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A miter gauge is a woodworking accessory that is used with other tools, including a band saw, a router table, and a stationary sander. It helps saws to accomplish angled cuts, and it helps to stabilize wood. This tool can also be useful for determining the angle of a cut.
Miter gauges are typically made of a protracted metal head attached to a metal bar. It almost appears to be a very large adjustable wrench, with an upper and lower grip. The top, or metal head, can be brought down to hold wood in place. The wood is clamped in between the metal head and the metal bar.
The metal bar on the miter gauge rests into miter grooves built into the table saws surface. These grooves run parallel to the blade, and the gauge holds the wood in place as the wood moves through a spinning blade. It essentially acts as a vice, keeping the wood stable and even as it is cut, so it must fit snugly into the slots on the table so that it does not slip.
A miter gauge also can be used to cross-cut wood at a specific angle. Miter gauges are usually zeroed at a 90 degree angle to the blade. Although this is customary, miter gauges allow the wood to be cut at any angle between 30 and 90 degrees. These angled cuts are called miter cuts.
Table saws may also provide a built-in miter gauge. This provides additional stability that is not always present with a miter gauge attached by fitting it into grooves. Because of the increased stability, a built-in miter gauge allows for rip cuts as long as 30 inches (76.2 cm) and about 7 inches (17.78 cm) across.
Miter gauges are available in a wide range of models. Types range from highly complex to ones that are simple and designed to be screwed or clamped on. The advantage of the more complex models lays in their long extruded fences, incremental angle stops, and the ease and speed in which they make a cut. For woodworkers with an eye for precision and detail, they generally are an invaluable tool that cannot be easily disposed of.