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How to Use a Miter Gauge (A Short SU Guide)

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Image Credit: Incra.com

The miter gauge is an important piece of equipment that all table saw owners should add to their system.

Not only are they useful for making cross-cuts, since most table saw blades can be angled up to 45-degrees, the miter gauge will give your saw the ability to can make compound cuts that can normally only be achieved on a radial-arm saw.

With that being said, you probably already know the benefits of owning a miter gauge. You have actually reached this page because you are after more information on how to use one. (For our review guide on some of the best miter gauges currently on the market, head here).

So let’s dive straight in and take a look. The following sections will look at the types of cut you can make with a miter gauge and how to execute them.


Square Cross-Cuts with a Miter Gauge

Image Credit: Incra.com

We’ll begin with the square cross-cut as this is the easiest one to master with a miter gauge.

For this the gauge has to be set to 90-degrees so that the end of your work material is cut square. The important factor here is the accuracy of the gauge. If it is configured just a couple of degrees out your cuts will not have the professional finish you are obviously after.

Fortunately there are simple ways to check the accuracy of your gauge.

Checking the accuracy of your miter gauge
  • First, set the gauge to 90-degrees as if you were about to make a square cut perpendicular to the miter slot on your table saw.
  • Then, unplug the saw from the power outlet and raise the blade from the unit. With the stationary exposed saw blade in position, slide your gauge until it is in line with the edge of the saw.
  • At this point you are going to need a 6 inch combination square. One end of the square should be placed against the saw blade, with the other edge positioned next to the flat, forward edge of the miter gauge.
  • If the square sits in place with perfect alignment, you know your gauge is accurate.
  • If there’s any gaps (no matter how small) between the square and the blade / gauge, you will need to adjust the gauge until everything lines up.

Now, with the tools working as they should and all measurements accuracte, we can begin to make the cut.

How to make the Square Cross Cut

  • First, slide the miter gauge to the front edge of the saw table. Your cutting material should be placed against the flat edge of the gauge.
  • Mark the material for the cut and line up the mark against the saw blade
  • With the saw fired up, guide the miter gauge and board through the saw blade in order to execute the cut.
  • Once the material has been cut pull the material and gauge away from the saw and switch off.

While our written explanation may help state the various steps involved when making a square cross cut, it doesn’t match the tuition you can get via a good short video. So with that in mind, here’s a quick reference guide we found on Youtube.


Angled Cross-Cuts with a Miter Gauge

Another popular cut that can be executed with the miter gauge is the angle cross cut.

As the name suggests, the cut is similar to the cross cut but instead of being at 90 degrees, the miter gauge is set to any angle up to 45 degrees.

To make the cut you will need to guide the gauge and material against the saw blade in a slower fashion; (especially on a more acute angle cut). This is because the gauge’s movement will often disturb the board and slide it out of position as you work.

We recommend that you use a small woodworking clamp to fix the board to the gauge to eliminate the issue.

Once you have set your angle and have the board in position with your miter gauge, you can make the cut just as you would with the square cross cut above.

Again, the following video will hopefully clarify the procedure further.

Safety Tips

Most safety tips when it comes to working with a table saw come down to common sense. These are large power tools that have the ability to rip off a finger in seconds. You should always approach working with such tools with care.

The following points should always be in the forefront of your mind as you work:

  • Your work area should be clear and tidy.
  • All equipment should be fully maintained
  • Safety goggles should be work, all loose clothing and jewelry (anything that could get caught in the blade) should be removed.
  • Hearing protection should also be worn
  • Switch off the machine between cuts
  • Always remove the gauge and board material from the blade after the cut

As we state, common sense and care is paramount. Take your time to make your marks, align the cuts and you will get the most out of your machine. Your projects will have a far superior finish too.

At the end of the day that’s what all woodworkers should be striving for.

Image Credits: Rockler.com, For mere mortals, Incra.com