Power miter saws allow you to make 90-degree crosscuts or angled cuts by pulling a motorized circular blade down onto a piece of wood in a plunging action. These versatile saws are great for a wide variety of jobs, such as cutting two-by-fours or window trim. They are not good for ripping lumber or cutting wide stock.
- Basic power miter saw: Basic power miter saws adjust to make miter (or angled) cuts. These are useful for projects such as trimming studs to frame a house, where only simple cuts of 90 degrees or less are required, but when you want the speed of a power saw instead of a manual saw and miter box. Some may feature stops on their miter index—the listing of angles on the base of the saw—that can be set to the most commonly needed angles.
- Compound power miter saw: Compound power miter saws can adjust for both miter and bevel cuts, giving them a leg up on basic miter saws. They typically can make bevel cuts in just one direction, either to the left or to the right, although some models pivot in both directions, allowing more flexibility. The added versatility of these saws is useful for tasks such as cutting crown moldings.
- Sliding compound miter saw: Sliding compound miter saws are the most versatile. The motor and blade assembly is mounted on a movable arm designed to accommodate longer pieces of wood, although they also work well on smaller pieces. Some models have a blade that can pivot in only one direction, much like the compound miter saw. On more advanced models, the blade can tilt to the right or left.
Materials of Construction
Miter saws are constructed mostly from steel or aluminum, although the blade guard and handle may be made from heavy-duty plastic. Most miter saws are built to withstand a serious workload. Some power miter saw tips and advice:
- Consider buying a miter saw stand to support long pieces of lumber while you’re cutting. With a stand, it’ll be much easier to keep your workpiece steady. All you need to do is press the material against the saw’s fence and push the blade steadily into the wood. Always let the blade do the work for you; never pull it through the wood.
- It’s important to consider the blade size when choosing a miter saw. Blades typically come in 8, 10, and 12 inches. As you would expect, bigger blades allow you to make longer cuts. Other options to consider include a laser guide for making precise cuts, a dust bag for collecting sawdust and electric brakes for quickly stopping the blade.
- If you’re going to be working in an area where access to an electrical power outlet is not an option, you may want to consider purchasing a cordless miter saw. Heavy use can quickly drain a battery, however, so consider buying extra power packs if you’re working on a big project.