Three best miter saws
Of all the saws available to the professional and hobby woodworker, the miter saw is arguably the most useful, combining portability with the potential to cut everything from roof joists to picture frames. However, the capabilities can be confusing, particularly to anyone buying their first saw.
At BestReviews, we do the in-depth research and testing that individuals have neither the time nor the money to do themselves. The products we've chosen represent a cross-section of the best miter saws currently available, and the following miter saw buying guide explains how they differ. This should give you all the information you need when it comes time to buy.
Considerations when choosing miter saws
Types of miter saws
Miter saw (chop saw): In this, the most basic model, the blade moves horizontally up and down. The table can be rotated to cut simple angles. While these exist for metalworking, we were unable to find one for woodworking.
Single bevel compound miter saw: In addition to the cuts mentioned above, the blade can be tilted to one side (up to 45° from the horizontal) as well as rotated. It can cut two angles at once, hence the term "compound." Prices range from $60 and up.
Double bevel compound miter saw: The blade on this saw can be tilted both left and right. It's more convenient, but it doesn't cut any more angles than the single bevel version. Prices start at $110.
Single or double bevel sliding compound miter saw: Either compound version can be fitted with horizontal rails or an articulated action. This allows the blade to be pulled forward horizontally while cutting, dramatically increasing cutting width. Prices start at $150. The best double bevel sliding compound miter saws can cost $500 or more.
Cordless miter saw: A cordless miter saw seems like a great idea, particularly for site work. However, while they are definitely improving, it's difficult to recommend them. Those with modest capacities start at around $750, and ten-inch models with full double bevel sliding compound ability can reach $1,500! Additionally, most need two batteries, so having spares that allow you to work continuously will cost you another $150 or more.
Miter saw features
Blades: These range from 7 to 12 inches, with obvious impact on capacity. It's important to check carefully. Two saws with the same size blade often have different maximum cuts.
Fences: These are invariably aluminum and usually drilled so you can fit shop-made jigs or additional fences. Height is an advantage, particularly on saws with big capacities.
Extension bars: These pull out either side of the table to provide support for long material.
Laser: This emits a bright line to show where the blade will cut. It generally adds $20 to $50 to the price.
Detents: These are small stops or slots that allow you to set common angles quickly by rotating the table or blade to a predefined position and locking in place.
Dust bags: These are usually fitted but are mostly hopeless! Use a shop vac or other active extraction.
Weight: This can make a difference if you need to move the saw a lot for site work, though some big saws have excellent portability.
Stand: This provides stability and a more comfortable working height when you don't have a bench. Usually costs extra, but it's worth considering.
Q. Why do almost all miter saws, regardless of size, have a 15-amp motor?
A. It's not really about the saw but about making sure you can plug it in just about anywhere. A standard household electrical outlet provides a maximum current of 15 amps.
Q. What are the recommended safety precautions with a miter saw?
A. Recommend safety precautions include:
Always wear eye protection and a dust mask.
Consider ear protection, too. Miter saws can be noisy.
Don't wear loose clothing that could get caught in the mechanism.
Ensure the blade guard is working properly. Never fix it up out of the way.
Bolt or clamp the saw to a sturdy bench or stand when practical to do so.
Miter saws we recommend
Best of the best: DeWalt DWS780 12-inch Double Bevel Sliding Compound Miter Saw
Our take: An outstanding saw for those who demand durability and accuracy.
What we like: Massive capacities, tremendous flexibility, and capable of great precision. Packed with pro features. Surprisingly portable despite its size.
What we dislike: Nothing. Expensive, but worth it.
Best bang for your buck: Hitachi C10FCG 10-inch Single Bevel Compound Miter Saw
Our take: Excellent low-cost saw for the home woodworking or DIY enthusiast
What we like: Good build quality. Smooth operation. Light and compact, so easy to carry and store. Handles dimensioned lumber up to 4 x 4.
What we dislike: Accuracy could be better. Poor dust bag (a common fault).
Our take: An interesting solution for those who frequently cut metal as well as wood.
What we like: Excellent flexibility. Cuts a variety of metals without needing to change the blade. Useful depth stop. Good capacities. Tile cutter option (at extra cost).
What we dislike: Limited thickness when cutting steel. Variable build quality.
Bob Beacham is a writer for BestReviews. BestReviews is a product review company with a singular mission: to help simplify your purchasing decisions and save you time and money. BestReviews never accepts free products from manufacturers and purchases every product it reviews with its own funds.
BestReviews spends thousands of hours researching, analyzing and testing products to recommend the best picks for most consumers. BestReviews and its newspaper partners may earn a commission if you purchase a product through one of our links.
Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.