So you’re ready to calibrate your miter gauge, but would like a few pointers to make sure you’re doing it right… Perfect, that’s what this page is all about.
The miter gauge on your table saw is there to help you make safe and consistent cross cuts or miter cuts on the table saw.
A good miter gauge will slide along the miter slot in the table saw, without any ‘wiggle room’ side to side.
A good miter gauge will hold a perfect 90 degrees when locked down for a regular cross cut.
A good miter gauge will also have a built-in stop that will make it quick and simple to set the gauge back to 90 degrees.
And luckily, a good miter gauge has adjustments so you can fine-tune all 3 of these settings.
1) The Miter Bar
Some miter gauges will have a bar that has adjustable screws to loosen or tighten the fit of the bar in the miter slot.
These should be set so the bar slides freely in the miter slot, but with zero (or minimal) play side to side.
It can help to use some blue thread lock on these set screws to keep them from loosening over time.
2) Setting the Gauge To 90 Degrees
For this adjustment, you’ll want to use a square. There isn’t much to it. Just take your square and hold it against the miter gauge, and against the side of the blade.
Make sure your square is either touching a tooth at the front and the back, or not touching any tooth.
If the front of the square is against a tooth, and the back is against the body of the blade, you won’t end up square.
IMPORTANT – Make sure the blade is aligned to your miter slot before doing this adjustment. You can learn how to align your blade here.
3) Setting Your Positive Stop
This is not the same for all miter gauges. Yours should have some kind of adjustable stop that gives you a reference point to easily set your gauge to 90 degrees.
This is helpful so if you need to make a miter cut at a different angle, this positive stop allows you to accurately get your gauge back to 90 degrees again without having to re-align it to your blade with a square.
Miter Gauge Tips
Quickly Setting a 45 Degree Angle
Use a framing square to quickly and accurately set your miter gauge to 45 degrees.
The framing square will have a scale on the inside edges of each leg, starting zero at the inside corner.
Insert the miter gauge into the miter slot and release it so it’s able to be freely adjusted.
Hold the framing square against the miter gauge with the 10” mark lined up along the edge of the miter slot.
Turn the gauge until the other leg of the square also has the 10” mark at the same edge of the miter slot.
You will have to rotate and slide the square in small increments until both sides are in line, then tighten the gauge down.
What you’ve done is created a ‘Right Isosceles Triangle’, which is made of a 90 degree angle and 2 – 45 degree angles, and you’ve aligned the miter gauge with one of these 45 degree angles.
Knowing that, you can also set other specific angles by doing a little math and determining the length of 2 sides for the triangle.
Setting Custom Angles Based On Marks
Lets say you need to make a miter cut for a board at a very specific angle, which hasn’t been determined. But the angle doesn’t really matter, you just need to make sure it fits.
An example would be fitting a strip of wood at an angle in a panel door, to add the ‘x-style’ decoration.
If you simply mark the board on each side, you can now hold the board against the miter gauge and line these marks up with with edge of the miter slot.
Now lock the miter gauge down and you’ve got an angle set exactly where you need it, without ever having to figure out exactly what that angle was.
This works perfectly, and sometimes can be more accurate than figuring out the exact angle, because with this method your final angle has taken into account any imperfections in the project.
Miter Gauge Sacrificial Fence
Often you’ll find that a board needs a little more support to be securely cut with the miter gauge.
The factory fence on a standard miter gauge may only be about 6 inches wide or so.
You can easily extend this out by screwing a sacrificial fence to the miter gauge, which can extend past the blade, and the blade will pass right through it.
As you can see, some miter gauges may have mounting bolt holes on the top, and you’ll have to be a little more creative when building your sacrificial fence
This fence allows for full support of the workpiece all the way to (and past) the blade.
For more consistent and versatile cross-cutting capabilities, you’ll want to build a custom table saw sled.
Watch this presentation here to see a premium table saw sled in action. It’s designed to cut 90 degrees consistently, as well as 45s, and other custom cuts with various attachments.