The first saws that every DIY homeowner needs to own are the circular saw, the reciprocating saw, the table saw, and the miter saw (in that order). As the jobs get more and more complex, having the right tools make all of the difference in the quality of the finished job.
The Miter Saw is a specialized saw that has a solid base and that pivots downwards from above to perform cuts. What is unique about this saw its ability to cut angles and bevels. This ability makes it ideal for doing trim work and is a favorite for installing crown molding.
The Miter is also extremely fast for crosscutting boards less than 6 inches wide. This speed makes it a good saw for both framing and flooring. While not all of the features are required if you are This simply doing crosscutting, it can still speed up the task, and you’ll see them heavily used for these other two tasks.
There are several different types of miter saws. Miter saws will cost more the more features that they have.
Some of the terminologies can be confusing. We’ll run through the different types of miter saws, here, so you know what you are getting for your money.
Standard Miter Saw
The standard is the most basic of miter saws. It is so simple that it is rare to still find this option available for sale, except as the very cheapest models.
With the standard miter saw, the base will rotate 45 degrees in either direction. This rotation allows you to make the angle cuts that you need. It is perfect for quick angle cuts, but it does not perform bevel cuts.
In theory, the miter – or angle – cuts could be made with this saw, and then the bevel could be added later with a table saw. Instead of using two saws, most people go with a compound miter saw.
Compound Miter Saw
A compound cut incorporates both an angle and a bevel (or slope).
With enough patience, you could try to do something like this with only a circular saw, but it is too painful to think about.
With a compound miter saw, the base swivels in either direction just as it does with a standard saw. This swiveling base is what allows you to make the angle cuts.
Additionally, the head of the saw can be tilted. This tilting is what creates the bevel cuts.
We need to make further clarification about compound miter saws. Some miter saws can move in either direction, allowing you to make bevel cuts from either site easily. These are called double-bevel compound miter saws. The advantage of a double-bevel miter saw is that you can do the math for the angles in your head and then easily add the bevel.
With a single bevel compound miter saw, the saw is only going to tilt in one direction. This forces you to visualize how to cut the reverse of the bevel, when necessary and requires you to put the piece of wood in “backward” to cut the opposing bevel.
Most craftsmen have no problems doing this, but the first few times that you try, it can be a little confusing.
The compound miter saw is such a helpful tool that it makes sense to at least purchase at this level.
Sliding Compound Miter Saws (With Lasers)
One of the drawbacks with the miter saw is that you are limited to cutting boards that are slightly narrower than your blade size. For example, if you have a 10-inch miter saw, then you will only be able to cut boards that are about 9.5 inches wide.
The sliding compound miter saw was introduced to get around that limitation.
This design offers rails that the saw runs on and allows you to move the saw backward and forwards, significantly widening the capacity of the boards that it can cut.
These saws also frequently incorporate upgrades such as better dust collection and laser guidance for providing more accurate cutting.
The only drawback is that these saws weigh a little more. If you are moving from job site to job site, it can be a bit cumbersome to set up. Because of their size, they are more popular in cabinet shops and trim shops where they can be left in one place. However, their added heft does not keep contractors from using them in the field. It is such a useful piece of equipment that they tend to get heavily used by anyone who owns one.
The Two Most Important Things To Pay Attention To When Miter Saw Shopping
There are a lot of saw brands out there. Some of the brands are household names and have a lot of earned trust. Other brands are less well-known but still produce excellent saws.
The first thing to pay attention to is the reviews. Are there enough quality mentions of the brands in forums and online? You especially want to look into saw accuracy. Some of the cheaper brands may struggle with “staying true” and may be selling saws that flex and provide inaccurate cuts.
The second thing to research is their warranty and customer service. The best brands will have a robust warranty with an easy-to-reach customer service line that does not require you to be on hold for hours on end. It is worth your time to pick up the phone and try to reach their warranty department.
Can’t reach them on the phone? Go with a different saw.