If you’ve tried to get the perfect 90-degree angle on baseboards, moldings or furniture joints — you know it’s not an easy thing to do. When you put the two pieces of timber together, you’re left with a gap large enough to fit a small rodent. Or is the angle so sharp that you could class your homemade closet as an offensive weapon?
Cripes, even prehistoric man, building Stonehenge 2,500 years ago, achieved better right-angles. Luckily, the best miter saws deliver exemplary precision in your handiwork, while making the whole cutting process simple and embarrassment free.
What Is a Miter Saw?
In simple terms, you use a miter saw to create crosscuts against the grain, miter cuts — angled cuts — and bevels in a material, which is usually wood.
The purest, and original, form is a wooden or plastic miter box containing 90 and 45-degree slits. You then insert a standard hand saw — pictured below — into it. When your working material is in the box, the slots guide your cuts.
Today, you can still purchase these miter boxes. However, a miter saw usually refers to a powered circular blade saw that drops down onto your working material. This gives rise to their alternative names as drop saws.
Incredibly, it was in 1905 that the Briton, John Abraham Peer, developed the first designs for these tools (1). Although, as it was Ed Niehaus who patented the concept in 1964, historians often credit him with its invention.
When you use a miter, you position the working piece against the saw’s “fences.” The blade falls perpendicular to this surface, creating a 90-degree cutting angle.
However, the main advantage to miters is that you can move the blade to alternative angles — most commonly, 45 degrees. This allows you to make precise angled cuts for bevelling picture frames, baseboards and crown moldings.
Types of Miter Saws
Generally speaking, there are three versions of miter saws available:
These are the most basic of all miter saws. The circular blade pivots, meaning that you can angle it away from the standard 90 degrees. This allows you to make bevel cuts easily.
You can move this blade through the vertical plane to a maximum of 45 degrees. As it will only tilt in one direction, users often refer to them as single compound miter saws.
However, while the blade will pivot sideways, it cannot be moved backward and forward. This limits its usability by restricting the size of material that you can cut. For example, a 10-inch saw will only shear through material 6 inches wide.
- Simple to use.
- Ideal for the beginner.
- Cutting width is restricted.
Sliding compound miter saws are very similar to the standard compound saw. However, there is one main difference: sliding compound miter saws can handle a wider width of timber.
The blade arm is on rails, meaning that you can slide the head backward and forward. This vastly elevates their cutting capacity, allowing you to cope with much wider pieces of material.
- Can handle wide material.
- Allows you to slide through wood instead of chopping.
- Ideal for furniture and vintage baseboards.
- Heavier than standard compounds.
- Rails can restrict extreme cutting angles.
Also known as dual bevel, these tools allow you to angle the circular saw head to either the left or right side.
Most often, although not always, they also incorporate sliding rails. This is particularly useful if you’re completing much decorative trim work, or are having to create intricate bevels. This means that you don’t have to continually flip your working material to cut an identical angle on the opposite side.
- Most versatile miter saw.
- Ideal for intricate work.
- Saves time.
- Premium products mean premium prices.
How to Choose the Best Miter Saws
We know you’re eager to spend your hard-earned dollars on one of the best miter saws. However, you first need to ensure it will meet your exact requirements and serve future needs.
Choosing correctly from the outset means owning a powerful tool that will provide years of satisfying work.
Here are some vital points to consider:
Miter saws typically come in either 10-inch or 12-inch versions.
10-inch blades cost less than the larger variety. The smaller size means that the machine requires fewer amps to run at a sufficient speed. This keeps electricity costs down.
Unless you’re cutting wood wider than 4 inches, there’s little reason to go for the bigger version.
The 12-inch machines are suitable for more substantial board work. Due to the usually higher powered motors, they can cut through thick wood easier than 10-inch versions. This makes them more useful for more hardcore projects, such as laying decking.
Compound or Sliding Compound
Today, many top-end homes contain enormous crown moldings. Furthermore, historical renovations will often require oversized baseboards.
While you can use these expansive materials on a standard compound saw, you’ll need to cut twice, flipping over halfway through. For intermittent work, this may not be an inconvenience. But, if you have a larger or repetitive project, it may prove annoying.
Sliding saws extend cuts to 12–16 inches; more than twice the width of a standard compound, which may be beneficial. Furthermore, as you’re only making one cut, it’ll be more precise and promote a cleaner edge.
