Chopsaw Technique


Chopsaw Technique
Chris Grace cuts to the chase with some safe and useful advice on using a chopsaw

Chris Grace cuts to the chase with some safe and useful advice on using a chopsaw

The chopsaw or compound mitre saw is probably more useful than many other machines but dealing with dust and working safely present a variety of problems which are not easy to solve. Having worked with this machine for some time, I have come up with a variety of ways to improve working with these saws which can be adapted to suit your own particular machine.

1. The octopus coming out of my extractor means that I can capture sawdust from both the dust port on the saw and either side of the blade. The blastgates enable me to provide suction to the saw or elsewhere in the workshop as required

2. WARNING: Do not put an unrestrained extractor or vacuum hose near your blade like someone I know did. Apparently it takes ages to untangle the mess after you have checked you haven’t lost any fingers and changed your trousers! I have used elastic shock cord securely fastened to my clamps to keep my hoses where I put them, though they are easy to adjust when required

3. One problem with all chopsaws is that the fence must accommodate the full range of movement of the saw, meaning that it can’t support the workpiece being cut near to the blade where it’s needed. Hence a sacrificial fence is required. The first jig for my chopsaw was hastily made when I initially needed it, from materials I had available, but in hindsight proved a bit small – I also cut it in half recently – whoops!

4. Here I am measuring out a larger board from which I will make a new sacrificial table/fence to cut smaller pieces of wood. It’s bigger than the capacity of the saw, however the Festool is accurate enough for me to be able to cut once, then turn the wood over and intercept that cut from the other direction

5. Because I made the new jig larger I decided to cut the front corners off at 45°. This meant I could manoeuvre around the jig more easily without catching on sharp edges and inadvertently moving the jig when setting up or in use

6. The rear fence needs a small chamfer along the bottom edge so that any sawdust has somewhere to go, rather than protruding and affecting the accuracy of your cut when trapped between your wood and the jig

7. In order to align everything accurately I created a hinge with masking tape for gluing the fence on. I don’t like to use any fastenings here as I am bound to do an off-centre cut at some point and forget about screws until I have ruined a blade! The tape also means I don’t get glue all over my saw

8. I hinged the fence to its intended position to check everything aligned, then down again to ensure that the glue had spread evenly (you can see a little more is needed in the middle). I then left it open for a while to see how much would soak into the ‘end grain’ and topped it up before clamping it in its final position. I wiped away the excess glue, ensuring that the chamfer was clear as well, before the glue finally set

9. My second ‘must have’ jig is a stop block for repeat cuts. Note two chamfered edges on one end to minimise the chance of sawdust getting trapped and affecting accuracy. When I used this I initially had to move the work holding clamp from its typical position on the left, to the right to secure this block. So, I bought an additional clamp. Not cheap, but this type of clamp is so quick and easy to use that it’s worth the expense

10. Sometimes I find the need to trim or cut small pieces for projects, so to keep my fingers safely away from the blade I use a bridging block, with cork pads. This enables me to hold the smallest of pieces safely and securely for cutting or trimming. You just need a piece of material the same thickness the other end to keep the block parallel to the machine bed

11. Here all three jigs are in use together, illustrating their value in creating safe, accurate, repeatable cuts on smaller workpieces. The additional benefit is that as the wood is supported underneath and at the rear, you get a much cleaner cut, with no ragged edges

12. Recently, I needed to make a tapered cut on a long thin piece of wood for another project, which would have been impossible to hold safely. I might have been able to do it with the jigs shown above, however I felt it would be better to create another jig. I used M8 bolts and star knobs with a through hole to secure the top clamp. It is shown here cutting an angled sliver from a handle


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