Which Sliding Compound Miter Saw is Best?

Published: 19th April 2010
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The sliding compound miter saw tops the list of woodcraft tools that can make precise and smooth angled cuts used in everything from fine cabinet work to house building. Its lesser cousins include cut-off saws, so-called "chop saws" and any miter saw without the slide.

Do you need a 12" saw or will a 10" model do? The pros of choosing a 12" machine over a 10" unit are greater cutting height and depth and usually more power. The plus of a 10" model is lower weight and lower cost. If a 10" saw will make all the cuts you can imagine doing in your woodworking shop or on the jobsite, by all means pick the smaller design. Most features and overall quality will be similar or identical within any particular brand.

Obviously, features such as maximum height of cut, maximum depth of cut, horsepower and weight will be different and you can see those differences clearly when several machines are compared side-by-side.

The obvious benefit of a sliding compound miter saw over a standard model (without a slide) is that you can crosscut wider wood in a single cut. With or without the slide, a miter saw can make chop cuts. A chop cut will always give you a finer, smoother result but on wider planks, you may need to push-through as well and that is what the miter saw slide makes possible.

There are many things to look for in researching the best design. Which saw you decide on will depend in large part on what you mean to do with it. If you are looking for a permanently bench-mounted miter saw in a shop, you don't need to bother yourself so much with size and heaviness. However, if you are planning to lug your machine to and from and around various job sites every day, dimensions and heaviness will become very important as will a well-located carrying handle.

Most miter saws (with one, notable exception) are priced in the same neighborhood and so, if you are evaluating models, price should not be a consideration. Focus on the features that are most valuable to you.

So, what are you going to be using your saw for? If you are just going to be making recurring crosscuts into 2 x 4 lumber, just about any of these miter saws will suffice. You might, however, want to pick out one with soft start and an electronic brake. If, alternatively, you will be making critically precise cuts into pricey hardwoods or crown molding, it would seem that accuracy, micro fine adjustment controls with digital LCD readout, large vertical height capacity and an excellent laser might top your list of prerequisites. Is the laser adaptable to left or right of the blade? One brand even features dual lasers, one down each side of the blade, clearly and accurately marking out the kerf the blade will make before the cut is made.

Other central considerations relate to bevel and miter adjustments. Look at how far, left and right, these adjustments can be made. On occasion, 45 degrees just is not enough of an angle. Look how simply and precisely these adjustments can be made on each of these woodworking tools. Does the miter saw permit micro fine adjustments? How many pre-set detents are there in both the miter and bevel scales? Can you make a cut in the vicinity of, but not exactly on a detent? Is there a miter detent override? Where are the controls and how do they work? Is everything nearby and effortless to manage?

What kind of blade is packaged with the tool and what size is the arbor hole? If the answer is something other than 5/8" or 1", you may be locked into buying your blades directly from the saw manufacturer even though you might be able to find better blades elsewhere. Usually, when I buy a miter saw, I get rid of the blade and switch it with one that will make the smoothest, most precise cuts possible like the Forrest Chopmaster. The extra price is absolutely worth it if you are making critically precise joints in fine hardwoods or crown molding. If you are only making rough cuts into fir for framing, you might want to ponder a blade with fewer teeth and a more aggressive cut.

How is dust collection accomplished with each saw? Does the port match the hose on your shop vacuum or will you have to depend on a dust bag? Will you have to buy a new vacuum that fits your new machinery? How much percentage of total sawdust made by your saw will your vacuum system and dust port remove?

Is the motor on the saw you are considering direct or belt drive? Does this version have soft start, electronic speed control or variable speed? Is the motor large enough for the tasks that will be presented to it? How big is the miter saw table (for stability of large work pieces)? How much does the tool weigh (for portability)? How is the cord stored when the tool is being transported to the jobsite?

There's really a lot to take into account before you choose the best sliding compound miter saw for your needs. Take your time and think it through carefully. You'll be glad you did!




http://www.perfectwoodworking.com/woodworking tool reviews/

Bob Gillespie


© 2010 Robert M. Gillespie, Jr.

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