December 18, 2017

How To Choose A Miter Saw

Hitachi C10FCE2 Miter SawThere are a number of things to look for when buying a miter saw. The most important factors that you have to decide on are the size of the blade, simple chop saw or compound miter, single-bevel or dual-bevel and whether to go for a sliding or fixed saw. There are of course pros and cons to each of these choices.

What size blade?
The majority of miter saw blades are either 10-inch or 12-inch, and you need to bear in mind that it’s not just the size of the blade that is different – a 12-inch saw will be bigger and heavier all round with a bigger footprint. Ten-inch miter saws are the lightest, and therefore easier to carry around. The major disadvantage of a 10-inch blade is that their capacity is limited to wood no wider than a nominal 2-by-6, so you need to think carefully about what projects you plan to use it for. Larger than this and you need to look at a 12-inch saw. The depth of cut is of greatest importance when cutting high moldings, such as tall baseboards or large crown moldings.

Simple chop saw or compound miter? Single-bevel or dual-bevel ?
A simple chop saw or cut-off saw can cut a board straight across or at an angle. This is fairly limiting in what you can do with the saw, and most people would agree that it is worth spending the extra to get a compound miter saw, which can also tilt the blade to bevel the cut.Cheaper saws will have a bevel range of about 45 degrees to either the left or the right –  this is called a single-bevel miter saw, as opposed to a dual-bevel miter saws, which tilts in both directions. The disadvantage of a single-bevel saw is that, to cut another board to make a perfect joint in molding, you have to swing the board around instead of adjusting the saw. Most woodworkers prefer the convenience of a double-bevel miter saw, but this adds to the cost of the saw.

Sliding Compound Miter Saws
For cutting wider boards, sliding compound miter saws allow the blade assembly to slide forward instead of staying in one position. However, the rails built into a sliding miter saw give the whole saw a much larger footprint, and sliding miter saws tend to be quite heavy. In addition, if you cut tall moldings, a sliding compound miter saw may not be the best choice, as the sliding capability actually decreases the vertical capacity of the miter saw, while letting it cut wider boards flat. It’s another trade-off and means you need to carefully consider the type of project you want to use it for.