Whether you are a professional, DIY-hobbyist, or a beginner woodworker – at some point you’ll need to change the miter saw blade. And usually, you need to change the blade because it got dull or damaged.
However, those two aren’t the only reasons why someone might need to change the blade on a miter saw.
The other cause why you may need to change the blade is the material being cut. Why? Because miter saw blades aren’t universal. Meaning, you can’t cut a metal workpiece with a blade intended to cut wood. More details and information on this topic will follow later in the guide.
If you are a beginner who recently started using the miter saw, you probably aren’t that familiar with the blade replacement procedure.
That’s why to help you better understand the tool – in this guide, we’ll be talking about how to change a miter saw blade, and how to pick the best blade according to your needs.
Let’s get started by going through the basics first.
Short Miter Saw Guide
A miter saw is a power tool that uses a circular saw blade mounted to a pivoting arm to make precise miter, bevel, and cross-cuts in a variety of materials. The pivoting arm and blade give the miter saw great cutting versatility since it can easily make cuts at various angles on the workpiece. The workpiece is tightly placed on the saw’s board.
Interestingly, however, the original miter saw design didn’t have a circular blade. It consisted of a miter box and backsaw. The miter box had two incisions at 45° and 90-degrees that guided the saw to make a precise cut in the workpiece.
Some people also refer to the miter saw as a ” drop or chop saw”. But, a chop saw can only make straight 90° cuts and has double the power the miter has. It uses an abrasive disc instead of a toothed blade and is mostly used for masonry, metal cutting, or other similar operations.
Also, depending on the type, some miter saws can do angled cuts up to 90-degrees without issues by tilting the blade.
Miter Saw Types
Ever since the invention of the first miter saw, the tool kept evolving and evolving. Thus, today we can distinguish many miter saw types who aren’t that similar to each other in the way they operate or look:
- Original non-powered miter saw
- Standard powered miter saw
- Compound single bevel miter saw
- Compound double bevel miter saw
- Sliding compound miter saw
- Laser and LED miter saw
Out of all these, the most popular types are the sliding and compound miter saw. The former is mainly used by professional carpenters and woodworkers, while the latter is a superb tool for beginners or DIY-hobbyists. It’s advisable to begin your miter saw journey with the compound type.
Single Bevel Vs Double Bevel Compound Miter Saw
Even though we can differentiate more than one type – the biggest dilemma beginners have when purchasing a miter saw is whether it should be a single bevel or double bevel compound saw. After all, compound miter saws are the best type for novices to master in no time.
To pick the right one, you need to know what type of work you’ll do with it, and if the saw can handle it. But even in the capability aspect, both types are very similar.
Their main difference boils down to – the single bevel miter saw tilting the blade up to 90° only on one side, while double bevel can do it on both sides. Of course, the contrast doesn’t end here.
Therefore, read our guide on Single Bevel Vs Double Bevel Miter Saw for more details
How to Change a Miter Saw Blade
Generally, the blade removing process doesn’t differ much from one type to another. For example, as the most popular types, the compound and sliding miter saw have almost identical blade removal approach.
The differences are minimal and mostly occur due to design changes by the manufacturer. Hence, a miter saw by Ryobi, and a miter saw by DeWalt or Craftsman have slightly different steps to remove the blade. The best thing to do in this situation is to check the tool’s manual.
Before you start changing the blade, however, make sure it’s actually dull. Because the dirtiness of the blade after multiple cutting tasks can impact the way it behaves. So, clean it first, ensure its dull, then change it.
To replace the blade, you’ll need an Allen wrench, screwdriver, and 10 minutes of your time.
Step 1: Remove the Old Blade
Since miter saws are electrically powered, the most important thing you need to do before removing the blade is to make sure you disconnect the tool from the power outlet.
Now that you unplugged the miter saw, you can start the procedure.
- To remove the blade, first, you need to access it. And to do so, the spindle cover needs to be detached from the tool. But to reach the spindle cover you need to move the blade guard to a top position.
- So, move the blade guard to the top, and start unscrewing the anterior screw of the spindle cover. This will allow you to rotate the spindle cover out of the way.
