What Is a Miter Saw? a Clear Introduction

A miter saw is a popular cutting tool in woodworking. But what is a miter saw? What can you use this tool for in your workshop? And what do you need to know before you get started with this tool?
No matter if you are a novice woodworker or an experienced woodworker, thanks to this in-depth introductory article, you will get a good idea of what this type of saw is in just a few moments. Like that, you will understand the mitre saw better, so you can get the most out of it.

What Is a Miter Saw?

A miter saw (in some country’s called mitre saw or chop saw) is a circular saw blade mounted on a hinge that allows it to be pivoted down into the material to be cut. The blade always falls down in a controlled motion because of this pivot point. This ensures that the material being cut is always cut cleanly and consistently.

Above the saw blade is a protective cover that protects the saw blade for the most part, lowering the risk of injury. This is not to say that this type of saw is without risk. Saws, as well as many other power tools in the woodworking shop, should be handled with caution at all times.
Recommended: Customize a first aid kit for your workshop in the event of an emergency. Use my article, How To Make A Workshop First Aid Kit – N°1 Guide | FREE CHECKLIST as a guide.

The material to be cut lies on the miter table and is pressed into the rear fence of the saw.
This works great for cutting flat ends, but a mitre saw can also turn left and/or right to cut at an angle. I will tell you more about it later in this article.

A manual alternative to this saw is the miter box and handsaw. This allows you to make the same cuts as a miter saw, but it is much harder to match the precision and speed.

What Is a Miter Saw? a Clear Introduction - Makita miter saw
Makita miter saw

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What are the parts of a miter saw?

When you want to start using a mitre saw, it is better to know the parts of a miter saw and its functions in order to have a good idea, maintenance, and repair of the tool.
Not every model is alike, but there are a few common parts that are found in every tool. So let’s take a look at the parts of a mitre saw and their functions.

What Is a Miter Saw? a Clear Introduction - Parts of a miter saw
  1. Power Switch: Use this to power up the tool.
  2. Main Handle: This is used to operate the saw blade.
  3. Blade Guard: Blade guard helps to user to protect the fingers and hands by damaging.
  4. Blade: The blade is the cutting tool of the mitre saw.
  5. Chip Deflector: Deflects and cut-off chips dust will enter the upper part of the blade
  6. Upper Guard: This guard cover the upper portion of the blade.
  7. Sliding Fence: This is to support the workpiece.
  8. Stationary Fence: If you remove the sliding fence, the stationary fence can support the workpiece.
  9. Kerf Inserts: These helps to fully cut and separate the workpiece.
  10. Miter Detend and Lock Nobs: These can adjust the micro-adjustment of the blade in any position angle, and the lock nob can lock and tighten the kerf insert.
  11. Miter Scale/ Miter Pointer: The pointer can indicate the exact angle to be cut.
  12. Miter Detent Plates: Detent locations can be used as high-accuracy angle positions
  13. Miter Detents: For fast and accurate miter cuts of common miter angles.
  14. Table: Provides workpiece support, rotates for desired miter cuts and rotates the head assembly.
  15. Tool Mounting Pad: Allows to clamp, bolt or nail the saw to a flat work surface
  16. Dust Collector: Here you can connect your dust extractor to collect dust and chips.
  17. Sliding Rails: These allow to saw head pull and push horizontal movements.
  18. Motor: Is used to generate the rotational power to the chop saw.
  19. Vise Assembler: This can be used to tighten the workpiece with the tool.
  20. Slider Lock: The horizontal slider can be locked with the slider lock easily.
  21. Bevel Lock: The blade can be locked in any bevel position.
Ebook part 1 woodworking basics

What Is the Purpose of a Miter Saw?

These types of saws are designed to make various types of cuts for molding, trim, trusses, and other general carpentry applications.

Miter saws are most commonly used to make straight crosscut cuts. When the wood fits nicely against the fence behind it, the cut will be made square.

In addition, there is an option to rotate the saw to the desired angle to make cuts between 90 degrees and 45 degrees. Some of these saws can only turn on one side, while other miter saws can be turned on both sides.

A final application is that a chop saw can also be tilted to make bevel cuts. This can also be combined with the chosen angle for your miter. This increases the possibilities of this saw significantly. The type of cuts you can make will depend on the type of saw you own, which I’ll go deeper into later in this article.

You can read more about the types of cuts you can make in my “do I need a miter saw (a clear guide)” article. You will also find clear illustrations there to see what a mitre saw can do for you.

