Last Updated on August 28, 2022 by James Thomas
The miter saw, one of the most favored power tools across all industries – and this is especially the case if you’re a woodworker.
You may want to read this entire guide (and why wouldn’t you?), but maybe you don’t have enough time on your hands.
If this sounds like you, we’ve made a quick overview of the main points discussed in this guide, in a list form for your convenience.
- Miter saws come in both corded and cordless class, with both variations useful in different situations
- The core features of a miter saw include the blade, motor, table and miter scale, with a battery for cordless models
- Miter saws allow you to make cross cuts, bevel cuts, and miter cuts without having to use separate tools
- Typically, miter saws can be found in five variations, depending on the exact job you’d like to complete
- Miter saws can be added with bonus attachments to improve functionality, such as lights and dust ports
Whether it’s for your own home-based use, or you’re a seasoned contractor, there’s a very high chance you’ve either used a miter saw, or been on site when there’s one cutting through woods for a project.
But what if you’ve yet to use one? It can be quite overwhelming, there’s many options, and it can almost seem as though there’s too many variations of miter saw to choose from. We’ve all started from somewhere, and that’s why I’ve created this miter saw buyers guide.
The Miter Saw: A Complete Look
What makes a miter saw so special and sought after by so many of those in the woodworking scene?
Well, it boils down to the jobs you’re able to complete with a miter saw.
This is a power tool that can do things that many other saws cannot, and they also have a large scope of versatility when it comes to making cuts, in both a powerful yet accurate manner.
A miter saw has the ability to rotate, and create miter/angled cuts – which is where the tool gets its name from.
Miter saws can be found in many varieties, and we’ll be discussing a majority of them in this guide today.
Types Of Miter Saws: Corded & Cordless
Firstly, it’s easy to separate the miter saw range into two classes: corded and cordless class.
Both have their benefits and drawbacks for a variety of users, and you’ll have a general understanding of what is better suited for you before reading this guide.
If not, that’s not a problem – that’s what this guide will assist you with. Firstly, we’ll start with the corded miter saw class.
Corded Miter Saws
Corded miter saws are incredibly powerful tools, and, like the name suggests – derives their power from a corded, electrical source.
One of the positive in which the corded miter saw has over the cordless miter saw, is power.
Measured in rotations per minute, the miter saw can reach an RPM of up to 5,000 in select miter saws. This is incredibly useful for cutting through difficult woods with ease – regardless of the type you’re using.
Generally, you’ll find corded miter saws differentiated by size, with the most popular and known sizes being a 10” and 12” miter saw.
As well as the size differences, miter saw can specialize in certain cuts.
There are too many to describe in depth within this guide, so I’ll list some of them with a short description below
- Standard miter saw: A standard, miter saw that can create any of the three cuts you’ll need and adjusts accordingly.
- Sliding miter saw: miter saw with sliding rails that allows the blade to move back and forth and extends the cut length
- Compound miter saw: Allows for the wood to be cut as specific angles thanks to an adjustable left or right feature
- Compound sliding miter saw: miter saw that covers sliding, bevel and mitering functions
- Dual compound sliding miter saw: Included all three functions, and also bevels left and right, covering all cutting angles
The more functions a miter saw has, the more expensive you’ll find these miter saws are. If you’re unsure at what’s best for you – keep reading, you’ll find the answer here.
Cordless Miter Saws
The cordless miter saw find themselves in the inventory of the general handyman and, more notably – the professional contractor.
What’s the reason for this? This is due to one main factor, its compact design that is perfect for portability.
Corded miter saws can be incredibly heavy, and it’s impractical to transport this from site to site, yet no other tool is able to provide the functionality for certain projects as a miter saw can – so the cordless option is the next best thing.
Cordless miter saws are powered by a battery, and many manufacturers have their own battery sharing platform, a system that is great for those who buy tools specifically within the one brand.
Just because these miter saws are compact, it doesn’t mean they’re lacking power. Cordless miter saw models that include a brushless motor can reach cutting speeds of up to 5,700 RPM – which is quite incredible when compared to the corded class.
As well as being powerful, many cordless miter saws include aspects that assist users working in the harshest of settings, such as LED attachments to assist with cuts under dim conditions, and accuracy system that provide a line of sight so you’re able to make sure you’re cutting as efficiently as possible.
Features Of A Miter Saw: What To Look For
Like all tools, there are some core features you should be aware of when looking to buy a new miter saw. As each user is different and will have differing needs for their tools, it may come down to exactly what you’re after.
The features we’re covering in this guide are the core features – the components that make up the miter saw, and without, well, you wouldn’t have the miter saw as we know it today.
Without the blade of a miter saw, you’re unable to make any cuts. It’s the blade that makes the cut upon the wood, and these can be found in many different varieties.
Firstly, they’re differentiated by size. If you’re using a 12” or 10” miter saw, it’s best to the respectively sized blade, as this will work more effectively for you. Blades can come in many forms, with some brands manufacturing blades ranging from 32 to 100 teeth.
Generally, the more teeth a blade has, the more you’ll be paying – yet these are also able to reach maximum RPM speeds, and cut wood incredibly quickly with minimal error.
You’ll find that most blades are made of tungsten carbide, however some will be titanium tipped, and made from other materials. There is a lot of choice up for offer when it comes to blades, giving you a wider variety to choose from.
