Compound miter saws that are a cut above
experts, a compound miter saw is one of the most useful tools you can own for
home improvement and remodeling tasks. In addition to vertical cuts, these
multitalented tools can cut angles by rotating the saw (miter cuts), cut
diagonally through the board's face by tilting the blade (bevel cuts) or do
both at the same time (compound cuts). This makes compound miter saws
incredibly versatile, capable of cutting anything from studs, rough lumber and baseboards
to delicate trim. Timothy Dahl of Popular Mechanics calls the compound miter
saw "a must-have tool for a fully functioning workshop."
saws are classified according to the size of the blade. Blades range from 7 to
14 inches in diameter, but 10-inch and 12-inch saws are the most common.
Types of Miter Saws
10-Inch Compound Miter Saws
A saw this size is capable of tackling the most common woodshop and homeowner projects: cutting framing lumber, door and window trim, crown molding, and even cabinet and furniture parts. It also costs less, weighs less, and takes up less room than a larger saw, and it's capable of sharing blades with a table saw.12-Inch Compound Miter Saws
If you routinely cut larger wood stock, opting for the larger blades of a 12-inch miter saw can make sense. These saws can more easily handle stock both standing up against the fence (the small wall used to position the material) and lying flat. However, as a saw's size increases, so does its price, weight and complexity.
Do you want a standard or sliding compound
On a standard compound miter saw, the saw head can rotate and swivel,
but it doesn't slide back and forth. These saws are often called chop saws for
their ability to quickly slice vertical cuts. Standard miter saws range from
about $150 to $350.
A sliding compound
miter saw uses rails to guide the saw head across the board as it cuts, similar
to a radial arm saw. This makes it possible to cut through boards that are
wider than the saw blade. A sliding saw can handle boards up to 50 percent
wider than a stationary saw, but these models are also considerably pricier
– typically between $300 and $600.
Single or dual bevel?
difference between compound miter saws is whether they have a single-bevel or
dual-bevel design. All compound miter saws can tilt the blade in at least one
direction to make a bevel (sloped) cut. Dual-bevel saws, however, can tilt to
both the left and the right. This is a handy feature for users who often
require compound cuts – for example, for cutting crown molding. Without
it, they would have to flip the trim over and make a more complicated
Corded or cordless?
of the newer innovations in compound miter saws is the appearance of cordless
models. While removing the cord means improved versatility and range for
many power tools, it isn't necessarily a huge advantage for a miter saw. These
tools tend to spend most of their time on a workbench next to an outlet, rather
than being carried around a job site like a drill or a nail gun. We found only
one review that features cordless miter saws, and while two models earn high
ratings in that test, they're both very expensive compared to similar corded
models. As a result, we aren't currently recommending cordless compound miter
saws in this report, although that may change in the future as technology for
lithium-ion batteries continues to improve.
Two features that
most compound miter saws struggle with are the quality of the stock blade and
dust collection. Many owners choose to address the first problem by immediately
replacing the factory blade with a higher-grade carbide-tipped blade that has 60
or 80-TPI (teeth per inch) to produce cleaner cuts. As for dust collection,
most experts say the attached dust bags that come with many saws are virtually
useless. Owners find connecting the dust port to a vacuum is the most effective
way to reduce sawdust buildup.
Finding The Best Miter Saws
To find the best
compound miter saws, we looked at performance, of course, but also at how easy
a saw is to use and how well it stands up over time. We consulted expert
reviews from publications such as Woodworker's
Journal, Popular Woodworking, and Popular
Mechanics, as well as the opinions of hundreds of
users at retail sites like Amazon.com, HomeDepot.com and Lowes.com. Based on
these sources, we selected the top-rated 10-inch and 12-inch compound miter
saws, both standard and sliding.