What can a Miter Saw do? What are its limitations?
There are several types of tools that can create angled cuts (e.g. circular saw). However, miter saws are the best among them because they provide an extremely high level of precision. Blade of the device is fixed in such a way that you can fine-tune the cut until you manage to get the perfect result. Stability of the arm is one of the defining features of the tool’s quality, so you will need to consider this characteristic first when looking for the best miter saw for your money.
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You also need to be aware of the tool’s limitations. It is not a one-size-fits-all tool. For example, it’s impossible to rip lumber to width using a miter saw (this is generally done using a table saw or a band saw). Cutting a wide stock, in general, will be almost impossible with this particular device. Although, there are some tricks you can use to increase the cutting reach, such as sliding arms, the maximum crosscut for most miter saws is around 14-16 inches and the maximum thickness is around 6-3/4 inches for a 12 inch miter saw.
Chop Saw vs Miter Saw?
Often times, these two terms are used interchangeably, which is not correct. A chop saw makes cuts that are straight and can move only up and down. On the other hand, a miter saw can also do angled cuts.
Chop saws are generally larger and more powerful. Hence, it is more common to see them used for bigger wood pieces in larger volumes or even for cutting metal pipes. Miter saws are more versatile and are more adequate for home projects involving working on smaller pieces of wood and producing trim, mounding, window frames etc.
Common Miter Saw Types
Below, we are listing the common miter saw types, explaining why is each one of them special in its category and helping you find your best fit.
Basic miter saws have no bevel options, so the variety of cuts you will be able to make with it is limited. It can effectively make crosscuts and miter cuts. These saws are rather light and much easier to use than handsaws. They allow for a high degree of accuracy and work well for performing simple tasks. The cost of a basic miter saw is relatively low, so it’s the best option if you aren’t planning to use the tool often or if you don’t need to do bevel cuts.
A compound miter saw type offers two bevel options: single and dual. Therefore, it’s much more flexible in terms of angle variety. It can make all four basic kinds of cuts that a miter saw is capable of – crosscut, miter cut, bevel cut, miter+bevel cut (compound). Note that not all models offer the dual bevel option.
This type of saw is more difficult to operate, but the results are worth the extra effort. It is also more expensive than the basic type. These saws are the best for those who use the tool often and need to make bevel cuts. They work best for the pieces that are too cumbersome to move easily.
Sliding compound miter saws are more advanced than simple compound miter saws. These tools have all the compound features, but they also have an extra feature in the form of a sliding arm. They can be used to crosscut wider pieces of material. This is the most versatile and expensive type of miter saw. You should get it if you are a professional who needs to work with wider stock on a regular basis or a frequent woodworker with a lot of projects involving wide stock.
The biggest advantage of this type is portability. A cordless miter saw is very convenient for those who need to use the tool outside of their workshop. In essence, this is more of a feature than a type because there are basic, compound, and sliding compound cordless miter saws.
Who Needs Miter Saws?
Studying miter saw reviews will definitely give you some interesting ideas about the applications of this particular tool. You should buy one of these saws if your work or hobby requires cutting various things wood and non-wood materials at different angles. In fact, it’s good to have a miter saw at home even if your job has nothing to do with construction.
Many DIY home repairs and maintenance projects will require the use of planks, pipes, and other things that will need to be cut at a specific angle. Therefore, having a miter saw can save you some money in the long run as you will be able to do a better job with your DIY repairs.
Some common projects that work better with a miter saw:
- Crown molding
- Furniture building
- Small building construction (tool sheds, chicken coops, etc.)
- Remodeling and home improvement
Besides the type of miter saw, there are other important factors to consider when you’re looking for the best miter saw. In order to be sure that you’re buying the right product, you will need to consider all of its features in detail as well as study various miter saw reviews. The latter will allow you to understand whether the tool you are interested in can be trusted. Studying the list of the product’s features will help you determine which of the many options available on the market meets your needs perfectly.
