Pallet upcycling is all the rage today. But, if you’ve ever tried to actually remove wood planks from a pallet, you know that it is not an easy task. The nails that are used are typically spiral nails and are designed to really grip that wood. And if that’s not enough, they usually shoot 4-5 nails per joint. Sheesh, you’d think they were building a foundation for a 10 ton elephant. Okay, actually it is the foundation that has to hold tons of product as it is lifted by a fork lift. Which explains why harvesting pallet wood can be a labor intensive task.

I figured you’d appreciate it if I shared with you the quickest and easiest way I’ve found to salvage this beautifully rustic pallet wood. Read more

Today I’ll teach you how to use a miter saw safely. We’ll learn the difference between a miter and a bevel cut. Plus, I’ll also show you the different features and functions of miter saws.

How to Use a Miter Saw

Hello and welcome to the very first Tool Tutorial Friday (a series of tool tutorials)! Come right in and have a seat. If you give me less than 10 minutes of your time, I will empower you with a new power tool skill! Today, I’m going to show you how to use one of my favorite power tools. Before I owned a miter saw, I used a hand saw and a cheap plastic miter box. But, they were really putting a cramp in my DIY style (if you know what I mean.)

About two decades ago, my husband gifted me my Makita 10″ Sliding Compound Miter Saw. That’s right, I don’t ask for jewelry for big occasions, Pretty Handsome Guy knows to ask one thing before an upcoming holiday, “So Honey, what power tool do you want now?” It’s true, I’m a power tool junky.

Ready to learn how to use a miter saw? Okay, let’s get started…

Working with power tools can be dangerous, but your risks drastically eliminated if you give the tool some respect. Today I’ll show you how to use a miter saw safely.

About Miter Saws:

Miter saws come in many shapes, sizes, and colors. The size (usually from 7.25″ up to 12″) refers to the diameter of the blade on the saw. The larger the blade, the wider the material it can cut. However, if you purchase a “sliding” miter saw, you can cut several inches wider than your blade diameter (the specifications on the saw should tell you this cutting distance). Miter saws run anywhere from $80 up to $800 depending on the features and brand you choose.

Sliding Miter Saw:

I highly recommend a sliding miter saw if you can afford it. Being able to cut lumber a few inches wider means the difference between using your miter saw or having to break out the circular saw or table saw.

On a non-sliding miter saw, the saw head will not slide forward and back. Most of the entry-level models will cut a miter and a bevel. You may have heard miter saws without the ability to slide referred to as chop saws. They will work great for “chopping lumber” but without sliding, dual miters, and dual bevels, you will spend some time flipping the lumber to make your compound cuts.

Speaking of miters and bevels, let’s talk a little more about what is a miter and a bevel cut.

Type of Cuts:

Miter saws are perfect for cross cuts, miter, and bevel cuts. Miter saws cannot make rip cuts. Rip cuts are easier cut on a table saw or track saw (or using a variety of other handheld saws.)

  • Rip – ripping a board is cutting with the grain along the length of a board. This is usually done with a table saw but can be done with a variety of handheld power saws and a straight edge.
  • Crosscut – a type of cut that is perpendicular to the grain or along the width of your board. Crosscuts are usually made with a miter saw or circular saw, but can also be made with a track saw, jigsaw, band saw, or hand saw. You can make crosscuts with a table saw, but you will need a crosscut sled to perform a crosscut cut safely.

Miter Cut:

A miter cut is made when you change the direction of your blade from straight ahead (90˚) by moving it from side to side. Think of pizza wedges. For example, in the image below, the saw is set up to cut a 45˚ miter, and no bevel because the blade is still straight up and down.

Bevel Cut: 

A bevel cut is made when you angle your blade tipping it to the left or right. As an example, in the picture below, I’m making a 45˚ bevel cut into the wood.

Compound Cut:

A compound cut happens when you make a miter and a bevel cut at the same time. Essentially you are cutting two angles simultaneously. This is particularly useful when you are cutting crown molding for a room.

You can see in the diagram below how to set up your saw for bevel angles, miter angles, or both.

 

Safety Features and Operating a Miter Saw:

All modern miter saws have a trigger built into the handle. Most miter saws also have a safety button that you must push with your finger or thumb before you can squeeze the trigger. To start a straight downward cut, press the safety button, squeeze the trigger and wait for the saw to reach maximum rotation. Then slowly lower your saw into the board you are cutting. Never force the saw through the wood. Let the saw cut and then guide it downward. Once you have completed the cut release the trigger while the blade is in the wood. Let the saw come to a stop before lifting it out of the wood.

