Miter Saw Basics

What do you use a miter saw for?

A miter saw is a specialized tool that lets you make cuts at a variety of angles. The saw has a blade mounted on a swing arm that pivots left or right to produce angled cuts. You can use a miter saw to quickly make cuts for crown molding, picture frames, door frames, window casings and more.


There are several types of power miter saws:

  • A standard saw has a fixed vertical pivot with rotating cutting table allowing horizontally angled (or mitered) cuts while the blade always remains vertical.

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  • A compound miter saw has a rotating vertical pivot allowing the cutter head & blade to be tilted (or beveled) sideways in addition to the horizontally rotating table. This allows vertical & horizontal angled cuts as well as cuts angled in both planes, such as often required in crown molding. Many compound miter saws are single action, meaning that they tilt only to one side of the vertical and not both sides. Some compound miter saws are dual action, meaning they can tilt both ways. Both saws can make identical cuts, but single action saws may require the workpiece to be flipped between cuts.

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  • A sliding compound miter saw is a compound miter saw with horizontal sliding arms for the cutter head allowing cuts on much wider boards. Sliding saws may also be single or dual action.

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4 Basic Cuts Made with a Miter Saw:

Cross-cut:

  • A cross-cut is just a straight cut, across the grain of the board, used when cutting a board to length.

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Miter Cut:

  • A miter cut is a cut that is angled across the width of the board.

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Bevel Cut:

  • A bevel cut is also an angled cut but this time the angle goes through the thickness of the board.

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Compound Cut:

  • A compound cut provides a miter and a bevel cut.

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