How to Cut Small Pieces of Wood on a Miter Saw

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November 3, 2022
Zoe Hunt

Are you working on a project that requires you to cut down delicate, small dowels or pieces of thin, delicate trim? If you try to cut them on a miter saw, chaos can ensue.

The small piece of wood might snap under the power of the miter saw and fly across the room. It’s a pretty scary situation and results in a lot of tearout and an unusable cut. 

small wood dowel cut on one side with a lot of tearout and on other side with clean cut

Luckily there’s a simple solution that will help make cutting small pieces of wood on the miter saw safer, and it results in cleaner cuts as well. 

Let’s dive right in! You’ll need some painter’s tape, a scrap piece of wood, a hot glue gun, and of course, your miter saw. 

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Grab your painter’s tape and tape over the gap where the blade cuts. This is helpful for two reasons. First, it’ll help you see exactly where the miter saw cuts so you can better line up your cuts, and it can prevent you from losing really small pieces like if you needed to cut something say ¼” long. 

add tape over miter saw center plate

When you cut something so short, it has a tendency to fall into the gap and it can be a pain to find and retrieve. The tape minimizes the gap so that smaller pieces don’t get lost. 

If you wanted to create a more sturdy throat plate, you can hot glue a thin piece of plywood over the bottom of your saw. The reason I use tape instead is because it’s cheaper and it allows me to still adjust the miter angle of the saw. 


Grab a scrap piece of wood (a 1×3 works great), and add a few dabs of hot glue to the back. Glue it onto the fence of your miter saw.

hot gluing piece of scrap wood to back of miter saw fence


You could just dive right into cutting your first piece, but I first like to cut all the way through the scrap wood and tape so that I can clearly see where my cuts will be made. This will also be a way to check that your scrap wood is secure well enough to the fence. 

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You’ll make your cuts as you normally would, but now you’ll be making sure your wood is pressed flush up against the scrap wood instead of your miter saw fence. 

preparing to cut small dowel on miter saw after installing scrap wood fence

Another quick tip: cutting slowly can also help you get cleaner cuts and reduce the likelihood that a piece snaps when cutting.


Once you’re done making all your cuts, you can remove the scrap wood from your miter saw fence. It might take some pressure, but you should be able to pull it off. If it’s feeling stuck, wedge a flathead screwdriver between the wood and fence to help pop it off. 

peeling hot glue off of miter saw

There you have it! Now you know a simple way to make cleaner, safer cuts on your miter saw when cutting down small, fragile pieces of wood like dowels! 

Speaking of dowels, we love using them on a variety of projects. Check out these DIY tutorials:

before and after of properly cutting small dowels on miter saw

You might also enjoy this post on how to cut angles greater than 45-degrees on your miter saw

If you’re new to woodworking, check out this woodworking for beginners post. We share how to get started and 7 things we wish we would’ve known when starting out! No need to make the same mistakes we did.

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