How to make your mitre saw more efficient: general guide

This guide explains everything you need to know about how to set up your cutting machine for optimal performance on wood, plastic and metal.

Cut-off machines are benchtop power tools that are commonly used in the craft industry. They allow precise cuts on a wide range of materials, including wood and metal, and are mostly used by professional woodworkers and blacksmiths.

Many DIY enthusiasts, especially the more experienced and those with access to a suitable work area such as a garage or shed, are also used to purchasing one of these devices. A recent industry study found that the best-selling wood cutting machine is actually designed for hobbyists.

The average hobbyist, particularly those with limited knowledge of benchtop power tools, often encounters a harsh reality when, after buying their first miter saw and using it for the first few times, they find that it doesn’t achieve the required level of accuracy; so, let’s see what problems are most often encountered and how to deal with them.

Factory adjustments

Due to their lower cost, low-end cut-off machines are sometimes subjected to less rigorous inspections and testing than high-end cut-off machines, which have better assembly and performance but also a higher price tag.

In this scenario, the problem is fairly easy to deal with, although it does require patience and dedication. In fact, in order to make the necessary changes, it is essential to inspect the machine’s components to see if there is “play” and which components need to be disassembled and reassembled.

When it comes to radial cut-off machines, the laser cut guide system, if there is one, the arm that holds the head with the blade-motor assembly, the blade coupling, the side guides, the work table and the machine mounts are all areas that need to be inspected.

When the inspection is finished, if adjustments need to be made, you’ve already taken a significant step forward in making the power tool more reliable and accurate; however, some of the components mentioned, like the work table and laser guidance system for example, require further tuning.

Blade and arm adjustments

The first thing to check is the appropriate angle of the circular blade; in most situations, this is set straight at a perfect 90° angle to the work surface by default.

It is possible that the blade is set incorrectly, and as a result it is not straight. To check, you can simply use a small digital magnetic protractor to calibrate on the plane and then attach to the blade;

If the reading is other than 90°, it is best to disassemble the blade and reassemble it, taking a new measurement to see if the problem has been solved or if further adjustments are needed.

Incorrect blade tilt may not be due to a loose connection on the clutch, but rather to play in the arm that supports the tilt mechanism of the blade-motor assembly.

In this situation, the screws at the base of the arm should be adjusted to match the joint that allows the arm to lower to a 45° angle for tilted cuts.

The two screws are generally the same length, and one of them is permanently fixed and is the “end stop” of the tilting movement. The other can be unscrewed and repositioned to achieve an accurate 45° tilt.

In addition, the digital protractor can help you align the machine correctly to give the best accuracy during future cuts, regardless of the angle of the arm.

The laser guide and the stop

Adjusting the laser guide is quite simple, as it only requires two small screws on either side to be adjusted until the light beam is properly aligned with the blade’s cutting line.

When the blade is positioned with the cut line oriented in the 0 position on the horizontal adjustment scale, there should be a perfect 90° angle between the stop and the cut line.

To make sure the angle is correct, place the digital protractor on the stop and open it to an angle a little higher than 90°, then slowly push the protractor toward the blade as it lowers; then, to minimize the danger of accidental startup,

If the protractor reading does not exactly match 90 degrees, loosen the four screws that secure it to the work surface and adjust the stop position.

To adjust the stop, first loosen one of the outermost screws on one side or the other and then remove the other three completely. After that, you can move the stop slightly until it is in place.

After that, tighten the screws at the ends and repeat the measurement with the protractor; if the resulting angle is 90°, you can also tighten the other screws, but if not, loosen one of the ends and try again.

Some basic safety rules

1: Safety of the cut-off machine

Clean and safe cut-off saw: Rapidly dropping the cut-off saw blade into the workpiece can result in a rough or chipped cut, as well as being a hazard.

When cutting thin, narrow materials, be sure to give the motor a few extra milliseconds to reach full speed. Then lower the blade slowly as you cut.

2: Use a sacrificial fence

To minimize the scattering of small material fragments, consider building a sacrificial fence.

Make a two-piece fence to hold small particles of material or with a scrap board to hold small pieces.

It’s best to hold the saw down at the end of the cut and let the blade come to a complete stop.

3: How to move the mitre saw

Moving the miter saw is not always an easy task because of its weight and size.

Some have handles that are located near the top, which makes them easier to move like a bag, but it is always best to move them by holding them from the bottom.

4: Dust control

Dust generated by the miter saw is a problem that absolutely managed effectively. Often the dust bags are ineffective and even if you connect it with a vacuum cleaner the dust keeps flying.

You can try replacing the dust bag with a vacuum cleaner that is fully compatible with the dust chute. You won’t be able to contain all the dust, but you’ll send a significant amount of it onto the floor rather than into every nook and cranny.

Dust chutes come in various sizes, so check before purchasing one. The only real way to avoid dust on the inside is to make cuts on the outside.

5: Draw a guideline on the base

Here’s an easy way to cut a series of pieces to the same length: position the first one, then draw a line on the base of the saw with a pencil to indicate where the end should be positioned.

You’ve just set a standard for the rest of your parts. This technique may not be as accurate as a stop block, but it’s better than nothing. When you’re done, simply erase the pencil mark.


Cut-off saws are powerful tools, but they can also be dangerous. Not only do they require a lot of space to work with, but it takes time and effort to learn how to use it. With these miter saw safety tips, you should have more confidence in using this tool on your next project!

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