No matter how much or how little you invest in a miter saw, the quality and enjoyment of your work will depend more on your saw stand than on the miter saw itself.
A miter saw stand is more than just a place to set your saw—it’s a work station.
Manufactured stands are available that are easy to set up, transport, and store, but if you’re working at your home, in a couple hours, with $50 or $60 in material, you can make your own. In this chapter, I’ll show you how.
Chapter 1: Part 1
A serial publication of excerpts from Trim Made Simple by Gary Katz
Training techniques for apprentice carpenters and serious DIYers
Trim carpentry depends almost entirely on cutting clean tight miters at precise angles and measurements. You can cut miters in most small moldings with a miter box and hand saw, but for large profiles, especially tall baseboard and crown molding, a power miter saw is the only way to go. Because power miter saws are now so affordable, anyone with an interest in carpentry should own one. If you’re changing the moldings in your home, at the very least, consider renting one.
But there’s no need to drain your savings account for the best saw. No matter how much or how little you invest in a miter saw, the quality and enjoyment of your work will depend more on your saw stand than on the miter saw itself.
Why you need a saw stand
A miter saw stand is more than just a place to set your saw—it’s a work station. The stand must have continuous extension wings, so you can support different lengths of material. It must have a clean flat surface, with a lip for clamping material. And the ends of the extension wings should be crisp and square, so they can be used for measuring.
Manufactured stands are available that are easy to set up, transport, and store, but if you’re working at your home, in a couple hours, with $50 or $60 in material, you can make your own. In this chapter, I’ll show you how. Along the way, I’ll demonstrate how to use a variety of finish carpentry tools.
1. 1 x 16 x 8 pine or fir or plywood board, for the base of the miter-saw stand.
2. 1 x 12 x 8 Top pine or fir or plywood board for the top extensions wings on the miter-saw stand.
3. 1 x 4 x 8 pine or fir supports, ripped to the exact height of your miter saw minus 3/4 in.
Measuring, cutting, and drilling
This miter saw stand (see photo, right; click to enlarge) is made from three main parts. Only one needs to be cut precisely. The base and top can be cut to any length and width, but the supports must be ripped to exactly the right height.
If the material you’re using for the top extension wings is 3/4 in. thick, then make the supports exactly the height of your miter saw table, minus 3/4 in. If you don’t have a table saw, or can’t make these rips yourself, have your local material supplier rip a piece of 1×4 or 1×6 to that width. You’ll be able to cut all the pieces needed from one 8-ft. board.
Be patient with yourself while working on the projects in this book. While building this miter saw stand remember that craftsmanship depends on the process as much as the finished product.
Use a miter saw safely and accurately
Power miter saws are loud, sharp, and frightening. They’re dangerous if they’re not used correctly. Make precise cuts on your saw safely by following the four tips below, plus others that I’ll be including in later chapters.
(In Part 2 we’ll finish up the miter saw stand and share some tips for souping up your saw.)
. . .
Please don’t try anything you see in THISisCarpentry, or anywhere else for that matter, unless you’re completely certain that you can do it safely.
. . .
Does the stand break down to carry it to job sites? It looks like a very solid stand. Thanks for the idea.
Sweet. And if you want to take it up a few notches, Norm has plans and a DVD for a really nice, portable set-up at the New Yankee Workshop. I saw the show last week; it’s a good project. The web site is http://www.newyankee.com/getproduct.php?9809
Thanks for all your great articles.
I built something similar years ago to transport from job to job.
I took a 3′ x 6′ sheet of plywood, mounted the saw in the center, then made the outriggers so that they were removable. Added Kreg saw stops on the outriggers.
The 3 x 6 table is supported on heavy duty folding table legs. Saw and outriggers have tee nuts underneath so I can quickly bolt the beast together. It all fits in the van with room to haul materials.
