Sliding Vs. Non-Sliding Miter Saw (What Should You Choose?)

Last Updated on May 2, 2023 by Barry Gray

If you’re reading this, it can be safe to assume that you’re aware of how important certain power tools are for woodworking, especially a miter saw.

With that aside, I can bet you’re probably wondering, what is the difference between a sliding and a non-sliding miter saw?

A sliding miter saw contains rails, with the blade able to move both forwards and backwards thanks to these rails. A non-sliding miter saw doesn’t have these rails and the option to slide.

Want to read the whole guide, but don’t have enough time on your hands to do so? I’ve made a quick overview of a sliding vs non-sliding miter saw, so you can come back and read the entire article at a better time for you.

  • Sliding miter saws have a larger capacity to work with than non-sliding miter saws
  • Non-sliding miter saws aren’t restricted by rails, and thanks to the pivoting arm, are able to cut extreme angles
  • Sliding miter saws are often more expensive and heavier than non-sliding miter saws
  • Cutting crown moldings and other projects with longer pieces? A sliding miter saw is perfect for you
  • Contractors may find that a non-sliding miter saw is better for them, thanks to its portable-friendly and light design

But the only trouble is – there are many different versions of miter saws out there, and it can be somewhat intimidating to understand what miter saw is best for you. Don’t stress too much, as that’s why I’m here to help.

sliding and fixed miter saw

Sliding Miter Saws Vs Non-Sliding Miter Saws

Don’t be fooled by the names, as both forms of saws are still able to make the same cuts, and feature many of the same aspects as the many other miter saws available on the market.

With both sliding and non-sliding miter saws, you’re still able to make the same cuts you would normally; cross-cuts, miter, bevel and compound cuts to name them, yet it’s the size of the boards you can work with, and the projects you can undertake that truly differentiate both options.

We’ll be looking at this in-depth within this guide, so don’t stress too much, as you’ll be an expert on both types of saw come to the end of this article.

What Is A Sliding Miter Saw?

sliding miter saw

A sliding miter saw is another type of miter saw that allows you to cut wooden boards up to 12” and 16” on some models, thanks to a blade that moves backward, as it slides forward on the rails.

The most common reason a sliding miter saw is used more than its non-sliding counterpart, is because of this sliding versatility, as it allows you to work with larger boards, and can assist in projects that are just too difficult to pull off with a non-sliding miter saw.

One of the most convenient aspects of using a non-sliding miter saw, is that you won’t have to constantly adjust the board or the angle of the saw constantly, thanks to the larger capacity. 

As the smallest measurements can matter in woodworking, this is a definite bonus for you, saving you precious seconds when working.

Yet, this isn’t to say that the sliding miter saw is the overall winner, as if this were so, every serious craftsman would have one. A sliding miter saw is restricted by rails and can be difficult to use if you’re wanting to cut at maximum angles.

Sliding miter saws are also not as easy to use in transit as non-sliding miter saws are, proving a real handful if you’re using this on the jobsite. They are often heavier, also – so there are some important pros and cons to weigh up when choosing.

What Would I Be Using A Sliding Miter Saw For?

using a sliding miter saw

A sliding miter saw is perfect for longer pieces of wood you’d be working with, thanks to the blade that can travel in a sliding motion.

Not only longer pieces of wood are perfect for cutting with a sliding miter saw, but also thicker pieces of lumber you may be using.

Due to the increased capacity of the sliding miter saw, and the saw’s heavy weight which often sees the tool take a set place in your home workshop, many woodworkers swear that these saws are perfect for many DIY projects.

Perhaps you’re undergoing some renovations in your house, and are looking to replace or refurbish the crown moldings in your house. Beautiful crown moldings can often set the bar for a new or renovated home, and why pay someone else to do this job for you, if you’re perfectly capable of doing so yourself?

