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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
Hi all. Just got myself a DeWalt 780 sliding miter saw and had 3 questions come up (so far) in regards to keeping all my fingers.
(Note: I'm a 26 year old woman, new to the woodworking scene, so going easy on the jargon is appreciated :) Also, I've already read through the manual with a highlighter and watched safety videos several times ;) )
1- If I'm wanting to cut off very small pieces, even as small as the blade width, is it dangerous not to use an auxiliary fence (i.e., clamp a board to the metal fence to have a zero clearance fence)? How small is too small to cut off? Seems like in order to bevel an edge, you gotta slice pretty darn small pieces off...
2-If the piece you're cutting is fairly warped, should you not risk cutting it, or if you've got a good grip on it, can you go for it?
3-When or when not to use the factory clamp? It doesn't reach very far, and while the manual says not to get your fingers within 6" of the blade, that clamp probably only reaches maybe 10" from it. And if it's safe to just hold it with your hand, why bother with the clamp at all?
And lastly, 4- Any miscellaneous safety tips from you pros? I can watch a safety video a hundred times, but I'm worried about those things you just don't consider. Seems like the guys who lose fingers didn't see it coming...

Thanks!
 

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where's my table saw?
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small and miter saw don't go together....

Not in my book of instructions. :no:
IF I get the heeby geebys because it's scary, I don't make the cut.

IF you have a table saw, you should make a sled or a miter gauge extension fence and you worries will be half over. The blade is not fully exposed like on a mitersaw and you can see the kerf before you make the cut.

IF you don't have A tablesaw, then it's risky. A temporary fence/table is your best best. The trouble is you end up cutting it right through it on the first pass unless you can control the depth of cut...some saws can, others can't. Clamps and hold downs other than you hands are a necessity. All it takes if for the piece to twist and then things go South in a hurry.

IF you are going to pursue woodworking as a hobby, then an investment in a cast iron table top saw like a Craftsman from the 80's or even back to the 60's would be best and most reasonable.... check Craigs List and post what you may be interested in for us to critique here. Mine was a '60s model and I used it up until about 6 years ago when I parted it out for the table.

And of course Welcome to WWT. :yes: bill
 

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Part of operating anything safely is based on an understanding of exactly how the thing works. So, it's important to first understand how the miter saw works (even in terms of physics), and then it will be clear to you what is safe and what isn't.

First thing is to understand what direction the blade is turning. On a miter saw, the blade cuts in the direction of downward toward the table and back towards the fence (in a table saw, the blade turns toward the piece/operator).

Cutting small pieces on either one requires some care. I never get my hands close to the blade, because if the blade grabs any piece of wood, it can draw your hand along with it.

On a miter saw, I almost always use the clamp (and not my hand) to hold the piece being cut. If need be, you can use a piece of wood to bridge between the work support frame and the piece being cut. Then, use the clamp to press down on the bridge wood, to in turn hold down your workpiece.

Also, there's nothing wrong with using a hand saw for some cuts, or a band saw, or something else. The miter saw is not the answer to all sawing needs.

You want to refrain from cutting warped wood, also. The problem is that as you cut the piece of warped wood, the support points are changing (probably). You can imagine that if the warped wood is touching one point at each end, and you cut it down the middle, now that support point at the cut off end is going away. This can pinch the blade, and cause problems in a hurry.
 

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Make sure all materials are tight against the back of saw and held firmly. Don't just pull the trigger and immediately go to cutting, let the blade get up to speed before cutting then cut slowly, not just slam the saw into the wood.

Use a sharp blade as a dull blade will cause some problems and if really dull it can pull the work into the blade while cutting the material on an angle. Don't move the wood or take your hand off the handle until the blade stops, at least until you are really familiar with the saw, that way it lessens the chance of getting cut.

You can make very thin cuts if you have a backer board flat on the saw and one for the back of the saw. I would suggest nailing or screwing them together and don't cut all the way through the backer board when cutting small parts. Always watch where your hands are and where the blade is going.
 

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...what they said, plus - dont imagine that holding the work by hand on a mitre cut will be enough. When the blade is cutting at right angles to the work in both planes, then the fence takes all the force, but the moment you angle the blade in either plane there is considerable sideways force and the work will move. Clamp it !
 

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My Sliding Compound Miter saw (Hitachi 8.5") is the single most used tool in my shop. I make between 50 and 75 cuts on it every day and to be honest with you, seldom use the clamp provided. Probably not the best practice, but I don't cut pieces shorter than 8-10" (usually much longer) in length and I can safely hold my work against the back fence out of the danger zone and my blade is always sharp. I cut oak almost exclusively and nearly all pieces are curved (cupped), as they're old wine barrel staves.

As these gentlemen have pointed out, always make sure the wood you're cutting is securely placed against the back fence and is of sufficient length to allow you a secure hold outside of the "caution" area on the saw bed. If your saw is like most I've seen, there is a line embossed in the saw bed approx. 6" from either side of the blade and a "no hands" logo next to it. If you're having to hold your work inside of this area, use the provided clamp(s).

