Can't cross cut squarely - Miter gauge issue potentially

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Forum topic by AAANDRRREW posted 11-19-2016 03:09 PM 3823 views 0 times favorited 24 replies Add to Favorites Watch
View AAANDRRREW's profile


218 posts in 2184 days

11-19-2016 03:09 PM

Hello All,
I’m relatively new to the art of woodworking, but have been dabbling for about 18 mo now. I bought a Delta 36-725 saw from Lowes and have been very happy with it to this point. However, last night I think I found an issue. I was cross cutting 1×16 pine boards. I noticed as I was completing the cut, the blade wasn’t following my line I drew on the wood. I know the blade is square to the miter slot because I had been ripping plywood the other day with no issues.

That being said, I think my miter gauge is the problem. The part that slides into the slot has 3 places that have set screws – once in the slot the gauge is a bit sloppy, but not enough that I think it would cause this. If however I try to use the set screws to snug up the gauge, it just binds or won’t go into the slot – nothing in the manual either.

Also, I don’t think the guage was perfectly square. I used a square of my own, but actually had enough difficulty getting it square. I think I finally got it close, but I’m still having a little bit of wander. I then cross cut a 1×8, and it was exactly on – so I’m thinking I’ve had this issue all along, i just haven’t done a ton of cross cuts on larger material yet.

Another issues I have, i can pull the miter gauge off the table far enough to get the 16” board on the table. The front of the miter gauge is still in the slot. But as I slide the piece through the saw, the miter gauge gets caught on the edge of the table and I need to stop, lift up slight on the miter so it can clear the table, then proceed…very irritating and not safe at all.

SO, any advice is appreciated on maybe tricks to square this up. The fence on this saw seems nice enough, but the miter gauge is kind of a POS in my opinion. Was kind thinking of getting the Kreg precision miter. Not too expensive and likely a decent updgrade…

BTW – I rarely do anything with the miter gauge than cross cuts – but I’d like those to be square. So I don’t need a very expensive aftermarket system. I’d be happy with just a solid upgrade.

24 replies so far

View 8iowa's profile


1591 posts in 4773 days

#1 posted 11-19-2016 03:27 PM

I know how frustrating it is to try to assemble a project when the boards are ‘almost square’.

Table saws that are new out of the box can’t be counted on to provide accurate cuts. Invest in one of the dial indicator sets to establish the table slots parallel with the blade. especially avoid having the back edge of the saw coming into hard contact with your boards on your thru cuts. A few thousandths ‘fall off’ is actually good.

There is probably little hope for your miter gauge. Set it aside for quick rough cuts.

I can recommend INCRA’s miter express for precision work. With it you can crosscut boards 24” wide with confidence. Even with this accessory you will need a precision combination square, not one from the hardware store, in order to set it up precisely.

-- "Heaven is North of the Bridge"

View Bill White's profile

Bill White

5342 posts in 4972 days

#2 posted 11-19-2016 03:28 PM

Get the Incra 100SE. All the gauge you’ll ever need. It can be well tuned to fit the miter slot in your saw. Most gauges that come with saws are junk.

-- [email protected]

View Richard H's profile

Richard H

490 posts in 2692 days

#3 posted 11-19-2016 03:29 PM

Build a crosscut sled and you will never regret it. I have one of the ones from a The New Yankee workshop episode but there are a bunch of ones on this site that vary from pretty simple to very complicated.

View GR8HUNTER's profile


8310 posts in 1724 days

#4 posted 11-19-2016 03:36 PM

if you cut 24 inch would probably really see that worse …....... because it magnifies itself that’s why you done see it in 8 inch so much ….......I would build a crosscut sled

-- Tony---- Reinholds,Pa.------ REMEMBER TO ALWAYS HAVE FUN :<))

View Ripper70's profile


1379 posts in 1920 days

#5 posted 11-19-2016 03:40 PM

Osborne makes a miter gauge that might suit your needs as well.

