How to Make Compound Miter Cuts

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You can make a compound cut on a piece of ceiling trim with a miter quickly once you understand the two dimensions that an electric saw can achieve.
The miter saw has two adjustments on the electric motor's mounting device. The first is the horizontal (or flat-plane) angle, indicated on the front of the saw table that faces you. There are two sides to the large handle-adjustment knob. You can adjust the flat-plane angle up to 45 degrees to the right or left of the blade's center point. The second angular adjustment of the miter saw is the vertical angle. This angular movement also ranges from 0 to 45 degrees. With some practice, you can cut compound angles on the miter saw like a professional, saving you money for those intricate trim details in your home.

Things You'll Need

  • Safety glasses Compound miter saw Scrap 1- by 2-inch pine boards
  • Use those safety glasses and place them where they belong: over your eyes. Operating a miter saw will propel small pieces of sawdust into the air, and you do not want wood debris in your eyes.

  • Place the miter saw on a firm work surface and at a height that is comfortable for you.

  • Adjust the horizontal, flat-plane angle to 30 degrees to the right. Loosen the large handle just below the saw table, and move the indicator arrow to 30 to the right of center.

  • Tighten the handle, and doublecheck that the arrow indicator is still on the 30.

  • Place the piece of scrap 1- by 2-inch lumber with the 2-inch side up, and cut the small board. Note that the flat-plane angle cut into the board is 30 degrees.

  • Adjust the compound angle or the vertical angle of the miter saw. There is a small metal lever mounted below the pivot mechanism of the miter saw. On the pivot mechanism is a smaller indicator with numbers from 0 to 45. On the other side of the angled scale is an arrow. Loosen the vertical angle lever and move the compound angle to the 30.

  • Tighten the adjustment lever, and recheck that the arrow is still on 30.

  • Place the scrap 1- by 2-inch board on the saw table and cut the board. Slowly move the saw blade through the wood, because cutting the compound angle may place a little more force on the board. Take your time in performing the cut.

  • Observe the compound angle in the 1- by 2-inch board. Not only will there be a flat, horizontal angle of 30 degrees, but there will also be a back angle, compound, of 30 degrees.

  • Practice more cuts on the scrap 1- by 2-inch board with various angles on the horizontal and vertical adjustments. The most common ceiling trim miter cuts are 45 degrees horizontal, left or right, with a 22 1/2-degree vertical compound cut.

Tips & Warnings

  • When measuring the length of trim for a compound cut, always measure the exposed face of the trim.
  • Follow the manufacturer's safety instructions whenever operating any power tool.

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