How to use a Sliding Miter Saw?

Miter saws come in all varieties of shapes, sizes, and colors. Generally, the sizes of a regular, non-sliding saw, (or chop saw) range from 7.25 inches up to 12 inches, which refers to the size of the blade. Larger blades can cut wider boards. Stationary compound miter saws, or “bench miter saws” or simply, “compound miter saws”, are specialized saws that do more than just cut simple miter angles – they have an arm that pivots which allows the blade to be tipped to the side, resulting in a “bevel” cut.

Typically, these saws are referred to as “compound” because having the tilted angle and the miter angle planes make it possible to cut two angles at the same time.

What is Better Standard or Sliding Miter Saw

Sliding compound miter saws – click for our review here, have all the versatility of compound miter saws, but with more flexibility in that it has sliding arm or arms that allow you to move the blade both forward and backward, and provides an increased cutting length. These tools allow you to cut a few inches wider than the diameter of the blade, but is significantly more expensive than a non-sliding saw.  If you can afford it, however, we highly recommend a sliding miter saw, if you need to cut wider materials often.

Sliding miter saws makes life so much easier and saves a load of time. The standard sliding miter saw has a trigger that is built into the handle, and some also have a safety button that needs depressed before the trigger is squeezed. To begin a straight downward cut, press the safety button, then squeeze the trigger and wait for the saw blade to reach its maximum torque.  Then slowly lower the saw onto the board or material you are cutting. As it cuts, guide the saw downward.

Once the cut is complete, release the trigger while the blade is still in the material, and let it come to a complete stop before you lift it away from the material.  A compound sliding miter saw will do miter cuts and bevels at the same time.  Miter saws have a fence that allows you to rest the back of the board against while cutting to help keep the board steady and helps your miter saw cut to the precise degree you have chosen.

Many miter saws come with a clamp, which is very useful and acts like another “hand” to safely steady the board while cutting. If there is no clamp on your saw, make sure your hand is always positioned far away from the blade while holding the board up against the fence. NEVER reach beneath the saw while it is rotating, whether there is a guard or not.

How to Operate a Sliding Miter Saw?

When operating a miter saw, there is a correct way to make a sliding cut:

  • Start by putting your board against the fence and clamp it.
  • Before you start the blade, pull the saw toward you until the blade is directly over the board’s edge that is closest to you.
  • Squeeze the trigger to start the saw and wait for it to reach peak rotation speed. Then pull the blade down and into the wood.
  • While the blade is still rotating, push the saw back and away from you as your blade cuts through the rest of the wood (see photo below.)
  • Once the blade has finished cutting through the wood, raise the saw and release the trigger to stop the saw.

Remember to use extreme caution when operating this tool. Before operation, take some time to read through the manual that is included with your power tool, and wear safety gear.

Here are a few more safety tips to keep in mind:

  • Tool accessories can get hot during use. Avoid contact with skin, and wear gloves or use a cloth to remove them.
  • Wear hearing protection when using the tool for long stretches of time.
  • Always wear safety goggles or other eye protection to keep any flying concrete fragments or dust from your eyes.
  • Wear a dust mask or respirator when involved in grinding or demolition work that generates airborne dust or debris.
  • When operating hammer drills or demolition hammers, wear cushioned gloves to reduce vibration. Also take frequent breaks to limit exposure.
  • Don’t expose power tools to rain or wet conditions. Water entering the tool can cause electric shock.
  • Never attempt to operate hammer drills, demolition hammers, or grinders with one hand. Always hold both handles for maximum control.
  • Before using a concrete grinder, inspect the grinding wheel for chips, cracks, or missing segments. Replace damaged or worn wheels immediately, and always operate the grinder with the guard in place.

When cutting a thick material like a fence post, a sliding compound miter saw handles this much better than a regular compound miter saw. Sliding saws are also used frequently for cutting other thicker woods like lumber, boards, and logs. Both of these types of miter saws are available in single or dual level models, and this review so far has applied to single bevel models, which means they only allow you to make bevel cuts in one direction, left or right.

So to make matching cuts you would need to flip over the workpiece and reset the angle to make sure it’s accurate before moving on to the second bevel cut. But with a dual bevel saw, you are able to make compound cuts in both left and right directions without having to turn your piece over – instead, you just use the pivoting arm to accurately flip the saw.

Consider this: If you typically use a table saw to rip or crosscut wide boards, and you’re pretty handy with a circular saw, you probably don’t even need a miter saw. However, if you do a lot of more fine-tuned professional work like mitering (framework, molding, etc), or do a lot of milling or squaring of raw lumber, miter saws are your best bet and can make your life much easier. They also make great additions to the garage, no matter how you look at it.

Now, if you want to use your miter saw on anything larger than an eight-inch board, though, you will need to invest in a good sliding saw. None the less, if you just need a miter saw to cut 45-degree miters in molding or picture frames, you’ll be just fine going with an inexpensive, non-sliding 10” saw.

Looking at buying a miter? Don’t forget to grab a miter saw stand.


What it all boils down to is, the main advantage of a sliding miter saw over a non-sliding miter saw is that you can cut wider boards. Considering what you would need to use a miter saw for in the majority of the time, it can be worth the money and time to invest in a slider. Although they are considerably more expensive than standard miter saws, they are well worth it if you are going to get some good use out of it.

About the Author

Bob Robinson has been a tool enthusiast and lawn care expert for the past 11 years. First working with John Deere to reduce their impact on the environment, whilst building his love for writing in his spare time. Now, Bob runs the editorial team at BestofMachinery and tends to his garden in his spare time.

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