3 Ways to get Better Cuts

by luke on December 10, 2013

Good Miters vs. Perfect Miters


Often the difference between a good job and a beautiful job is 1/32″ or less. It’s an easy call to set aside a piece that was cut 1″ short…but 1/32″ short…kinda still fits!  WHEN this happens…NOT IF…it is a good idea to take a moment to figure out why it happened. Even if you install that particular piece, it’s worth it for your next cut.

Cutting Speed and Blade Speed

It’s important to know when to slow down and what things shouldn’t be rushed. Cutting is one of them. Forcing a spinning saw blade through wood, results in a chewed up and inaccurate cut. The teeth on the blade need to have time to take comfortable sized “bites”.  When trimming the end of a piece, cutting too quickly can also cause the blade to deflect towards the end of the piece, resulting in an uneven cut.

NOTE: Line-up your cutting mark with the very edge of the blade teeth while the blade is stopped. Once you are positioned exactly where you need to be, lift the blade off of the material, bring the blade up to full speed, and proceed to cut through the piece smoothly, and at a steady speed.

Table Saws

Controlling blade speed can be especially difficult on a table saw. Often the material is being pushed through at an uneven speed as you stop to re-position your hands. This results in an uneven cut due to the dramatic variations in blade speed.

NOTE: Try to keep the material moving through the saw at all times. Complete stops can cause burns or gouging. If you must stop to re-position, try to ease into and out of the pause. Also, keep a Push Stick on hand to help finish your cut smoothly AND SAFELY!

Blade Wobble

Be sure to check your saw frequently to make sure that the bushings are tight and the blade is spinning smoothly. The average saw blade cuts a swath that is just over an 1/8″ wide. If the bushing are loose, the extra play in the blade can cause your cut to be mysteriously short.

NOTE: Good tools are worth maintaining. Any carpenter would rather use an older, well maintained, quality tool, than a brand new piece of crap.

Dull or Cheap Blades

It’s a saw…not a wood stove. Stop burning wood with it! A dull or cheap blade will smoke you out of your workshop as well as ruin your material. We talked about the importance of controlling blade speed, a near impossibility with a dull blade.

Don’t buy Cheap Blades

Buying the $4 blade to save a few bucks is like putting $10 of gas in your car to save money on gas…it actually saves you $0 and is a pain in the ass. Cheap blades also have a tendency to overheat and warp, causing inaccurate and uneven cuts.

NOTE: Buy good blades, like Diablo Blades and get them resharpened when needed. Most lumber yards offer resharpening with a few day turn-around time.

It’s important to be a practical carpenter. Knowing what level of accuracy a job requires is key if you are serious about productivity. IF the job is a production level job where the expectation is more geared to practicality rather than aesthetics, then you SHOULD be making the minor concessions that increase productivity. IF the job is high-end job with a focus on aesthetic appeal (OR for your wife!), the allowable tolerance is much less.  A good carpenter is able to find the correct balance of these aspects and productively work along this line.

 If you haven’t yet, click here to learn how to accurately find those difficult miter angles.

As always, work safely!


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