The miter saw is a justifiably popular tool that should make for a welcome component of any serious woodworking shop. However, while it might be obvious why you should want a miter saw, which miter saw you should want is not so obvious.
Unfortunately, not all tools are created equally, which is why it helps to have as much information as you can going in to ensure that you pick up the best tool for your money.
Read on for a comprehensive buying guide on how to choose the best miter saw for your needs.
Who Needs A Miter Saw?Good question. The miter saw is quick, accurate, powerful, and versatile. While people think of the miter saw in terms of its prowess at working with wood, the truth of the matter is that it can be used on a wide range of materials including plastics and metals.
The miter saw is the perfect tool for carpenters, craftsmen, contractors, woodworkers and do it yourselfers. In other words, if you take your work seriously and want to get the best possible results from your tools while opening yourself up to a wide range of cuts, then the miter saw is a good option for you.
On the other hand, it is also an expensive tool that the beginner woodworker might shy away from. However, if you can definitively say that you are devoted to your craft, the miter saw is a great way to bring your woodwork to the next level.
Different Types of Miter SawsNow that you have definitively decided that you want a miter saw, it is pertinent that you figure out which kind is right for you.
Miter saws come in a wide variety of different forms so choosing the right one is crucial to getting the most bang for your buck. Let’s now examine the different types of miter saws that you can expect to encounter as you begin the buying process.
The Basic Miter Saw
The basic miter saw as you might guess, is basic. With this model, you are going to be limited mostly to making miter cuts. In other words, if you are looking for the option to perform bevel cuts, you are going to need to look elsewhere.
The limited cut capacity is certainly a drag but that is not to say that the basic miter saw is without its positive attributes.
It’s still just as powerful and consistent as any other miter saw, so if you are a d- it-yourselfer that isn’t necessarily desperate for a wide variety of cuts this may very well be the perfect tool to fulfill your needs. They are extremely accurate, and they are also generally more affordable than their more complicated counterparts.
Compound Miter Saws
The compound miter saw introduces the ability to make bevel cuts, which opens you up to a wide range of options not available with the more basic options.
The bevel capacity aside this model of saw is distinguished also by the fact that it comes in multiple formats: the single, or dual bevel modes. In the case of the single bevel, you are only able to make cuts in one direction—meaning the work piece will need to be moved in order for you to make cuts at other angles. It’s a little bit inconvenient, but ultimately also a limitation that is very easy to live with.
Naturally, the dual compound miter saw is able to make left and right cuts, with the result, of course, being that you won’t need to move the work piece in order to get your desired cuts. The dual cut compound miter saw provides convenient features to an already convenient category of power tool.
Sliding Compound Miter Saws
The good news is that the sliding compound miter saw is the most versatile option that you can get. The bad news is that versatility comes at a price. Most often the sliding compound miter saw is going to be priced higher than its simpler counterparts though of course price is always relative to circumstance.
Essentially, what you are getting here is all of the cutting options that we talked about in the compound miter saw coupled with an even further increased cut capacity that is provided by a sliding arm.
The sliding arm will essentially allow you to confidently approach thicker wider stock. It’s great if you regularly come across those sorts of materials, but if not, you aren’t going to get the most out of your investment.
In other words, the sliding compound miter saw probably isn’t right for the struggling beginner.
Things to ConsiderNow that you are well-aware of the different types of miter saws, let’s take a look at a few of the things that you should consider as you continue your search for the perfect saw.
Dust Collection System
You’re probably going to find that most miter saws have a dust bag for their dust collection system. While this is an alright method of dust collection, the quality of this feature can vary pretty significantly from model to model.
The best way to determine the quality of a dust collection system is to check in with the people that already own the tool. You can accomplish this by speaking with friends (assuming of course they have experience with the equipment that you are looking at) or even by reading forum posts and user reviews to see what people who already have the system have to say.
Remember that the dust collection system is for more than just keeping your work area clean. It also expands the life of your tool to a significant extent, and it is good for your health. Dust is a known cancer causing agent, so there is no reason to risk exposing yourself to it.
Of course, by definition, bonus features are superfluous to the necessary function of the tool but that is not to say that they aren’t nice to have. For example, while you don’t technically need a laser-guided sight system, it will help you increase the accuracy of your cuts, and it also happens to be extremely cool.
There are plenty of awesome bonus features out there that will improve the function of your saw. On the other hand, if you aren’t extremely interested in these extras you might keep in mind that extra features may also increase the cost of the tool so if you are trying to save money they are something to avoid.
Inventory Your Needs
As you saw from the last section there are a wide variety of different types of saws out there, and they don’t all do the exact same things. The inexperienced woodworker will probably favor the more basic models, while the contractor is definitely going to need something with a wider range of cuts.
The average miter saw motor is going to be around 10-15 amps. Technically speaking you won’t always need loads of power with this tool, but the more you plan to use your miter saw, the handier it will be to have extra power when you need it. The more power that you have, the bigger your cut capacity that you can expect.
I’m sure that you don’t need me to tell you that power tools can be dangerous. While You don’t plan on anything going wrong you also definitely want to be as prepared as possible in the event that something does happen.
Fence guards and electric brakes will go a long way towards ensuring that your miter saw is a safe as possible so that you won’t need to worry about sustaining serious injuries as you work.
Power tools are generally expensive anyway, and depending on the model, features, and brand, the price for buying a miter saw can vary pretty significantly. Ideally, you want a tool that is of the highest possible quality without breaking the bank.
If you are on a tight budget there is a decent chance that you might encounter a lot of price tags that you aren’t thrilled with when you first start looking.
The good news is that there really are great value options out there for every buyer in all different kinds of models. You will also find that it helps to inventory your needs and avoid features that you won’t use anyway, as we mentioned earlier.
ConclusionAs you can see, there is definitely a lot to consider as you look to purchase the perfect miter saw. While these options might seem a little bit daunting, the good news is that they all serve to ensure that you get exactly what you are looking for.
As you set out to partake in this process, be patient, take your time, and do plenty of research. You will be glad you did when you wind up with a miter saw that embodies the perfect combination of quality and value.
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