-- "You know, I'm such a great driver, it's incomprehensible that they took my license away." --Vince Ricardo

View Kazooman's profile


1540 posts in 2964 days

#6 posted 11-19-2016 04:38 PM

+1 on the crosscut sled. It need not be fancy.

You mentioned that you got good results when ripping plywood. I assume that was done using the fence. That shows the blade and fence are parallel, but it does not prove that the blade is parallel to the miter slot. You should start by establishing the latter, and then make a sled. Trying to crosscut a 16” board with just the miter gauge is going to be difficult. The sled makes it a piece of cake. Don’t forget to adjust the fence so that it is parallel to the blade.

View JBrow's profile


1368 posts in 1932 days

#7 posted 11-19-2016 06:41 PM


If the table saw is your go-to machine for making crosscuts, I agree that a well thought out table saw crosscut sled or panel sled is a great way to go. In the meantime, here are some thoughts regarding the problems you have encountered.

If the table saw fence is parallel to the blade and you have a framing square that is truly square, then the mitre gauge can be squared to the blade using the table saw’s fence. Place the framing square so that one leg is in full contact with the table saw fence, which is locked in place. Then the mitre gauge fence is brought into contact with the other leg of the framing square. The mitre gauge is adjusted until the mitre gauge fence is in full contact with the leg of the framing square. I board that is known to be square could be substituted for the framing square. I find using a known square board easier. Architect drafting triangles can be similarly used for those common mitre angles.

Since there is some slop between the mitre gauge bar and the table saw’s mitre slot, squaring the mitre gauge to the table saw fence is best done by ensuring the mitre gauge bar is in full contact with the left or right side of the table saw’s mitre slot. Also, when the cut is made the mitre gauge bar should be kept continually registered against whichever side the table saw’s mitre slot was used when squaring the mitre gauge.

By turning the mitre gauge around so the bar is pointing toward the operator, head of the mitre gauge can be kept on the table saw. The mitre gauge can be turned around so that the leading edge of the board rests against the mitre gauge fence. The cut is made by pushing the board while holding the leading edge of the board firmly against the mitre gauge fence.

But even this method has its limitations. If the board is too wide, the head of the mitre gauge can slip off the outfeed end of the table which could spoil the cut or result in an accident. Also it is a dangerous technique if the operator must lean over the table saw to complete the cut, made even more dangerous if the cut is made with an unguarded blade. There are some cuts which are just too awkward or dangerous to be performed at the table saw. In these cases, figuring out an alternative safer method is, I think, best.

View oldnovice's profile


7700 posts in 4379 days

#8 posted 11-20-2016 03:35 AM

I have that issue occasionally and a quick check of the miter head is easy to do.
  1. Turn the miter head over
  2. Put it back into either miter slot.
  3. Move the miter head into contact with either the back end of the TS or against the rip fence guide on the front of the saw.
  4. This assumes that the miter slot is square with the TS top casting and should indicate the “square” of the miter head!

-- "It's fine in practise but it will never work in theory"

View WhyMe's profile


1357 posts in 2573 days

#9 posted 11-20-2016 04:04 AM

If using a framing square make sure it’s square. I’ve had a framing square not to be square that lead me to think my table saw square was not accurate. I made the mistake thinking the framing square was accurate.

View Lazyman's profile


6652 posts in 2399 days

#10 posted 11-20-2016 06:26 AM

As JBrow mentioned, setting the miter gauge to 90° using as square is the way to go, You can either use the fence or even the other miter slot as a reference. I highflying recommend making a cross cut sled too. It not only makes it easy to make perfect 90° cuts with no setup but it is often much safer too. If you can’t get the slop our the slot, you can try shimming the bar it using aluminum tape used for HVAC ducts.

Also, you did not mention whether you adjusted the miter gauge after you got the saw. There are 2 things that can be adjusted. First the positive stops for 90, 45 and 60° and second, the scale on the miter gauge can be adjusted so it is more accurate by loosening the set screws on the bottom and sliding it slightly so that it is on 90 after you have used a square to set the angle.

