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Many people’s first woodworking machine purchase is a miter saw, and for a good reason. This crosscutting expert enables you to purchase any off-the-shelf wood product—from a deck board to a piece of trim molding—and quickly, precisely, and safely cut it to length. That simple ability to accurately cut wood to size and cut the ends to various angles up to 45 degrees opens an infinite number of possibilities for projects ranging from picture frames and decks to outdoor furniture and skateboard ramps far too many others to list here.
Other tools can perform these basic tasks as well, but the miter saw outperforms them all somehow. It is more secure and affordable than a table saw, more precise than a circular saw, and faster than a handsaw. Whether you are a skilled woodworker, a professional carpenter, or a do-it-yourselfer, you will use your miter saw for both rough and fine cuts for decades to come.
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All miter saws incorporate a circular blade enclosed in a swing arm that pivots side to side to make crosscuts on narrow strips of wood (5 to 18 inches wide, depending on the saw).
However, because no single saw is suitable for all types of woodworking projects, the best saw for you will depend on your specific needs. Miter saws range in price from around $175 to $1,000 or more depending on the quality and features. The following list summarizes the most frequently encountered miter saw types.
- Standard miter saw: The simplest of all miter saws; the standard miter saw is sometimes referred to as a “chop saw” due to the swingarm pivoting to the proper angle and then chopping through the material. Because these simple power miter saws are limited to making miter cuts, they are not as popular as some other types of saws.
- Single bevel compound miter saw: Along with cutting angles, a single bevel compound miter saw’s swing arm tilts in one direction (typically to the left) to create a beveled and mitered cut. This is advantageous for tasks such as crown molding installation or installing certain types of roof rafters. Today, most miter saws on the market are compound miter saws.
- Dual bevel compound miter saw: like a single compound miter saw, cuts angles, but the swing arm tilts in both directions. This is purely for convenience and time savings—a single compound miter saw can still be used to make the same cuts, but the user must flip the board over to cut the opposite direction of the bevel. That step is eliminated with dual bevel capability.
- Compound sliding miter saw: A compound miter saw’s sliding rails enable the user to cut wider boards. Non-sliding miter saws cut boards a few inches narrower than the diameter of their blade so that a 10-inch miter saw can cut boards up to 6 inches wide. If the user is cutting a wider board, they will need to turn the board over to complete the cut.
A sliding compound miter saw is the optimal tool for cutting wide boards because it allows the user to pull the saw’s motorhead toward them, lower it, activate the motor, and push it through the board.
Depending on the model, a sliding miter saw can handle commissions up to 18 inches wide, and it can be a single bevel compound or dual bevel compound miter saw.
Additionally, some of the best compound miter saws come equipped with zero-clearance arms, which allow the saw to be positioned close to a wall without compromising the blade’s travel.
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The type of woodworking projects that a user intends to undertake dictates a miter saw’s features. A person looking for a miter saw to make crosscuts on wood flooring strips will not require the additional features needed for a professional trim carpenter when cutting crown molding.
Dimensions and Purpose
The model number indicates the size of the blade that can be used in a miter saw. In general, a larger blade means a larger board can be cut with a table saw. Some prefer a tool with a smaller blade because it is typically lighter and easier to move around (and often more accurate). It is possible to find miter saw blades of other lengths, but the most common sizes for these saws are 71/4, 81/2, 10, and 12.
- 7¼-inch and 8½-inch miter saws: Ideal for cutting around the house, these saws will cut a 2×4 at a 90-degree angle and a 1×2 at a 45-degree angle.
- 10-inch miter saw: A 10-inch miter saw will cut a 2×6 at a 90-degree angle and a 2×4 at a 45-degree angle.
- 12-inch miter saw: The most popular size among DIYers and most builders; a 12-inch miter saw will cut a 2×8 at a 90-degree angle and a 2×6 at a 45-degree angle.
Any of the above miter saws equipped with a sliding arm can cut wider boards. For instance, a 10-inch miter saw fitted with a 6-inch sliding arm can cut a 90-degree angle on a 2×12.
Remember that blades 10 and 12 inches in length frequently exhibit some deflection. Deflection occurs when the path of the blade wobbles slightly during cutting. While deflection is not usually an issue, discerning woodworkers and high-end finish carpenters will select a saw with the least amount of deflection possible.
Corded vs. Cordless
Corded miter saws were the norm up until a few years ago, and they’re still common today, but these cords have severely restricted the saw’s operating range. Miter saws powered by rechargeable lithium-ion batteries are the latest additions to the market. The number of cuts and the thickness of the wood affects battery runtime, but you can expect 150 to 275 cuts on a single charge on average.
The more power (measured in amps) the saw’s motor has, the longer the user can cut boards without the risk of overheating. The most common miter saw motor sizes are ten amps, twelve amps, and fifteen amps.
Additionally, the larger motors will generate sufficient blade-spinning force to cut through thick, dense material. For instance, if the user is only going to be cutting through pine boards, a 10-amp miter saw will be more than adequate. On the other hand, a more powerful motor may be required for those who must repeatedly cut through fiber cement siding or oak stair treads.
While a miter saw is not the most dangerous tool in the workshop, it can still injure its user if it is not used correctly or lacks safety features. The following safety features are included with the majority of modern miter saws.
Miter saws are incredibly versatile, and some models include additional features that enhance their utility. Some accessories are included with the saw, while others can usually be purchased separately. Consider the following extras when selecting a miter saw.
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In recent years, the miter saw has primarily displaced the radial arm saw in workshops and job sites due to its ease of angle adjustment and precise degree cuts. Anyone who uses a miter saw to cut angles, such as for wood trim, may quickly discover that it becomes their favorite power tool in the workshop. If you are considering purchasing your first miter saw, you are likely to have a few questions.
To precisely cut the angles at the ends of boards.
Additionally, to cutting angles, a compound miter saw cuts bevels. A sliding miter saw is equipped with a cutting arm that the user can pull to cut wider boards. Miter saws come in two varieties: sliding and compound.
No. Ripping is the process of lengthwise cutting boards, which is typically done on a table saw. Crosscuts are made with a miter saw.
True, but not in a single cut. The user may cut one side of the 44 and then flip it over to complete the cut.
Purchase a miter saw with safety features and thoroughly read the operating manual before using the saw. Additionally, it may be beneficial to observe another person using a miter saw—either in person or via online instructional videos.
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The best miter saw is a handy tool for both amateurs and professionals. It enables you to cut material precisely to your desired angle specifications. There are several high-quality miters saw manufacturers in a highly competitive power tool market.
While we have discussed five different models in this article, we encourage you to visit your local hardware store and peruse their selection of miter saws.
Compare their characteristics, how they feel in your hand when you hold the handle and note some of their shortcomings. Most, if not all, miter saws do not include a workbench.
Take measurements of your existing workbench to ensure that your miter saw fit. Finally, the best miter saw reviews to assist you in selecting the best.
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