Miter saw blades are quite durable, and contain many additional features. Such features include non-stick coatings to prevent build ups, and increased hook angles.
Motor & Battery
The heartbeat of the miter saw, the motor provides the power to channel throughout the saw, allowing the blade to reach high speeds for effective cutting. With the corded miter saws, the power is generated from an electrical outlet, where as the cordless class will be powered thanks to the battery.
Motors on the corded class of miter saws are usually found within the power range of 15 amps, and can reach speeds ranging from 3,200 to 5,000 RPM. This is similar with the cordless class.
When choosing a cordless miter saw, you’ll find that many brands have batteries that can be shared between power tools of the same brand. Many manufacturers are creating their own battery platform systems that allow this, and it can be a great help to your budget if you already own many cordless power tools from the one brand.
As well as this, you’ll find that the motor of a cordless miter saw will either contain brushed, which is the traditional, but older method of building motors, with copper brushes that do wear over time.
As of late, brushless motors have entered the fray, and eliminates the need for physical brushes. These motors will run coolers, and will have an increased lifespan than that of brushed motors.
When you hear of the table of a miter saw, this refers to the base that is attached to the miter saw, which allows you to make cuts upon. This is the main job of the table, and it’s quite important that you are aware of the size of your board when making cuts, in order to work effectively with the table.
As table space can be quite limited, many DIYers have designed their own miter saw stands and tables, in order to provide more length for cutting longer boards. This is something you can definitely look into, especially if you fit this category.
The last of the core features of the miter saw is the miter scale. Due to the intended use of the miter saw, the miter scale can be said to be its’ true purpose.
Why is this? Well, this is due to the cuts you’re making, and angled cuts are referred to as, ‘miter cuts’. Upon many meter scales, are ‘stops’. These stops are some of the more common angles to cut from, which are 45° and 90° to name some examples – however there are up to 10-12 stops on certain brands of miter saws.
These stops can also be locked into place, a feature that’s incredibly convenient, especially when you’re working with certain angled repetitively.
In addition to the core features found on a miter saw, there are many additional features that can assist in enhancing the end result of your project. Some of the additional features commonly found on miter saws include dust ports and bags, which capture the dust leftover from your cuts. Makes cleanup a lot easier, doesn’t it?
Another noteworthy feature that is found often on premier miter saws include line of cuts. These can be in LED/line of sight form within both portable and cordless miter saws, which create a visible line in order to assist you with cutting.
There are many other additional features, not just limited to these I’ve discussed. Let me know of your favorite features in the comment section at the bottom of this article.
What Cuts Can Be Made With a Miter Saw?
So we’ve had a look at the variations of miter saws available, as well as the features that define these power tools. Yet, if you’re looking at purchasing a miter saw, or already have one – there’s a very high chance that it’s due to the cuts they can make.
Let’s have a look at the cuts you can make with a miter saw.
A miter cut is what the miter saw is primarily used for. These are the cuts made through the wood you’re cutting, running diagonally at an angle. To make these cuts, you can utilize the miter scale on the miter saw, picking out the best angle possible in order to make the cuts you need.
Most of the times, miter saws will bevel to the lift. When using other variations of miter saws, such as a double bevel miter saw, this can allow you to pivot the blade to the right also, with the same angle as the left.
This makes it a lot easier to cut your pieces, especially if you’re cutting for tight angled projects, eliminating the need to turn over boards to make cuts in both angled directions.
Cross cuts are relatively simple, and can effectively be made on a majority of power saws. The cross cut refers to a straight cut, which is parallel with the edges of the board. Unlike a miter cut where you’ll need to decide on an angle before dropping the saw to make the cut.
Due to not having to adjust the saw when making a cut, it’s one of the easiest cuts you can do – and a very effective one at that.
The bevel cut is made at an angle, however the cut is made through the wood at an angle other than 90°. Unlike a miter cut which make a straight angled cut, the bevel cut will slice downwards into the wood. Many miter saws are unable to make bevel cuts, and it’s only a number of miter saw variations that can do so.
Why would you be making bevel cuts? Well, they’re very useful for a diagonally spanning board, especially those at complex angles.
Mastering a bevel cut, in conjunction to cross and miter cuts you can make with a miter saw, can help elevate both your skill and the finish or your cuts, enhancing the end project.
The Round Up
Now that we’ve reached the end, you should have a better understanding of how the miter saw works. Hopefully, this should also make it easier for you to decide what to buy a miter saw, especially if you’re torn between a few varieties.
These power tools are incredibly versatile, and can be used to assist in making homes, furniture needed for the house, and even to create miter saw stands. Whatever you need to create, you can be assured that a miter saw will assist you in doing so.
The good news is that there’ll be a miter saw available for any price range, whatever that may be. Feel free to check out our guides on miter saws, both corded and cordless, to see what is best for you.
If you think I’ve missed anything, I’d like to hear what this is, in the comments below.
That goes for any tips you may have for our readers.
Frequently Asked Questions
Why are miter saws often the preferred tool to use by DIYers and contractors?
This is due to their versatility, and how the mite daw allows for making quick angle adjustments within a short frame of time, which is often limited within the woodworking and construction industry – especially when working on something large.
Because they cut with such accuracy, many builders and those around their home workshops use miter saws to quickly trim pieces into smaller boards, without wasting too much time.