-- Nathan, TX -- Hire the lazy man. He may not do as much work but that's because he will find a better way.

View HorizontalMike's profile


7913 posts in 3926 days

#11 posted 11-20-2016 12:31 PM

+10 on building a crosscut sled.

Even though I own the Incra MITER1000SE Miter Gauge, I built a crosscut sled and have NEVER looked back. Here’s mine:

I have a couple links in my OP that you might find useful. Good luck!

-- HorizontalMike -- "Woodpeckers understand..."

View fuigb's profile


588 posts in 3969 days

#12 posted 11-20-2016 01:32 PM

Your square isn’t square. Squares from the mass marketers probably aren’t accurate enough for your need. For accurate set up on my jobsite Bosch I use Whiteside brass set-up bars and then a pair of aluminum “assembly squares” from Woodpecker / Pinnacle. The equipment that I named is damned accurate and so I expect that these will change your life for the better.

The above-cited Inca is great, but you still face the issue of initial set-up and for that I refer you to paragraph #1.

-- - Crud. Go tell your mother that I need a Band-aid.

View WhyMe's profile


1357 posts in 2573 days

#13 posted 11-20-2016 04:24 PM

Another issues I have, i can pull the miter gauge off the table far enough to get the 16” board on the table. The front of the miter gauge is still in the slot. But as I slide the piece through the saw, the miter gauge gets caught on the edge of the table and I need to stop, lift up slight on the miter so it can clear the table, then proceed…very irritating and not safe at all.


You should not try cross cutting pieces that wide if the miter square head is off the table top. I have the Delta 36-725 and 12 inches appears to be about the widest you should cut using the miter square. In my opinion the miter square that came with the 36-725 is better than most miter squares I’ve gotten in the past with table saws. That being said, I did buy an Incra miter square that rides smoother because it has nylon adjustment washers to hold it tighter in the table slot.

View clin's profile


1128 posts in 2008 days

#14 posted 11-21-2016 01:05 AM

As said, don’t trust ANY square unless you’ve verified it.

+10000 on making a cross-cut sled. Be sure to square it up using the 5 cut method. With some effort, you can get the sled square enough that the error is perhaps 10 thousandths over a 20” cut.

I have a small sled, wide enough for 13” boards, and a big sled wide enough for 36” cuts. That’s a great thing when cutting cabinet panels.

Here’s a link to building a sled and more importantly a good description of the 5-cut method for checking squareness.

By the way, sleds make it very easy to start cuts where much of board and the sled and sled are hanging off the table. You still need to hold it up, but it’s one solid unit. And if you have a really big sled, and don’t want to hold it, you can setup a roller stand to hold it up.

Make a sled or two. Just do it. I’d say it is the most useful table saw accessory and right up there with a fence.

-- Clin

View AAANDRRREW's profile


218 posts in 2184 days

#15 posted 11-21-2016 01:48 PM

Thanks for all the great advice guys.

I had been using a combination square to square things up. Nothing fancy – picked it up from menards a couple years ago. Not saying it’s square, but I’m confident its close because I did use it to verify my new miter saw was square out of the box, which it was. I do have a large framing square, but I haven’t used it to set my saw up.

Makes complete sense though about having a sled. I’m still rather new to all this, and once people started to post about building a sled, I do remember my buddy and his dad (who builds cabinets as a side gig) using a sled to cross cut pieces for a tv stand they were helping me build.

As for the miter gauge – I think the one I have is good enough for building chicken coops and swing sets, but for finer things I’ll look into the Incra ones – I do like how they have what looks to be teflon adjustments on the slide versus the set screws. My screws are kind of loose and at times they move and as I’m all set to make a nice cut, one of the little SOB’s catches on edge of the slot and I have to stop, retreat, turn it in and try my cut again, many times after I’ve already started cutting… rather frustrating.

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