The miter saw.  Or chop saw. 

I’ll admit, I had never used one before building my first furniture prototype.  I didn’t know the first thing about setting it up and powering it on, much less actually using it to chop wood.  So the following advice is gathered from various articles, YouTube videos, and my father – an experienced woodworker who guided me through the building of my first prototypes.  If you’ve never owned or operated a miter saw please use this as a starting point and then watch a few how-to videos to see how it’s properly done and follow all instructions that come with your miter saw.

First, let’s talk about set up.  You want to have a long work table or stand with an extension so that you can operate the saw at a comfortable standing height.  The extension or long table is nice so your cut pieces don’t fall away or drop to the ground.

Operating the machine:

If you are right handed you may feel more comfortable holding the board the board with your left, and lowering and raising the blade with your right. If you’re not sure, test raising and lowering the blade with either hand while holding a board steady with the other to see what feels more natural.

Either way you should hold the longer portion of the board and cut off the shorter portion. So as an example if I have an 8’ long board, and I need a 30” long piece then I hold the longer portion and cut off my 30″ long piece.  However, if I have a 30” long board left and need a 28” cut, then I’m holding the longer length (my 28” portion) and cutting off the 2”.

Measuring and marking lengths:

For 90 degree cuts, measure and mark a ‘V’ with the point at the target length. After marking the ‘V’, draw a complete line, using a speed square to draw a perpendicular line across the board’s width.

Never mark all your cuts on a single board. Mark, then cut. Then mark the next cut and make that cut.


  • Do not wear loose clothing or jewelry, and if you have long hair you should pull it back out of the way.
  • Unplug the saw when changing the blade and when not in use.
  • Keep your fingers at least 6 in. from the path of the blade. Some saws have lines to indicate the danger zone.
  • Wear safety glasses when operating the saw.
  • Don’t reach under the blade while it’s spinning.
  • Let the blade come to a complete stop at the end of each cut before lifting it.


Useful Tips:

  • Cut off the end of each board before cutting your first piece to ensure a clean, perpendicular edge
  • Use a sanding block to knock off the rough, jagged edge after a cut
  • Label your wood and lay out in alphabetical order (the order of use)



If you’ve never used a miter saw before, don’t let that stop you!  All you need is a standing height work table or stand, a healthy respect for the safety tips listed above and the courage to try something new.