Single or Dual (Double) Bevel
If you’re creating intricate bevel and edging work, we suggest opting for a dual bevel saw.
With dual bevel saws, you can tilt the head either left or right. So you can create complex joints and features that, otherwise, would require constant flipping of your board.
If you decide to place your miter saw in a permanent position in your garage or workshop, weight may not be a consideration.
However, it’s another story if you’re moving the machine around a building site. It’s also likely to be stressful if you don’t have the space for a dedicated location. In both cases, you’ll need it to be as transportable as possible.
Factors such as sliding rails, more powerful motors and 12-inch blade capacity will all increase its heft.
These are factory-set points on the miter saw that allow you to quickly select pre-ordained miter cutting angles. This feature increases accuracy and saves you time.
Miter saws can vary in these installed angles. Hence, it’s worth considering whether you’ll require anything more complicated than the standard 45-degree setting.
The Best Miter Saws of 2020
We extensively examined the opinions of industry experts, researched genuine customer feedback and utilized our knowledge and insight to deliver the ultimate list. Here are what we currently consider the best miter saws money can buy:
1. DeWALT Sliding Compound 12-Inch Miter Saw
With a brand that’s been delivering high-quality power tools since 1923, you already know this is a quality piece of kit.
This 12-inch dual sliding compound saw has an impressive lumber-size capacity. That makes it ideal for those working on seriously large boards.
Furthermore, the powerful 15-amp motor should make shearing through thicker material effortless.
Why We Love It
Cutting detritus can hamper your work and damage your health, so wear a mask! Yet, the manufacturer states that the super-efficient dust collection system will capture over 75 percent of wood remnants that the machine creates.
When making 90-degree crosscuts, this machine can handle working materials up to size 2×16 inches. For 45-degree bevel cuts, it can tackle up to 2×12 inches.
It also has an impressive maximum cutting thickness of 6.75 inches. Unless you’re cutting tree trunks, we think this miter saw will deal with all your timber requirements.
Furthermore, selecting your angle is trouble-free, with its included 10 positive stops.
This saw includes DeWalt’s bespoke Cutline Blade Positioning System. This feature provides a clear indication of your shearing line, delivering reliable accuracy.
Furthermore, the double horizontal rails — with clamps — ensure that your workpieces remain secure and aligned.
Keep In Mind
Lacks a Laser
Some users have suggested this miter saw could benefit from the inclusion of a laser guide. However, you can purchase an optional overhead LED, which fulfills the same function by casting a shadow onto your working material.
Even so, many users indicate that the proprietary blade positioning system is more than adequate to produce exacting cuts.
|Motor||3800 RPM — 15-amp|
2. Metabo HPT 10-Inch Miter Saw with Laser
If you’re new to miter saws, they may initially appear daunting. Yet, this machine from Metabo is simple to use for the beginner while still delivering all the functions you need in a powerful tool.
This single-bevel compound saw means you don’t have to worry about checking numerous knobs and pins before each use. What’s more, with a laser marker, even the most novice of users should find accurate cutting straightforward.
Why We Love It
If you’re a powertool newbie, the chances are you don’t own a dust extractor or shop vacuum. Plus, your partner may not be best-pleased if you hook up your household cleaner to your miter saw.
It’s lucky then that this machine includes a detachable dust bag. You can keep your working environment free from dust and easily dispose of the trash after use.
Expansive Cutting Range
Being uncomplicated to use doesn’t mean it’s at the cost of versatility. This saw delivers miters to both the left and right, from 0–52 degrees. The bevel tilts to the left to perform angled work up to 45 degrees.
Additionally, selecting the positive stops is simple — just use your thumb.
Don’t have a vast supply of spanners and drivers? This saw includes both a 10-millimeter box wrench and a 4-millimeter hex bar. Hence, you can assemble, adjust and replace blades without searching your garage for a tool you may not possess.
Keep In Mind
Laser Lacks Power
The laser function is invaluable for the miter saw newbie. However, some users feel that its power is insufficient in brightly lit conditions.
|Motor||5,000 RPM — 15-amp|
3. Bosch GCM12SD 12-Inch Dual-Bevel Sliding Miter Saw
With a focus on expansive capacity, we’d suggest that this could be one of the best miter saws for dealing with those cumbersome and large crown moldings.
