If you’re a woodworker thinking about whether to upgrade your existing miter saw, or you’re a new woodworker who wants to know which saw is best to start with, you should take a closer look at the sliding compound miter saw. It can make cuts on any angle on both the vertical and horizontal planes, and it can cut larger pieces and multiple pieces as well with the sliding function.
Sliding Compound Miter Saw Basics
A sliding compound miter saw improves on the basic miter saw in two says. A basic miter saw can only pivot about one axis. It can swing left and right, but the cuts are always vertical. A compound miter saw, however, can pivot on two axes. It can swing left and right, and it can also tilt to one side to make non-vertical cuts. Finally, by sliding the saw, you can cut larger pieces, and you can cut several pieces at once, which can save a lot of time. If you’re looking for a compound miter saw to add to your shop, there are a few things you should consider (besides price, of course).
Miter Saw Size
You’ll have the same blade size selection on a sliding compound miter saw as on a basic miter saw, mostly 10″ and 12″, but unless you already know you need the bigger size (or maybe you just have a hunch!), stick with the smaller one – they’re cheaper and more portable. If you plan to do lots of larger work, table size is another consideration. Finally, the cut length that can be achieved using the sliding rails is a factor; most models are about the same, but some offer an extra 4″ of cut that you might want.
Not only should your miter saw be powerful enough to handle the kind of material you plan to use, but it should also be true. Most 12″ saws are 15 amps with a few 10″ models dropping down to 12 amps, and RPMS vary. But accuracy trumps power: this is precision cutting, not speed cutting. All surfaces must be level, moving parts should be able to be calibrated and should have very little play once locked, and the sliding rails should support the saw throughout the entire cut.
Is there an electronic brake? Can you control the speed? Is there a laser? What safety features are there? How easy is it to make adjustments? Is there dust collection? What’s the vertical capacity? Is anything digital, is it easy to use, and can it be overridden?
With careful planning, your sliding compound miter saw will become your new favorite tool. There’s a wealth of information about miter saws online, so take advantage of the available resources, do some comparison shopping, and read plenty of miter saw reviews before you buy.