What is a Sliding Miter Saw?

A power miter saw, also known as a chop saw or drop saw, is a specialized saw designed to make cuts at many varieties of angles. Invented by Ed Niehaus in 1964 for Rockwell, the miter saw has a blade that is mounted on a pivoting swing arm that moves left or right to make angled cuts. This saw can be used as a fast saw to cut for crown molding, picture frames, door frames, casings, and more.

Sliding miter saws (click for top 10) 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. Sliding compound miter saws are used for cutting thicker materials like lumber, boards, and logs.

Because Rockwell never patented the design, there have been many different innovations and new technologies applied to the miter saw by manufacturers that is still apparent today, including radial arc spring action, blade brakes, and dust collecting.

The miter saw comes in several different variations, but essentially it makes cuts by pulling a spinning circular saw blade down onto material like wood or steel in a short, controlled motion. The material, or workpiece, is held down by a fence, which provides a cutting angle that is measured precisely between the plane of the blade and the plane of the longest edge of the workpiece.

In a standard position, this angle is held at a 90 degree angle. The miter index is a feature that allows the angle of the blade to change relative to the fence. While there are precise one-degree increments to the index, many miter saws will also provide “stops” that quickly set the miter index to the most common angles. Here are the different variations of miter saws:

Standard miter saw

Cuts straight cross-cuts on lumber at a wide range of angles, commonly used to create 45 degree straight cuts for framing.

Compound-miter saw

Compound miter saws have blades that will pivot left and right, and also tilt in a single direction for bevel cutting. Controlling the saw on both axes at the same time produces a compound miter cut. These saws are useful for picture frames, crown molding, or any other project that requires dual-plane angles. The advantage to compound miter saws is that they will produce two angle cuts in one pass.

Dual compound-miter saw

These function like compound miter saws, but while those will only tilt in one direction, dual compound miter saws will tilt both left and right, and are able to create bevels at any angle quickly.

Sliding compound miter saw

These have all the features of a compound saw, but similar to a radial arm saw this allows you to move the blade forwards and backwards. this provides the potential for cutting at an increased length.

Laser LED sliding dual compound miter saw

This includes a disc-shaped washer which is a laser that attaches to the saw blade to show where the blade will cut, illuminating the area.

Features of a Miter Saw

  • Features of a Miter SawAmps measure the power of the saw motor. Higher amps mean more cutting power.
  • Blade size – There are many different sizes of blades, each size is important to its functionality and material.The most common sizes for a miter saw are 8, 10 and 12 inches. The larger in diameter of a blade, the longer cut it will make.
  • Positive stops are the preset points where you can quickly make cuts. Some saws have thumb-activated stops for quick adjusting.
  • Depth stops are for controlling the height and how deeply the blade cuts into the work piece.
  • Articulated blade guards help protect when the blade is in use. When you raise the saw, the guard lowers to completely cover the blade.
  • Electric brakes stop the saw in seconds by reversing the flow of the saw’s electricity when you release the trigger. Reversing the current stops the blade’s momentum quickly.
  • Spindle or shaft locks keep the shaft and blade from moving, making it much easier to change the blade.
  • Dust chutes and blowers help remove sawdust from the cutting area.
  • Dust bags collect sawdust, mounted directly to the saw.
  • Table extensions support longer material to give an accurate cut, connected to the sides of the saw.
  • Sliding and flip fences provide added support to taller material for standard miter cuts.
  • Laser guides and guide lights shine a beam or cast a shadow onto the work piece that helps you accurately guide your cuts.
  • Digital displays provide easy-to-read bevel and miter setting information.

What is the difference between a compound and sliding miter saw?

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.

A big advantage to having this type of saw is that you are not limited by any sliding rails, and you have a greater cutting arc than with a sliding compound saw. This is an important factor to take into consideration, especially if you are cutting corner joint moldings like crown molding or framework. However, there is a limit to the width of material that can be cut with a compound miter saw.

For example, a 10-inch compound miter saw can only cut up to six inches wide – which really isn’t a bad thing because most woodworkers will rarely need to cut anything wider than that. All in all, a compound miter saw will most likely be able to handle most of the work you throw at it, and they are great for projects like crown molding.

Sliding compound miter saws 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.

Sliding Compound Miter Saws vs. Non-Sliding

The notable difference between a sliding compound miter saw and a non-sliding compound miter saw is that the sliding saw has rails which allow you to slide, or glide the saw head forward and backward while cutting. Having this sliding function increases the overall cutting capacity of the tool greatly, in terms of how well it handles the material’s thickness. For instance, 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.

What is a compound miter saw?

Compound miter saws have blades that will pivot left and right, and also tilt in a single direction for bevel cutting. Controlling the saw on both axes at the same time produces a compound miter cut. These saws are useful for picture frames, crown molding, or any other project that requires dual-plane angles. The advantage to compound miter saws is that they will produce two angle cuts in one pass.

Conclusion

To summarize, having a sliding compound miter saw is good for those larger, heavier duty jobs and for cutting wider materials, and you will be able to do much more with a larger cutting capacity, and a larger price tag to go with it, but makes a great investment for its value.

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