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. 

When it comes to accuracy, versatility, and precision, miter saws are pretty hard to beat. But there are two types of miter saw: sliding and non-sliding. Each has its strengths and weaknesses and suit different types of tasks.

We examine the differences between sliding vs. non-sliding miter saws to see which is the best.

Facts about sliding and non-sliding miter saws

Sliding miter saws give you an extended reach for cutting broader material. Non-sliding miter saws are better for cutting thicker wood. Miter saws have either 10” or 12” blades and this extends your cutting capacity further. Sliding miter saws extend on a rail, but have a limited arc of movement. Non-sliding miter saws are better for angled, bevel, miter, and compound cuts.


What is a Miter Saw?

A miter saw

A miter saw is a rotating blade mounted on a pivoting arm. It is best used for making angled crosscuts and bevel cuts, with some models allowing you to cut preset angles of 15, 30, and 45 degrees. Some top-end saws will enable you to adjust the angles in one-degree increments to let you choose custom angles.

They are easy enough to operate. You set the required angle, hold the stock tightly against the fence to keep it straight and secure, and lower the pivoting arm until the rotating blade makes contact with the wood.

First, there is the basic non-sliding miter version, which allows you to make bevel and angle cuts up to 90 degrees. Then, there is the sliding miter saw.

Sliding miter saws allow you to increase the cutting capacity by moving the saw along a rail.

Non-Sliding Miter Saw

Non-sliding miter saws will give you four basic cuts:

  • Crosscut.
  • Angled.
  • Bevel.
  • Compound.

Non-sliding miter saws are ideal if you are installing crown moldings, baseboards, window and door trims, or you are making lots of frames. Also, a non-sliding miter saw will quickly saw through that pile of trim work you’ve been putting off.

The maximum thickness of wood you can cut with a miter saw depends on the blade size, but expect it to be about six inches. Standard trim boards are four inches, so a miter saw will efficiently perform the task.

PROS:
  • Easy to use.
  • Powerful.
  • Quick.
  • Cut acute angles
  • Make bevel cuts.
  • Accurate.
  • Takes up less space.
  • Cheaper than sliding saws.
CONS:
  • Maximum of six inches cutting capacity.
  • Restricted cutting width.

Sliding Miter Saw

As the name suggests, a sliding miter saw extends on rails to enable you cut more extensive stock. This ability to increase cutting capacity is an advantage if you are cutting wider molding like the type found on older houses.

Remember

You can still make broader cuts with a non-sliding miter saw, but it involves cutting, then flipping the stock, and joining the cut from the other side.

With a sliding miter saw, cuts as full as 12 inches or even 16 inches are possible with one sweep of the miter saw blade. So, if you are tackling a renovation project and need the extra capacity, invest in a sliding miter saw.

PROS:
  • Wide cutting capacity.
  • Better for wider boards.
  • Precise.
  • Quick.
  • Extended reach.
CONS:
  • More expensive.
  • Requires some knowledge to operate.
  • Trickier to set up.
  • Heavier.
  • Bulkier.
  • Not suitable for acute angles.

Sliding vs. Non-Sliding Miter Saws

With all power tools, there is a trade-off. You need to balance the task at hand with the type of saw you need. If you are making crosscuts on smaller workpieces, you will need a miter saw that enables you to work quickly and accurately. Say hello to a non-sliding miter saw.

They have the depth cutting capacity that a sliding saw cannot match. However, you are restricted to the width size of the material you can cut. You can still achieve more substantial cuts, but it involves flipping the stock and working from the other end to join the two cutting lines.

If you are deep into the renovation of an older property, you will find a lot of the moldings and baseboards will be wider than their modern equivalents. Here’s where a sliding miter saw becomes useful.

The rotating blade extends on rails, meaning that you can extend the reach of the saw by up to 16 inches. The trade-off is that while you have a more extended reach, you get less versatility with the cutting angles, so it may be that you are restricted if the angles are too extreme.

Comparison Table

Type Siding 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 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

Frequently Asked Questions

Is a Sliding Miter Saw Worth It?

It depends on what you want it for. If you are getting a sliding saw to make everyday miter or bevel cuts in smaller material, then get a non-sliding variety. A sliding miter saw has extended reach but limited depth cutting ability.

If you are taking on a project that involves lots of board cutting and you need to extend the reach of the saw, get a sliding miter saw. Still, be sure to do your research before shelling out your money. Sliding saws are more expensive, and you could be throwing good money away.

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

A sliding miter saw can make almost all the same cuts as a compound miter saw, but the blade extends by 12 inches or 16 inches to give you the added 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 achieve accurate cuts in frames, door and window trims, baseboards, and crown molding.

Compound saws have a deeper cutting ability while sliding saws have a wider cutting capacity.

How Big of a Board Can a 10 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 45 degrees, the same blade and saw will cut 2 x 4-inch lumber.

What Is the Accuracy of a Sliding Miter Saw?

Sliding miter saws are accurate, to a point. We talked about the trade-off, and this is one of them.

Non-sliding miter saws offer a more extensive choice of angles, so they are more accurate. Sliders have a restricted arc of angles because the rails limit their movement. This makes them less accurate than fixed saws.

Sliding miter saws are less able to make extreme angled cuts.


To Slide or Not to Slide?

That truly is the question. Whether you go sliding or non-sliding depends on the tasks at hand. True, more extensive material needs a sliding miter saw. However, if you are completing something and are looking for the widest range of cuts, a non-sliding miter saw will work better.

You decide which is right for you, but remember, a non-sliding miter saw will serve you better for everyday use.

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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.
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