Most miter saws have a fence. The fence lets you rest the position your lumber against a straight edge. It keeps the wood steady and helps your miter saw cut true to the degree setting you have chosen.

Some miter saws have a detachable clamp. This is a nice option and helps keep your hands away from the blade during cuts. Let the clamp be your right-hand man (or left-hand man). If you don’t have a clamp on your saw, be sure to always position your hand as far away from the blade as possible. Do not attempt to make cuts where your hand is close to the blade. AND NEVER reach under the saw while it is rotating! Even when you have finished your cut, your hand is not safe until the blade has completely stopped.

Three Safety Tips for Using a Miter Saw:

  • Blade down until it stops! You should always end your cut and release the trigger while the blade is down and in the lumber. Let the blade come to a stop before raising the blade.
  • Always make sure the lumber is supported on both sides. And never clamp both sides of your lumber. One side should be free so as not to pinch the blade during the cut.
  • Never cut small pieces of wood where your fingers are too close to the blade. If you absolutely must cut a tiny piece, clamp or attach it to a larger piece of lumber.

Making a Safe Sliding Cut:

When using a sliding miter saw, there is a proper way to make a sliding cut (used to cut wider boards):

  1. Make sure your saw is positioned fully on your workbench. Test the blade in its full reach toward you to make sure it won’t tip as you lower the blade.
  2. Put your lumber up against the fence and clamp it on one side (if you can).
  3. Before you start the blade, pull the saw toward you until the blade is directly over the board’s edge closest to you.
  4. Squeeze the trigger to start the saw and wait for it to reach peak rotation speed. Then lower the blade down into the wood.
  5. While the blade is still rotating, slide the saw back and away from you as your blade cuts through the rest of the wood (see photo below.)
  6. Once the blade has finished cutting through the wood, release the trigger and let the blade stop before raising the blade.

I created a video, so you can see how to safely use a miter saw. Before you watch the video — a few necessary words of caution:

DISCLAIMER

The viewer assumes all responsibility and liability associated with the hazards of woodworking. Pretty Handy Girl is not responsible for any errors or omissions that may be present in this tutorial. She also assumes no liability for any action or inaction of a viewer.

Please use extreme caution when using power tools. Read your tool manual thoroughly and wear protective safety gear. Take your time familiarizing yourself with a tool before using it. (If you are missing the manual, you can easily find it online by going to the manufacturer’s website or google your saw’s make and model + manual.)

Update: Please recognize that I have tried to put together a basic miter saw usage tutorial to get you started. I have tried my best to show the safest way to use a miter saw. Two safety revisions I want you to be aware of:

  1. You should wear appropriate Personal Protective Equipment when using a miter saw. (Ear protection, eye protection, and a dust mask.) I should have been wearing a mask.
  2. When I first learned to use a miter saw, no one told me to keep the blade down until it came to a stop. This is now standard practice when I work.

And now, let’s get you more familiar with using a miter saw!

I hope you have been empowered to use a miter saw! Go on and give your miter saw a try if you own one. If you decide to buy a new miter saw, I recommend buying a reputable brand with a decent amount of features. I have a lot more information about how to buy quality tools and save money on tools in this article.

These workshops were meant to be interactive, so don’t be shy! Ask questions, leave comments, and let me know you are learning something new.

I hope you will take a moment to view how I test drove my Dremel Trio. This is seriously a really fun power tool! Just be sure you are safe so as not to ruin the fun. Eye protection, face mask, and ear plugs. Check.

For those of you who like to skip to the end of the book and see the ending, here you go:


For the rest of you, here is how I created this cut out/back lit bookshelf that started life as a bookshelf from a closing Borders bookstore.


Tutorial for creating a cut out bookcase:
Almost any bookcase will work for this project, but the ones that have a thin wood (can be masonite) backing will work best. Set up a work area that you don’t mind getting dusty and dirty. Remove the shelves from your bookcase.

Cutting the endcap:

Materials:

  • circular saw
  • level
  • clamp
  • scrap wood
  • screws
  • drill

I cut the endcap in half lengthwise so I could use half for each end of my bookshelf, and to position it flush against the wall. To cut a straight line using a circular saw, I clamped one end of a level to the endcap. My level wasn’t long enough, so I drilled a scrap piece of wood on top of the level and into the end cap to support the other end.


I set the circular saw blade just below the depth of the endcap. By resting the endcap on two 2×4″ boards, I was able to creative a gap below the endcap for the sawblade to pass through.Then I ran the circular saw along the level for a straight cut. Straight as an arrow, and it met Pretty Handy Dog’s approval.

