August 9, 2021
So, you have decided to try your hand at woodworking for a change. And to jumpstart your woodworking career, you have started to buy the necessary equipment and tools like the miter saw. But when shopping around for the best miter saw, you’ve found out that there are myriads of miter brands and models of miter saws in the market today. Furthermore, you’ve discovered that miter saw comes in different types. Now you are in a dilemma as to which type of miter saw to buy.
A miter saw, of course, is engineered to give you accurate miter cuts and crosscuts. Its earliest form was the back saw and the miter box. From there, it evolved into the modern-day electric miter saw that comes in different types that include standard miter saws, compound miter saws, dual compound miter saws, sliding compound miter saws, and Laser or LED miter saws.
Miter saws are dedicated to crosscutting. As such, they are not designed for long rip cutting. Nevertheless, they could cut bevels by simply adjusting their vertical tilt axis located on the upper part of the equipment. The top-rated miter saws offer repeatability for speeding up your production. As such, their usage can facilitate the cutting process. They can also enable you to accomplish many tasks at hand quickly.
Different Types of Miter Saws
As you familiarize yourself with the miter saw, you will soon discover that the most common or primary form of miter saw features a table that pivots to the left and right. This pivoting table lets you alter the crosscut angle. The miter saw blade then drops down onto the material you would like to cut, like a chopping knife. Hence, it is akin to a chop saw.
The diameter of its blade limits the cutting capacity of the miter saw. Moreover, its cutting capacity is a bit smaller than its blade diameter. Nevertheless, the cut may exceed the radius of the blade once you do a cut against the fence back. To familiarize yourself with the types of miter saw, you can check out this rundown of the most basic types of miter saws in the market today:
1) Basic or Standard Miter Saws
As you search for the ideal miter saw for your needs, you will soon discover that old and plain miter saw is the most basic type of miter saw. This saw is simply a circular saw that comes with a table or base. When using this miter saw, you only lay the wood on the base.
This miter saw comes with a blade set at a 0-degree angle. This means its original setup is straightforward (from top to bottom). Its blade remains at this position all the time. What differentiates it from the chop saw is that it can engage in mitering.
It can miter because it is capable of pivoting its blade (right and left) if you want to make angled cuts. The blade’s vertical angle doesn’t change. Nevertheless, its blade does pivot to left or right. It is easy to use and quite reliable if you are engaged in extreme bevel cutting tasks.
2) Sliding Miter Saw
Another type of miter saw is the sliding miter saw. It comes with rails to allow the blade to slide (front to back) across the workpiece. The sliding miter saw will enable you to cut deeper than that of the basic miter saw sans rails.
The sliding miter saw is called sliding because of its rails. It can slide its head on the sliding rail back and forth. Moreover, it works like the radial arm saw.
With its rails, you can increase the crosscutting capacity of the saw. You can pull the head, for example, forward. Then, you can turn on the saw. Afterward, you push back the blade into the wood.
3) Compound Miter Saw
One of the most preferred miter saws is the compound miter saw. This saw is excellent in cutting bevel, angled, and squared cuts; but without the rail sliding capability. With the compound miter saw, you won’t need to bevel and angle separately, for you can engage in both tasks simultaneously.
This saw is excellent for creating complex compound cuts with ease, specifically when working on the trim or crown molding. You can do mitering if you rotate the blade around its base. The base features a scale that indicates the miter angle.
The compound miter is considered the best miter saw type you could buy, especially if you want an affordable option that lets you extend cuts to more than 90°. The main downside of using this type of miter saw is that this saw only tilts unidirectionally. So, if you want to make beveled cuts in the other direction, you need to turn the wood over.
4) Compound Sliding Miter Saw
The compound sliding miter saw is an excellent miter saw that comes with the best features of the previous miter saws. First, it comes with rails for an increased crosscutting capacity. It also features a left bevel to let you make compound cuts. Hence, with the compound sliding miter saw, you enjoy the compound miter saw’s flexibility as well as the extra depth of cut provided by the slide. It is a perfect choice if you often cut materials like 2×12 or 1×12.
Buying a sliding compound miter saw is an excellent investment. It gives you enough versatility to do the crown moldings and workpieces for a hip roof. You can also rely on it for making custom stiles and joints. Moreover, it is reliable for making angular cuts and other delicate slices. Nevertheless, it is incapable of making slices that the radial-arm saws and table saws can do. It can’t rip wood or create long strip cuts.
The compound sliding miter saw lets you make longer and larger cuts with ease. You can also make pull-down cuts like those done by chop saws by simply locking its sliding rail. The downside of using a compound sliding miter saw is that it can’t bevel in both left and right, and you can only bevel to one side.
5) Dual Compound Sliding Miter Saw
Another type of miter saw is the dual compound sliding miter saw. It comes with a miter table as well as sliding rails. It is also capable of beveling both right and left. You don’t need to do the opposite cut with the left bevel by flipping around your material. You can use this miter saw if you want to make a flat base and crown molding cuts.
This saw, of course, lets you cut easily on longer material pieces. Nevertheless, if you seldom make bevel cuts in both directions, you won’t be needing this miter saw much. Moreover, this one is more expensive. So, if you are on a budget, this one may not be an option.
