In the current market, miter saws are by far the most popular saw types there is. They are designed to be both functional and versatile. For these reasons, most professionals and DIY individuals use them for a variety of projects. Typically, miter saws are used on wood. Since most professionals and store displays demonstrate its use on wood, it is understandable why one would think this type of saw only works on wood.
That said, it is important to note that miter saws, depending on their features, can also be used on aluminum, concrete and plastic. Shocking right? Given the varying features, miter saws are available in different sizes and prices. For this reason, it is important to learn the basics about miter saws before diving straight into the market and rushing your purchase. With plenty of choices to catch your attention, please be sure to consider your use and needs while making a decision on which to take home.
As a matter of fact, it is recommended that you take your time to read through reviews of different saws online until you land one that is best designed to meet your needs. A saw that a professional contractor will need to complete his/her projects is very different from the kind a DIYer will need.
With all the above in mind, below is a simple Miter saw buying guide to get you started.
At the very top of your list of considerations should be the type of miter saw. Generally, there are 3 types you will come across as you shop around. These types are compound, basic and sliding compound. Each of these miter saws features their own pros and cons. Below is a brief look at some of these miter saw types.
This type is used for projects that include making miter cuts, cross cuts and cutting trims. The cutting capacity of this miter saw type is limited to miter cuts as they do not feature bevel options. This means, just as the name suggests, with this miter type, you can only make basic cuts. It is, however, highly accurate and is perfect for simple cutting projects. In addition to these pros, basic miters also tend to be the least expensive. With their low and affordable price points, they are ideal for beginners and casual DIYers.
The only difference between compound and basic miters is that compound miters can also make bevel cuts. Bevel cuts are simply tilted cuts. The adjustment of this miter saw can be done on the bevel and miter saw itself. Courtesy of these adjustment options, there are two compound miter types. These include dual bevel and single bevel compound miter saws.
The single bevel miter saw is designed to only make bevel cuts in a single direction. As such, the workpiece has to be moved if a bevel cut is to be made in an opposite direction. The dual bevel miter saws, on the other hand, can make bevel cuts on the right and left. As such, you do not need to spend time moving the workpiece to make a cut in the opposite direction. Compound miter saws are perfect for crown molding. They are designed to make bevel cutting an easier process and increases the accuracy of making bevel cuts that match.
This is by far the most versatile miter saw of the three. Needless to say, it also is the most expensive type. It is similar in design to the compound miter saw but features a sliding arm. This arm works to allow the saw to make wider cuts and work on thicker material pieces as well. The increased cutting capacity for sliding compound saws is a great contributor to its popularity.
This type of saw requires a substantial investment and, as such, not the best purchase unless you are doing jobs that really require it.
Regardless of the type of miter saw you decide to purchase; it is important that you consider the various features available. This will increase your chances of landing the best miter saw for use on your projects.
Below are some useful features to pay close attention to.
While this is not exactly a ‘must-have’ feature, laser guides prove to be very useful on miter saws. A well-designed laser guide will transform a miter saw into an easy-to-use tool, and help in making accurate cuts. It should, however, be noted that not all laser guide systems are effective. It is important to cross check the laser guide system the miter saw uses to ensure that it improves the quality and ease of use of the saw and it is not just there for decoration.
Be sure to read through as many miter saw reviews as you possibly can. While reading the reviews pay close attention to what the users say regarding the laser guide. To help shorten the time spent choosing the best unit, the Festool Kapex KS 120 miter saw features one of the most effective laser guides. Trust me, I have had the chance to try many miter saws (it might be worth bearing this in mind).
Most of the dust collection systems are designed in the form of a dust bag. While they get the job done, they are not highly effective as most people would prefer. On the flip side, there are some saws that do offer a top quality dust collection system. Now the question is, how does one tell which dust collection system is great and which is not? Just like with the laser guides, the best way to get an idea of the quality and effectiveness of a dust collection system is to read through the online reviews.
Effective dust collection systems will help you ensure your workspace is clean and will also increase the lifespan of the saw. It will do this by preventing dust and debris from lodging into the miter saw. But as pointed out above, most dust collection systems are lacking in effectiveness. As such, when you do come across a great miter saw, one that works and achieves all your needs but unfortunately has a dust collection system that is not the best, do not let this bar you from picking the unit. Complement the miter saw with a vacuum to help keep the dust build-up under control. After all, you will use the vacuum to complete other house tasks and it will make sure that you have a careful look at your saw after use.
The motor you choose should have sufficient power to complete the cutting jobs you handle on every project. Generally, miter saws have motors with power ranging between 10 to 15 amps. While it is not a must that you get the most powerful miter on the market, it does help to get tasks completed fast and with less hassle.
In addition to the power, you just might want to consider the maximum motor rpm. The rpm will affect the smoothness of the cuts you make. Also worth noting is the fact that direct drive motor types usually last considerably longer than belt-driven motors. In the event you plan to carry out heavy cutting often, or need smooth cuts, you also need to consider miter saws with a smooth start technology. This will help to reduce the power bursts felt when the motor is turned on.
Most miter saws are designed with standard blades. The standard blades are perfect for making rough cuts. However, they are not the best for making fine cuts. As such, if your project needs a smooth and fine finish, you should consider purchasing a separate high-quality blade. If your projects will require you to change the blade often to complete different tasks, you also should bear in mind the ease of changing the blade.
Yes, some saw models can prove to be a pain to remove and replace blades!
Miter saws can prove to be dangerous tools to operate. As such, it is always a great idea to ensure that the miter saw you choose has all the necessary safety features. It is recommended that you consider miter saws with safety features including fencing guards and electric brakes.
Yes, most miter saws have these features. But despite this, it is your job to ensure that the safety features are as effective as the company claims them to be. Again, read through reviews to make a good choice.
With so many miter saws available on the market, it is imperative that you research and get one that suits your needs. While making a choice, do not let popularity and price alone skew your judgement.
With the above basic considerations, you should be good to go. Do not be in a rush to make a decision. Time is on your side. The right saw is sure to be a great addition to your tool collection.