Owners say the biggest drawback of a 10-inch chop saw is the smaller capacity, even if to only cut an occasional oversized board. A 12-inch compound miter saw is a good compromise for extra capacity without bumping up to a sliding saw. In the Journal of Light Construction, Andy Beasley explains, "Sliding miter saws are more versatile, but they're expensive and bulky ... If you can get by without the wide horizontal cutting capacity afforded by a slider, a 12-inch chop saw can save you a pile of money." Editors at Wood Magazine agree, saying even a single-bevel saw this size will handle nearly all the woodworking tasks you can find for it around your home.
With one of the largest capacities of a non-sliding saw, the DeWalt DW715 (Est. $300) can chop up to 6.5-inch baseboard placed flat against the fence. Reviews say it's accurate right out of the box and delivers first-class performance. Features include three firm bevel stops and sturdy detent overrides, plus a vernier scale that lets users "dial in a cut to within a quarter degree anywhere on the miter scale," according to Wood Magazine. In his comparison, Beasley says the DW715 has the best miter lock of the bunch; "(the saw's) cam-style lever is faster and easier to use than the screw knobs that are on the other machines."
Users with a lot of compound cuts will save time with a dual-bevel saw, which can tilt the saw head in two directions. DeWalt's DW716 (*Est. $400) has the same convenient features and accurate performance as the DW715, and can bevel left or right. "Although pricey, it cuts superbly, operates easily, boasts the greatest cutting capacity, and is easy to carry," says Beasley, who tests both DeWalts in his review. The DW715 and DW716 include DeWalt's extra-long three-year warranty, a one-year free service contract and a 90-day money-back guarantee. Users need only consider whether the dual-bevel convenience is worth the extra cost.
Stepping up to the larger cut capacity of a 12-inch sliding compound miter saw means a jump in overall size, weight and price as well. The blade size is ideal for serious woodworkers and the professional craftsman. In his workshop, Richard Hark with the Journal of Light Construction prefers his 12-inch slider to the smaller version; he finds it "a little more versatile" and uses it as his "primary cutting station."
In this category, the Bosch Axial Glide GCM12SD (Est. $800) clearly stands above the rest. Editors at Popular Woodworking call it the "most innovative design idea to hit miter saws," and it's easy to see why. Replacing the standard steel-rail system of a sliding miter saw are two articulating arms. Wood Magazine editors find the arms provide an extremely smooth motion and solid feel that indeed reduces blade deflection for more accurate cuts. They are "thick and bulky where they need to be," attest the editors of tool-review website ToolSnob.com.
At about $800, the Bosch is more expensive than the average sliding 12-inch miter saw, but most reviews say that for the performance and durability, the GCM12SD is worth the price. On the downside, its 65-pound weight and lack of a carrying handle make it a chore to take up stairs and move around jobsites. Not surprisingly, Amazon.com users call the factory blade is "mid-grade," and most owners are quick to replace it with a higher-quality one.
The Milwaukee 6955-20 (Est. $650) costs significantly less than the Bosch GCM12SD, but still delivers top performance. One editor at Wood Magazine calls it the "best I've ever used" for its excellent accuracy and dependability. A digital miter scale sets the 6955-20 apart from the competition. Able to dial in measurements to one-tenth of a degree, the Milwaukee quickly adjusts from one precise cut to the next. The twin work lights mounted on the front of the saw give the 6955-20 another edge on the competition; reviews say those illuminate the workspace well and are especially helpful in dim working conditions. The Milwaukee 6955-20 compound miter saw is reliable and well built, according to owners, with a five-year warranty that surpasses those of most power-tool brands.