How to Select the Best Miter Saw?
Miter saws, or drop saws as they are also known, are specialized tools that enable you to make cuts at various angles. They are commonly used by both professionals and homeowners for cutting crown molding, window casings, and framework for doors and pictures.
While there’s no denying they are a convenient tool to own, they can be tricky to purchase. Not only is there no one size fits all approach to a miter saw, but they can also differ in style to be suitable for certain tasks and not for others. For example, a chop saw, while similar to a miter saw, is not the same.
It might be used by someone who requires a miter saw, but it only cuts at a straight, 90-degree angle. A miter saw can cut at various angles and is far more versatile. With all the confusion surrounding the best saw for your particular task, it’s vital you do your research to find the best miter saw for the money.
To help make the process a little easier, we’ve covered the various pros and cons of miter saws, how each model works, and what to look out for when you’re ready to purchase one. Review each section of this buying guide to learn all there is to know before pressing the buy now button.
The first step to finding a miter saw that ticks all the boxes is by knowing what your project entails. If you need to make angled cuts in two planes, a compound miter saw will be all you need. It can make a bevel cut but only in one direction.
If you need it to make two angled cuts, you’re more likely to require a dual compound miter saw. The key to purchasing the right miter saw for your work type is by first establishing whether you need two angles, or just one.
As with any power tool, safety should always come first. It doesn’t matter whether you’re a weekend warrior or a professional, you can’t put a price on your safety. When you first purchase a miter saw, the manufacturer’s manual will include helpful tips to both get you started, and ensure you do so safely.
We’ve included some safety tips below:
- Always wear ear and eye protection.
- Never wear loose clothing or jewelry when operating a miter saw.
- Never remove guards when operating a miter saw. Replace any that are damaged.
- When performing maintenance or making adjustments, always unplug the saw.
- Keep your fingers and hands clear of the blade.
- Keep the lower guard clean to increase visibility.
- Always use a blade recommended by the manufacturer.
- Check and tighten the blade before and after each use.
- Ensure the machine is in good working order before use.
- Always secure material against the fence when making cuts.
- Never cut small pieces.
- If your miter saw has a sliding function, always start cutting with the blade closest to you before pushing it forward on the sliders as you cut.
Many miter saw operators at some stage will run into efficiency issues. This can be caused by many things. Firstly, your miter saw may be largely underpowered for the task you’re trying to get it to complete. In this case, there’s nothing you can do other than upgrade to something with a lot more power.
The second thing that can cause efficiency issues is lack of maintenance. Before and after each use you should ensure the machine is in good working condition.
With use at home or out in the field, it’s easy for a machine to move out of alignment and this can cause your cuts to be less than accurate. By ensuring you keep on top of repairs, calibration, and maintenance, it’s unlikely you will run into efficiency issues.
In order to get the best deal when you’re purchasing a miter saw, you should always be on the lookout for features that make the task easier.
These can include:
- A large motor that features more amps for more power.
- A blade size that suits your requirements. The larger the blade, the abler it is to make a longer cut. Most are between 8-12 inches.
- A sliding function for more versatility.
- Depth stops to enable you to adjust the height of the blade.
- Blade guards which provide better visibility for seeing the cutting line.
- Electric brakes which help stop the machine far quicker than without them.
- Dust chutes that move dust away from your workspace.
- Table extensions to support longer pieces of wood.
- Laser guides to shine a guiding light onto your workpiece.
- Digital displays for accurately setting information for a better cut.
Always be ready to look at the cost in comparison to the features to ensure you really are getting a better deal.
Even when you get the best deal on a miter saw, they are still quite expensive to own. Once you’ve got one though, the price tag is motivation enough to keep it well maintained.
The upkeep requirements can vary depending on the model, brand or manufacturer, but by referring to your user guide, you are sure to find all there is to know about proper maintenance.
Manufacturers normally recommend:
- Clearing the saw of dust and debris.
- Cleaning the miter saw cutting table and fence.
- Sharpening, cleaning and/or replacing the blades.
- Ensuring the kerf board, brushes and power cords are in good condition.
- Cleaning exterior moving parts.
No matter what your budget is, there is sure to be a miter saw for sale that you can afford. The only problem is, the cheapest saw might not be the best for your task.
We can offer a price estimate for single and double bevel miter saws but it’s up to you to determine whether the features offered on the most expensive or most affordable saws will tick all the boxes for you.
You can expect to pay between $139 and $950 for a top-rated single bevel miter saw or between $194 and $900 for a dual bevel miter saw. These prices can vary depending on whether you buy online or in store.
Available Miter Saw Types on the Market
Single-Bevel Compound Miter Saw
A miter saw, in general, is very specialized. It enables you to make cuts at a variety of angles and has a blade mounted on a swing arm. This pivots left or right to produce those angled cuts.