Cutting out the backing design and painting:

Materials:

  • Dremel Trio
  • Palm sander
  • Sandpaper (100 grit & 220 grit)
  • Scrap 2×4 lumber
  • Chalk or pencil
  • Wood putty
  • Putty knife
  • Primer
  • Paint (white and navy blue)
  • 3M Clean Edge technology painter’s tape
  • Newspapers
  • 2″ paint brush
  • Small paint roller and tray

Sketch out the design on your bookshelf (using chalk or pencil) before beginning.

Before using any new power tool, take some time to read through the manual.

To insert a bit into the Dremel Trio, you push in the blue (shaft lock) button on the front and use the enclosed wrench to loosen the collet nut on the tool.

Insert the cutting bit into the Trio. (The trio also comes with a sanding drum bit and a routing bit!)

Tighten the collet nut with the wrench.

Turn the blue handle on the side of the TRIO to raise or lower the base plate.

Adjust the base plate until the cutting bit extends slightly below the wood backing of your bookcase.

Lay the bookcase down on its back. Position 2×4 boards under the edges of the bookcase (or you will be cutting into concrete. I’m pretty sure the TRIO is not capable of that, but I could be wrong.)

Plug in your Trio and get ready to have some FUN! You may want to practice on a scrap piece of wood before working on your bookcase. The TRIO allows you to change directions quickly and easily. Creating fanciful cuts is a breeze!

Squeeze the trigger and when the bit reaches full speed you can plunge it into the workpiece. For the pin holes hold the Trio steady, insert the bit and then lift it back out of the same hole.

To cut trees and other designs, plunge the TRIO into the wood and then slowly move the tool through the wood to carve your design. Be wary of long “V” shape cuts as they will make the backing weaker.

When your design has been completed, use the power sander to sand the back of the bookcase (where the majority of the splintering will have occurred.)

Insert the sanding drum bit into the TRIO and sand any large cut out areas.

Fold a piece of sandpaper in half and feed it through the thin lines of the branches to sand any rough edges that can’t be reached with the sanding bit.

Set the bookcase upright and inspect the cuts for more splinters. You can preview what your design will look like when lit up. Lookin’ good, huh?!

Before sanding the rest of the bookshelf, repair any dents or holes with wood putty. (This is a post I wrote about repairing all types of holes if you need help.)

Use the palm sander and a fine grit (220 grit) sandpaper to rough up the rest of the bookshelf.

Apply a coat of primer to the bookcase, shelves and sides. (Still working on emptying that can of KILZ Clean Start primer! Love that stuff.

When the primer has dried, mask off the sides of the bookcase where they meet the back.

3M sent me this Scotch Blue Painter’s tape with Edge-Lock protector to try. I was skeptical, but when I pulled the tape off it did give me a clean edge. The only place I had a little bit of seepage was in the corners where I didn’t press the tape tightly into the corner. The key to using this tape is to firmly press the edges with your finger to engage the “Edge-Lock” seal. I haven’t tried it for painting walls, but you better believe I have a wall project coming up that I can try it on.

Paint the back of your bookcase. I chose a very dark navy blue. To save paint, I used a medium blue paint for my first coat to darken the back and hopefully save paint.

Then paint one coat of the navy blue.

Follow up with a second coat to eliminate any streaking.

When the navy paint has dried, tape along the edges of the navy blue backing, where it meets the sides. Slip pieces of newspaper underneath to catch any paint splashes. (Will you get a load of my lazy supervisor! You think he’s been working hard in the heat? Uh no, that would be me doing all the work and him snoozing away the day.)

Paint the rest of the bookcase, the sides and the shelves white. I used two coats of Benjamin Moore Impervo Semi-gloss white.


Once the paint has dried completely, re-assemble the bookcase. And screw the end cap halves onto either side of the bookcase.

I installed a light rope behind the bookcase (tutorial to come at a later date) and set the lights on a timer. The rope light comes on at dusk and illuminates all the cut outs.

There is a very soft glow emitted from the back of the bookcase.

It provides the perfect amount of light for my son who HAS to have a light on at night.

My only complaint about the rope lights is that they give off a strong plastic odor. But, after a week the smell has dissipated.

I had the foresight to purchase a few of the clear display stands that slide into the end caps of the bookcase. It makes it easy to display books to pique my son’s reading interests.

Oh look! There he is now! Mission accomplished, reading interest piqued. Yes, I think he is double-jointed and a teacher pointed out that both my son’s sit like that. Must be in the genes.

A few more detailed pictures of the bookshelf. This has to be one of my favorite projects I’ve created recently. And it wasn’t very difficult to complete.




