How do you square up a modern miter saw? A table saw? What if it’s cordless?
Well, did you check the user manual?
Every time I have to say this in response to an email, or even face to face, I worry about it sounding a little condescending. There’s really no polite way to ask someone if they read the friendly manual, is there?
Help, my [brand name] miter saw isn’t making perfectly square cuts. What do I do?
Updated Step 0: Buy a Square
I tend to use a combination square for setting up or adjusting my equipment. They’re not too expensive. Following are some options at Amazon, but you can find combination squares at most hardware stores or home centers too.
Step 1: Refer to the user manual.
Often, consulting a power tool’s manual will take less time than the back-and-forth emails it takes for me to figure out what precisely someone could be having difficulty with.
If you lost your manual, that’s okay, you can find very many online. And if you cannot find the exact manual for your saw, maybe you can find one from the same brand, or even better yet, for a similar style and sized saw of the same brand.
Most manuals will at least describe which knobs or screws to loosen to make an adjustment, and the better ones will have diagrams. The most detailed user manuals make no assumptions as to your level of experience, and will show you how and where to check for squareness.
Sure, you might learn some tricks from the internet, but there’s no quicker way that picking up a user manual and a square or other precise layout tool. That should be your first stop. If you still have questions, then it’s okay to take to the internet.
For example, consider a miter saw. Is the blade square to the table? If not, you can often adjust the 0° bevel stop. Is the fence square to the blade? If not, you can often adjust the 0° miter scale or stop.
Here’s the PDF user manual for the above saw, DW716XPS.
The DW716 also has adjustable bevel stops at 45°.
For the most part, popular brands’ user manuals will give you a very good primer on how to safely use and adjust a new power tool.
I wish I could say the same for all kinds of equipment, especially those that are only made in China these days, but that’s unfortunately not the case.
If you buy a table saw, for example, it *should* provide all the information you need to operate the saw safely, and to adjust it if needed.
You will often need a square. I usually use a combination square, which can be found for $9 and up (links in the list above), but there are lots of different tool options out there. Usually, any square will work, as long as it has a precise 90° angle, and it’ll fit where you need it. With combination squares, you can always remove the square head from the ruler. I haven’t found a tool where the square head is too big. Big is good, as larger squares give you greater surface area to reference off of surfaces, but things can get a little more complicated when a square is too large.
So, how do you square up your miter saw or table saw?
Step 1: Consult the user manual.
Step 2: In the absence of a user manual, check with the manufacturer, who might have a PDF they can send you, or at least a parts or features diagram.
Step 3: If there’s no manual, and the manufacturer cannot or will not hep, seek out help or advice on a forum or elsewhere, and provide as much information as you can.
While more experienced users might sometimes have pro tips they can offer, all the basics will usually be in the user manual. Or in the case of Festool, you might also need or want to download a supplemental manual.
That all said, do you have any miter saw or table saw squaring-up calibration tips?
Squaring Up a Miter Saw
While I started off writing this post a little tongue in cheek, I probably should have added a little more instructional detail at the start.
Here’s the follow-up, which gives you a little more guidance:
The title of that post is a little silly, but there are some more details and diagrams.
Still, saws from different brands, or even the same brand, will have different adjustment screw locations. That’s why it’s important to refer to the user manual – because that’s usually the best source of information when it comes to learning how to use, adjust, or maintain a tool or piece of equipment.
I’ll start work on a less tongue in cheek post about table saw squaring-up, for a proper-follow-up.