Miter Saw Blades - Best Practices and Advice
A power miter saw is an excellent tool for cutting tight-fitting joints on moldings, crowns, baseboards, and window and door trim. Although they can significantly simplify work and make precise cuts compared to other types of saws, miter saws also require the use of proper techniques and practices to avoid tear-out or splintering.
If you are looking for reviews of our top miter saw blade choices check this article here. We did not include the high quality Festool blades in the review because we built a dedicated page for those premium products.
Whether your using single or dual bevel, one of the major requirements for achieving excellent cuts is using the ideal miter saw blades. Whether your using a table saw, circular saw, chop saw or band saw a quality blade equals perfect, splinter-free cuts on the layout lines. Choosing the right kind of blade offers numerous benefits to every carpenter or DIY enthusiast. Benefits include the following:
• A quality blade makes an effective cut on the wood or material that is being cut. It significantly reduces the cutting time and makes the surface look smoother and cleaner as compared to the use of low-quality blades.
• A good blade can slide on the surface of the material smoothly. As a result, the motor uses up less heat energy and lasts longer. This is important because, if the saw is putting up a lot of energy to run the blade through the surface, it will get worn out within a short period of time.
• Observing safety is always essential when undertaking cutting projects. A good blade that is working as required ensures safety throughout the use of a miter saw.
Several things go into getting the right blade and using it correctly. These include knowing how to choose the right blade and adopting the best practices and techniques when using it. We have put together this piece to address some of the practices and advice regarding selection and use of miter saw blades.
How to Choose a Miter Saw Blade
What makes the best miter saw blades? Miter saw experts have various points of view on what carpenters should look for when selecting the blade. However, we will outline some of the primary factors that should be put into consideration to ensure selection of a quality blade.
The ideal tooth count for the blade depends on the type of cut desired and the material being cut. For this reason, tooth count is primarily based on personal preferences and needs. However, the following guidelines can come in handy during the selection process:
• A 24-toothed blade, commonly known as a ripping blade, is suitable for making cuts in natural wood.
• A blade with between 60 to 80 teeth is known as a cross cutter, and it is used with artificial materials such as plywood, chipboards, and medium density fiberboard (MDF). It is also suitable for aluminum and some other non-porous materials.
• A blade with 40 or 50 teeth, usually known as a combination blade, can be used for ripping and cross cutting. This is because the number of teeth makes an average of both the ripping and cross cutting blades.
The manufacturing procedures employed in designing a miter blade play a significant role in its performance. Some blades undergo stamping while others are laser cut. Stamped miter blades deliver a good job, but they are not suitable where there’s a need for precision and accuracy. On the other hand, laser-cut blades are suitable for fine woodwork as they deliver precise cuts.
Also known as the blade’s label, the hook angle is the angle at which the teeth engage the material that is being cut. A blade with a high or positive hook angle will cut aggressively while one with a low or negative hook angle will make a less aggressive bite. A quality miter blade should have an angle from -5 to +7 degrees for smooth, clean cuts.
Best Practices for Miter Saw Blades
Getting the right tool is the first step to achieving the perfect cut on materials. The next big thing is adopting the ideal techniques during the cutting process. Here are some steps that can simplify the process of using miter saw blades.
Invest in a Saw Stand
No matter the kind of saw that’s being utilized for the project, a stand that holds the tool at a comfortable working height is essential. The stand should also be able to support the wood or other material being used. It does not have to be fancy, and can be made using some blocks of wood. Working from a comfortable height helps prevents mishaps during the project.
Mark the Center, Not the Sides
Making lines on the sides of the material can lead to inaccurate cuts. We all know that when making a cut, the blade moves from the center and works out towards the edges. For the most accurate cuts, mark the centers of the boards instead of the sides. This will help align the blade better and promote precise cuts. However, the edges can also be marked to help in aligning the board.
Utilize a Hold-Down Clamp
Using a hold-down clamp is better than going into a cutting project without any type of clamp. The reason we are recommending a hold-down clamp is because most miter saws are not compatible with other clamps. The available options are limited, especially for users that want to achieve perfect cuts. A hold-down clamp improves the cuts and promotes accuracy and precision.
Align Cut Correctly
Aligning the blade with the cutting mark on the workpiece can be difficult at first, but it gets better with practice. Lift the blade guard with the thumb and sight down one edge of the blade to align the cut correctly. Firmly clamp the workpiece, gradually release the blade guard, and press the switch to make the cut. It is critical to remove the fingers from the switch when aligning the cut to avoid accidental pressing which could cause an injury.
