36 Miter Saw Tips and Tool Reviews
A miter saw is an extremely useful home improvement tool. Learn something new about this workshop workhorse in the following collection of 36 miter saw tips and tool reviews:
Wait for the Blade to Reach Full Speed
Mark Danger Zones
Use Stop Blocks for Repeat Cuts
Build a Jig to Hold Crowns and Coves
Use Shims to Shave Miters
Make a Miter Saw Stand
Retrofit a Miter Saw With a Laser
Cut a Wide Board with a Miter Saw
Set Up a Stop Block
Add a Wood Fence for Cutting Small Pieces
Sliding Miter Saw Review: Dewalt
Another top-quality saw, the DeWalt has many great features that set it apart from the pack. We especially like the easy-to-use miter lock and the accessible bevel lock and detent releases. One small feature that's easy to overlook but very thoughtful is a latch that drops down to best position the saw for 'fixed' operation. Just hook the lever and tighten the slide and the saw functions like a non-slider. The Makita saw has a similar feature. Blade changing is a little tricky on this saw. And you'll have to replace the included general-purpose 40-tooth blade with a better one for trim work. But despite these complaints, this is a great saw that any of us would love to have in our workshop.
We Like Easily Accessible Bevel Controls
We Prefer Ambidextrous Switches
Are Four Rails Better
Other Features Worth Looking For
- A blade guard that's easy to see through. It's a real nuisance to have to lift the blade guard every time you make a cut in order to line the blade up with the mark. That's just what you'll have to do with all of the single-bevel saws and the Hitachi. None has a blade guard we like. The Bosch, DeWalt and Makita saws all have excellent blade guards with good visibility.
- A good-quality blade. The Makita, Bosch and Hitachi saws come with excellent blades. The rest of the saws will benefit from an upgrade that'll set you back from $40 to $90, depending on the quality.
- Intuitive controls without gimmicks. We think you should be able to walk up to a saw and figure out how to use it without having to study the manual. The single-bevel saws are easy to use. Of the dual-bevel saws, Hitachi and DeWalt stand out as the most intuitive.
- Easy blade changing. Even though changing blades isn't something you do very often, we prefer saws that make it easy. Makita provides onboard storage for the blade-changing wrench, and the blade-changing process is quick and intuitive.
Sliding Miter Saw Review: Craftsman
This saw gave us average-quality cuts and with a better blade would be suitable for trim work. But it has a few problems that are hard to overlook. The pin that's meant to hold the saw head down when you're transporting it kept dropping into the slot when we tried to cut a 45-degree bevel, preventing us from making the cut. We wrapped a rubber band around it to solve the problem. Also, the lock-off button on the switch makes it difficult to use with your left hand. For the same price, the Ryobi or Kobalt saw would be a better choice.
Sliding Miter Saw Review: Makita
The Makita saw has several unique features that contribute to an overall impression of superb quality and thoughtful engineering. First, it's the only dual-tilt saw with an angled, geared motor rather than a belt drive. We would expect this design to be trouble free over the life of the tool. Also, the Makita is the only saw to incorporate two pairs of rails for a smaller footprint and greater rigidity for better quality cuts. In addition, the saw includes a top-quality 60-tooth blade that gave our testers excellent quality cuts. Some of the controls, such as the miter lock and bevel detent release, take a bit of getting used to, but overall this is an excellent saw and our top pick.
Best Miter Saw Blade for Trim
How We Tested Them
To evaluate the saws, we put them through a series of test cuts ranging from a brutal compound angle on a 2x8 to simple miters on oak casing. We made note of the quality of the cuts and the ease of setup and use. From these tests and based on our experience with each saw, we ranked the saws. But the truth is, making the choices was difficult. We have minor gripes with all of the single-tilt saws and can't recommend any of them as a primary trim saw for pros doing top-quality work. But if you're willing to spend some money on a top-quality blade, it would be an affordable and versatile addition to your workshop. The more expensive dual-tilt saws are a different story. They all are capable of topquality cuts and deserve consideration from even the fussiest carpenter. In addition to our testing, we requested feedback from our Field Editors on their experience with sliding miter saws. Read on to see what we found out.
Sliding Miter Saw Review: Ryobi
Ryobi did a nice job of building a medium-cost saw that cuts well and has no major design flaws. The switch is easy to use right- or left-handed, making this saw a good choice for lefties. The cut quality is acceptable and improved dramatically when we installed a higher quality blade. We had a hard time choosing between this saw and the Kobalt for our 'Best Value' award.
Tall Fences are a Handy Feature
Sure, you can always screw a board to your fence to increase the height, but it's nice to have a tall fence available when you need it. Of the saws we reviewed, the Makita and the Kobalt have the tallest fences, followed by the DeWalt and the Bosch. We liked the lever locks and easy adjustability of the Makita fences.
Sliding Miter Saw Review: Bosch
It's hard to fault this saw. The cut quality was excellent, and the saw felt smooth and solid. It has maximum bevels of 47 degrees left and 46 degrees right so you can tweak baseboard bevels if needed. We like the up-front bevel lock and included table extensions. The saw is a bit of a monster?the 43-in. front-to-back is longer than on any other saw, and the 55-lb. weight makes it the heaviest, so it's not the most portable choice. We do have a few minor quibbles. The detents are soft, and locking in a miter that's slightly off detent is a little more difficult than on the Makita and DeWalt saws. Even so, this is a top-quality saw that we heartily recommend to even the most finicky pro.
Miter Saw Safety
- Unplug the saw when you're changing the blade or not using it.
- Keep your fingers at least 6 in. from the path of the blade. Some saws have lines to indicate the danger zone.
- Wear safety glasses and hearing protection when you're operating the saw.
- Don't reach under the blade while it's spinning.
- Let the blade come to a complete stop at the end of each cut before lifting it.
It's Easier to Lock in the Miter on Some Saws
On all but DeWalt and Makita saws, you lock in the miter by tightening the knob on the front. On the DeWalt you lock the miter by simply pressing down on the handle. It's quick and easy. The DeWalt also has levers on either side of the handle that when clicked down release all detents, allowing you to easily set any angle.
The Makita system for locking the miter requires even less effort than the DeWalt, but it's so unique that testers had to be instructed on how to use it.
Use Clamps on Small Pieces
Sliding Miter Saw Review: Chicago
With the lowest cost by far, this saw is worth considering for general carpentry tasks like cutting deck boards or siding. With a better blade, you could also use it for trim. But if you're a fussy carpenter, consider buying a more expensive saw in this category.
Allow the Blade to Stop Before Raising It
Cope Baseboard Faster
Back Up Small, Delicate Pieces
Look for Solid Detents
Line Up the Blade with the Mark
Single Bevel vs. Dual Bevel Saws
The four single-bevel saws have similar cutting capacities, and all are able to crosscut a 12-in.-wide board. The weight of these saws ranges from 36 lbs. (Chicago) to 42 lbs. (Ryobi). All but the Chicago include a laser, and they all include some sort of table extension.
Dual-bevel saws allow you to make opposite bevels without having to reorient the piece you're cutting. This saves time and eliminates confusion. In addition, the dual-bevel saws up the ante on quality. Everything about them is more refined and precise. Of course, you pay for the better quality in both cost and weight. These saws range from 43 to 55 lbs. and all cost about $500. They all have similar cutting capacities and the ability to miter beyond 45 degrees in both directions. The Bosch and DeWalt can also cut bevels exceeding 45 degrees on both sides, a handy feature for trim work.