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Sliding vs. Non-Sliding Miter Saws

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Saw like a pro with our definitive guide to sliding and non-sliding miter saws. 

If you are looking for a saw that provides accuracy, convenience, and versatility, miter saws are tough to beat. They enable you to make angled cuts without having to carefully measure your cutting angle by hand.

However, there are actually two types of miter saws: sliding and non-sliding. Both types have their own advantages and will be more suitable for different tasks, so it is worth taking the time to learn about them.

To help you make the right choice, this article will explore sliding vs non-sliding miter saws. This should ensure you can buy an appropriate saw for whichever task you are working on.

Facts about sliding and non-sliding miter saws

Sliding miter saws give you an extended range of motion for cutting wider pieces of material. Non-sliding miter saws are better for cutting thicker wood. Miter saws generally have 10 or 12-inch blades, which can extend your cutting capacity further. Sliding miter saws extend on a rail but have a limited cutting arc. Non-sliding miter saws are better for angled, bevel, and compound cuts.


What is a Miter Saw?

A miter saw

A miter saw has a circular blade mounted on a pivoting arm. They are designed for making angled crosscuts and bevel cuts, with many models allowing you to cut at 45 degrees and other common preset angles such as 15 and 30 degrees. Some high-end saws will enable you to adjust the angle in one-degree increments for much greater freedom when cutting.

Miter saws are generally easy to operate. You simply set the required angle, hold the stock snugly against the fence to keep it straight and secure, and lower the pivoting arm until the rotating blade cuts through the wood.

There are two main types of miter saws. These include the basic non-sliding version, which allows you to make bevel and angled cuts of up to 90 degrees. There are also sliding miter saws, where the saw can move along a rail, significantly increasing its cutting capacity.

Non-Sliding Miter Saw

Non-sliding miter saws can make four basic cuts:

  • Crosscut
  • Angled
  • Bevel
  • Compound

Non-sliding miter saws are ideal if you are installing crown moldings, baseboards, window or door trims, or you want to cut multiple frames relatively quickly. A non-sliding miter saw will also make short work of otherwise daunting amounts of trim work.

The maximum thickness of wood you can cut with a miter saw depends on its blade size, but it will usually be about six inches. Standard trim boards are four inches, so a miter saw will be very suitable for this task.

Pros

  • Easy to use
  • Powerful
  • Quick
  • Cuts acute angle
  • Makes bevel cuts
  • Accurate
  • Occupies less space
  • Cheaper than sliding saws

Cons

  • Six-inch maximum cutting capacity
  • Restricted cutting width

Sliding Miter Saw

As the name suggests, a sliding miter saw moves along a rail, allowing you to cut more extensive stock. This increased cutting capacity is beneficial if you are cutting wider molding, as you might find in older buildings.

Remember

You can still make broader cuts with a non-sliding miter saw, but this will involve cutting, turning over the stock, and then joining the cut from the other side.

With a sliding model, cuts as long as 12 inches or even 16 inches will be possible with one sweep of the miter saw blade. If you are working on a renovation project and need extra cutting capacity, a sliding miter saw will be worth the increased initial cost.

Pros

  • Greater cutting capacity
  • Better for wider materials
  • Precise
  • Quick
  • Extended reach

Cons

  • More expensive
  • Requires greater skill to operate
  • More complicated setup
  • Heavier
  • Bulkier
  • Not suitable for cutting acute angles

Sliding vs. Non-Sliding Miter Saws

Choosing the right power tool is about more than simply finding the most powerful unit or the one with the largest capacity. If you are making crosscuts into smaller workpieces, you will need a miter saw that enables you to work quickly and accurately. That is where a non-sliding miter saw comes in handy.

They can cut to a depth that a sliding saw cannot match. On the other hand, you will be restricted in the width of the material you can cut. You can still make more extensive cuts, but you will need to turn the stock over and work from the other end to join the two cutting lines.

If you are renovating an older property, you will probably find that many of the moldings and baseboards are wider than their modern equivalents. This is where a sliding miter saw will be very helpful.

The rotating blade moves on rails, extending the reach of the saw by up to 16 inches. The trade-off is that, while you have an extended reach, you have less versatility with the cutting angles. You will need to decide whether you need longer cuts or the ability to cut acute angles.

Comparison Table

Type Sliding Miter Saw Non-Sliding Miter Saw
Blade size 10” or 12” 10” or 12”
Range of cuts Miter, bevel, angle, compound Miter, bevel, angle, compound
Storage Bulkier and more challenging to store Small and easier to store
Portability Heavy and less portable Lightweight and easier to transport
Price $$$ $$
Weight 50 to 60 pounds 25 to 45 pounds
Best for Extended width, sheet material, and angled cuts Thicker material, angled cuts, and bevel cuts

FAQs

Is a Sliding Miter Saw Worth It?

There is no universal answer as to whether or not you need a sliding miter saw. If you only need a saw to make miter or bevel cuts in less extensive material, get a non-sliding model. A sliding miter saw has extended reach but limited depth-cutting ability.

If you are undertaking a project that involves lots of board cutting and you need a saw with as much reach as possible, get a sliding miter saw. However, take the time to do your research before making a purchase. Sliding saws are more expensive, and you might end up spending extra money unnecessarily.

What is the Difference Between a Sliding Miter Saw and a Compound Miter Saw?

A sliding miter saw can make most of the same cuts as a compound miter saw. However, the blade extends by 12 or 16 inches to provide enough cutting width to tackle more substantial sheet material.

A compound miter saw has a pivoting arm that lets you set angles from 15, 30, and 45 degrees. This helps you make accurate cuts for frames, door and window trims, baseboards, and crown molding.

Compound saws have the ability to make deeper cuts whereas sliding saws have a wider cutting capacity.

How Large a Board Can a 10-Inch Sliding Miter Saw Cut?

A 10-inch blade on a sliding miter saw should cut across boards 5.5 inches wide. This is sufficient for lumber measuring 2 x 6 inches. At a 45-degree angle, the same blade and saw will cut 2 x 4-inch lumber.

How Accurate is a Sliding Miter Saw?

Sliding miter saws are accurate, but they have a limited range of cutting angles in comparison to non-sliding saws.

Non-sliding miter saws can make a wide range of accurate cuts, so they are the better option if you need to make cuts at various angles. Sliding saws have a restricted cutting arc because the rails limit their movement. If you need to cut acute angles, you won’t be able to enjoy the same level of accuracy with a sliding saw as a non-sliding saw.


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About the Author

Mark Weir

Mark spent 24 years working in real estate, so he knows his way around a home. He also worked with contractors and experts, advising them on issues of planning, investments, and renovations. Mark is no stranger to hands-on experience, having renovated his own home and many properties for resale. He likes nothing better than seeing a project through to completion.