We all know of the miter saw as being used to cut miters and various angle cuts but do you really know the capabilities of the miter saw as a whole? Are you aware of just how it works and what kind of materials you can work with?
With woodworking tools, we often are guilty of assuming they are primarily made to work with wood. While that might be true of a lot of tools, there are also many tools that are designed to work with other materials if you use them correctly.
Can you cut metal with a miter saw? The answer is that it depends. In most cases, as long as your miter saw is powerful enough, you should be able to cut metal as long as you have the appropriate blade to do so.
In this guide, we go into deeper detail about cutting metal with a miter saw and just what you need to know about doing so!
How a Miter Saw Works
The miter saw was designed to make a miter cut. It makes miter cuts and then it makes several other angled cuts as well. The miter saw can easily cut miters, bevels, crosscuts, and more. It’s a common tool for things like cutting trim and crown molding but it can serve other purposes as well.
This saw has a head that tilts at an angle to make your angle cut perfectly. With a dual bevel miter saw, your head can tilt either direction but with most traditional miter saws, it just tilts one direction.
While a lot of the materials people tend to cut are wood, not everything is. Maybe you have pipe or metal or even plastic materials that you want to make your angle cuts in.
You mark and measure your materials, set the blade with your material, and make the cut. A miter saw has a blade above your material that you pull down to make the cut.
You probably already know all of this so it’s just a quick review.
Now, let’s talk more in depth about cutting metal.
Can You Cut Metal?
Miter saws are typically made to be powerful saws. While metal is a tough material, your miter saw will most likely be able to handle it. Now, you will want to know your saw and get a feel for whether you think it can handle more challenging materials.
As long as your miter saw has a decent amount of power, it’s probably going to be able to cut metal and anything else you throw at it. The key is just making sure it’s prepared for the task more than anything.
This means you need to make sure you have the right blade to handle the metal. Don’t expect your standard blade to be tough enough for metal. In this case, it’s not the saw but rather the blade that can’t handle the task!
If you really want it to work, get yourself a blade that won’t let you down.
So what kind of blade will work here? If the blade that your saw came with says it can handle metal, we want to warn you that this probably only refers to the softest of metals and not the majority. It might work with something like aluminum but that’s probably it.
Even in this instance, we wouldn’t recommend using your standard wood-cutting blade for metal. You need to plan to change the blade out to really work well. Using that wood-cutting blade on metal will either fail or leave a messy cut in its path.
You can purchase just about any blade of your choice to handle cuts of metal, you just need to make sure you find one compatible with your miter saw and truly made to handle metal. Check the specs of the blade to make sure it can handle a variety of metal materials.
Blades like composite blades will generally work well for versatility. You can also look for something like a triple-chip description. This might help you make a cleaner cut on metal.
Your saw might have the ability to change speeds. If it does, you want to use a lower speed setting to cut through metal. This has to do with the friction of the blade against the metal. Extra speed just causes additional friction and you end up with a super-hot material and blade.
It’s bad for both of them.
When you change the blade, that blade designed for cutting metal is going to work in such a way that it almost operates at a slower speed on its own. Its turns are different because it has a different material and different designs on the blade.
Now, the other concern with trying to cut metal on your miter saw is making sure you are doing so safely. Safety is a big concern here. Cutting metal and cutting wood are very different when you consider how they react and the room around you.
You need to be sure to follow specific safety procedures no matter what you are cutting. When you cut metal, the blade generates a lot of heat so you’ve got to be prepared for what that can do.
For example, before you even make a cut at all, you should make a point to clean up your machine. You probably cleaned it out after you used it last but just make sure there isn’t any debris you might have missed that the blade is going to find.
You should also clean the immediate area on the ground and surrounding your workspace. Cutting metal is going to cause sparks. The last thing you want is for one of those hot sparks to catch a piece of wood and lead to a fire.
Work slowly. When you cut metal, you’ve got to slow it down. Let your blade reach its full speed before you ever touch the metal you are cutting and then don’t force it. Slow and steady.
Finally, before you power up that machine, make sure you are protected. You should be wearing leather gloves, eye protection, and probably an apron to protect you from the sparks the metal will create.
This does require a little bit of additional safety preparation than cutting wood might. You’ve got to think about the hazard of the sparks and anywhere they might be able to land in the process. You don’t want to provoke a fire or burn yourself while you are trying to make a clean cut on metal.
We Think You’ll Like It: Cutting Aluminum on a Table Saw
Chances are your miter saw is more than capable of cutting metal. You simply need to know the tips, safety precautions, and proper processes to use your miter saw in this capacity. You should also be aware that while you can do this with a miter saw, it might not be the ideal use of a miter saw.
There are saws that are better designed for cutting metal. This powerful saw is built for speed and speed can be a hindrance when it comes to metal so it’s just something to be aware of. Use all safe handling tactics to be sure you don’t run into issues.