The miter is perhaps the most common of woodworking joints. Simple miters can be cut by hand using a miter box. It’s a quick and easy way to make picture frames, for example. A powered miter saw is often the tool of choice for cutting posts and narrow boards. Adding a stand makes it a great choice for job site use.
However, a miter saw can’t compete with a table saw when it comes to cutting wide boards or sheet material. The only drawback is that a table saw’s blade can’t be rotated to cut angles. The solution is to use a miter gauge, which holds the workpiece at the required angle to guide it into the blade by using a bar that connects into slots in the saw table.
These invaluable tools range from budget models for basic joinery to high-precision devices for fine furniture making. This comprehensive guide may help you find the best miter gauge for your woodworking needs.
- BEST OVERALL: KREG KMS7102 Table Saw Precision Miter Gauge System
- BEST BANG FOR THE BUCK: Fulton Precision Miter Gauge with Aluminum Miter
- RUNNER-UP: Incra MITERV27 Miter V27 Miter Gauge
- BEST BASIC: POWERTEC 71142 Universal Table Saw Miter Gauge
- UPGRADE PICK: INCRA Miter1000/HD Miter Gauge
- ALSO CONSIDER: Rockler Tablesaw CrossCut Sled
What to Consider When Choosing the Best Miter Gauge
The woodworker looking for a good miter gauge is spoiled for choice; but, as with any tool, there are features that ought to be included and others to avoid. The following will help pinpoint the key benefits and also highlight the versatility and potential creativity that the best miter gauge can bring to a table saw.
There are three main parts to a miter gauge: the miter bar, miter head, and fence.
Saw tables have a slot to accept various accessories. The miter bar is designed to fit in this, thus allowing the miter gauge to slide smoothly back and forth. The miter bar is often rectangular, though it may have an additional part shaped to fit table saws that have a T-slot in the table. The fit needs to be tight enough to maintain accuracy but not so tight that it jams in the slot. The best miter gauges can be adjusted to provide the right fit.
The miter head is semicircular and is marked out for various angles. Increments vary, as discussed in the section on accuracy. There’s usually a push handle, which is often also used to clamp the head at the correct angle, though a separate device may be employed.
The fence is fixed across the head and the workpiece rests against it. Fences may be solid or extendable. Longer fences provide better workpiece support but may not be suitable for small saws.
Most miter gauges are made with components that are either steel or aluminum. Steel brings strength and durability, which is important for areas subject to frequent wear, like screw threads. However, steel is quite heavy and prone to rust. Aluminum is much lighter and highly resistant to corrosion and is usually used for fences. These are normally sectional moldings that provide additional support and sufficient strength to avoid bending.
Nylon inserts or screws are frequently used to adjust how the miter bar (or miter gauge bar) fits in the slot on your saw table. These will wear out eventually and need to be replaced. Fortunately, these are not expensive.
Brass is sometimes used for handles and clamps. It’s very decorative but has no real impact on function.
Stops and Adjustments
To allow for setting of the cutting angle, the miter head rotates around a central point. As mentioned above, this is often clamped in the desired position using the push handle.
The head rotates through a total of 180 degrees, enabling the desired angle to be set with great freedom. However certain angles—90 degrees, 45 degrees, and 22.5 degrees for example—are used most often, so preset stops in the form of pins, holes, or grooves are often added. This makes setting the miter gauge much quicker.
More advanced miter gauges may provide stops in single-degree increments, though they normally still have a method of setting those common angles quickly.
When shopping for a miter gauge, it’s important to consider the size of your saw table and the dimensions of the material you’ll be cutting most often.
Budget miter gauges generally have a short fence of a fixed length. If you have a compact table saw and work with material of modest sizes, then that’s not a problem. However, as material length increases, there’s a tendency for it to flex. If that happens it can reduce cutting accuracy. Some of the best miter gauges have either longer or adjustable fences to combat this. The ability to set the fence to different lengths maximizes workpiece control. That said, it’s important to check their minimum length. Some models may actually be too long for smaller table saws.
Manufacturing quality has an impact on overall accuracy. On low-cost miter guides, the head might be punched out of a steel sheet, whereas on better models, this part is laser cut or machined from a solid block.
A basic, low-cost miter gauge will allow for the cutting of angles to within a degree or so. For those making rustic furniture or a gate for the yard, that could well be close enough. However, much greater accuracy is possible. Machined stops at single-degree increments are common and several can further refine this to 0.1 degree steps. Those who demand absolute precision may prefer a miter gauge with a micro adjuster that can be set to 0.01 degree.
While not a feature of budget models, the fence may also have a measuring scale for accurate alignment of the workpiece with the saw blade. Flip stops that attach to the fence and slide along preformed groves are sometimes provided. These help hold the workpiece in exactly the right place when cutting to length.
Ease of Use
One may assume a basic miter gauge is the easiest to use. To some extent that’s true. However, on a slightly more expensive miter gauge, you’ll get stops that make for faster setting, which may speed up your overall work process.
The consistent accuracy of a high-quality miter gauge can make repetitive tasks easier and helps reduce errors. While adding precision at this stage of a job might be seen as making a tool more difficult to use, it will often save time at later stages.
What’s important is how well suited a particular miter gauge is to the work you do on a regular basis. It could be argued that ease of use isn’t just about simplicity, it’s also about how easy it makes the whole job.
Our Top Picks
The following miter gauges were selected for their superb quality and effectiveness. Key shopping considerations were taken into account, including accuracy, capacity, and ease of use.
