The table saw miter gauge is just as important as the fence. Plus it can do a few other things. The other half of the table saw use is for crosscuts. It’s also capable of cutting down thicker materials and I’ve left step by step instructions at the bottom of how to do that safely.
What’s also included in this article is whether table saw slides are the same across different brands of table saws. Usually table saws come with a pretty rock solid miter gauge.
Here you’ll learn how and when to use the miter gauge and also when not to.
Can A Table Saw Make Cross Cuts?
A lot of new woodworkers have it in their head that the only thing that you can do with a table saw is rip down the length of a board and sheet goods.
However there’s so many more things that the table saw can do. You can also crosscut wood as long as you use the right accessory. That’s where the table saw miter gauge comes into play.
The slots on the left and right hand side of the blade was purposefully designed with crosscutting in mind and the miter gauge works perfectly for this.
When Should A Table Saw Miter Gauge be Used?
The miter gauge can do a couple of things. If you need a board that has to be cut across the grain, then this is what you want to use.
Another nice feature of the table saw miter gauge is that you can cut angles with it. One of the most common angles that you can cut with this are forty five degree angles. Of course it can cut pretty much any angle you want.
Since the blade of the table saw can tilt, and with the help of the miter gauge you can easily cut compound miters. This feature could save you money if you don’t want or can’t afford a miter saw.
How Does A Miter Gauge Work?
As you look at the table saw miter gauge itself, you’ll notice that it has a long rectangular strip of metal with a half circle head attached to it. What you do is slide the strip into the runner on the left or right hand side of the table saw blade.
Looking down on the half circle head, you should see a dial that has all of the degrees marked on it. The dial should also have an adjustment knob that you pull upwards so that you can turn the dial to the desired degree and lock it back in place.
The head has its own fence built into it for resting boards against it so that it will guide the board straight when cutting.
To do a simple ninety degree cut across the grain. Measure your board and make a mark on the face where you want to cut it. Place the edge of the board against the miter gauge.
Without the saw turned on, push the board up to the saw blade and adjust the blade either up or down to where it’s raised just above the board.
Once you have the blade set, slide the miter gauge a safe distance away from the blade. Turn the saw on and slowly move the miter gauge into the blade until the cut’s complete.
Can You Rip Cut With the Miter Gauge?
One quick note, if you want to rip along the grain of wood, then you need to use the table saw fence for that.
Can you use a rip fence and a miter gauge together?
No, you should never use the rip fence and the miter gauge together.
The reason is if your crosscutting and the end of the board or whatever material you’re cutting is riding along the fence, it could cause a kickback. This could result in injury and the table saw is a tool that needs to be respected.
To avoid this situation slide the fence further away from the board you want to cut. If the material that you’re crosscutting is longer than the travel of the fence, then you’ll have to remove the fence from the table saw altogether.
When to Use Miter Gauge vs. Rip Fence
Anytime that you need to cut an angle or compound angle on a board is when you want to use the table saw miter gauge. Cutting across the grain to make the ends of boards perfectly square is another common use for the miter gauge.
The rip fence can’t cut angles because there’s no way for the fence to be adjusted from a ninety degree angle. The rip fence’s main job is to cut down the length of wood with the grain. It works fine when material is too wide for a project. It’s great for trimming up edges of stock to make them ninety degree angles. It can also cut long thin pieces of wood.
Besides, the fence has to be perfectly parallel to the saw blade. If it’s not, this will cause a kickback to where the material can be thrown back at you. learn how to crosscut with a table saw crosscut sled.
Why shouldn’t I Use A Rip Fence For Crosscuting?
Typically the width of a board will almost always be the smallest in measurement. For example let’s take a piece of a 2X4 that measures 4 inches in width while the length is 2 feet.
The 2 foot length of the board gives you more surface contact to safely ride against the table saw fence. Because of its length it won’t tilt off the fence and cause a kickback as long as you apply consistent pressure to keep it in contact with the fence.
Now if you were to take the end of the board in this case the 4 inch measurement and put that against the fence you only have 4 inches of contact.
With the blade rotating at a high rpm, it doesn’t take much for it to cause the board to come off the fence and create a kickback or jam up. Either way it’s not a good experience to have.
We have all heard the term use the right tool for the job. Use the fence for ripping down material and the miter gauge for crosscutting or making miters.
Cross Cutting Thick Stock
Crosscutting thick stock can be done with the table saw miter gauge. You have to make an extra cut to do it and a little more marking than normal which isn’t a big deal.
For this example let’s use a board that’s 4”X4” and 4 feet long. If you want to cut that board down to 2 feet but the saw blade won’t raise that high. What do you do to solve this problem?
- What you do is make your mark at 2 feet.
- Take a speed square or combination square and line it up with your mark. Draw a line all the way across the board.
- Rotate the to the next face and line your square up with the line on the previous face and draw another line. Keep repeating this process until all the faces have been marked.
- For the next step this is what I like to do. On the end of the workpiece make a mark at 2 inches which is the halfway point. Take your square and draw a line all the way across the end.
- Take that end and slide it up against the face of the blade. Not the teeth but the face.
- Raise the blade to where you can see that it’s just above the line on the end. About one eighth of an inch by eye.
- Put the edge of the board against the fence of the miter gauge and cut along the line all the way through. Rotate the board to where the cut side is facing up.
- Repeat the process of lining up the blade with the mark and cut all the way through. If done correctly you should have a clean cut.
Are Table Saw Miter Gauges Universal?
Most table saw slides are the same across most brands. This is done by design so that universal miter gauges will work on the table saw slides. As always, do your research before you buy. Check the specifications on your saw and compare them to the gauge you plan to get.