 

 

 

 

When I was 18, and bought my first car, and thought I was the coolest girl in town with a little zippy sportscar – sorry, just a little trip down memory lane.  My parents gave me my first tool kit. That tool kit is still with me today and I do use it a lot. The set has a series of sockets, crescent wrenches, interchangeable screwdriver bits, allen (hex) wrenches, needle nose pliers, and locking pliers.
 
That set got me through several repairs (both auto and home). Now, as a homeowner, I have found that there are a few more tools to have on hand.
You will likely want to look for a multi-piece set like this one:
This will give you a wide variety of tools for a low cost. If you want a deal, try shopping for these sets around Father’s Day or Christmas. The set above was listed on Amazon.com for approximately $50 – $60.
Regardless if you are buying these items in a set or separate, these are the tools I recommend:
Homeowner essentials:
  1. Hammer
  2. Screwdrivers – Phillips head and a flat (straight or slotted) head. Try to buy a small and medium size of each.
  3. Allen (Hex) Wrenches in several sizes
  4. Adjustable Crescent Wrenches – I suggest buying at least two. One 6″ and one 10″
  5. Slip Joint Pliers (handy for overall gripping)
  6. Needle-nosed pliers
  7. Vice grips (Locking pliers)
  8. Tape Measure
  9. Level – 24″ is preferrable
  10. Utility knife (mat knife)
  11. Safety glasses
  12. 12″ Handsaw
  13. Stud Finder
  14. Flashlight
  15. Pry bar (must have a flat sharp side and the other side a notch for pulling nails.)
  16. Tool box or case to keep all of the above in 
  17. My favorite DIY guide to my home: Home Depot’s Home Improvement 1-2-3 – the best $15 I ever spent!
 Screwdriver bits:
 

Last but not least, the most indispensable tool I’ve ever owned:
Cordless Drill with screwdriver bits and a small set of drill bits 

For Electrical DIY:
  1. Wiring instruction book or guide
  2. Wire Cutters/Strippers
  3. Electrical Current tester 
    • You only need the simple tester with two probes and an indicator light to test if the power is on. 
For the committed DIYer:
  1. Palm sander
  2. Carpenter’s square
  3. Staple gun
  4. Power Circular Saw 
    • Be sure to hold one in the store and feel how the grip feels in your hand. This is especially important as a woman with a smaller hand size. (more on power tool shopping in another blog post – coming soon!)
  5. Jig Saw
  6. Saw Horses or Folding Work Bench
  7. Clamps – A Variety of Adjustable Clamps and Clips

I hope this list gives you some good information so you won’t feel overwhelmed when buying tools. Definitely ask a sales person for help or opinions. Don’t tell them you are new at this. Ask them for the tool they would purchase if they were buying one for their shop. You should aim to buy a quality tool (especially power tools) that will last your lifetime. A cheap tool will either break or not have the power to do the job you need it to do. However, you don’t need to buy top of the line or break the bank to get a good tool.
Savings Tip: Many of the big box home improvement stores will usually price match tools that are priced cheaper at a competitor if it is the same make and model, plus take 10% off the price. Be sure to bring the ad with you or they will need to call or look up the price online.
 
Home Depots price guarantee:  
NOBODY BEATS OUR PRICES
If any competitor tries, we’ll beat their price by 10%. Guaranteed.*
*If you find a current lower price on an identical, in-stock item from any retailer, we will match the price and beat it by 10%. Excludes special orders, bid pricing, volume discounts, open-box merchandise, labor and installation, sales tax, rebate and free offers, typographical errors and online purchases.
Lowe’s price guarantee:
Everyday Low Prices, Guaranteed
We guarantee our everyday competitive prices. If you find a verifiable lower everyday or advertised price on an identical stock item at any local retail competitor that has the item in stock, we’ll beat their price by 10% when you buy from us. Just bring us the competitor’s current ad or we’ll call to verify the item’s price that you have found. Cash (charge card) and carry purchases only. Competitor’s closeout, special order, discontinued, clearance, liquidation and damaged items are excluded from this offer. On percent-off sales, Lowe’s will match the competitor’s percent-off offer. Limited to reasonable quantities for homeowner and one-house order quantities for cash and carry contractors. Current in-store price, if lower, overrides Lowe’s advertised price. Price guarantee honored at all Lowe’s retail locations. Labor charges for product installation are excluded from our price guarantee offer in our stores with an Installed Sales Program. Visit store for complete details.
Sear’s price guarantee:
If you find a lower price on an identical branded item with the same features (in Home Electronics identical brand and model number) currently available for sale at another local competitor retail store, Sears will match that price plus, give you 10% of the difference. Just bring in the original advertisement to a sales associate at the time of, or within 14 days after, your purchase. More fine print…

Happy Shopping!