On this model, the gauge head is computer numerical control (CNC) machined, rather than pressed, and then calibrated to within 0.003 inches. Positive stops at 0, 10, 22.5, 30 and 45 degrees allow for rapid setting of commonly used angles. Extra precision comes from a vernier scale that gives adjustment to 0.1 degree and a micro adjuster capable of 0.01 degree.
The miter bar has five screw adjusters to ensure a snug fit in the table slots. The fence is 24 inches long—excellent for guiding long boards or large sheet material—and made of cast aluminum for rigidity. It has slots for mounting the Swing Stop workpiece positioning system, which also helps to improve the accuracy of miter cutting. With its combination of competitive price and high performance, this miter gauge from Kreg is an excellent choice.
The Fulton miter gauge is a well-thought-out device, offering many of the features of much more expensive devices. The sturdy aluminum head has settings for angles of 22.5, 30, 45, 60, 67.5, degrees and is capable of both left and right angles. A spring-loaded pin allows for rapid positioning. The main gauge is marked in single-degree increments.
The miter bar is 18 inches long, designed to eliminate play on the saw table slot. It will fit most straight and T-slot tables (though not Craftsman or Sears brands). The extruded aluminum fence has ends precut at 45 degrees, which allows workpiece support closer to the saw blade. A flip stop makes it easy to produce repetitive cuts.
Precision generally comes with a premium price tag, but this Incra model is not only affordable but also maximizes its value by being designed for use with a bandsaw, router, sanding table, and table saw. Where most miter heads have a handful of presets, the V27 takes its name from the 27 locking indents that make the setting of even unusual angles quick and easy.
The miter bar has an optional T-slot washer and adjustment for fit that allows its use with many different woodworking machines. The only thing lacking is a fence. However, there are two slots machined into the head for attachment of shop-made alternatives. Construction is of highly durable chromed steel.
Many woodworkers never need to saw material to 0.1 of a degree. For in-home shops making garden furniture or high-productivity environments, a robust, low-cost gauge like this one from Powertec can be more useful than something with extreme precision. That doesn’t mean it’s short on features.
The head is thick, laser-cut aluminum, offering the necessary accuracy and durability. There are 27 indents around the edge, with a pivoting locating mechanism that’s fast and easy to use. The miter bar has an adjustment so it fits tightly in saw tables and can also be used with other machinery. While a fence isn’t provided, there are fixing slots available for aftermarket or homemade additions. It is a basic miter gauge, which for some is the ideal solution.
This Incra miter gauge has been designed to satisfy the most demanding woodworker, offering both fine detail and great flexibility. The heavy-duty aluminum steel head is laser cut and machined for high accuracy. It has fast, positive locking increments at every single degree and further fine adjustment to 0.1 degree. The patented miter bar allows an almost perfect fit in saw table slots. There’s also a removable T-slot adapter.
The aluminum fence extends from 18 to 31 inches, offering excellent workpiece support while being compact enough for smaller saws. The accompanying adjustable flip stop provides accurate control over cut length. The Incra Miter 1000 is a considerable investment, but for those who need a high level of accuracy time after time, it may be worth the expense.
Stops on a standard miter gauge head are great for fast adjustment, but when they’re only 1 degree apart, it can make setting a little challenging, as the markings on the miter head are quite small and not always easy to read. A miter gauge sled (or crosscut sled) uses a large protractor scale which is much easier to see. The spacings are larger, which can help improve accuracy. The main part of this sled is melamine-coated MDF, so it slides easily across the saw bed.
This Rockler model offers all the components one would expect from the best miter gauge: a sturdy fence, a flip stop for length adjustment, and, in this case, an additional clamp for more secure holding of the workpiece. Note that due to their overall size, sleds aren’t suited to smaller saws or other woodworking machinery. However, on large saws—particularly in professional shops—their combination of precision and productivity is hard to beat.
Tips on Using a Miter Gauge
When your new miter gauge arrives you’ll likely be keen to use it as soon as possible. Before you do, take a few minutes to check and make certain nothing is missing or was damaged in transit. The following quick tips will help you maximize performance.
- Whether it’s your first miter gauge and you’re just learning the basics or it’s an upgrade with more advanced features, always read the instructions. It can save you a lot of time and frustration later. Before starting on a job that matters, test your miter gauge on a few offcuts or extra pieces of wood.
- There’s an old adage in woodworking: Measure twice and cut once. In this case, you should not only double-check your measurements but also check that your clamps are nice and tight. It’s annoying if the gauge moves during a cut, plus it can also be dangerous.
- Inaccurate cuts may not be due to the miter gauge; it could be the saw blade is out of alignment or not square to the table. Always check before you start—a habit you should get into whether you’re using the miter gauge or not.
FAQs About Miter Gauges
This comprehensive guide to choosing the best miter gauge provided insight into how these tools work and how to pick the right model for your table saw. Nevertheless, it’s natural to still have questions, and the following crop up frequently.
Q. Can a table saw make miter cuts?
The blade can usually be tilted up to 45 degrees to cut angles on the edges of a board, but this kind of cut is called a bevel, not a miter. You’ll need to add a miter gauge to cut the proper angle for a miter with the saw blade in the upright position.
Q. Are table saw miter gauges universal?
The slots on most table saw beds are the same, so a universal miter gauge ought to fit. However, though rare, there can be exceptions. It’s worth a quick check of your saw’s specifications before you buy your miter gauge, just to be sure.
Q. Can a miter gauge be used to cut 45-degree tapers?
You could argue that the standard miter cut is by its nature a 45-degree taper. It’s also possible to cut two-sided and four-sided tapers at 45 degrees and, with creative use of your miter gauge, at various other angles. However, these are all quite short. If you need long tapers you may want to invest in a taper jig.