I think every trim carpenter worth his salt has always looked at all the miter saw stands on the market, with prices in the hundreds of dollars, and thought, heck, all I need is a sheet of plywood and a couple of saw horses. My own designs have evolved over the years, but I’ve yet to see the commercial stand that comes close to the portability and versatility of my shop built one. Good article!
While I haven’t used a stand like that on a jobsite for years–I prefer one that connects the side of my saw is an is more portable, it’s a great alternative and I know a lot of carpenters that, like I once did, carry them around in the back of their trucks or on their lumber racks. And yes, there are advantages to using saw horses and a solid stand like this on a jobsite. The reason I wrote the article is because I’m a firm believer is the necessity of having a miter saw work station with full extension wings. You can’t do good work without full extension wings, you can’t enjoy yourself, and you can’t work quickly. And this stand is, as you’ve suggested, not only a good way to start, it’s the way a lot of carpenters perfer to work. And it’s easy to build.
I agree. I build the main stand at about 5′ in length, then build extension wings with folding legs that clamp or screw to the main table on either side. I can easily support a 16’piece of MDF base or casing. Also, when working on a staircase, I can lay a 6’x 12″ piece of plywood on the horses in front of the saw and I have a handy work table for laying out those pesky easing cuts.
One other note, one thing that I’ve always found is that by using sawhorses and leaving them extend 12″ or so in front of the saw stand, I have a place to set a bundle of base, casing, or a long piece of handrail.
“Training techniques for apprentice carpenters and serious DIYers”
Does this line refer to the book itself or to this series of articles?
Both, actually. The department we’ve created is meant to fulfill that need, and the book I wrote for Taunton: Trim Made Simple, which we’ll be taking excerpts from to get this department started—that book is focused on the same audience and purpose—training.
I noticed the wooden additions to the fence on your miter saw in your video on cutting crown. I understand their use in measuring. Was curious as to how they were fashioned and attached. Do you have a description posted somewhere on the vast Internet?
Here’s a link to an old article on my original website: http://www.garymkatz.com/ToolReviews/extension_wings.html
Here’s a link on some other ideas for making extension wings: http://www.garymkatz.com/ToolReviews/ad_e_sawstand.html
You might also be interested in Spencer’s approach to his mitersaw extension wings. You can find his video on the subject here: https://www.youtube.com/insidercarpentry
And by the way, here’s a link to one approach for running cathedral crown without using different profiles, and without ‘tipping’ the molding out of it’s designed spring angle: http://www.garymkatz.com/TrimTechniques/cutting_crown_transitions.html
That should keep you busy! :)
It is too low. I raised mine up to 40″ and my backaches went away.
It is also going to bow in the middle over time, and need replaced unless that single 1x gets supported some how.
I built a box section 8″ tall our of plywood, and 18″ front to back. It usually sets on my 4′ fold up scaffold’s second rail from the top. It is 8′ long. It has room for a drawer below the saw to hold blades and tools. It also has 36″ bottomless drawers on each end on slides, so I can slide those out and use them as supports for sticks up to about 12′ without needing any other support.
The bottom of the carcase is very much skeletonized to save weight, so I can get it in and out of the truck by myself.
The carcase is also glued with urea formaldehyde so the glue joint will not creep and sag.
I think Mr. Katz is great, but I have seen too many people go down this road is giving us his map too.
This is not the stand I use on jobsites, though it’s similar to one I used to use. This is a stand I recommend for folks who work primarily in their garage/home shop. It’s light enough to move alone, and suits most purposes. In part 2 of this story, you’ll see that it also has a rudimentary repetitive stop. I included this stand in the Trim Made Simple book, published by Taunton a year ago, because I believe that anyone who want to learn how to do nice finish work, and anyone who wants to really enjoy the process, needs to have a stand with continuous wings. This is a first step for any serious carpenter. Today I use a portable fold-up stand and have for over twenty years, which is much more elaborate and more difficult to build, but it takes up far less space and is easier to carry. We’ll soon be publishing a story by another carpenter, Larmar Horton, who built a cracker-jack portable miter saw stand, all from wood. Look for that story in a couple more weeks.
