What is a Miter Saw?

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  • Written By: Sherry Holetzky
  • Edited By: Niki Foster
  • Last Modified Date: 17 October 2019
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When building, doing renovations or finishing woodworking projects, a miter saw comes in handy to cut proper angles and mitered corners. Also known as a "chop saw," this is a handy tool that easily makes accurate cuts. It is perfect for cutting the proper angle when framing corners for things like crown molding and baseboards, and it is also great for making items like picture frames. This type of saw, which should not be confused with a miter box, can make life easier for the builder or crafter.

A miter box, on the other hand, is a box constructed from wood or hard plastic that allows the user to make accurate angle cuts with a handsaw. It usually works best for 90° cuts, which is the most often used angle. A miter saw is a power tool, usually a portable one that makes smooth cuts quickly. The power version is more versatile and able to create accurate angles from 45° to 90°. A compound miter saw is a bit different, because it can rotate to create beveled edges as well.


Typical saws have blades from 8 to 12 inches (20.3 to 30.5 cm) in diameter, although larger blades are available. The type of blade generally included with a one is usually a standard blade for common tasks. It is not the fine-toothed blade necessary for the smooth, precision cuts needed for moldings or picture frames, so woodworkers will need to purchase a fine-toothed blade separately for this type of project.

People should also practice making a few cuts on scrap wood until they get the feel of the saw. Users will note that the slower the cut, the smoother and more accurate it will be. If the woodworker continues to encounter heavy splintering during cutting, he or she can try applying painter's tape to the edges and make the cuts directly through the tape. Users may also want to try to cut more slowly and see if that helps limit splintering.

While generally used for wood, a miter saw can also be used with other materials such as plastic, vinyl siding, or aluminum. It is a must have tool for the woodworker, builder, or crafter.


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