How to Choose the Most Suitable Miter Saw Type For Your Project
Given the myriads of brands and models and several types of miter saws, you may get a tad confused when selecting one for your needs. Hence, it will be best to know the critical factors to consider when selecting a miter saw so that you would be properly guided in your choice. Miter saws are not inexpensive. As such, you should carefully consider the following factors to enable you to narrow down your options and zero in on the best miter saw for your needs:
Considering Different Saw Types
As you have learned earlier, miter saws have different types. So, at the onset, it will be best if you can figure out what your needs are and the type of miter saw that could best cater to your cutting needs. You can go for the standard miter saws that let you cut the board at an angle and rotate itself to the side. With this saw, you can make corner pieces with ease for different projects.
You can also go for a compound miter saw that could bevel and tilt to let you cut wood at various angles (both vertically or horizontally). You can also choose the single-action compound saw that bevels to one side or opt for a dual-action one that bevel cuts angle to both sides.
Moreover, you can select a sliding miter saw that can slide (backward or forward), allowing you to cut wide. You can also choose a compound sliding miter saw or a dual compound sliding miter saw for more complex wood cutting tasks.
Size & Space
When choosing a miter saw, you also need to consider the miter saw’s size. But when it comes to size, you need to decide between portability and capacity. A miter saw, for example, that has a 12-inch blade will enable you to make deeper and wider cuts. Nevertheless, the 10-inch saws will be less expensive and easy to carry around and handle.
Miter saws, of course, come in different sizes. Moreover, they come in different sizes of blades. Such a variety of sizes may benefit woodworkers because they got tons of options at hand. Nevertheless, this variety of sizes will make the head of a beginner—who is only trying to select the best option he could get—go dizzy when choosing one.
Therefore, at the onset, it will be good to note that the diameter of its blade denotes the size of a miter saw. So, you will find 8-inch miter saws and 10-inch miter saws. Moreover, you can also find 15-inch miter saws as well as 12-inch miter saws.
Nearly all the popular brands like Milwaukee, Dewalt, and Makita offer both 10-inch as well as 12-inch versions. The difference in size between these two miter saws may look small, but your choice between these two sizes will matter most in your cutting tasks.
Essential Accuracy Features
One reason why the miter saw is an indispensable tool in the workshop is because of the precision cutting it offers. Its blade is affixed to a strong arm connected to a sturdy body. Hence, it can cut with precision, and its cut can be easily fine-tuned to the blade’s width. Its incredible stability, together with its blade guards, make this tool a safer option than the other power-cutting tools.
One sterling feature of the miter saw is its angle stops, referred to likewise as detents. These stops are preset at certain positions. You will find that each stop precisely indicates a frequently used cutting angle. One such angle is 45 degrees.
You will see many angle stops at regular intervals so that you can quickly figure out the exact angle you would like to cut. It is like locking your target with a laser. You set the saw at the desired angle stop; it locks there to make every cut precise and repeatable.
When it comes to compound miter saws, it got both bevel and miter stops. Thus, with the compound miter saw, you can set to any angle the miter sans utilizing the stops. This capability is quite useful when making non-standard cuts.
If you got all the money in the world, you might as well go for the Laser or LED miter saw. It features a laser guide to enable you to make precise cuts. Moreover, it comes with a disc-shaped washer affixed to the blade. It lights up the line where the blade needs to cut. Some of these saws also come with LED features for better illumination of the work area.
You should also check the maximum angles the miter saw can cut. Most saws can cut perpendicularly at 90° range between 15°, 22.5°, 30°, and 45°). Check how far the saw can turn in either direction to determine its maximum miter angle. If it has a greater maximum miter angle, it is more versatile.
On the other hand, the maximum bevel angle indicates the maximum tilting capability of the saw. Miter saws, of course, have different maximum bevel angles. For example, the single-action compound miter can only tilt in one direction. In such a case, you need to turn over the board and cut backward.
On the other hand, if you select a dual-action compound, you can speed up your bevel cutting and minimize mistakes in the process because you don’t need to flip over the workpiece and calculate the angle again.
Miter Saw Blades
To get incredible results, you need excellent blades. So, it will help if you have a stock of blades at your disposal so you can continuously engage in your projects. It will also help to have several saw blades for different purposes. If you have a larger miter saw, then you should have larger blades to speed up your work and let you cut through thicker pieces. It will be best to go for carbide blades if you are aiming for durability and accuracy in your cuts.
However, it will also help if you read the manufacturers’ specifications on their saw blades when buying a blade. Ensure that you are wary of the spindle types of your miter saws, for the spindle types would matter when you change saw blades.
Check if your miter saw comes with a spindle wrench, for you would use a spindle wrench when changing blades. In this way, you won’t be needing to purchase one for your blade replacement.
The driving component of the miter saw is its motor. As a rule, the more powerful its motor, the faster you can cut through materials. The power of the motor is usually measured in revolution per minute (RPM). So, the higher its RPM, the faster the blade would spin. Moreover, the quicker the blade spins, the quicker it can cut through the material.