I saw Gary’s road show today and the stand he used was much simpler and, (it looked to me) much more portable. Why the difference?
You’re right. Read the comment I left for Sternberg.
Thanks for sharing ideas with so many of us younger, hungry carpenters.
I have made two miter saw tables using a 14″ by 16 foot I- joist.
They are arrow straight, light, and they were taking up space in our company storage area.
I have to ditto what Gary says, I’ve been using the Steel and Aluminum stand Lamar refers to for years and I don’t understand how any “professional” could ever think of working with out solid wings. Lamar’s set up is now published and it is very sweet, and looks more “custom Kool” than my metal set up.
Great looking stand and a good article, with one exception. You state “For the best accuracy, try to split the pencil line in half.” The sentence is a little confusing, especially for a beginner. I know what you mean, and you know what you mean, but a beginning reader may not. I think it would be best if you stated that the edge of the blade on the good side of the board (as opposed to the off-cut) should split the pencil line leaving a shadow of the line on the good side. Or something like that. I’m sure you can word it a lot better than I did.
After all, no matter how experienced, we all still periodically leave the line on the wrong side of the cut. Usually on expensive trim. Usually on your last cut without enough extra to cut a new piece.
I really appreciate that you’ve made this plan available online in addition to print format. I’m a literature professor who has picked up woodworking as a hobby this past year, and one of the things I realized very early on was that making cuts on my miter saw was going to be a great challenge unless I had a stand. Thankfully, I found this site and had a friend who gave me a good deal of free wood to get me started, so I just built my stand according to your plans for no cost. I’ll be adding the fence and repetitive stop guard later. Perhaps I’ll cantilever the stand to the wall–I’m less concerned with portability and more concerned with stability. Any thoughts on how best to attach this stand to the wall?
I’m glad you made one of these ‘starter’ stands. Honestly, a miter saw is worthless without a stand, and continuous wings make a huge difference in easy of use, quality of cuts, and enjoyment. Yes, they’re a little more awkward to carry around, especially a full length table like yours, but I did it for years, on the top of my lumber racks, and was always glad to have it.
Mounting the stand to a wall is very easy. Just attach a cleat to the wall that is ripped to the I.D. (inside dimension) of the stand–so that it fits inside between the top and bottom bed. Make a few corbels or brackets from plywood. Mount the corbels to pieces of 1×4, fastening through the back, so you can fasten through the face of the corbel-cleats into a few studs beneath the stand. Piece of cake.
Thanks for the ideas Gary. I went ahead and made the corbel system out of some spare plywood and 2×4’s I had around. One of the things I’m also learning as a new woodworker is that my ideas seem to be good, but my thought process is sometimes off a bit:) I built the first corbel at 16″ because this is the size of the bottom plank of the stand–what I didn’t account for was the dust collection orifice on the back of my saw. If I made the other two corbels at 16″, I would have only had a few inches of material to screw through the stand into the corbels. So I made the other two at 21 1/2″; adjusting for the 3 1/2″ of wall 2×4’s, I then had 16″ more inches. I slid the stand out enough for my saw to balance just fine on the corbels and screwed in from the top of the bottom plank of the stand. It is solid and leaves a very small footprint.
I made my first project yesterday and was blown away by how streamlined and precise the cuts were. Surely there are many more people who have built this stand but just haven’t commented…I’ve reposted your link to facebook and told many of my DIY-er friends about the plans as well.
Very nice. Thanks for posting the photo, it’s a great idea for a stationary bench.
Good article, thanks. Has anyone noticed any of the plywood moving/warping, particularly the top wings that run wild on the ends from being in a garage that is not allways heated.
Hey, Gary. Can you please write a sentence or two on how you’d best put a fence on this stand? Great article, great.