But, size isn’t everything. This heavy-duty dual-bevel saw also emphasizes safety and space-saving features.
Why We Love It
Suitable for Crown Moldings
Whether cutting your ceiling furnishings in a horizontal or vertical position, this machine should cope with everything. The sliding blade head can cover an extensive 14 inches horizontally. Furthermore, it incorporates two extending supports to increase the lengthways working area to 40 inches.
If you’re shearing moldings or timber vertically, the high fences will allow you to cut to a depth of 6.5 inches.
Safe Bevel Lock
Some miter saws require you to reach behind the machine to lock the bevel. This can prove dangerous if you haven’t noticed the blade is still spinning. This machine positions the bevel lock at the front to avoid accidental injury.
Both the miter and bevel scales are large and clear to read, ensuring that it keeps your mistakes to a minimum. Impressively, this machine allows you to bevel at both 33.9 and 45 degrees.
Axial Glide System
This miter saw incorporates the manufacturer’s bespoke axial glide system. In short, instead of utilizing horizontal bars for sliding, it uses hinged arms to allow for extended movement. This means you save 12 inches of workspace behind the machine, allowing you to butt the rear of the saw to a wall, should you wish.
Keep In Mind
Hefty and Tall
At 88.2 pounds, users report that this item isn’t easily transportable. Hence, it may not appeal to those people wanting a machine to move around a jobsite.
Additionally, while the footprint is small, the axial glide system makes it taller than many miter saws. This is worth considering if you’re placing it beneath shelves.
Lacks Laser and Light
For a top-end machine, some customers are surprised to see that this miter saw doesn’t include a guiding laser or illumination lights.
|Motor||3,800 RPM — 15-amp|
4. Makita 10-Inch Compound Miter Saw
If space-saving is crucial, we put forward that this could be one of the best miter saws. Admittedly, it’s non-sliding, but unless you’re dealing with oversized materials, you don’t require this feature. Plus, the lack of this reduces its footprint significantly.
Additionally, this is a lightweight machine — weighing just 27.3 pounds. Hence, if you need to relocate it after use to utilize precious bench space, you’re not going to break your back.
Why We Love It
A mighty 15-amp and 4,600 RPM motor powers the 10-inch blade. It has a soft start feature to reduce stress on this powerhouse — building up steadily to its operating speed. As it’s direct drive, there are no belts to either slip or replace — making it lighter on the bank balance.
Furthermore, when you need to replace the blade, it’s effortless to do so. A shaft-lock enables you to quickly remove and change the cutting edge, saving you time and stress.
Numerous Positive Stops
This machine has nine positive miter stops — including 0, 15, 22.5, 30, and 45 degrees to the left or right. As a result, selecting cutting angles is near-effortless.
As a single compound saw, it tilts up to 45 degrees to the left, allowing you to create tight bevels.
The manufacturer has made the base out of aluminum. This provides both a solid support for your working materials while keeping weight to a minimum. Hence, if you’re frequently relocating this saw —for example, while on-site — this may appeal.
Keep In Mind
Lack of Bolt Holes
If you’re continually moving this saw, it may not be an issue. However, if you want it to remain permanently in situ, it could be a factor. This miter only has holes for bolt stabilization at the front and not the rear.
|Motor||4,600 RPM — 15-amp|
5. Hitachi C12RSH2 Dual Bevel Miter With Laser Marker
This could be one of the best miter saws if you’re looking at completing intricate joint and angle work. Its dual bevel feature means you can perform precise and exacting cuts without having to rotate your workpiece.
Furthermore, if you’re handling large moldings, this machine has the capacity to perform. The sliding fences have a height of 5.125 inches — allowing this saw to cope with 7.5-inch material in the vertical position.
Why We Love It
If you’ve experienced handling a power tool for extended periods, you know the fatigue, discomfort and pain that can set in both during and after use. This saw incorporates a vertical elastomer soft grip that reduces vibration, increasing your comfort.
The cutting hand tilts to both the left and right, enabling you to perform 45-degree bevel cuts on either side while keeping your working material in-situ.
Positive stops and indicators on the miter and bevel scale will allow you to set your angles quickly and accurately.
This miter saw incorporates the manufacturer’s bespoke laser marking system. It provides an accurate cutting line for you to follow and is simple to use, even for novice users.
