How To Choose A Miter Saw [Beginner guide] (2021)
How to choose a miter saw
There are several factors to take into consideration for choosing a miter saw:
- Saw Types
- Maximum Angles
- Accuracy Features
- Safety Features, like:
- Dust Extraction
- Miter Table
- Blade Guard
- Electric Brakes
- Productivity Features, like:
- Cordless (or not)
- Motor Power
The miter saw is one of the most popular power tools, it is essential for almost every wood-related project and great for beginners. They are very straightforward, which makes them easy to operate for even the most novice user.
The miter saw serves a simple function, but does it very efficiently. It will let you make crosscuts and miter cuts. Since it is stationary and has easy repeatability, it allows you to speed up your productivity.
It is a trusty saw that remains universally appreciated for its pure effectiveness in cutting several different types of materials.
So here we have prepared the All-In-One Miter Saw Guide, useful for both beginners and pros. We will talk about what is a miter saw, how to choose one, the miter saw types, how to use a miter saw, and even a comparison between miter saws and other types of saws.
What is miter saw?
Miter saws are a type of bench and stationary machinery that improve on the basic chop saw design and let you make precise cuts at various angles. They’re ideal for creating angle joints or even decorative pieces. And the top-rated miter saw models provide easy repeatability to speed up your productivity.
Essentially, a miter saw is a tool used to make crosscuts and miter cuts, usually in wood. A miter cut is an angled cut made across the face, or width, of a board. A crosscut is a diagonal cut, especially one across the main grain or axis of wood or stone.
The miter saw makes these cuts by pulling a mounted circular saw blade down onto the piece that has been placed on a flat surface below.
This style of sawing is stationary because you bring the saw blade down onto a piece to cut it instead of running the saw blade along with the piece.
When using a miter saw, the workpiece is usually held against the saw’s fence. This gives it a precise cutting angle between the plane of the blade and the plane of the longest workpiece edge. When cutting in standard position, the cutting angle is 90°.
However, miter saws aren’t limited to performing only 90° cuts. They allow you to rotate the blade to varying angles. The most common is 45°. This can allow users to make quick angled cuts for many workpieces.
Basically, the miter saws are most known for cutting down larger pieces into smaller ones. Then, they can be refined more by using other types of saws.
Some miter saws also have additional features and abilities. You can take that into consideration when you want to purchase one!
Miter Saw Types
There are four saw types to take into consideration:
- Standard miters saws rotate to the side. This allows you to cut the board from the top at an angle, so you can easily create corner pieces for a variety of projects.
- Compound miter saws can also bevel, or tilt, to allow you to cut your piece at different angles. With them, you can cut both horizontally and vertically.
- Single-action compound miter saws bevel only to one side, while dual-action saws bevel to both sides for greater versatility.
- Sliding miter saws add an additional function: these can slide forward. This allows you to cut wider pieces than the blade would normally allow.
We will explain with more detail in another section of the article, dedicated especially to miter saw types. This is one of the most popular questions people ask when it comes to miter saws.
The maximum angle your saw can miter to will determine the pieces you can cut with it, because a miter saw’s performance is more versatile the greater its maximum miter angle is. A saw generally cuts perpendicular to a piece, so it starts at 90 degrees.
The given values for a specific saw’s maximum miter angle are how far in either direction the saw can turn.
If you have a miter saw with regular angle stops and a laser guide, you can easily set it to the correct bevel/miter angle in a couple of seconds. Then you can line your work piece up to ensure that you’re cutting to the right length.
This type of accuracy features can save you hours off of a commercial-scale product, because your work would be essentially reduced to placing the piece against the fence and chopping.
You can enhance your safety by making your next miter saw one that comes with built-in safety features. Some things that you could take into consideration when buying a miter saw is seeing if it includes any of these safety features:
- Dust Extraction
- Miter Table
- Blade Guard
- Electric Brakes
This depends entirely on your preference and what type of usage you will give your miter saw! You can look for productivity features to make your work easier. Some of the most popular are purchasing a cordless set, or buying extra blades, or the motor power included (basically, the more powerful the motor, the easier the saw cuts through hard material).
If you want a more detailed explanation of all the things you can take into consideration when deciding how to choose a miter saw for you, there are plenty of articles you can check out! Here’s one we recommend.
Types of miter saws
There are many different types of miter saws. Each one offers different levels of functionality and cutting ability. Here we will go over some of the most known types of miter saws.
