Things to Know Before Buying a Mitre Saw
Anyone who’s ever tried to make a series of angled cuts in wood or plastic with a hand saw knows how difficult, time consuming and tiring it can be. In steps the mitre saw, with a powerful blade that spins up to 5,000 rpm and can cut straight, angled, bevelled and even compound cuts repeatedly without much effort at all.
Blade Size and Type make a big Difference
It’s important to pick the blade size that’s right for the job you need to do. Even though you can get mitre saws with blades up to 300 mm, if you’re only cutting smaller pieces of wood, metal or plastic then you don’t need the extra weight and cost that comes with a bigger machine.
And when it comes to cutting different materials, it’s vital you know what your mitre saw is designed to work on. Most mitre saws are for wood and soft materials only- trying to cut through metal or brick could break your saw or at least destroy your blade. If you need to cut metal, make sure you buy the best multi-material mitre saw you can afford.
Sliding Saw Arm for Wider Cuts
In order to increase the maximum width you can cut with a mitre saw, some tools feature a sliding arm that allows you to drag the blade across the workpiece. You must bear in mind what you’re buying your saw for and how much space you’ve got to work with though. A sliding arm means more weight, and the mechanism can take up a lot of room behind the saw itself, which isn’t great if you’re in a tight workshop or your workbench isn’t very deep.
You can get round the disadvantage of not having a sliding saw arm by simply flipping the workpiece over and cutting from the other end. It’s one more step to have to do, but it’ll save you money and weight if that’s what’s important to you.
Tilts, Angles and Bevels for Versatility
The clever trick that mitre saws can play is all in the angles- you can lock the saw blade in place to cut perfectly straight across the workpiece or adjust the fence and saw arm to cut complex angles in wood, metal or plastic. The best mitre saws are double-bevelled, which means they can tilt to the left and right, as well as swing to any angle from 0 – 180° in pretty much any direction. If you’re cutting anything that needs an accurate angle like skirting boards or picture frames, a mitre saw will make short work of it.
In the Trenches
Cutting rabbets or trenches in workpieces are an essential part of any type of joinery. It used to take a very sharp chisel and the patience of a saint to make them accurately, but with a depth stop on a mitre saw you can do it in mere seconds. Check the user manual on your mitre saw, but once you’ve got the hang of a depth stop it’ll become one of your best friends.
Benefits of a Mitre Saw Stand
If you’re planning on using a mitre saw on site, or anywhere that isn’t on your workbench, you should consider investing in a saw stand, or leg stand as they’re sometimes called. Lightweight and rigid, the mitre saw clamps securely in the middle and is brought up to a comfortable working height.
Extendable arms slide out from either side to accommodate long materials, and most feature extra clamps and stops to hold everything in place so you can gang up your work and save yourself from taking the same measurement a hundred times.
Prepare for Dusty Work
There’s no two ways about it, the saw blade on even the best mitre saw creates a lot of dust that you don’t want on the floor or in your lungs. Most mitre saws have a dust port in the back that will empty in a bag or, even better, into a vacuum system that sucks most of the dust away from the workpiece.
Staying Safe with your Mitre Saw
Mitre saws are one of the safest power tools you can own, as long as you keep your hands out of the way of the blade and make sure all the guards are in place and you use the clamps to hold down the workpiece. Always wear eye and ear protection when in operation.
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Mitre Saw FAQs
Can I use my mitre saw to cut metal?
Check the manual that came with your mitre saw as well as the blade that’s attached. Most mitre saws are designed to cut wood and other soft materials like particle board or plastic. Look out for “multi-material” blades and mitre saws that are designed to cut bricks and metal as well.
How can I guarantee accurate cuts?
Mitre saws are designed to cut in straight lines, angles and bevels. There will be angles etched or printed onto the saw table, and an indicator or arrow that points to the precise angle you’re set to. Check and double check that the angle you want is dialled in, because as they say- measure twice, cut once.
The best mitre saws come with laser or shadow guides that shows you exactly where the blade is going to touch the workpiece. Make use of these features because they’ll speed up your work once you’re comfortable with them.
What if my blade isn’t cutting straight?
If your cuts aren’t coming out straight, but your blade is set to 90°, check the angle with a trusted set square. You’ll be able to fine-tune the saw blade angle or pitch with a bolt in the saw housing to get totally accurate results.
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