What is a Miter Saw? A Basic Introduction

A miter saw is a cutting device designed to provide accurate crosscuts and miters into materials. Miter saws are also know by the Middle English spelling, mitre saw. Powered or motorized miter saws are often referred to as chopsaws or dropsaws, likely due to their axe-like drop-down motion.

Manual Miter Saws

A manual miter saw consists of a miter box with a saw held in place by guide rails or posts. The blade is then allowed to move smoothly back and forth while cutting through the use of rollers.  This method of mitering is more error free and adjustable than with crosscutting saws alone or with a miter box and separate saw combination.

Power Miter Saw

A power miter saw is a motorized tool for quick accurate crosscuts into a piece of work. Typically these are used to cut trim and molding as well as to perform framing operations. These are often small portable tools that facilitate transportability around the job site. Typically they are built for eight- inch, 10-inch and 12″ circular saw blade sizes.

A single handle atop the upper blade guard is used to pull the saw down onto the work. The blade’s rotation is activated through the use of a thumb- or finger-activated trigger built into the handle. The cutting motion of the blade is away from the user and down toward the base of the machine. The work is held in place by clamps, either as a part of the tool itself or separate clamps to affix the work to the table. The tool’s fence acts as a back stop against which the blade can act without fear of kickback or jumping.

The average table or base of a miter saw is less than 24-inches. Usually a crafted or purchased system is used to support the long  heavy ends of the work. This prevents sagging pieces from interfering with proper holding of the work while the saw is in motion.

What gives the miter saw it’s flexibility and usefulness on the job site is its ability to adjust the miter index. This miter index angles the blade in relation to the fence for cutting at specific degree increments. Most saws come with positive stops that allow for quick adjustment to commonly used miters. Such positive stops include 15°, 22.5°, 31.6°, and 45°. While the ability to adjust quickly to these common angles is highly regarded, the miter saw’s ability is not limited to these miters alone. Most miter saws will provide for individual 1° increments as well. Many newer tools will also have fine angle adjustments that allow for even smaller increments once the rough miter angle has been set.

One of the best miter saws on the market today is the Rockwell RK7135 15 Amp 10-Inch Miter Saw. This is a basic power miter saw and the price reflects its lack of features but it gets the job done. You can find it on sale through this link.

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