You may have noticed that your miter saw is cutting into the kerf plate insert. This might cause concern at first, but rest assured your miter saw hits the kerf plate for a reason. Unless your miter saw blade has a wobble seeing your kerf plate take some cuts is expected by design.
I do recommend checking to ensure that your blade does not have a wobble. While this isn’t the most common reason your miter saw hits the kerf plate, it is the only cause for concern here.
Why does my miter saw hit the kerf plate?
Replacing a kerf plate insert
If you’ve been making angled cuts at both ends of your miter saw’s range, your kerf plate insert is likely worse for wear. It is at the most extreme angle of your miter and bevel gauge that you’ll notice your miter saw hitting the kerf plate.
Not to worry, however, kerf plate inserts are easy and affordable to replace. Kerf plate inserts do wear down over time. A simple google search of your miter saw model will yield some replacement options for you.
Just be aware that your new kerf plate will wear down in the same fashion your old one did. Don’t be surprised when your new kerf plate starts looking like an old one once you’ve made cuts at both ends of your miter saw’s range.
There are also some easy D.I.Y. options for you to replace a kerf plate.
D.I.Y. Zero clearance kerf plate insert
The less clearance your miter saw blade has when passing through the kerf plate, the less tear will be an issue. This has resulted in many miter saw owners opting for a zero clearance kerf plate.
A zero clearance kerf plate is an insert that replaces your old kerf plate that has been hit a few too many times. A zero clearance insert has no channel or cut in it prior to installation.
The idea here is for the miter saw to hit the kerf plate and cut only where it needs to. Meaning you’ll only have clearance for the blade, leaving little space for tear out to occur altogether.
A zero clearance kerf plate drastically reduces tear out, making it a great option for a replacement.
Making your own zero clearance kerf plate is simple:
- Remove your old kerf plate
- Trace your old kerf plate on top of a piece of plywood the same thickness as the old plate.
- Cut out the template ensuring you remember to drill out installation holes for screws.
- Install the new plate and you’re ready to start using your new zero clearance kerf plate.
Sacrificial miter saw fence or kerf plate
Another very common solution for tear out is to attach a sacrificial fence on top of the kerf plate. This doesn’t replace the kerf plate but rather sits on top of your miter saw fence, acting as a second level fence.
The idea here is to use a scrap piece of lumber that can be easily attached to the miter saw and removed once it has been used up. The sacrificial fence acts just the same as a kerf plate, except with reduced cutting depth, due to it sitting on top of the fence.
Any type of flat board with a smooth finish will suffice here. I typically use off cuts of MDF (Medium density fiberboard) for my sacrificial fence.
Here’s a great little video on how to build a scrificial fence:
My recommendation when your miter saw hits the kerf plate insert
Don’t panic, this is perfectly normal, and to be expected. Your kerf plate will take some damage over time and is one of the first parts of your miter saw that might need replacing.
Purchasing or making a new kerf plate is a simple and easy process that will yield better results instantly. If you want to get ahead of the curve and skip your kerf plate altogether, then I recommend using a sacrificial fence for best results.
My own recommendation for you is simply the same as I do. If it fits your needs I suggest you do the same.
When cutting rough materials where tear out isn’t much of a concern, I just use the original kerf plate. Yes, tear out occurs, but I’m not really concerned about tear out on 2x4s. When I’m cutting trim I’ll attach a sacrificial fence to my miter saw and work with that.
This is what I find works well for me. I’d expect it to also work well for you, just consider the type of material you’ll be cutting and the amount of tear out you’re ok with.
No matter which option you choose you can’t really go wrong, so don’t fret too much about our options here. Regardless if your miter saw hits the kerf plate it isn’t cause for concern.