I thought I mentioned that in the article, but I’d suggest taking a piece of 1×4 and pocket screwing it on edge to the extension wings, in both directions, and using that 1×4 to clamp stops to.
I’d suggest if someone wants a portable full support miter saw stand setup to check out fastcaps. A friend of mine used to lug around a big plywood rig and it looked like a huge pain in the ass. Probably the best couple hundred bucks I’ve ever spent on a tool.
I’m brand new to woodworking but his tutorial was fantastic! My buddy who has built just about everything under the sun was impressed with the directions and the result.
My question is what would you recommend to prevent the stand from bowing? I have a 12” Hitachi miter saw and the stand seems to move up and down easily. I used 3/4” plywood for the entire project. Should I remove the top and add more supports?
Paul, I’m assuming you mean the extension wings? Did you edgeband the wings with 1×2? That usually strengthens them substantially–my wings are made from 1/2″ plywood and they’re pretty stout.
I’ve been a trim carpenter for over 30 years and I agree whole heartedly with this post! I’ve never liked the commercial stands, with the possible exception of the one by FastCap, but I could never justify the cost. Attached is a photo of my most recent table. I built the “wings” to fit close to the saw and angled to fit the left and right miters, leaving just enough room to lift the saw out, plus a little storage area under the top and a clip for my tape. There is a huge advantage with this type of table setting on a good pair of sawhorses. I can set an entire bundle of molding right in front of me, ready to start chopping! Plus, I can attach a piece of plywood to each end giving me what ever length of support I need. I’ve tried several different types of stops over the years, but found that all too often, they just get in the way, Now I just use a block of scrap and a kreg clamp. Thanks for the post!
A proper mitersaw ‘station’ makes all the difference. I’m constantly amazed when at all the finish carpenters I see (especially on Instagram) who use roller stands. :) If I could perform one magic trick, is would be to turn all those roller stands into stations with continuous wings, just to see the reaction. Well, maybe that’s what I’d do if I had only one magic trick, but maybe it’s not…
Nice station, Gary — I’m ready to build one to upgrade from my current set up. I would like to know which foldable horses you use with your set up (first picture). Thanks!
Those are just inexpensive plastic horses from a BigBox store. I’m sure you can find them lots of places.
I watched your video on Crown. I cannot thank you enough. If you ever find the motivation and funding to follow up (same precise style and format) on Cathedral Crown I would like to be first in line.
I taught ‘Computers’ for years and realize a great presentation when I see one. True Angle (compoundmiter dot com) has a book out and I’ve read the excerpts. They did not offer the level of confidence gleaned from your explanations.
I like Lamar Horton’s Stand and found this page looking to find a plan for that one!
For light weight wings – might a door skin approach serve? I built a 24″ wide shelf for a relative years ago using two sheets of (nominal) 1/8″ Philippine Mahogany (or similar) plywood. the perimeter was made of 1″ x 1″ ‘white wood’ while the interior was fitted with a lattice work of inter-locking 1″ x 3/6″ strips in what is called a TORSION BOX construction. Key is building it on a flat surface! Lay the bottom skin down and glue the perimeter pieces down, then glue the lattice-work to that surface and let it set up/dry. then apply the glue to the top of the lattice work and perimeter pieces and lay on the top sheet of plywood.
The result is extremely strong (held an old school 21″ tv plus) and very lite weight.
Yes, a tortion box is a good alternative–that’s the design that Ron Paulk uses in his Ultimate Workbench and lots of carpenters love those (http://www.paulkhomes.com/order-plans.html).
I make my jobsite extension wings from a single sheet of 1/2″ baltic birch pywood (multi-ply) and I band the edges with 1×2 for additional rigidity. I’ve seen lots of carpenters make extension wings that way, too.
Whatever floats your boat as long as you have continuous extension wings on your miter saw.
And when I get to producing a video on cathedral crown, you’ll hear about it! I’ve just been way too busy working on my home to tackle any “extra credit” projects. But that time will soon come.