Miter Saw Upgrades – Zero Clearance Insert and Fence

Last Updated:  July 2, 2021

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The miter saw is a tremendously handy tool, but it has some well-known shortcomings. I’ll tackle dust collection in the next video, but there are two improvements that I’m going to make, right now.

Manufacturers generally make miter saw inserts that leave enough space for bevel cuts, as well as, straight cuts. The problem with this is that straight cuts aren’t supported and tear-out results. Likewise, the fence has a huge gap that doesn’t give enough support and also results in tear-out.

**After this article head over to see how I dramatically improved the dust collection on this saw. And, I have a complete miter saw tips and tricks video and article.

Zero Clearance Insert

My insert is made of two plastic pieces, but I made mine from one solid piece of cherry. Since I needed to outline the separate pieces as one piece in place, I taped them together and then removed it as one piece.

I then carefully traced it and made sure to also mark the holes.

I could have easily cut this out with a jigsaw, but I took mine over to the bandsaw and then sanded the edges until I got a basic fit.

It was too thick, so I marked the depth and then resawed it on the table saw and sanded until the insert was flush with the top of the miter saw table.

Once the insert was shaped, I drilled holes with a forstner bit about halfway down and then finished the holes with a drill bit. This allowed the head of the screws to sit below the surface.

Finally, I made the cut in the insert and it was ready to go!

Zero Clearance Fence

The fence is made from the same piece of cherry and I resawed it to roughly the same thickness.

After sanding the edges I attached it with some hex-head, slotted screws I had laying around. They are too long so I had to use 3 washers. But, they worked great.

Before attaching your fence bring the saw down all the way and slide the edge of the fence up to it. It should clear any part, but, if you have a sliding saw, also make sure you’re able to slide all the way through the extension without hitting the fence.

The last consideration is the stability of the fence once you make the final cut. Since you will separate the board into two pieces each needs to have support. Most factory fences don’t extend far enough to the center to support the fence at the cut line. If the inside of the fence flexes during the cut, you could have an unsafe cut on your hands.

If I wasn’t creating a dust collection contraption of some sort, I would have designed this fence to have an “arm” that went back, over, and connected to the other side. This would keep both sides secure. I’m also using solid cherry and my fence does support the right side of the fence all the way to the insert, so these two things help.

That’s it for these two simple miter saw improvements! Look for the next post and video when I tackle the terrible dust collection on this saw. It will be a little more involved and should be a fun project!

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