A miter saw is a power tool. It lets you make quality pieces in your home shop. It can provide you with accurate cuts, and it is easy to use. However, it is crucial to check the motor when selecting a miter saw, for its motor will be an essential factor in its efficiency and longevity.
Dust Management and Extraction
When cutting wood, as the blade plods through the material, extracted materials may come out in billows of dust. If you’re working in a cramped and confined space, you will certainly get suffocated if you are not wearing your safety mask. Moreover, you will be compromising your health if you don’t contain the sawdust.
Nevertheless, if you can equip your miter saw with a vacuum or dust extractor, you can surely minimize the spread of dust. You can attach this to your saw, and it will help keep the sawdust at a minimum and safe level in your workshop. If you haven’t considered having this accessory to your miter saw, you should consider having this in your workshop.
Added Miter Saw Features
Various manufacturers try their hands in rolling out different types of miter saws. They also try to outdo each other by introducing novel features to enhance the use of their miter saws. Some miter saws, for example, come with innovative handy lights to enable users to work even in a dark working condition. Some manufactures also equipped their miter saws with a laser to guide users on where to cut.
Some miter saws also feature adjustable rear fences and workpiece clamps, while some have extension arms. These features, of course, are excellent for allowing you to support your workpiece without holding them, keeping your hand out of the blade’s way.
Moreover, some manufacturers also manufacture miter saws with variable speed dial. In this way, users can speed up or slow down the motor according to their preference.
As a user of miter saw, you would surely want to buy something with a rail function. This feature lets you draw the blade forward and backward along the material. You should also look for something with excellent safety features like a blade guard. Besides, you should also look for a miter saw with a great design that is safe and easy for you to use.
Since the market is awash with various types of miter saws that come in various styles and make, you may get confused about which accessories to look for in a miter saw. So, before choosing a miter saw, it will help to check on the accessories that come with it. Of course, you could expand the capabilities of your miter saw if you got the right accessories.
You can purchase, for example, a miter saw that comes with a precision track and stop kit. An example of this accessory is the Kre KMS8000. With this accessory, you won’t be needing to use your pencil and tape measure, Yet you can still make perfect cuts. This accessory also comes in handy when you want to make repetitive cuts.
You can also buy a crown molding tool. This accessory tool can facilitate the cutting and installing of crown molding. Moreover, it does eliminate the difficulty of making compound angle cuts.
Another accessory worth considering is the miter saw laser marker. This accessory provides you with the necessary guide when engaged in cutting. Additionally, you can find other accessories that can help you facilitate and expand the capabilities of your miter saw. It will help to look for these accessories and have them in handy.
Frequently Asked Questions About Miter Saw
Aside from knowing the important factors to consider when selecting a miter saw, it will also help if you are acquainted with the following frequently asked questions about miter saws, for these questions may also be the questions playing on in your mind:
Which is Better Between Corded and Cordless Miter Saw?
You may be asking too about whether to choose a corded or cordless miter saw. Each of these options comes with its pros and cons. However, it will be good to note that the most powerful miter saws are corded. Cordless miter saws, of course, exist, and you can indeed buy one of them.
They also come with advantages like portability and the ability to use the miter saw even if you’re away from an electrical outlet. However, you would need to recharge its batteries more often. Moreover, despite the portability and ease of use of the cordless one, the corded miter saw is still your best option when it comes to power.
8″ vs 10″ vs 12″ vs 15″: Which Size of Miter Saw Should I Choose?
Most miter saws come in sizes of 10″ and 12″. Nevertheless, you will also find 8″ and 15″ miter saws. However, the type of miter you should get should be dictated by your needs and the tasks you would like to accomplish more often.
The 8″ is the smallest, and you can use it only for small-sized projects. On the other hand, 15″ would be large enough for most of your projects. This leaves you with the best options of 10″ and 12″.
Assuming that the miter saw can only cut just below half the diameter of the blade, you would need a larger miter saw if you will work on thicker and broader wood. It will also help to remember that the larger your materials are, the larger blades you will need. So, at the onset, it will help if you first figure out which sort of materials you will often work on before you zero in on a particular miter saw size.
Shopping around for a miter saw can become a maddening experience if you don’t have any inkling about which miter saw is best to buy. Besides, miter saws are not a cheap investment, for you will spend several hundred dollars of your hard-earned money just to buy one miter saw. So, you need to ensure that you will choose only the most appropriate miter saw for your needs.
You can make an informed purchase if you read through articles like this and if you ask experts in woodworking for suggestions as to which miter saw is best to buy. Of course, if you don’t have a friend whose expertise is in woodworking, it will be best to do your research.
The abovementioned facts you’ve learned about miter saws will indeed help you clarify your needs to help you zero in on the best type of miter saw. Being cognizant of the abovementioned succinct tips and factors to consider would allow you to make a wise purchase that you won’t regret afterward.
Jason is a 40-year-old woodworker, carpenter and author who have been involved in the woodworking and woodcraft industry with 17 years of experience. He is expertise in technical aspects, woodcraft and furniture building projects.