We’d suggest that this is a welcome inclusion, as since this is a sliding saw, you may use it with large-width boards. These could otherwise suffer cutting inaccuracies due to their oversized nature.
Keep In Mind
Requires a Different Blade for Intricacy
The included 12-inch blade is substantial and will cut your work-material effectively. However, to use the bevel feature to its best advantage, users mention you’ll need a more heavily-toothed blade for a clean and intricate work finish.
|Motor||4,000 RPM — 15-amp|
6. Genesis GMS1015LC Miter Saw with Laser Guide
Is it your first time using a miter saw? Or do you only intend on using it intermittently? Then you likely don’t want a machine that’s going to break the bank.
This compound saw with single bevel is highly affordable, yet it includes a powerful motor, laser guide system and electric brake.
Why We Love It
Extension Wings and Clamp
If you’re handling longer materials, this miter saw has the capacity to cope. It includes two wings that extend from either side of the aluminum base to increase the working area.
With nine positive stops, choosing the correct angle is rapid. Furthermore, you can secure those oversized pieces with the in-built securing clamp.
The handy screw lock on the blade should ensure you don’t waste any time searching for tools to replace your cutting edge.
When completing repetitive work, the electric brake may prove beneficial. It means that the blade slows down quicker than through momentum alone, allowing you to move on to your next piece speedily.
Keep In Mind
Laser Is Battery-Powered
While being a corded machine, this model requires separate batteries (2x AAAs) to power the laser. However, it’s not too bad of a predicament since they’re included in the original purchase.
Awkward Clamp Position
Some users feel that, when mitering at 45 degrees to the right, the securing clamp has to be frequently adjusted to ensure it doesn’t interfere with the drop of the blade.
|Motor||4,200 RPM — 15-amp|
7. Milwaukee 6955-20 Sliding Dual Bevel Miter Saw
Are you looking for a miter saw for making furniture? Then you need two requirements fulfilled: capacity and accuracy. This machine from Milwaukee delivers both.
If you’re handling some seriously hard wood in your constructions, you need power. With an immense 3.3 horsepower motor, this saw should cut even the most challenging materials with ease.
Why We Love It
In furniture, fractions of a degree count. Make a table with uneven miters, and you’re going to have an annoying “rocking” feature every time you use it.
Turning a knob on this machine provides a “dial-in” function for your miters. The digital readout displays your selected angle, ensuring accuracy up to an incredible 0.1 degrees.
Handles Large Materials
As a sliding compound saw, this machine should cope with larger furniture needs, such as legs and frames. Positive stops at 15, 22.5, 31.6 and 45 degrees ensure a fast selection of your miters.
Furthermore, the 12-inch blade mounted on a dual compound head means that jointing is effortless. It will enable you to create accurate and repeatable bevels for those essential dovetails.
To ensure accuracy, this miter saw includes dual lights. These fully illuminate your working material and your cutline on either side of the blade. Not only will this increase your precision, but it also removes the requirement of purchasing and setting up independent lighting.
Keep In Mind
Inadequate Dust Collector
The manufacturer claims that the dust channel and bag will collect 75 percent of detritus. Some users find that this is somewhat overstated, so you may need to use a separate dust extractor if completing extensive work.
|Motor||4,500 RPM — 15-amp|
|DeWALT Sliding Compound Miter Saw||Sliding||Sliding Compound||56 lbs||3800 RPM — 15-amp||12″||3 year|
|Metabo HPT 10-Inch Miter Saw||Beginners||Compound||26.5 lbs||5,000 RPM — 15-amp||10″||1 year|
|Bosch GCM12SD Sliding Dual-Bevel||Crown Molding||Dual Compound||88.2 lbs||3,800 RPM — 15-amp||12″||1 year|
|Makita Compound Miter Saw||Non-Sliding||Dual Compound||27.3 lbs||4,600 RPM — 15-amp||12″||1 year|
|Hitachi C12RSH2 Dual Bevel Miter||Dual Bevel||Dual Compound||59 lbs||4,000 RPM — 15-amp||12″||1 year|
|Genesis GMS1015LC Miter Saw||Budget||Dual Compound||33 lbs||4,200 RPM — 15-amp||10″||1 year|
|Milwaukee 6955-20 Sliding Dual Bevel||Furniture Making||Dual Compound||78 lbs||4,500 RPM — 15-amp||12″||1 year|
How to Use the Best Miter Saws
First of all, read the manual!
