Photography and …. miter saws!

long-neck-miter-sawI build a lot of wood framing for my photography setups. So I thought I’d put together a guide on how to do that with a miter saw and how to make the most of your time with this great tool.

When you take the important call of starting using a miter saw in your photography and generally your DIY projects, having the best, the most popular model doesn’t mean necessarily more success in your craft projects. It may mean easier handling, lower risk for injuring, but there’s no promise that your DIY projects will have the perfect cut, the cleanest edge, the nicest appearance.

In order to get there, you need to follow some steps and keep in mind the most important principle: practice makes perfect.

The first steps

You don’t need to use a miter saw when you want good quality cuts. But a miter saw brings along its portability and quick setup, which count in the economy of your art project.

You can find nowadays miter saws that are able to give you the perfect cut right out of the box. Here are some reviews for the best miter saws on the market.

Most miter saws come with a 24 to 40 tooth blade that is efficient for cutting framing lumber or decking. In order to get the nice cuts in your projects though you need a high-performance blade with low-degree hook angle. An 80-tooth blade for a 10” miter saw is a good choice and get a 96 or a 100-tooth blade for a 12” miter saw.

Also, the hook angle of your blade is very important and for a nice, sleek cut, a hook angle between 10 degrees and -5 degrees is the best option.

For the best cuts with your miter saw, it’s also great to install a quick-and-easy auxiliary table and fence so that you get zero-clearance support to prevent tear-out where the blade exits the cut. The table may be made of MDF, hardboard or plywood. It might be that your miter saw comes with its own zero-clearance throat insert plate, but it’s only a matter of time until the overlapping bevel and miter cuts erode the close support. Most miter saws come with 1/8” (or even thinner) plastic inserts so it’s less likely for you to make your own inserts from plywood or MDF.

It’s obvious the support between the cuts falls away, but it still supports one side, so you switch the “keeper” piece to that side. In time, the auxiliary fence and table will fail in doing their job, and you can simply replace them with new ones.

The steps in the middle

Always let the blade stop spinning before lifting the saw. You might ruin for good your crafting if you raise the blade before it completely stops. Let’s not forget to mention the blade might also snag the cutoff and create some injuries, due to the high speed.

You need to wait few more seconds before lifting the spinning blade as it might reveal some scoring marks on the end grain.

Even if you don’t think you’re not going to work with long pieces, it’s always better to be safer than sorry…As most miter saw tables are around 18” wide (some come with extension wings that give more foot), you need support to prevent boards from tilting or lifting off the table in case of longer work pieces. You can solve this problem by adding some scrap wood blocks the same height as the table, near the ends of the boards. You can also mount the miter saw on a collapsible stand that features a work piece supports and stops.

A shop built system is also nice to have as an option for better results. You can make a bench or a portable system and there are plenty of projects to inspire yourself from on the Internet.

The end steps

When you work on an art project, you might get a hardwood you need to cut and there’s always the risk of your miter saw to flex. But you can avoid this issue by making your cuts in two steps: make a first cut of 1/16” to the waste side of your cut line. Cut to the line afterwards and enjoy the results: the finishing cut is cleaner and spot-on square.