Adjust the Throat Plate
Most miter saws have a throat plate that sits a little below the saw table. This design can cause tear-out on the material and affect the quality of the cuts. Luckily, the throat plate can be adjusted to the same level as the table in order to avoid adverse effects on the cut. Level the throat plate by removing it and elevating it a little by placing a thin material underneath it.
Push Back the Fence Extension
It is easy to cut straight pieces of molding using a miter saw. However, the snarly, bent ones can often prove challenging. However, this difficulty can be overcome by pushing the fence extension back and out of the way. This act allows a proper grip on the molding against the saw fence for a more precise cut. This technique can also be used on bent flat boards as well.
Fine-Tune the Cuts
We have encountered complaints from miter saw users about misalignment of the saw when making a cut. Truth is, the miters often don’t fit on the first try. However, the angle can be slightly adjusted to achieve an accurate cut. Nudge the blade adjuster and hold it in position until the locking handle becomes tight. This fine-tunes the miter cuts for a tighter fit and improves the quality of the cut.
Use a Sub-Fence for Precision
Screwing a sub-fence to the saw can help in making precise cuts at 90 degrees. To make a sub-fence, choose a board that’s the same length as the standard saw fence. A dense hardwood such as maple is the ideal option for this project. Cut a 1/8 inch-wide rabbet along one edge of the board to create a gap for collecting sawdust and to allow a tighter grip on the material. Screw the makeshift sub-fence into the saw’s fence and cut a slot through it.
Raise Workpiece for More Capacity
There are times when miter saw blades may fail to cut all the way through a broad piece of material. Elevating the workpiece on the platform or stand can increase the saw’s crosscut capacity. Note that different miter saws have varying capabilities; however, it is usually not possible to make a full-width cut on wide workpieces. When lifting the material, use the hold-down clamp to hold it in place when making the cut.
These are some of the practices and techniques that should be adopted to achieve accurate cuts. Make sure the board is properly marked before cutting for the best results. Also, use a steady hand and a firm grip on the saw as this will prevent uneven cuts and splinters on the workpiece.
Safety Practices When Using a Miter Saw Blade
Besides adopting the right techniques to ensure proper cuts on trim, moldings, and other workpieces, it is also essential to have safety in mind. Accidents that occur when using miter saws can range from minor to fatal; therefore, it is critical to enforce the right safety procedures during the project. Although most of these seem obvious, here are some necessary measures that will prevent injuries and accidents:
1. Make use of safety glasses to protect the eyes from sawdust and splinters. Also, hearing protection is necessary to safeguard the ears from the loud, damaging sound of the saw.2. If the work is dusty, make use of a dust mask or a respirator.
3. Keep the fingers at least 6 inches from the path of the blade. We mentioned earlier that keep the fingers should be kept away from the switch when aligning the cut. Never cross the danger zone as indicated on the tool.
4. Avoid reaching under the miter blade when it is powered and spinning.
5. Allow the saw’s motor to attain full speed before cutting.
6. Keep the blade clean, sharp, and tight for smooth and clean cuts, and to avoid splinters on the workpiece.
7. Don’t operate the saw near flammable liquids or in gaseous environments as the sparks can ignite fumes and cause a fire.
8. Unplug the saw when changing the blade. Do this after finishing the project as well to prevent pets or children from switching it on playfully and getting hurt in the process.
9. At the end of a cut, wait for the blade to stop spinning completely before lifting it to avoid flying splinters which can cause injuries.
Before starting a cutting project, inspect the saw, blade, and motor for damage. Repair or replace broken parts and service the equipment as recommended by the manufacturer. Finally, Store the tool in a safe place in the garage where kids cannot access it. Even when it’s unplugged and not in use, a miter saw, and particularly the blade can be risky when left lying around.
The use of the blades is inevitable when cutting moldings and trims. We have outlined the best practices to follow when choosing the right blade and making accurate cuts on the material. The procedures may seem hard for a new miter saw user, but with regular practice, it is possible to make precise cuts without messing up the workpiece. Follow the safety tips together with any other instructions provided in the manufacturer’s manual to prevent catastrophic accidents and injuries during a cutting project.
- 1 Miter Saw Blades - Best Practices and Advice
- 1.1 How to Choose a Miter Saw Blade
- 1.2 Best Practices for Miter Saw Blades
- 1.3 Safety Practices When Using a Miter Saw Blade