While not as essential as some other tools, a miter saw is one way to make your life a whole lot easier when you’re undertaking larger DIY projects. Also called chop saws, these seemingly simple tools come in a wide variety of configurations that make them super useful for any kind of angled cutting you might want to undertake.
We’ve dug up five of the best, so let’s take an in-depth look at each and answer any more questions you might have right afterwards.
Our Top Five Miter Saws
|Name||Saw Type||Maximum Capacity|
|Homecraft H26-260L 10-Inch||Single Bevel Compound Saw||5 ½” @ 90°|
|Hitachi C10FCE2 15-Amp 10-inch||Single Bevel Compound Saw||5 ½” @ 90°|
|DEWALT DWS779 12"||Sliding Compound Miter Saw||16” @ 90°|
|Bosch GCM12SD 120-Volt 12-Inch||Sliding Compound Miter Saw||14” @ 90°|
|SKIL 3317-01 10-Inch||Double Bevel Compound Saw||5 ½” @ 90°|
What is a Miter Saw?
- Our Top Five Miter Saws
- What is a Miter Saw?
A miter saw is a vertically oriented motor powering a saw blade that you bring down onto the lumber that you’re planning on cutting. They can make quick work of most wood and with the right blades can be used on a wide variety of materials.
They’re an extremely useful part of the home carpenter’s arsenal, especially since any miter saw worthy of the name will also allow you to make exact measurements as to the angle you’re planning on cutting at.
Essentially, you orient the wood how you want to cut it, angle the saw, and bring the blade down after powering it on. This allows you to get exact cuts in a remarkably small amount of time.
What are the Advantages of a Miter Saw?
The primary advantage of these saws is their ability to cut both horizontal and vertical angles at the same time. In doing so, you can save a lot of time on projects where this is frequently necessary like crown molding or even smaller projects like picture frames.
The ability to cut angles without having to break out the miter box is another advantage. “Miter” cuts are almost impossible to do with any other power tool due to their nature and it offers you a big advantage in a lot of projects.
Compound cuts and the ability to make miter cuts without having to work with a hand saw are some pretty hefty benefits and make a good argument for why every home handyman should have one somewhere around their home or shop.
What Types of Miter Saw are There?
There’s a few different types of miter saw available.
Standard miter saws just cut angles along a horizontal axis. They’re pretty rare nowadays, since technology makes more complex saws available cheaply to just about everyone. They still have their uses, but there are simply better options.
Compound miter saws are capable of making cuts along the vertical and horizontal axis at the same time. By positioning both the wood and the saw blade in the correct location you can make these cuts extremely easily. Provided, of course, that the saw can chop through the entire piece of wood in one go.
Sliding miter saws allow you to move the saw blade along the length of their rails. This allows you to make cuts along much longer pieces of wood than you would normally be able to with any other kind of miter saw. Most of them are also compound, making them the handiest type but also the most expensive.
What Should I Look for in a Miter Saw?
Like every other tool on the market, it can be hard to decide just what you need to look for in a miter saw. The natural inclination is to just fit things into your budget, but you should instead envision the projects you’ll be performing with it and keep the following qualities in mind.
Single bevel saws are cheap, but they have some drawbacks. Since the blade only tilts to one side you can end up having a hard time working with pieces that need to be flipped over frequently.
For trim and molding, a double bevel saw can save you a lot of time. By allowing you to make the angles you need with each cut instead of having to reposition the piece you’re in good hands.
Compound saws are best for serious lumber work. While they come at a higher cost, they really are best if you’re planning on cutting wide pieces of wood for decks and other actualy construction purposes.
10” blades are cheaper, but they won’t cut as wide. You’ll be able to get about 5 ½” without a slide using a 10” blade. They’re quite a bit cheaper than their bigger cousins, however, and the saws are generally much smaller and lighter.
12” blades should be used for “workhorse” purposes. With one of these you can make short work of much larger material in both dimensions of the cutting surface. This makes them ideal for large products. Unlike with some types of saw, you really don’t lose any precision with a larger blade either.
That said, they are more expensive when it comes time to replace them or if you need to switch them out frequently for different materials.
Tall fencing is ideal for trim and moulding. Really, a taller fence is a good feature in most cases but if you’re planning on mostly working with taller pieces then this might be your go-to feature.
A lower one is fine for cutting lumber, however, since the thicker pieces will generally be laid flat rather than on end.
This is where the differences in a saw can shine.
Laser guides allow for quick and accurate cuts, but they’re not required by any means. If you’re worried about precision, then you can actually pull the saw blade down without engaging the motor and touch it to where you’ve made your mark to make sure you’re positioned correctly.
Depth stops are great for dados, but add a lot of expense to the saw. If you’re not planning on cutting joinery with your miter saw then they’re really not needed. In any case, routers and table saws are often a much more versatile choice for those who are cutting joinery.
Slides will add a lot to the cost of the saw. Sliding saws are simply much more expensive than simpler ones due to the added mechanisms needed to make them smooth and useful. The fact is, however, if you’re cutting lumber then the slide is indispensable.
Other than that, you’ll want to get the best saw you can afford in most cases, but match it to your needs rather than just your budget for the best results.
Miter saws are a great piece of hardware to add to your home workshop and they’ll make formerly complicated cuts an absolute breeze. Make the investment in the one that you think is right for you, rather than looking too hard at the price tag, and you’re likely to end up with something that’ll help you make formerly frustrating cuts downright enjoyable.