Compound miter saws are cutting instruments that are used to cut out accurate miters for corners and crosscuts for wood working projects. Miters are cuts that allow the formation of corners and help cut the wood accurately in a variety of angles. Cross cuts are cuts made in the wood perpendicular to the grain. Traditionally miter saws and crosscut saws used to be separate.
Compound miter saw is a further development of the miter saw. Initially miter saws were used to cut right angles, 45 degree and 120 degree angles. They were all cut perpendicular to the one side of the wood. Compound miter saws, while cutting the same angles, cut the wood both perpendicular and across the grain. Compound miter saws accomplish this by employing a vertical head pivot that allows the head and the blade to be tilted. This is helpful in making both horizontal and vertical beveled cuts, as well as cuts that can be angled in both planes.
Compound miter saws have gradually replaced traditional miter saws as the tool of choice for wood cutters, since compound miter saws allow greater flexibility in the making of cuts that require a little more than traditional cutting skills. There are two basic types of compound miter saws:
SLIDING COMPOUND MITER SAW:
A sliding compound miter saw allows larger cuts to be made and it has adjustable horizontal arms. These arms allow the head to have greater movement that helps in the cutting off much wider boards and wood pieces.
DUAL COMPOUND MITER SAW:
A dual compound miter saw is much like a sliding compound miter saw but the basic difference lies in that its blade and motor can be tilted both to the right and to the left. It is extremely useful in making complicated cuts like those needed in crown cutting and molding.
In many cases a compound miter saw can be angled up to 60 degrees and beveling can be achieved to nearly 45 degrees.
PARTS OF A COMPOUND MITER SAW:
A compound miter saw is composed of the following essential parts that help give it greater usage flexibility than a traditional motorized miter saw.
- The Miter Gauge:
The miter gauge is a marked instrument that measures and sets the angles for miter and crosscuts. It should also have hard stop points at 0, 15, 22.5, 30 and 45 degrees in both directions. These hard stops allow for fine tuning of the angles and also prevent any miscalculation.
- The Bevel:
The compound miter saw has the ability to tilt the saw in addition to making angled miter cuts, hence the saw being called “compound”. Most varieties will only bevel to one side for a limited angle while others can bevel up to 45 degrees in both directions. This is especially useful when the wood worker needs to cut two different angles at the same time, as in the cuts required for crown molding formation.
The blades of a standardized compound miter saw are typically composed of industrial strength steel with the cutting tips coated of tungsten carbide. These miter blades come in a variety of sizes depending on the type of the compound miter saw that you are using. The typical blade sizes are 8, 10 and 12 inches. Many users find the 10 inch blade perfect for use, since the 6 inch blade is only used for really fine cutting. The larger 12 inch blade makes cutting easier for larger boards but it much more expensive.
Additional options include a laser sight or point that will show you exactly where the saw will cut. The laser point aligns itself to where you adjust the miter angle and the bevel. A blade guard is used to as a cover for the teeth of the blade. Many modern miter saws now come equipped with a self retractable blade guard that slides into place when the blade is not in use. The saw should be replaced or repaired immediately if the blade guard is damaged.
Compound miter saws also come equipped with a dust catching bag that collects sawdust within itself and does not let it get in the way of cutting a work piece. Most manufactures of compound miter saws however provide a shop-vac or a portable vacuum device that sucks away the dust and simplifies sawdust disposal. Dust disposal within these saws is really very poor, with complications within the machine also arising from the capturing of sawdust into the machine’s parts. A safety clamp is a very important feature that allows the saw to be locked in place during the cutting operation. The miter table is the base of the compound miter saw, and is typically less than 24 inches in diameter. The work piece that needs cutting should be balanced on the far end of the table to minimize any tipping over.
LOW HAZARD POWER TOOL:
The compound miter saw is an inherently low hazard machine since the work piece is immobilized while being cut, preventing any kick backs which can be a very nasty experience if the same cutting is done on an ordinary circular saw. The hands are kept clear of the blade, making maneuvering of the work piece very easy. Also the saw is usually kept back, then lowered and fed into the wood.
PORTABILITY AND ACCURACY:
Compound miter saws are portable devices. They can be easily set up anywhere, and the accuracy of the cuts can be maintained even in the saw is being moved around during cutting. Because compound miter saws cut from above the depth of the cut need not be set for different thicknesses of the wood, and repeated cuts can be made very easily.
Compound miter saws have been extensively by wood workers since their development and have gradually replaced motorized miter saws as the instrument of choice. Those most commonly used miter saws commonly available in the market are the Hitachi and the Makita compound miter saws. These Japanese made saws are highly accurate and have held their own against American rivals like DeWalt and Black & Decker.