Last Updated on May 1, 2023 by Barry Gray
Most woodworking workshops have at least one miter saw perched on a bench. Not only because the miter saw is an exciting piece of kit, but because miter saws have made it easier for the average woodworking enthusiast to produce quality crafted pieces.
A miter saw is definitely worth having and is an asset in any power tool collection. Miter saws are great at cutting miter joints moldings, doing trim work, cutting rafters, cutting wider wood boards, and straight cutting, and can be used to cut many different types of materials other than wood.
If you’re contemplating purchasing a miter saw but are unsure if the investment will be worth it, read on to see if this is the power tool for you.
Is A Miter Saw Worth It?
To determine whether a miter saw will be an asset in your workshop, let’s look at what it is primarily used for and how it can help the average DIY woodworking enthusiast or even professional produce quality work.
A miter saw is made for precision cutting miters in wood. Miters are angled cuts such as those found in the four corners of a picture frame. Beveled cuts, as well as straight cuts, are also easily made by miter saws.
Most miter saws are corded, but many manufacturers now offer battery-powered options that have become very popular. Miter saws are all motor-driven and can be likened to a skill saw but are permanently attached to a spring-loaded swing arm.
The swingarm lowers the saw blade onto the workpiece when pressed down manually by the user. Together the arm and motor are called the powerhead of the saw.
Miter saws create miter cuts by being able to tilt the saw and, naturally, the blade, either left or right, to an angle of between forty-five and ninety degrees. Saws that tilt only to one side are called compound miter saws. Saws that lean to the left and right are called dual compound miter saws.
The powerhead attaches to a base, on top of which sits the table that can swivel left and right up to a forty-five-degree angle. The table is clearly marked with a miter scale that indicates the angle of the cut you’re going to make in degrees. This makes it easy to use, and no heavy lifting is required to make even the most detailed cuts.
The miter saw table is fitted with a fence, against which the workpiece rests when being cut. The fence provides a stable backstop for the lumber to rest against while it is being cut.
Most miter saw buyers opt for saws offering the rail. This feature allows the saw to be moved forward and backward while cutting, which enables the cutting of broader lumber. The rail makes it possible to accurately miter a wide board, such as those needed when building a free-standing bookshelf.
The swingarm-mounted miter saw can perform standard ninety-degree straight cuts, and the angle of the blade can also be tilted when necessary. Angling the blade enables virtually any angled cut to be made quickly and precisely.
The efficiency and precision of a miter saw make this unique power tool an invaluable asset in any workshop.
What Materials Can A Miter Saw Cut?
Miter saws, although designed for cutting wood and composites commonly used in the construction industry, have many other uses. By fitting the appropriate blade, you’ll unlock several different applications for the miter saw without causing damage to the saw.
The most common materials that most miter saw owners are tempted to cut besides wood are steel and aluminum. The good news is that appropriate blades are readily available, meaning that aluminum and various metals can safely be cut using either a ferrous (carbon steels) or non-ferrous (Brass, copper, aluminum) metal blade.
Cutting stone, pavers, brick, and tiles is not usually associated with a miter saw. Fitting a masonry blade of the appropriate size for your miter saw will get the job done admirably. Be aware, though, that these materials generate a lot of dust, so cutting them outdoors is best. Your saw will also need a serious deep clean after the job is complete.
When fitting a melamine cutting blade to your miter saw allows the cutting of PVC piping and vinyl laminate flooring with ease.
The maximum length of a cut is determined by the size of the blade fitted to the miter saw. Blade sizes for miter saws range from seven and a quarter to twelve inches. The most common blade diameter is ten inches. As an example, a ten-inch blade can cut a five-and-a-half-inch-long slot.
When the miter saw is fitted with the rail system, the length of the cut will be determined by the reach of the rails. Typical rail lengths range between eight and ten inches, which covers most cutting requirements. Miter saws fitted with longer rails are available if you need this feature.
A miter saw’s blade rotates at up to five thousand four hundred revolutions per minute which is significantly faster than similar saws. It is thus essential to match the blade’s RPM rating to that of your miter saw to ensure the blade will cut optimally, be safe to use, and last a long time.
How Much Does A Miter Saw Cost?
Miter saws are available in many different makes, sizes, and accessories. They are priced from about $200 for a basic but functional saw up to $1,500 for the top quality professional grade saws. Most miter saws suitable for the average DIY enthusiast cost below $500, which is excellent value for a power tool that will undoubtedly up your game when it comes to woodworking.
Whether you’re a woodworking enthusiast or professional, a miter saw is definitely a valuable tool. You will wonder how you ever cut wood without one, especially if you’re used to cutting with a handsaw and a miter box. Miter saws enable you to produce quality items. They also cut many more materials than just wood, which also makes them great for non-carpentry projects.