When not to use a miter saw?

This type of saw can handle many different types of cuts, but there are also a few things that you should not do with this saw. These are things that can ruin your piece of work or cause you serious injuries.

  • Do not use the saw when it is placed on the ground. Place them on a stable miter saw stand so that you can work in an ergonomic and safe way.
  • Do not cut pieces less than 20 cm (8″) in length.
  • Do not cut solid wood along the grain.
  • Don’t cut freehand. The stock should be firmly on the table against the fence. If you can’t get enough grip on the workpiece, use clamps to secure the workpiece in place. Different types of clamps are explained in this article.

What are the hazards when using a miter saw

The rotating saw blade is the most dangerous part of this tool. When you are touched, you may receive cuts or have your limbs amputated, which can result in death in the worst-case scenario. As a result, keep your hands as far as possible away from the blade. It is recommended to use a hold-down stick. With these free woodworking plans and step-by-step instructions, you can make your own hold-down stick.

Another danger is kickback. When the wood is caught by the saw blade, it can fly in all directions, causing you to injure yourself. Always keep the wood flat on the table and against the fence to have good control and grip on the workpiece and avoid kickback.

Furthermore, like working with any electrical tool, there is the danger of shock, but this occurs to a lesser extent. Therefore, never touch the tool with wet hands, and always work in a dry area.

What Is the Difference Between a Circular Saw and a Miter Saw?

What Is a Miter Saw? a Clear Introduction - Example of a circular saw
Example of a circular saw by Makita

A miter saw and a circular saw appear to be capable of performing the same tasks. When you examine the functions of these two devices, you will notice that there are significant differences and that each has advantages and disadvantages.

I’ve listed the differences below, so you can better understand which tool is best for the projects you’re working on.

  • A circular saw is ideal for cutting sheet material and making longer cuts. A chop saw is ideal for cross-cutting longer planks.
  • The blade of a miter saw is drawn down onto the wood, whereas the blade of a hand-held circular saw is pushed through the wood.
  • A circular saw is more affordable and portable than a mitering saw.
  • A circular saw is more dangerous than a miter saw.
  • Because of the circular saw’s ease of use and pivoting point, a miter saw can provide more accurate cuts every time.

If the circular saw can provide benefits for your projects, and you want to know more about the circular saw, then I recommend that you check out my article, When To Use A Circular Saw (To Be More Efficient).

Circular sawMiter saw
For making long cuts (breaking down plywood)For cutting boards to length
Blade is pushed through the woodBlade is drawn down onto the wood
Not that safeMore safe than the circular saw
Not that accurate cutsPrecise cuts
What is a miter saw – The difference bBetween a circular saw and a miter saw

What Is the Difference Between a table Saw and a Miter Saw?

Miter saws are great tools to have in the workshop. Besides the table saw, the mitre saw is the most commonly used tool in the woodworking workshop.

Unfortunately, both are quite expensive to buy and it’s hard to decide which one to buy first. If you have any doubts about that, my article Should I Buy A Table Saw Or Miter Saw First (A Clear Guide) can certainly help you.

The big difference between the miter saw vs table saw lies in the types of cuts you can make. The table saw can make longer cuts, while the mitre saw is tied to the reach of the blade and rather serves to make crosscuts.

With a table saw you push the wood through the blade, while with the crosscut saw you push the blade through the wood. If you want to make abbreviations from longer boards, this will be done much more accurately with the chop saw than with the table saw.
Related article: Miter Saw vs Table Saw: Which is Better for Your Woodwork Projects?

What Are the types of Miter Saws?

There are four different types to choose from: single bevel, double bevel, compound saw, and sliding saw. To give you a better idea of what type does which type, clarify them below.

Single bevel: This type of saw is capable of making chamfers and miter cuts in one direction.

Saws with a double bevel can bevel cuts in either direction. Double bevel saws are preferred when many bevel cuts are needed, as they accelerate material changes in direction.

The compound saw. This type of saw can perform multiple cuts at the same time, such as a miter cut and a bevel cut.

With a sliding saw, the saw blade slides along a bar. Compared to non-sliding variants, they can cut wider planks.

To help you find the perfect miter saw for your workshop, I wrote the article What miter saw do I need? 11 tips to find the best miter saw. I highly recommend that you read this article, as it will give you a lot of inspiration on what features to compare in order to find the best miter saw for you.

Single bevel
Single bevel
Double bevel
Double bevel
Compound miter saw
Compound miter saw
Sliding miter saw
Sliding miter saw

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What Are the Miter Saw Blade Sizes?