Ok, we know they can be a little hard-going at times, and it’s tempting just to plug in the saw and get down to some serious cutting. But, understanding the particular aspects of your machine will ensure that you get the best results and reduce any chance of injury.
Hence, here are some general guidelines you should use in conjunction with — not instead of — the manufacturer’s instructions.
Step By Step Guide to Using a Miter Saw
1. Safety First
Protective gear is essential.
We’re talking goggles, gloves, a dust mask and ear defenders, or earplugs. These prevent stray chips from entering your eyes and your lungs sucking in sawdust.
Finally, ensure that all necessary guards — as shown in your instructions — are on your machine and fully usable.
2. Marking Up
Mark the board on the area to be cut with a carpenter’s pencil, drawing a line that fully extends across the material you’re working on. Then, place the board on your saw, tightly against the fence.
3. Adjust Angle
If your cut requires an angle or bevel, use your machine’s levers and knobs to adjust to the correct position.
4. Drop the Blade
Lower the circular saw head onto your marking, ensuring it touches. If not, make small adjustments to ensure accuracy.
5. Secure the Material
Once you’re sure you’ve achieved the correct alignment, secure your working material.
At least half of the board’s length should be on your bench for stability. If it’s too long, use an additional bench or miter saw stand. While you can press down on the board to hold (naturally at a safe distance from the blade), a securing clamp is a less dangerous method.
6. SAB — Start, Allow, Bring
- Start the machine with the trigger — ensure it isn’t touching the material you’re about to cut.
- Allow the blade to reach its required speed.
- Bring the saw face slowly downwards to address the board and cut straight through.
When you’ve cut entirely through the board, release the trigger.
Once the blade stops spinning completely, you can then raise the saw again away from your workpiece.
General Tips for Using the Best Miter Saws
- Never lift the blade from your workpiece while still in motion. It may damage the freshly-cut edge.
- Use a heavily-toothed blade — the more teeth, the cleaner the cut.
- Avoid forcing the saw through your board; the blade should carry the workload. Be patient, and drop at a steady pace.
How to Unlock a Miter Saw?
First, check the manufacturer’s instructions for your particular model.
Typically, most modern saws have a knob or pin to prevent the mechanical ankle from moving. You should find this directly behind the blade, close to the center point of the saw’s base. By turning the knob or removing the pin, the head should unlock.
What Size Miter Saw Do You Need?
Miter saw blades come in sizes ranging from the tiny 7.25-inch up to 20-inch, in industrial applications. However, the two most common sizes are 10 and 12-inch.
The size you require depends on your cutting requirements. A 10-inch blade will shear through materials up to 6 inches wide, which is perfectly adequate for most molding and trim boards.
Unsurprisingly, the 12-inch blades will cut larger sizes — up to 7.5 inches. This makes them useful for house projects such as hefty crown moldings. Typically, 12-inch machines come with a stronger motor than the 10-inch to power the blade.
While you can put a 10-inch blade on a 12-inch machine — as long as the arbor holes match — you can’t do the reverse.
What Is a Double Bevel on a Miter Saw?
These saws, sometimes called dual bevels, possess a tilting head that you can angle to either the left or right side. This enables you to bevel in either direction — without having to turn your workpiece over.
What’s the Difference Between a Bevel Cut and a Miter Cut?
Assume you’re making a square picture frame. For the four sides to fit together, you need to cut each length end at an angle of 45 degrees. That’s a miter cut.
However, if you wanted this frame to have angled sides — leading in towards the picture — that’s a bevel cut.
Simply, in the case of miter saws, if the cutting blade is perfectly vertical, it’s a miter. If it’s angled, it’s a bevel.
Making perfect right-angles for baseboards, moldings and joints can be frustrating and tough, unless you use one of the best miter saws. These powerful yet surprisingly simple to use machines make light work of timbers, plastics and composite materials — often at highly affordable prices.
Remember that these tools are here to assist you, so choose one that fits your requirements. If you’re into intricate work, select a dual bevel — dual compound — model. Alternatively, if you’re making furniture or dealing with large crown moldings, opt for a sliding model.
The bottom line is, to make work lighter, use a miter.