Mitre Saws: Key Information & Tips for Safe Use


More and more people are looking for ways to work with their hands, whether transitioning from office work to a new trade or niche, or simply taking on a new hobby. Carpentry, joinery and general woodworking pursuits are becoming increasingly popular options in both regards, being hands-on disciplines far removed from attention-sapping roles and pursuits devoid of purpose.

Starting out in woodworking, whether as a hobbyist or new tradesman, will require two key things: learning, and investment. This applies to hands-on woodworking skills, but also, from a safety perspective, to the tools you use. Here, we focus on a common power tool that carpenters and joiners use every day: the mitre saw. You can buy a quality Milwaukee mitre saw for home or early business use, but it won’t be safe to use until you know exactly how it works.

What is a Mitre Saw?

For the completely uninitiated, a mitre saw is a specific kind of powered sawing tool. It is a common fixture in carpenter’s workshops and handymen’s vans, used as it is to cut wooden planks, batons and studs down to size. It is, essentially, a circular saw mounted to a locking hinge system. The saw is brought down vertically onto material, as opposed to run across it.

The carpentry apprentices amongst you may have noticed the word ‘mitre’ in the name. This is indeed derived from the word used for the joint, in which two end-pieces cut at 45 degrees meet to form a 90-degree corner. What makes a mitre saw a mitre saw is not just its vertical mounting, but its ability to swivel, and cut at an angle to its fence (the rear guard against which your material is buttressed).

Parts and Features

In describing the basic functionality of the mitre saw, we’ve already met some of its chief components. Here, though, we’ll break down the various features that make up the mitre saw in order to better understand its purpose.

The sawing assembly itself comprises the blade motor, blade, blade guard and handle. The blade guard retracts as the cutting surface is brought down over material, just as a circular saw’s guard moves when contacting material.

These are, as a unit, mounted to a spring hinge mechanism, itself mounted via rails to a die cast metal mounting plate. The mounting plate features a swivel system with detents routed into the outer rim. The saw assembly swivels on this base, with a pull-lock mechanism used to mate it to a given detent. The user pulls the lock knob, rotates the assembly to the desired cutting angle and then releases to lock in place. A fence bisects the top of the mount, against which material is placed when ready to cut.

How to Handle a Mitre Saw

As with any other powered cutting tools, mitre saws should be regarded with a great deal of caution. Without proper handling and maintenance, your mitre saw is very much capable of causing serious injury. A good start is to keep your hands six inches or so away from the cutting blade. If you have a small piece to cut, hold it in place with a piece of scrap wood.

You should also only raise your blade when you have completed the cut, and brought the blade to a stop. If the blade is still spinning, it is still dangerous – and even with the stop in place, there is a chance that it could, at the very least, fling debris in your direction.

It is important to recognise the ‘power’ part of ‘power tool’ too. Electrical safety is paramount, and any piece of equipment that draws high wattages should be treated carefully. Always inspect your power cable for signs of damage before use, and always use a surge-protected plug.