Miter saws come in all varieties of shapes, sizes, and colors. Generally, the blade sizes of a regular, non-sliding saw (or chop saw) range from 7.25 inches up to 12 inches. Larger blades can cut wider boards. Stationary compound miter saws (also knows as “bench miter saws,” or simply “compound miter saws”) do more than just cut simple miter angles. They have an arm that pivots, allowing the blade to tip to the side, resulting in a “bevel” cut.
Typically, these saws are referred to as “compound” because the tilted angle and miter angle planes make it possible to cut two angles simultaneously.
Which is Better: a Standard or Sliding Miter Saw?
Sliding compound miter saws (click here for our review) have all the versatility of compound miter saws but the added benefit of flexibility. Their sliding arm or arms allow you to move the blade both forward and backward, providing a longer cutting length. These tools cut a few inches wider than the diameter of the blade. However, they’re significantly more expensive than a non-sliding saw. If you can afford it and often cut wider materials, we highly recommend a sliding miter saw.
Sliding miter saws make life much easier and save a load of time. The standard sliding miter saw has a trigger built into the handle. Some also feature a safety button that you depress before squeezing the trigger. To begin a straight downward cut, press the safety button, squeeze the trigger, and then wait for the saw blade to reach its maximum torque. Next, slowly lower the saw onto the board or material you’re cutting. As it cuts, guide the saw downward.
Once the cut is complete, but the blade is still in the material, release the trigger. Let it come to a complete stop before you lift the blade away from the material. A compound sliding miter saw will do miter cuts and bevels at the same time. Miter saws feature a fence that you can rest the back of the board against while cutting. This keeps the board steady and helps your miter saw cut to the precise degree you have chosen.
Many miter saws come with a clamp, which acts like another hand to steady the board while cutting. If your saw doesn’t have a clamp, keep your hand positioned far away from the blade when holding the board against the fence. Never reach beneath the saw while it’s 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:
- Put your board against the fence and clamp it.
- Pull the saw toward you until the blade is directly over the edge that’s 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.
- Push the saw away from you as your blade cuts through the rest of the wood. (See below.)
- Once the blade has finished cutting through the wood, raise the saw and release the trigger to stop it.
Remember to use extreme caution when operating this tool. Before operating, take some time to read through the manual included with your power tool. And don’t forget to wear safety gear!
Here are a few more safety tips to keep in mind:
- 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 work that generates airborne dust or debris, such as demolition or grinding.
- 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 with the guard in place.
A sliding compound miter saw handles cutting thick materials 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.
So far, this review has only applied to single bevel models, which only make bevel cuts in one direction, left or right. To make matching cuts, you would need to flip over the workpiece and reset the angle, making sure it’s accurate before moving onto the second bevel cut. But with a dual bevel saw, you can make compound cuts in both left and right directions without having to turn your piece over – instead, you just use the pivoting arm to 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 fine-tuned professional work like mitering (framework, molding, etc.), milling, or squaring of raw lumber, miter saws are your best bet. They also make great additions to the garage, no matter how you look at it.
If you want to use your miter saw on anything larger than an eight-inch board, you’ll need to invest in a good sliding saw. But if you just need a miter saw to cut 45-degree miters in molding or picture frames, you’ll be just fine with an inexpensive, non-sliding 10” saw.
Looking at buying a miter? Don’t forget to grab a miter saw stand.
It all boils down to the main advantage of a sliding miter saw over a non-sliding miter saw, which is you can cut wider boards. If you’d need to use a miter saw most of the time, it can be worth the money to invest in a slider. Although they’re considerably more expensive than standard miter saws, they are well worth it.