However, the difference between a compound miter saw and a dual compound miter saw is the tilt. A compound miter saw has blades that pivot both left and right but only tilt in a single direction for a beveled cut.
They are less versatile than a dual compound miter saw, and are therefore more preferred by homeowners rather than professionals.
Pros & Cons
- They can often be cheaper than a dual compound miter saw.
- They’re more portable than the similar-styled table saw.
- Miter saws tend to fling dust away from the worksite.
- They are easy to maintain.
- They are smaller and more compact than other miter saws.
- If you need to make matching compound cuts, you need to make the first cut then flip the wood and cut again.
- They can be less precise than a dual compound miter saw due to having to flip the wood.
A single bevel miter saw is commonly used in home environments where the volume of wood needing to be cut is far smaller.
Single cuts can be made with ease, yet by turning the wood over, you can achieve a matching compound cut – the same as what can be made with a dual compound saw.
The only difference is the time spent having to turn the wood as well as reduced accuracy in the cut.
Maintenance is normally similar for both single and dual compound miter saws. By referring to your user guide, you can ensure you undertake this maintenance effectively.
On a regular basis you should:
- Remove dust and debris from in and around the saw.
- Clean the cutting table and fence.
- Remove the blade to either sharpen it, clean it or replace it.
- Check the condition of the power cord, kerf board, and brushes. Repair and replace as necessary.
- Run a soft cloth over exterior components to clean them.
If you purchase a compound miter saw in a store, you generally end up paying more. However, if you purchase one online on a website such as Amazon.com, you can get the best deal. The price tag normally sits at around $139 to $950 for a top-rated single bevel miter saw.
Dual-Bevel Compound Miter Saw
Dual compound miter saws, while largely similar to their single compound counterparts, are a far more convenient option for professionals.
This is because they can make all the same standard cuts, but don’t need to be flipped to make a matching cut on the other side. You can simply tilt the blade instead.
Pros & Cons
- Unlike the standard compound miter saw, you don’t need to flip the workpiece to make a matching compound cut. Simply tilt the saw, adjust the workpiece position and make the cut.
- You don’t have to make many adjustments to your workpiece because the saw can tilt to adjust.
- They are priced on-par with a single compound miter saw in many cases.
- They are far more versatile.
- For particular brands and models, they are more expensive than single compound saws.
- There are more components to worry about for maintenance because of the tilt function.
- Moving them from site to site can affect the accuracy of the cut.
Dual compound miter saws are used largely by professionals in a workplace environment for window casings, picture framing, door framing and crown molding.
They are a preferred option in many cases because they are known to make a far more accurate cut than a single compound miter saw.
Double compound miter saws are fairly easy to maintain and can be maintained in the same way as a single compound saw.
However, you need to pay careful attention to the tilting function of your saw. Ensure the machine is calibrated to provide the desired cut with no inaccuracies.
Believe it or not, because the online market is so price-driven, you can often get a dual compound saw for around the same price as the single variety.
Of course, this varies depending on the model and manufacturer. You can spend approximately $194 to $900 for a high-quality dual bevel miter saw.
Sliding Miter Saw
Sliding miter saws are used by both casual woodworkers and hobbyists for various projects. They work in the exact same manner as a standard single or dual compound miter saw, except for being able to cut a wider board.
For the privilege of this convenient feature on either a single or dual compound saw, they are a little more expensive to purchase.
Pros & Cons
- They can make larger crosscuts than a table saw or standard miter saw.
- The crosscuts are more accurate than if they were done on a different type of saw.
- They are heavy-duty.
- They take up more room than a single or dual compound miter saw.
- They are more expensive.
If your line of work requires you to cut large logs, lumber, and boards, you will be more likely to purchase a sliding saw.
While they take up more room, they have the flexibility and versatility to work with larger workpieces.
The maintenance procedure for a sliding miter saw is very similar to a miter saw without the sliding function.
- Ensure the saw is free of dust and debris. To remove it effectively, it’s best to use compressed air.
- Wipe down outer areas of the machine with a cloth.
- Wipe down the cutting table and fence.
- Sharpen the blades.
- Lubricate all moving parts.
- Ensure the electric components and power cords are in good condition.
While cost isn’t the most important part of the decision-making process, it can help influence your decision.
You can pay as little as $68 for a sliding single compound miter saw, or as much as $2,300 for an industrial sliding miter saw.
Where to Buy Miter Saws?
The ultimate goal of any homeowner or professional is to spend as little as possible for a high-quality product. In a physical store, this can be hard to do. However, on online buying platforms such as Amazon.com, a price war is going on.
Each manufacturer is trying to get your business so the prices for angle saws and other power tools are driven down as a result. Therefore, it’s going to be far more beneficial for you if you purchase your new miter saw online, opposed to in a store.
Leading Miter Saws Brands and Manufacturers