Because of the wide and long nature of crown moldings, this is a job that the sliding miter saw is perfect for. Although, don’t let that stop you there; you can use your imagination for the number of projects that a sliding miter saw is suited for.

What Is A Non-Sliding Miter Saw?

fixed miter saw

A non-sliding miter saw does not have rails, and the blade is unable to move forwards and backward, hence the reason it takes its name. However, a non-sliding miter saw has its own set of pros and cons.

Firstly, a non-sliding miter saw is better suited to cutting materials in a traditional fashion (miter, bevel, crosscuts, compound, etc), and can usually work with wood at a width of 6”.

The non-sliding miter saw has one bonus over that of a sliding miter saw, and that’s the angles it can cut. As the non-sliding miter saw isn’t restricted by the expansion rails found on a sliding miter saw, you can cut into angles that would be just too difficult for those alternative miter saws to cut through.

A non-sliding miter saw also has a pivoting, angled arm – and it’s this feature that allows these models to have a larger cutting arc than sliding miter saws.

If you’re a contractor, these saws are also better suited for you. This is due to their friendly portability status, as they are much more lightweight than a miter saw that can slide.

Non-sliding miter saws are often cheaper than sliding miter saws, so that’s another important aspect to consider. 

It comes down to your needs, and what you’ll be using the non-sliding miter saw for, which we discuss next. 

What Would I Be Using A Non-Sliding Miter Saw For?

using a fixed miter saw

Unlike the sliding miter saw, the non-sliding miter saw is not restricted by rails, and therefore – has an arc in which the pivoting arm can move within.

Due to this, a non-sliding miter saw excels at extreme miter cuts, as there are no rails that can get in the way, and can also make bevel cuts due to the pivoting arm.

Where a sliding miter saw may be more suited for longer boards for crown moldings, a non-sliding miter saw is able to cut those angled, joint moldings, as well as any pieces of boards that require the maximum amount of angle.

Added to this, is the portability option. A contractor may opt for using a non-sliding miter saw, due to its’ light design and ease of portability. It’s important to note, however, that a non-sliding miter saw is restricted by the width of the material you’re cutting.

How Do I Decide Which Is Best For Me?

Now that you know the differences between both of these miter saws, and what they’re best at, it should be much easier to decide what’s better for you.

If budget is one of your main factors in decision making, a non-sliding miter saw may be better for you, as it’s a cheaper alternative than a sliding miter saw. This also is important if you’re making angled cuts, something a non-sliding miter saw can assist more so with, thanks to the pivoting arm.

If you’re working with longer pieces and boards, a sliding miter saw may be for you – however keep in mind that this may put you back a little more, and are the heavier machine – yet the cutting capacity of a sliding miter saw is much more than a non-sliding miter saw.

I’ve just started out and will be using my miter saw for small jobs around the home, what would you recommend?

For situations like these, I would recommend using a miter saw that has a focus upon working with a larger capacity, rather than a compact design. 

Most people wouldn’t suggest using a sliding miter saw for beginners, as they can be a little more expensive – yet if you’re working with larger boards and will continue using the model for a long time to come – you won’t go wrong with either model.

It depends on how much you’re looking to spend, and what for.

The Round-Up

So we’ve discussed the differences between the two miter saws, as well as the projects they can undertake, and which one is better suited for you.

A miter saw is a power tool that should be in the inventory of the most serious of contractors and even the weekend DIY warrior, so it’s up to you to decide which one is better suited for you, pending on how often you’ll be using it, and the size of the boards and pieces you’ll be working with.

Make sure you follow the required safety precautions when you first use your new saw, as they can be deadly tools if used incorrectly.

With that being said, I’d really like to hear what you have to say – and perhaps you may even have some tips for our fellow readers.

Photo of author

Barry Gray

Hi, I’m Barry. I’ve loved woodworking and bringing things back to life for more years than I care to remember. I hope my passion for tools comes across loud and clear in everything you read here on The Tool Square.

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