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Compound Miter Saw Buying Guide

Compound Miter Saw.

A workshop isn't complete without a miter saw. But what are the differences between a miter saw, a compound miter saw, a dual compound miter saw and a sliding compound miter saw? Keep reading and we'll help you complete your shop with a saw that's perfect for you.


Miter Saw Model Variations

A miter saw is a specialized tool that lets you make cuts at a variety of angles. The saw has a blade mounted on a swing arm that pivots left or right to produce angled cuts. You can use a miter saw to quickly make cuts for crown molding, picture frames, door frames, window casings and more. You'll find three variations:

Compound Miter Saws feature blades that pivot left and right for angled cuts and tilt in a single direction for beveled cuts. Manipulating the saw on both of its axes at once yields a compound miter cut. Compound miter saws are useful for picture frames, crown molding or any project that requires angled cuts in two planes. They offer the advantage of making compound cuts in one pass.

Dual Compound Miter Saws function like compound miter saws, but while compound miter saws tilt in only one direction, dual compound miter saws can tilt both left and right. They can quickly create bevels at any angle.

Sliding Compound Miter Saws have all the versatility of compound miter saws and a sliding feature, similar to a radial arm saw, allowing you to move the blade forward and backward. The major advantage of the sliding feature is the increased length of cut it provides.

Always follow the device manufacturer's operating, maintenance and safety instructions, including instructions on safety gear.


Miter Saw Features

Look for features that can make your work easier and offer greater versatility:

  • Amps measure the power of the saw motor. Higher amps mean more cutting power.
  • Blade size is an important consideration in selecting a miter saw. The most common miter saw sizes are 8, 10 and 12 inches. Keep in mind that larger diameter blades are able to make longer cuts.
  • Positive stops are factory set points that let you quickly make precise cuts on specific angles. More positive stops decrease the time needed to set up cuts. Some saws feature thumb-activated stops for quick adjustments.
  • Depth stops let you adjust the height of the blade, controlling how deeply it cuts into the work piece.
  • Articulated blade guards keep the guard clear of the stock, so you have a better view of the cutting line. When you raise the saw, the guard lowers to completely cover the blade.
  • Electric brakes reverse the flow of electricity in the saw motor when you release the trigger. Reversing the current stops the blade's momentum quickly. Electric brakes can stop the blade in as little as two seconds, much quicker than a blade on a saw without this feature.
  • Spindle or shaft locks immobilize the shaft and blade, making it much easier to change the blade.
  • Dust chutes and blowers help move sawdust from the cutting area.
  • Dust bags mount directly to the saw and collect sawdust.
  • Table extensions connect to the sides of the saw and support longer stock to give an accurate cut.
  • Sliding and flip fences give added support to taller stock for standard miter cuts. You can then slide or flip them out of the way to make bevel cuts or to support longer work pieces.
  • Laser guides and guide lights project a beam or cast a shadow onto the work piece, helping you accurately guide your cuts.
  • Digital displays provide easy-to-read bevel and miter setting information.

Shop for Miter Saws

Always unplug any power tool before servicing.


Other Miter Saw Considerations

Beyond the features available, there are additional considerations when shopping for a miter saw.

You can mount a miter saw to a work bench for shop use. If you'll be transporting the saw to different work sites, remember that lighter models will give you increased portability.

The blade is a key part of the saw. Different blades are available for different applications. When purchasing a blade, make sure it's compatible with your miter saw. A few common blades include:

  • Steel blades: inexpensive and work well for cutting softwood but dull quickly in hardwood.
  • High-speed steel blades: harder than steel blades and stay sharper longer.
  • Carbide-tipped blades: more expensive than other blades, but they stay sharper much longer than steel or high-speed steel.

When using an extension cord with a miter saw, make sure you have a suitable cord. Follow the device manufacturer's recommendations for compatible extension cords and see Power Cord Safety Tips.