- The next step is to press down the spindle lock pin and ensure it is firmly locked. If it’s not firmly locked by just pressing it, use a wrench to fully tighten the spindle lock pin.
- Then you can start to loosen the blade bolt that holds it. Normally it loosens when turned in a clockwise direction.
- Proceed to remove the bolt and outer washer so you can detach the blade.
After removing the old blade, don’t rush to install the new one immediately. Instead, use this opportunity to clean the blade bolt, inner washer, and outer washer from oil.
Step 2: Figure out the Right Blade Direction
It’s very important to not mess-up this step. Because the direction a blade faces is key for it to be able to cut. And most importantly, the user’s safety is at risk with a blade not facing in the right direction.
To help you with this issue, almost all modern blades come with an engraved arrow. This arrow tells us the correct direction a blade should rotate. So when you replace a miter saw blade, make certain to mount it in the direction in which the arrow points.
If there isn’t an arrow engraved, the other method to figure out the right way is by mounting the blade clockwise. Or just assure that the cutting teeth point downward. Because if the teeth point upward, you risk suffering a severe injury while attempting to cut the workpiece.
Now that you figured out the correct blade direction, you can move on to the final phase of mounting the new blade.
Step 3: Mount the New Blade
After successfully removing the blade, and figuring out the direction it should face, it’s time for the final step – to install the new blade.
To install the new blade, you’ll have to more or less repeat the removing steps, but in reverse order. So, prepare your wrench and screwdriver, and follow the instructions:
- Mount the blade in the right way as shown on the printed arrow i.e. the cutting teeth should face downward
- Put the outer washer back on with your hand, and use a wrench to tighten the blade bolt by turning it in the opposite direction you turned to loosen it (counterclockwise)
- Move on to re-attach the spindle cover by holding the spindle lock pin, and turning it back in the initial position so you can tighten the front bolt that you removed before with a wrench.
- Finish the replacement by lowering the blade guard in its natural position.
- Also, make sure the spindle lock pin is released before you start using the miter saw again.
If you are a beginner and followed these steps correctly, you should now know how to change a blade on a miter saw. However, how well are you familiar with the importance of choosing the correct blade for the specific cutting task?
Because in the next section, we’ll talk about the various types of blades, the materials they are intended to cut, and for what kind of cuts you can use them. So, continue reading to better prepare yourself for future cutting projects.
Miter Saw Blades - Everything You Need to Know
Similar to the table saw, the miter also uses a circular blade to cut a variety of materials. But, as we already mentioned at the beginning of this guide, miter saw blades aren’t universal. Therefore, making equally good cuts in metal and wood workpieces with one type of blade isn’t possible.
Because of that, we have blades that vary in size, tooth count, the material they are made of, and so on. All of these features tell us the blade’s cutting purpose. So, depending on the workpiece you intend to cut, you will need to equip the miter saw with an appropriate blade.
In general, most miter saw blades come in either 10-inch or 12-inch size with 24 to 100 teeth, and are made of steel alloy or carbide. Also, 10-inch blades or smaller, usually fit the best with 5/8″ arbors, while those of 12″ go with 1-inch arbor.
Why you Need to Change Miter Saw Blades
Besides the blade getting dull and not being able to cut properly, there are more reasons to why you need to change the blade.
When it comes to miter saws, you can use them to cut various materials that vary in shape, dimensions, thickness, and so on. Because of that, making equally good cuts in all of these materials with one blade is practically impossible, as we already concluded.
That’s why, you always must change the blade when switching between workpieces made of different material, or characteristics.
Important Blade Features
Since the blade’s features tell us what type of cuts it can do, and in what kind of workpieces, it’s essential to pay great attention to them.
The major blade features are the:
Size of the Blade
The most obvious difference you can tell when looking at a set of blades in the tool shop is their size.
Miter saw blades range from 6.5 to 12-inches. And most common are those of 10″ and 12″ due to their versatility to make longer and shorter cuts. Smaller blades excel in making shorter cuts but have limitations to how far they can cut.
Normally, those with a bigger diameter, also have a higher tooth count.
The Material of the Blade
Apart from the size, the other major blade categorization is the material it’s made of. The material tells us about the workpieces you can cut with it.
