miter cut: a crosscut made with an angle other than 90°. 
  • Bevel cut: an angled cut that shapes the face of the material to an angle other than 90°.
  • Compound cut: a cut that combines a miter angle and a bevel angle.

Types of Miter Saws and Their Cutting Capabilities

There are essentially five types of miter saws. 

  • Standard miter saw: With its mitering table, it can only perform crosscuts and miter cuts
  • Sliding miter saw: In addition to its mitering table, it has a rail system that slides the blade from front to back. This type of saw also performs crosscuts and miter cuts but is capable of cutting wider pieces.
  • Compound miter saw: With this saw, the blade can tilt to one side (left or right) to adjust the bevel angle. So, in addition to crosscuts and miter cuts, it can also make bevel cuts as well as compound cuts.
  • Compound sliding miter saw: It’s a compound miter saw with a sliding function.
  • Dual/Double compound sliding miter saw: It is a compound sliding miter saw, but its blade doesn’t only tilt to one side but to both sides (left and right). This miter saw has the most options and you guessed it, it’s also the most expensive.

How to Use a Miter Saw

Get Familiar with Your Miter Saw

Long before you start thinking about powering it up, you should take enough time to get to know your brand-new miter saw. Read the instruction manual and learn how to use it before trying it out. That way, you’ll learn about its different parts, how it works, or how to unlock and adjust the miter and bevel angle within a few minutes.
By the way, that’s what we all should do each time we use a new power tool, especially those with a sharp blade spinning fast!

Check the Calibration of Your Miter Saw

To make accurate cuts, you need a miter saw that is well-calibrated. So, it would be a good idea to make sure everything is well set up before you start using it.


First off, for obvious safety reasons, make sure your miter saw is de-energized.

  • Unplug it from the outlet or remove the battery if it’s a cordless model. (yes, they do exist!)

Check the Blade

Whenever you check your miter saw, quickly inspect the aspect of the blade.

  • Look for any irregularities, warps, or bends. Most of the time, you’ll only need to do a little cleaning

Check the Table

The odds for a brand new table to be untrue are very low. But it’s still worth making sure you won’t have any issue with it, especially when your saw is still under warranty.
An older miter saw has a larger chance of having an untrue table, so you should inspect it from time to time.

  • Grab the flattest level you have and put it on the table. Check for gaps between the level and the table on the sides and in the center.
  • If you find any gap on your factory-fresh miter saw table, then go make a claim. 
  • If your older miter saw table has paper sheet-like gaps, you may want to ask a machine shop to try to flatten or resurface the table
  • If there are large gaps, however, you’d better start looking for a new miter saw.

Check the Miter Angle

Next up, you want to check that the miter saw fence is perfectly aligned. There should be a “perfect” 90° angle between the blade and the fence. Otherwise, the saw won’t cut right angle crosscuts and miter cuts won’t be accurate, either.

  • Set the turntable to 90° (or 0°) and lock it in place. Then pull the blade down to its lowest position. Lift the blade guard, place a square between the fence and the blade, and look for any gap between them.
  • If there’s any, simply loosen the fence’s bolts and square everything up. To finish up, tighten the bolts while keeping the fence in place.

Check the Bevel Angle

To verify the accuracy of the bevel angle, simply tilt the saw to 45° and put a square on the table with the hypotenuse (45°) facing the blade. Lower the blade until it touches the square and, look for gaps again. You may also use a digital bevel finder. 

  • To correct the bevel angle, look for the bevel adjustment bolt, usually located at the back of the miter saw. If you can’t find it, please refer to your instruction manual.
  • Adjust the bevel until there’s no more gap between the blade and the square.

How to Set the Miter Angle

  • Unlock the turntable.
  • Turn the table until the arrow faces the angle you want. You may use built-in detents that automatically lock the table at common angles, or choose to set any custom angle.
  • Make sure to lock it back in place before you power up the saw.

How to Set the Bevel Angle

  • Unlock the bevel gauge.
  • As for the miter angle, you can either use detents to set common angles or set any angle you want.
  • Lock the bevel before you power up the saw.

How to Set a Compound Angle

For any project that requires angled cuts in two planes, like picture frames or crown molding, you’ll need to make compound cuts.

  • To set a compound angle, simply set a miter angle and a bevel angle, using the procedures above.
  • Here are the most common angles to set for 52/38 and 45/45 spring angle crown moldings:

Safety Tips

  • Any time you use a miter saw or any power tool, please always wear eye and hearing protection. Also, secure any clothing, jewelry, or long hair. 
  • Depending on the material you’re cutting, you’ll also want to wear work gloves or a dust mask.
  • When cutting materials that produce dust, you may use a dust collection system to protect your lungs.
  • Keep your hands at least 6 in. away from the blade and off the turntable portion. Keep your arms straight, don’t cross your arms when cutting. 
  • Support your workpiece as you cut. It is advised to always have more than half the length of the material you’re cutting resting on the saw. If it’s too long, you can use feed support or a specially designed miter saw stand. This will prevent the workpieces from falling away after you cut them. 


  • First, mark the material where you want to cut it.
  • Before powering up, bring the blade down to make sure you’re on your mark. 
  • Then bring it back up to the top position. Power it up, and bring it down into the material. 
  • If you’re using a sliding miter saw, you always want the blade sliding from the outside towards the inside. So, make sure you’ve pulled the blade towards you before starting the saw. Then power it up, bring the blade down, and push it inwards, towards the fence.
  • Release the switch and let the blade come to a complete stop before raising it back up.

Learn More About Power Saws

Check out our articles on how to use a circular saw and how to use a table saw.

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