The features you need to take into account are:
- Blade size and Sliding Rails
There are 3 main blade sizes: 7.25, 10 and 12 inches. Your choice is dependent on what you are intending to cut. Most 12-inch saws will cut through a 2×8, while a 10-inch blade will be limited to 2×6. Additional cutting depth can be achieved if the saw has sliding rails that allow the saw to slide forward and backward increasing the width of lumber .
- Size and Weight
As mentioned above, the weight ranges from 20 to 80 pounds. Again the question is what you will do with this miter saw. If you will be using it in different job sites, than weight and portability becomes important, as opposed to a garage workshop at home, where the saw is likely to sit through its lifetime.
- Positive stops
This refers to preset notches made in the bevel adjustment mechanism. These are used to set the angle of bevel adjustments quickly. They increase the productivity and speed of your work with the saw. The more varied these stops are, the easier it will be for you to use the tool. However, make sure that the saw does not only offer several positive stops but also offers you a chance to make custom incremental adjustments.
- Easy blade change
If you plan to work with multiple blades, you should focus on searching for the best miter saw that offers an easy blade replacement feature. This is necessary when you work with varied materials which require the use of different compound blades.
- Laser guide
While not a necessary feature, a laser guide can assist you in making more accurate cuts. There are several types of laser guides used in miter saws, so you’ll need to do some research to pick which is best. Read through miter saw reviews carefully before buying the tool as some laser guides are more reliable than others.
- Work stand
Note that miter saw work stands vary quite a bit and you’ll need to consider which the best for your particular working station in order to choose the perfect tool. You also need to take into account the average length of the materials you will be working with as some stands are equipped with specialized extensions to accommodate long pieces. If you have a work stand already, get a saw that can fit it. If not, consider the stand you need to get and what saw will fit well in it.
- Dust collection
This is an essential feature. Not only does it help you keep your work station clean, but it also protects the tool itself. An effective dust collection system prevents the dust from getting inside the saw. Some miter saws come equipped with dust collection bags while others have hookups for a shop vac shop attachment. However, this protection isn’t perfect. You can count on 75% of the dust to be captured at most.
- Electric brake
An electric brake is a feature which slows the blade down quickly. When you lift the saw arm after making a cut, blades without electric brakes will take much longer to lose momentum, which can potentially cause injuries or mess up your work. Electric brakes reduce the risk of accidents greatly and make the tool easier to use in general.
- Comfortable handle
In best case scenario, you should hold the saw for a few minutes to see how it feels in your hand as the designs of handles vary greatly. Even if you plan to buy the piece online, you can go to a retail outlet for a test run. Note that the best miter saw handle will not only be easy to hold but it will also absorb a large amount of vibration.
- Motor power
The power of motors for miter saws varies from 10 to 15 amp. A more powerful motor isn’t always necessary as these tools are efficient by default. Larger saws will always have more powerful motors than smaller saws, so don’t be fooled by the numbers alone. However, if you plan to run the equipment on a regular basis, you should go for the highest level of power.
Usage and Maintenance Tips
Safety is a big concern when using a miter saw. This can be a dangerous tool, so be sure to check everything before you turn it on. Always check whether the blade is fixed properly before using the saw.
Read the owner’s manual that comes with your device and follow the instructions to the letter. It’s imperative to do your research first as your personal safety depends on it. You also should hold the saw for a while in order to get used to the weight and adjust your grip on the tool properly. You also should do some experimenting in order to learn how all the features work so that you can use them most efficiently.
Cleaning the saw after every use will improve the longevity and operation of your saw. Some of the dust and debris will get inside the machine, so you need to remove it in order to extend the life of your device. Follow the maintenance instructions from the manual and seek assistance immediately if you notice that the saw doesn’t work as it should. Overheating, increased vibration, and strange sounds emitted by the device are the signs you need to look out for. If you notice anything like this, turn the saw off immediately and get it checked up by a qualified technician.