What is a table saw miter gauge and how to use it?

Table saw miter gauge

The table saw was one of the best investments I made in my woodshop. It came to be the go-to device for my cutting needs. I did have some issues using the miter gauge that I had to overcome before getting the consistent cuts I wanted.

The information below is all you need to know about table saw miter gauges. Learning how to align, use, and shop for one on your table saw will help you get the precise cuts you expect.

What Is A Miter Gauge?

A miter gauge is a device used to hold workpieces in place as you cut or sand them. It is a standard component on a band saw, stationary disk sander, and table saw.

Most miter gauges have a long metal arm that fits into the miter gauge track or slot. The arm sits snuggly enough to eliminate most sideways movement but is loose enough to move smoothly in the guide track.

A fence is attached to the track arm with a bolt. The backside of the miter fence has angle degrees etched, printed, or stamped on its face. A knob or handle is attached to the connecting bolt, and it holds the miter fence at a particular angle once it is selected.

What is a miter gauge used for?

Your table saw’s miter gauge supports the workpiece as you make a cross-cut. It allows you to cut a straight end perpendicular to the sides or faces resting against the miter fence, or it can be adjusted to the desired angle of a cut and used to support your piece as you make it.

How Do You Square A Miter Gauge?

A miter gauge must be square to the saw blade to provide an accurate crosscut. You will need to square a new or refurbished miter gauge, and you will also need to realign it over time.

Keep in mind that you can not adjust the alignment of the track. Altering the trench on your saw’s tabletop will destroy its ability to guide your miter gauge accurately and smoothly.

Using the saw blade to square your miter gauge is also not an option. Any error in the alignment of the saw blade will transfer to your miter gauge. You might not notice it on a 90-degree cut, but once you add an angle to the miter fence, the error will compound on the end of your workpiece.

To align your miter gauge properly, you will need a square with a long edge. A long edge helps you to see any misalignment.

To adjust your miter fence:

  • Loosen the bolt that locks the miter fence
  • Place the short edge of the square against the fence
  • Align the long edge of the square with the track edge closest to the saw blade
  • Tighten the miter fence

The process is quick and easy using a cheap artist/Engineer square since they are precisely cut. You can watch this video to see how to use this method.

How Do You Use A Miter Gauge?

Your table saw’s miter gauge aligns and supports your wood through the cut. Where a rip fence supports rip cuts, a miter gauge supports crosscuts.

To use your miter gauge:

  • Align the miter gauge if needed (see previous section).
  • Set table saw blade height – Place your workpiece next to the saw blade and raise or lower it so that the saw teeth raise about 1/4-inch from the top of the board.
  • Position the miter gauge – Slide your miter gauge in front of the saw blade so that it can support the project as you cut.
  • Set the miter fence angle – Adjust your miter gauge to the proper angle and tighten the knob or handle
  • Mark your cut – Place a mark at the point of your cut and align the board to the edge of the blade to prevent cutting short due to saw blade kerf.
  • Prepare for cut – Put on your safety gear, make sure your material is snug against the miter gauge, and turn your table saw on.
  • Make the cut – Once the saw blade is at full speed, slide the miter gauge forward, feeding the wood at a proper rate to avoid burns or kickback.
  • Shut off the table saw – Once the workpiece is past the saw blade, turn off your saw and let it stop before removing your wood.

Things To Consider When Buying A Miter Gauge

Nearly all new table saws come with a miter gauge. That does not mean that they come with the best accessories, specifically cheaper models intended for hobbyists (benchtop) or general construction (job site).

Aftermarket miter gauges provide better accuracy, beginning with quality build materials. Steel offers durability, while aluminum fences eliminate possible corrosion.

Quick adjustments are handy, especially on job sites or in manufacturing settings. Positive stops at popular angles allow for fast alignments. Quality products will allow you to make micro-adjustments that are handy for fine woodworking.

Aftermarket miter gauges usually fit specific table saws. Keep in mind your miter track’s shape (rectangular or T-track).

Finally, quality products are associated with established manufacturers. Quality gauges are made by manufacturers like Fulton, Kreigh, Incra, and Powertec.

Where Can You Buy A Miter Gauge?

A new table saw will usually include a miter gauge, though they may be subpar. You can buy a miter gauge in most places that sell power tools.

Many big-box or chain stores will carry them. That includes places like Home Depot, Lowe’s, and Rockler.

Online outlets like Acmetools.com or even Amazon offer miter gauges if you can not get to a store in person.

Accuracy Translates To Fun

I want to enjoy your woodworking hobby. Power tools, like the table saw, allow us to do just that. Consider buying a quality miter gauge to take your woodworking fun to the next level of precision. Just make sure you read my aftermarket miter gauge review first so that you don’t end up wasting your money on a subpar tool!

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