Standard Miter Saw
The most basic of miter saws will offer you straight cuts. All miter saws can at least cut in 90° and 45° angles. And the cutting size will depend on the blade size.
Basically, all standard miter saws should be able to provide basic miter cuts and crosscuts. These are ideal for those continually working with framing. They will work just fine for anyone with basic cutting needs.
Sliding Compound Miter Saw
A compound miter saw has the ability to rotate the blade head at a particular variety of angles from the board. This will allow you to cut the wood at an angle beyond just the basic 90°.
This feature allows a ramp-angled cut into the side of the wood. It will also allow you to perform more complex cuts that are used when doing trim work for homes.
The compound miter saw can be a single compound miter saw or a dual compound-miter saw.
A single compound miter saw means that the saw’s head will be rotating only on one side. Other angles will require the user to flip the board in the other direction.
A dual compound-miter saw allows the head to rotate on the left and right hand of the saw. This comes in handy for numerous types of decorative trim work.
You can also find sliding compound-miter saws. This adds what’s known as a radial arm saw feature, which lets you move the saw head back and forth. This will increase the board size that you can crosscut. By having the ability to slide the saw’s head, you can cut pieces that are wider than the blade. This will essentially double its cutting capacity.
How to use a miter saw
A miter saw is a powerful machine and not a toy. Before using it, make sure you are trained by a professional or do thorough research. Using a miter saw inappropriately could end up in serious injury.
With that being said, the basics to using a miter saw are these:
First off, you should mark your material. You should measure your cut and use a pencil to gently mark the lines on the material you want to cut.
Then, you should position your clamp. It is very important that you protect yourself with a miter saw clamp. This will keep your hands away from the blade. You should place the clamp at least 6 inches from the blade and tighten until it is secure. Most clamps have a small knob that can be tightened and loosened.
Once that is secured, you should prep your saw. Make miter and bevel adjustments as needed according to manufacturer’s directions. The bevel refers to the saw’s vertical angle, while a miter is the saw’s horizontal angle. Depending on your project, you can adjust one or both settings to get the necessary angle for your cut.
Once the saw is set, you should squeeze the trigger to turn it on. Remember to bring the blade up to full speed before pulling it down towards the wood.
All that’s left now is to start sawing! Make your cut, moving from front to back. This movement matches the spin of the blade and will prevent kickback. Once the board is cut through, release the trigger. You must let the blade come to a complete stop before raising it.
You should make sure to check the security and instruction manuals your miter saw comes with before operating it.
Miter Saws vs Other Types of Saws
What makes the miter saw different than other types of saws? Here we’ll compare it to some of its “saw cousins” so you can appreciate what makes the miter saw so unique.
What’s The Difference Between Miter Saws And Circular Saws?
Miter saws are basically a variation of circular saws in a way. However, there is one critical difference between them: one is mounted and one is not.
Circular saws are handheld and designed to make long or short cuts across a piece. They have more versatility, but they are more dependent on the user. They also aren’t as efficient as miter saws.
Miter saws have more of an assembly line type feel. They depend less on the user and always provide solid results. They allow you to cut multiple workpieces quickly with high accuracy. However, they can only make a cut that is as long as the blade itself. You can’t feed a piece into the blade and make long cuts. And you can’t run the saw along the piece to make long cuts like you can with a circular saw.
What’s The Difference Between Miter Saws And Jigsaws?
Miter saws and jigsaws have a few things in common, but they are very different.
What makes them so different is that jigsaws are mostly used for making complicated or intricate cuts in wood. This includes decorative cuts, which can’t be accomplished with more limited saws. These saws use a small flat blade that goes up and down and will allow the user to move it in any direction.
However, these two blades work very well together! It’s common to see jigsaws used in conjunction with miter saws. First, you would use the miter saw to cut down a particular piece, and then use a jigsaw to refine it further. They have very different goals, but can make a killer combo for DIYs.
What’s The Difference Between Miter Saws And Chop Saws?
Sometimes people use the terms “chop saw” and “miter saw” interchangeably. This is because they both do the same thing and look similar. However, they are different types of saws!
Basically, a chop saw is a “stripped-down” version of a miter saw. This saw can only “chop”– it can only make a downward motion. The main difference is that miter saws can rotate to cut at angles, and sometimes make bevel cuts as well.
So, a chop saw is just a basic saw with a circular blade that can lower down to make a crosscut at a straight angle. The miter, as you already know, is so much more than that!