I almost always use my table saw to cut miters but as an alternative in my book on tiny boxes, I felt the need to address the compound miter saw and its potential as a box making tool, as many potential box makers may not be able to afford an accurate table saw.
are some things that must be done to make a compound miter saw safe for
box making. First of all, they are intended for cutting long strips of
molding as a carpenter's tool. That means that a compound miter saw
comes out of the box without a zero-clearance backing board or any
effective means to clamp small parts.
In the normal use
of a compound miter saw, it is fairly easy to keep your hands away from
the blade, as the stock is usually long enough that holding it
securely will require them to be a safe distance away. With small parts,
that is not the case. In the photo shown above, cutting miters for a
small box, you can see the Baltic birch backing board that I've screwed
to the miter saw fence. This gives a great deal more support than the
fence that came with the saw. I've also added a stop block and I am
using two hold down blocks to keep the stock in place during the cut. I
use two hold downs because when the work piece is flipped over to cut
the miter on the opposite side, they will apply pressure independently
to the irregularly shaped molding.
Two tips that that
are essential for both safety and clean cuts: Orient the blade angle so
that the wood being cut is pushed toward the stop block, rather than
away. And let the blade stop in the down position rather than lifting it
back up while still spinning. The wood only needs to be cut once, and in
lifting, the work piece may shift slightly and become jammed against
the stop block.
A third tip is to but a really good blade. The one that came with the saw may be good for cutting two by fours, but here we're box making.
So, is this my new favorite tool? It can be useful for quick cuts, but for general box making I prefer the table saw.
Make, fix, create, and encourage others to do likewise.