Miter saws are fantastic tools for cutting things like baseboard trim. Newer woodworkers want to use one or two tools for many purposes, so one question that comes up is can a 10 inch miter saw cut a 4 x 4?
In this post, that’s the exact topic we’ll tackle. 4 x 4s are big pieces of wood, so there’s a bit of a debate whether you should subject a miter saw to so much stress.
In case you’re interested, we’ve also written about whether a miter saw can cut metal.
Is cutting 4×4 with miter saw practical?
Generally speaking, it’s a lot of work to cut a 4 x 4 with a 10 inch miter saw. It’s a pretty challenging task, and you’ll have to rig your miter saw a little to be able to get through the entire chunk of wood in a single pass.
The gist of it is that you need to give the saw blade more clearance to make it all the way through the wood. Only then will it be able to go the 4 inches required.
Remember, a 10 inch blade is 10 inches in diameter, not radius! You really only have between 4 to 5 inches of cutting room.
To get more clearance, you’ll need to adjust the blade guard. Adjusting the blade guard should be done with extreme caution as the blade guard is there for a very important reason: to protect your hands!
If you have a sliding miter saw, you should be able to cut a 4 x 4 with more ease because the sliding saw has greater range of motion. This way, even if you have a 10 inch blade, you should be able to get through the entire block of wood.
Miter saws are designed for angled cuts with comparatively less cutting depth, which is why the budget models are commonly equipped with a smaller blade.
Why it’s hard to cut a 4×4 with a 10 inch miter saw
There’s a good reason that certain tools are meant for specific jobs. When you try to push a power tool beyond it’s limits, it can be difficult and lead to dangerous situations.
This applies to using a 10 inch miter saw to cut a 4×4 or any other similarly sized object.
The biggest limitation of the 10 inch miter saw is the blade itself. As we mentioned above, the 10 inch blade has a cutting radius of less than 5 inches, so you’re really cutting it close(pun intended!).
Ideally, you should use a 12 inch miter saw because of the bigger blade and extra torque and power. They will do the job much faster and in a much safer manner.
Another disadvantage of using a 10 inch blade on a 4×4 is that the extra stress will make them go dull a lot sooner than they would otherwise.
You may balk at the extra cost of a 12 inch miter saw to cut 4x4s, but the extra cost you’ll pay now will make up for the extra cost you’ll end up paying in tool maintenance in the future if you try to use the smaller saw.
There’s also the risk of kickbacks. Even though miter saws are quite safe, if you try to force the blade through a harder or thicker material than the saw is designed for, you may experience kickbacks.
Finally, the added strain on the motor to turn the saw to cut the 4×4 will eventually wear the motor out. In a worst-case scenario, the motor coils may overheat and burn.
How to cut a 4 x 4 with a 10 inch miter saw
Suppose you’re in a tight spot and you absolutely need to cut a 4×4, and the only power tool you have access to is a 10 inch miter saw.
As we mentioned above, it is possible to do, just not highly recommended. So here’s how you can do it by causing as little damage to your saw and yourself as possible.
As you’ll see, planning the cut ahead will make things much easier.
Step 1: Mark the stock
You’ll need a pencil and a square. Mark off the measurements you need and draw a line all the way across the 4×4 so you know where to cut.
Now continue the line all around the remaining 3 sides of the 4×4.
Step 2: Prep the saw
Next, you need to get the saw ready. First, make sure the saw is firmly situated on your workbench and has no room to move. You’ll need to fix it a little stronger than usual since there will be a lot of stress on the saw and that can cause unwanted movements.
Now calibrate your miter saw blade so it’s straight at a 90 degree angle. Double check that the angle is correct using a square. If the angle is even slightly off, the cut won’t be straight, so make sure that you’ve set it at exactly 90 degrees.
Note: when you go anywhere near the blade, make sure the plug is out of the socket. DO NOT rely on the switch being off!
Step 3: Position the 4×4
Place the 4×4 stock on your saw and position it so that the line you marked falls right below the blade.
Step 4: Make the cut
The preparation was fairly easy, but the cut is where things get a little difficult.
With the 4×4 firmly in place with a clamp or a weight, power up the saw and bring the head of the saw down very slowly towards the line you’ve drawn.
The key is to push the blade in very slowly. This lets it gradually ease into the stock and prevents the chances of a kickback.
Go a couple of millimeters in and raise the blade up again and stop the saw.
Now turn the stock 90 degrees to show another side and align the mark you made with the blade.
Repeat this process for all 4 sides and finally, drive your blade all the way through to cut completely in half.
Cutting a 4×4 with a 10 inch miter saw is quite a tedious process! The saw itself is not strong enough to go through the wood in one pass, and in order to get more precision, you have to make repeated cuts.
This itself is counter-intuitive since there’s always a chance you don’t align the wood again in the exact same spot as you make multiple passes!
Otherwise, you’ll end up with rough cuts as you try(and fail) to push the saw all the way through the fence post or wood block in a single pass.
However, if you want the cheaper option and smoother cuts, this is what you’ll need to do.
Why a 12 inch miter saw is a better choice to cut a 4×4
If you’re planning on a lot of projects that involve 4x4s, then its a better idea to invest in a 12 inch miter saw rather than a 10 inch one.
Even though the cost is higher upfront, if that’s the work you plan on doing, then there’s no other option but to get a power tool that can handle the material you need to cut.
The biggest advantage of the 12 inch saw is the bigger blade that can cut faster and deeper than a 10 inch blade.
The difference between a 12 inch and 10 inch miter saw is so significant that even the worst 12 inch miter saw can still outperform the best 10 inch miter saw because it has the necessary torque to make deeper and bigger cuts.!
Most importantly, the 12 inch miter saw will be safer to use because there is less chance of kickback and getting hurt.
12 inch saw blades also tend to be sharper and have more teeth per inch or TPI, so the resulting cuts are much smoother.
What Can You Cut with a 10 inch Miter Saw?
So now that you know that it is indeed possible to cut a 4×4 with a 10 inch miter saw, it’s not the best idea to do so with the smaller miter saw.
However, that does not mean the 10 inch miter saw is not a formidable power tool. Smaller miter saws are much more mobile than larger miter saws and compound miter saws, and if you’re just looking to mostly do a DIY project here and there, the 10 inch saw can still do some really quality cuts.
The only time to invest in the larger saw like the 12 inch, compound miter, or sliding miter saw is if the cutting capacity is not enough for you.
So if you’re a home DIYer, save money and invest in the smaller saw. When you grow enough in the hobby to need bigger and more powerful equipment, invest in the bigger saw.
If you’re looking to become a professional carpenter, then you’ll need the larger saw with more stability and power.
Final Thoughts on Cutting 4x4s
I hope this guide was helpful and shed some clarity on whether a 10 inch miter saw is the best tool for cutting a 4 x 4. Miter saws generally have less cutting capacity, but if you really need something that serves as a miter saw and a table saw at times, consider picking up a 12 inch sliding miter saw.
The cutting process for a 4×4 with a 10 inch miter saw is fairly difficult even though they’re power tools with extraordinary cutting power.
If you really, really need to make deep cuts and that too very frequently, consider investing in circular saws.
Remember the rules for properly cutting a 4 x4:
- Draw a straight line or all four sides of the 4 x 4
- Make sure the blade will fall straight onto the line you marked
- Make a cut all around the stock
- Cut all the way through
Don’t cut too often, though, as standard miter saws are not the right type of power saws for these cuts.
IF you plan on cutting a lot of 4x4s like fence posts and assemblies, get a larger saw.