The mitering saw blade is available in different sizes, namely small (180 mm to 200 mm – 7-1/4″ to 8″), medium (260 mm – 10″) and large (305 mm – 12″). The size of your mitre saw blade determines how big a plank you can cut. But bigger isn’t always better! A small chop saw is more portable and easier to store when not in use.

You can buy small miter saws, which is great for the occasional DIYer. However, the reduced cutting capacity of a smaller blade can be limiting.

A medium blade is better suited for most jobs. This size is the most common and can be found in different price ranges.

A large blade gives you the most cutting capacity (up to 350 mm – 14″ wide), but is the most expensive and heaviest of the bunch.

Choosing a saw blade is not always easy. There are several types that are offered that make it difficult word to find the right one. That’s why my article “Understanding Table Saw Blades | Always Find The Perfect One” can certainly help you in this search.

TypeSize in mmSize in InchesPurpose
Small180 to 200 mm7-1/4 to 8 “Occasional DIYers
Medium260 mm10″DIY and professional woodworkers on a job site
Large305 mm12″DIY and professional woodworkers in a workshop
What is a miter saw – Miter saw blade sizes

Pros and Cons of Miter Saws

This type of saw has both advantages and disadvantages. Below I go over the most important points so that you can better understand the capabilities of this tool.


  • It is ideal for quickly trimming longer pieces of wood.
  • Fast, easily repeatable cuts: Once set up, it can make repeated, identical cuts.
  • Accurate Miter Cuts: these saws lock the angle and frequently have stops at common corners.
  • Requires less effort and is more accessible to people with limited mobility. Miter saws enable accurate crosscut cuts without the need to control the weight of a circular saw or stretch over a table saw.
  • Its stability and protected blade make it a good introductory saw for inexperienced DIYers, making it less intimidating than a circular saw for new users.


  • The saw’s power range Limits the material width that can be cut.
  • Can take up floor space: The miter table is too narrow to accommodate longer planks. You’ll need to build a permanent sawing station or install temporary supports on either side, which can take up valuable floor space in a small shop.
  • Heavy and bulky: These tupes of saws are much heavier than circular saws when you are constantly working in different places and have to move the miter saw.

What to Look for Buying a Miter Saw?

If you want to buy a miter saw, there are a few things you can pay attention to so that you can buy the most suitable saw for your workshop. below I give you the main points to keep in mind as you scroll through the offer.

  • Style: Miter saws are available in a variety of styles. Composite miter saws offer the greatest amount of versatility and cut types. Sliding saws can cut through thicker materials. Keep in mind that these will eat up a larger portion of your budget.
    Construction: Some saws have a heavier or lighter miter table and frame than others.
  • Power source: Corded and cordless miter saws are available. Cordless saws are useful, but if you don’t need the flexibility, a corded model will probably be better for you and less expensive.
  • Dust removal: Miter saws generate a lot of sawdust. Please check the dust port size to ensure compatibility with your shop vacuum cleaner or dust extraction system.
  • Price: Everyone has a budget and when you buy a miter saw, the price can fluctuate greatly depending on the size, power source, style and construction. The more expensive models are generally aimed at professionals who require high performance or maximum portability.

Pro Tip

I myself have the Festool Kapex 120 in my workshop, and from years of experience, I can say that this is the best miter saw I have used so far. Check out my article Festool Kapex KS 120 REB Review: Is This the Best Miter Saw Ever? for a full review on this tool. It is the best investment you can make when looking for a miter saw.

How to use a miter saw?

In this section, I will briefly explain the steps he takes to make miter cuts and angled cuts. I’ll start with the step-by-step guide to making miters.

To see a more detailed step by step guide on how to make cross cuts, miter cuts, bevel cuts and compound cuts, you should check out my article, How to Use a Miter Saw (Tips for Perfect Results).

STEP 1: Set the miter angle.
STEP 2: Place the workpiece on the saw.
STEP 3: Start the saw and cut the workpiece.
STEP 4: Repeat for the other half of the miter.

can you use a miter saw to cut metal?

Although these type of saws are mainly used for cutting wood, with the right saw blade they can easily cut through steel and aluminum profiles at an angle.

It is recommended that when cutting metal with a miter saw, you disconnect the dust extraction. Glowing metal flakes can ignite the wood dust in the dust extractor. So always be careful with this.

You can go to my article Can You Cut Aluminum with a Miter Saw? The Most Complete Guide next and read all about it.

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