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How to Use a Compound Miter Saw for Beginners

Brandon Carter
  May 30, 2023 9:56 PM

Compound miter saw - the easiest tool to learn for beginners! Get all our tips on using an angle saw, cutting straight and correctly, and more!

The compound miter saw is one of the mechanical workshops' most frequently used power tools. It is also a great woodworking tool for beginners when learning how to use a compound miter saw correctly. It gives you clear, precise cuts every time, with the option to cut at an angle from 45 degrees to 90 degrees.

1. What Is a Miter Saw?

It is a circular saw with a handle on a rotatable stand. This stationary saw makes diagonal and slope (angle) cut in wood or other materials. Once you've assembled the blade, plug it in, put on your goggles, and you're ready to cut!

It's an inexpensive, easy-to-use tool for beginners. You can usually find an entry-level circular saw for under $200 or a used one on E-commercials.

12 Inch Miter Saw

12 Inch Miter Saw

Source: Amazon

2. What Is a Compound Miter Saw?

Basic miter saws only make longitudinal cuts because the cutting edge is perpendicular to the workbench. The compound miter saw allows you to make cuts in the vertical and horizontal planes at the same time. This is done by tilting the blade left or right to create a beveled edge.

Some angle saws even tilt in both directions, so you don't have to struggle with flipping the board around to make bevel cuts in opposite corners. You can learn more about miter saw stands here

Compound miter saws are best for cutting dies – especially crown molds. To wrap a border around a corner, you must simultaneously trim the corners on both the vertical and horizontal axes. You can cut molds like a pro with a few quick adjustments on the miter saw!

Sliding Compound Miter Saw

Sliding Compound Miter Saw

Source: Amazon

3. How to Use The Miter Saw

The compound miter saw is so easy to use right out of the box! With some basics, you can build almost anything!

Set Up The Compound Miter Saw

Place the compound miter saw in an area where you have enough room to move an 8-foot piece of wood without hitting anything. It could be as simple as a few sawhorse boards or a custom angle saw station. You can find many different chamfering ideas with woodworking plans to get started here!  

Ensure the compound miter saw is securely attached to the work surface with clamps or screws. The last thing you want is for the saw to move while you're cutting!

Makita Miter Saw

Makita Miter Saw

Source: Amazon

Check If Your Compound Miter Saw Is Cut Straight

Believe it or not, some compound miter saws need to be calibrated to cut perfectly straight out of the box. Rough handling during transportation or incorrect factory settings may cause the blades or fences to become misaligned. A quick check after you've set up your angle saw can save you a lot of trouble when starting to build!

First, check if the blade is perpendicular to the tabletop. After unplugging the saw, lift the blade guard. Lower the blade and place a square next to it. You won't see any light or space between the blade and the square.

If the saw blade is slightly off, adjust the angle of the saw until the blade is straight. Then reset the bevel ruler to 0 at the new angle.

Next, check that the saw blade is perpendicular to the chamfer fence. Instead of placing the square upright, lay it flat with one edge against the fence and the other against the saw blade.

If there are any gaps, you will need to adjust the fence to adjust the angle. There are usually pins on the back of the fence that you can loosen to make this adjustment.

Use a straight edge like a metal or leveling ruler to fine-tune the fence, then tighten the bolts and check again.

Test your miter saw adjustments on a thick piece of wood like 2x4. Your cut should be perfectly 90 degrees, both vertically and horizontally!

You only need to do this when you first set up the compound miter saw and whenever you notice your cut is no longer straight. Now you can start your first project!

4. How To Cut With a Compound Miter Saw

Cutting with a Compound Miter Saw

Cutting with a Compound Miter Saw

Source: Pinterest

Measure the board length you need for your project with a tape measure. Draw a line on the board where you want to cut with a pencil and a speed square. Mark the side of the line that exceeds your measurements with an X.

Place the board on the corner saw so the back edge is against the fence. Without turning on the saw, lower the saw blade and align the board with the teeth so they only touch the excess side of the wire.

As you cut, hold the board in place or clamp it firmly. Most compound miter saws have clamps that you can use. Keep your hand more than six inches from the blade when moving!

Wear safety glasses and ear protection. Turn on the compound miter saw and let the blade reach full speed before cutting. Slowly lower the blade to cut the board completely, then release the trigger and hold the blade in the lowered position until it comes to a complete stop.


We are always happy to help you learn how to use a compound miter saw properly! It's a simple tool that makes building your furniture so much easier. Don't hesitate to get in touch with us if there is something you are unsure of or think you need to add something to this guide.

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