I have always been an advocate for safety in the workshop and on the jobsite. Woodwork gives birth to many opportunities for things to go wrong, and you have to do your part by being alert at all times and following safety procedures to keep out of harm’s way. The safety features on your miter saw can also go a long way to keeping you safe. Here are some of the most important safety features I recommend you look for when shopping for a miter saw.
A blade guard is an essential safety feature for a miter saw. The blade guard normally covers the outside edge of the blade and lifts up as the blade cuts into your workpiece. While I am not a fan of blade guards that keep popping down while you are cutting, the truth is that they do protect your body, face and hands from being cut by the blade. Personally, I prefer blade guards that are transparent so I can see what I am doing while protecting my person at the same time.
There’s no denying that keeping your material securely in place while you are cutting is important to your safety. All sorts of things can go wrong if the material slips in the cutting process. For this reason, there is the safety clamp (or vise). Its job is to keep your materials steady and locked into a fixed position so you can safety make your cuts without worrying about them flying out from under the sawblade. It will also help ensure your cuts are more precise.
Another safety feature I prefer to have on my miter saws is a lockout trigger. This is basically a switch that’s built into the handle for the purpose for preventing the saw from being turned on by accident. Obviously, if your miter saw gets turned on by accident bad things can happen. Really bad things. And no one wants that.
Some miter saws come with an electric brake, but not all of them do. If you value safety, you will want to make sure the miter saw you get has this feature. The electric brake automatically stops the blade from rotating when you let go of the miter saw’s trigger. When your saw is in operation the blade is spinning extremely fast and without an electric brake, the centrifugal force of the blade can keep it rotating for quite some time. An electric brake will reduce the time it takes the blade to stop to just a few seconds, and that time lapse can mean the difference between having 10 fingers or… well… fewer.
Most miter saws don’t have very effective dust collection systems, but it is actually pretty important for your safety when cutting materials. If your miter saw of choice only has a dust bag, I recommend that you get a shop vacuum or invest in another, more effective dust collection system. Proper dust collection can prevent sawdust from getting into your ears, mouth and eyes, as well as into your saw, which can shorten its lifespan. Sawdust is also a fire hazard, so it’s important that you keep it under control.
The last safety element I want to look at is the extension cord. It’s not something that comes with a miter saw, but it is something that’s used frequently, so I thought it would be a good idea to mention it here. An extension cord can be very useful and most woodworkers have them, but you want to make sure you’re using one that’s compatible with your saw. Many accidents that happen in workshops are actually caused by extension cords that aren’t suitable for use with a specific tool. You can easily start a fire if your miter saw (or any other power tool) draws more current than what the extension cord can handle. To avoid a fire, always check to make sure your extension cord meets the amperage requirements of your saw and make sure that the number of prongs on the cord match the holes in your power outlet.
Safe is NOT a Four Letter Word
Having safety features on your miter saw is important, but you also need to take other measures to make sure you’re protected when doing cutting jobs. Things like safety glasses and hearing protection are a must. When using a miter saw and many other power tools, you also want to avoid wearing jewelry and loose clothing which can easily get caught in the machine, with disastrous results. Keep your work area clean, take the necessary safety precautions, and enjoy your power tool adventures!