- Carbide-Tipped Blade – for cutting harder materials like metal
- High-Speed Steel Blade – for cutting hardwood
- Carbon Steel Blade – for all types of softer wood and plastic
Number of Blade Teeth
The circular blades that miter saws usually use have a tooth count between 24 and 100 teeth. And their number of teeth specifies the quality and speed of the cut.
For example, blades with high tooth count make small cuts that result in a smooth finish, while those with low tooth count make rougher and bigger cuts in the workpiece.
The layout/configuration of the blade teeth tells us how will the blade cut and what is best used for.
- Alternate Top Bevel (ATB) – for making smooth and clean cuts in wood
- Triple Chip Grind (TCG) – for ripping MDF and other hard materials
- Combination Tooth (Comb.) – for all-purpose cutting
- High Alternate Top Bevel (HiATB) – for fine crosscuts in plywood, sheets, and melamine prone to chipping
- Flat Top (FT) – for ripping hardwood and softwood
The size of the kerf informs us about the thickness of the slot a blade makes when cutting a workpiece. Hence, a blade with a wider kerf will leave a larger slot in the material, while a blade with a thinner kerf will leave a smaller and smoother cut.
Unlike the kerf which tells us the width, the hook angle informs us about the aggressiveness of the cut.
The hook angle can be negative, neutral or positive, and can go from -5 to +20 degrees. Those with a negative hook angle are slower and less aggressive, while those with a positive hook angle are more aggressive and faster.
Check our Buyer’s Guide on 10 Best Miter Saw Blades
How to Prolong Your Miter Saw Blade's Life & Other Tips
With frequent usage, blades will inevitably lose their edge and become blunt. This isn’t something you can stop from happening, even if you sharpen the blade after every usage.
However, you can prolong the blade’s life and prevent it from becoming dull too quickly. How? By taking good care of it.
Let me explain.
After a quality woodworking time, your blade will naturally get dirty and lose color as we mentioned in the sections above. And when a blade gets dirty after woodworking, it leaves tiny wood pieces that pile up on it. This pile of tiny wood pieces hides the blade’s sharpness and influences the cutting.
That’s why, the best way to extend the blade’s life, is to regularly clean it. You’d also want lubricate the bolts and screws to prevent corrosion.
The best way to clean it is by using a special blade cleaning product which you can find at the local tool shop, or online. To clean the blade, you first need to remove it as shown in the instructions above. But don’t overdo it. 2 or 3 cleanings are enough, afterward either sharpen or replace the blade.
And when it comes to lubrication, pay attention to the bolts and screws. Because even when properly tightened, these two can still cause problems if neglected and left to corrode. So, make sure you lubricate the bolts and screws to avoid corrosion.
Do a regular tool maintenance check and clean the blade until its dullness cannot be ignored anymore. In this situation, you can’t do anything but accept defeat, and search for a new blade to replace the old one.
Using the miter saw isn’t such a dangerous activity compared to using the table saw, for instance. However, this doesn’t make it harmless. On the contrary. This is still a power saw and it shouldn’t be taken lightly.
First of all, make sure you use protective gear like eye protection goggles, earplugs, sturdy gloves, long-sleeved clothing, and so on.
Second, ensure the workpiece is tightly placed on the board, the blade guard is in place, the material you cut isn’t too small, you have the correct blade size, it is properly tightened, etc.
Third, get a miter saw with great safety features like an electric brake, safety clamps, blade guard, dust extraction system, lockout trigger, and extension cord.
Also, another great feature miter saws have is the ability to unlock or lock the tool when not in use, or for transportation. Make use of it.
Learn how to Lock and Unlock a Miter Saw
As we can see, changing a miter saw blade isn’t that hard. All it takes is to have the correct blade replacement, the right tools (wrench, screwdriver), and 10 minutes of your time.
Besides that, in this guide, we also talked about the importance of choosing the right blade for your cutting projects. This should give you an overall idea of how miter saw blades work, and help you to pick the best one according to the materials you plan to cut.
You’d also want to regularly clean and lubricate the blade and miter saw in general, in order to extend the tool’s life.
Hopefully, after reading the guide – you now know how to change a blade on a miter saw and understand the significance of having the right blade for the given task.
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