There was a time when I tried to trim a 4" piece while holding it by hand and I nearly lost a finger. I got lucky in that the nick I received was from the wood and not the blade. Now, If I cut a piece that short, I use a jig which provides me a cut-able back fence or I use my table saw.

Always cut pushing the saw away from you, never pull the saw towards you while cutting. Always allow the saw to come fully up to speed before making a cut and allow the saw to come to a complete stop (it should have dynamic braking) before removing your piece.

I've been using a sliding compound miter saw regularly since 1991 and as a finish carpenter (years ago, not anymore) have made a lot of money with it. After so long, it could be easy to get complacent, but you can't. It is a potentially VERY dangerous piece of machinery.

With careful use you may find as I did, that it becomes your go-to tool.

Cheers!

Chuck
 

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Discussion Starter · #7 ·
Thanks so much for everyone's input and advice! I really appreciate it.
It seems like a few of you will use a table saw when the safety of using the miter is in question--I'm trying to figure out in what ways a table saw would be safer? Also, since miters are used mostly for cross cuts, isn't using a table saw often not possible just because the piece of wood might be too long to fit for a cross cut? And I'd love to better understand what kind of jig you're talking about, Chuck!
 

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Just to clarify, are you talking about shaving a bit of wood off a long piece? As in the sliver is the product or is it the waste?

I cant say I use a clamp for my miter saw. I generally use it for large pieces of molding and dimensional lumber, I have always felt comfortable that there was enough material on atleast 1 side of the blade to hold it in place. I have cut as little as less than a blades width off the piece in cases where the original cut was a little fat. Should the cut leave a sliver of wood, it just falls or kicks down/away. Never caused a problem. Your comment about the wood being too long makes me think you WANT the long side, the short side is waste, no special care is needed in this situation IMO.

Now... if I WANTED a 2mm slice for something... thats trickier. that slice falling or kicking out would probably damage it, a zero clearance insert would stop it from falling down, but it may still get tossed out the back of the saw, possibly breaking it (which isnt the end of the world, just cut another and hope that one survives). a table saw and a sled is a more controlled environment. If youre in this boat you could cut your longer material down to a manageable length to then start taking slices off on the table saw sled.
 

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I agree with bauerbach - if your making a short slice off of a long piece, there is no problem (this is because you've got a long piece to hold on to - more leverage and more weight). The saw might send the small piece flying, but as long as you're wearing safety glasses it won't be a problem (especially since the piece is small/lightweight).

It would help if you gave us specific examples of what you're trying to cut (even photos), then we could advise what would be safe.

Personally, I just never get my hands within a few inches of the spinning blade (on a table saw or a miter saw). If the piece is small, I just clamp it.

Another benefit of clamping is that it will probably hold the piece tighter than you could with your hands, so your cuts will likely be more accurate. Any shift in the wood while cutting leaves a bad cut. After I clamp a piece, I try to move it just to see how well it's being held in place, then I cut it.
 

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where's my table saw?
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table saws vs miter saws

Thanks so much for everyone's input and advice! I really appreciate it.
It seems like a few of you will use a table saw when the safety of using the miter is in question--I'm trying to figure out in what ways a table saw would be safer? Also, since miters (saws) are used mostly (aways) for cross cuts, isn't using a table saw often not possible just because the piece of wood might be too long to fit for a cross cut? And I'd love to better understand what kind of jig you're talking about, Chuck!
There are two ways to make good crosscuts on a tablesaw.

The first and easiest is to make an extension for the miter gauge face to give more support for longer pieces. Use a 3" tall piece of hardwood or plywood about 24" long and have it extend on either side of the blade, usually about 8" to the right the rest on the left side. This gives you a long length to register your work against amnd you have a kerf already into the 3" piece to tell you where to cut. :yes:

The second way is to make a large sled, with 2 runners that fir into the miter slots on each side and deep enough to cut material 20" or so wide. It also has a 3" fence to register the work against on the front side and it may have a brace on the back side. You will have/make a kerf on the front fence, rear fence and through the middle that shows you where you cut will be also. The base of the sled supports your work piece on either side and will push it through and beyond the blade....pretty safe even for small pieces and narrow slices. :yes:

Miter saws in use fully expose the blade at some point , but the table saw blade is only exposed as much as you want oit to be...usually material thickness plus a 1/4" or 1/2" or so, safer in my opinion for small pieces and slices.
 

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It is not clear if you want to cut a small piece off a larger piece of wood or want to cut something off a small piece of wood.

Cutting a small piece off a larger piece is no problem. You can keep your fingers away from the blade.

I too like the general rule of not getting my fingers within 6" of the blade. Sometimes you can hold a smaller piece of wood by using a larger piece. Sort of hard to explain.

George
 
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