Miter saws are some of the most versatile tools out there when it comes to cutting wood, metal, tile, PVC, and more. As long as you have the right blade, you can cut nearly anything. That being said, there are different types of miter saws out there, and which one you should get depends on what your needs and preferences are.
In this article, we look at the different types of miter saws that are out there – both at their most basic level as well as in terms of how large they are and how they are powered.
5 Types of Miter Saws
There are five main types of miter saws out there. Of course, there is the basic miter saw, but there are also sliding and compound miter saws. As you go down the list, both the complexity as well as the functionality of the type increases.
Basic Miter Saw
The most basic version here is the plain old miter saw. This is a circular saw with a base or table that you lay your wood (or other materials) on. The regular miter saw features a blade that is set at a straight 0-degree angle, or in other words, it is perfectly straight from top to bottom (the blade stays at a vertical position at all times).
What makes it different from a simple chop saw is that it can miter, which means that you can pivot the blade left and right to make angled cuts on the horizontal plane. Here, the vertical angle of the blade cannot be changed, but the blade can pivot left and right.
To make a cut, pivot the blade to the desired angle, turn the saw on, and move the blade down through the material being cut.
Sliding Miter Saw
The next type of miter saw is the sliding miter saw, which is one step up from the basic miter saw. Just like a basic miter saw, the sliding miter saw also features a blade that sits vertically. The blade on the sliding miter saw can be pivoted left or right for making angled cuts.
Just like with a regular miter saw, while the blade can pivot left and right, it cannot be adjusted on the horizontal plane, or in other words, it cannot bevel.
The major difference between the sliding miter saw and the normal miter saw is that the sliding variety comes with rails. These rails allow the blade to not only move up and down through the material being cut but also back and forth horizontally. These are ideal if you need to cut fairly wide pieces of wood (or other materials), as the blade can slide forward horizontally along those rails, thus greatly increasing cutting capacity in terms of width.
Compound Miter Saw
Next up is the compound miter saw. Now, this is not exactly a step up from the sliding miter saw, but more of a sister saw. Whereas sliding miter saws allow the blade to slide forward horizontally for larger cuts, a compound miter saw usually does not.
However, the defining feature of the compound miter saw is that it can both miter and bevel. As covered above, a normal miter saw allows the blade to pivot left and right, defined as a miter. Yet, a compound miter saw adds an extra feature to the mix, which is the bevel. This means that the blade cannot only pivot left and right, but it can also tilt.
A normal compound miter saw allows the blade to both miter and to tilt to one side only, and depending on the model, this blade tilt could be to the left or the right. This is the kind of miter saw you would use when you need to make angled cuts on the vertical plane, such as if you are working with crown molding.
Compound Sliding Miter Saw
The next type is the compound sliding miter saw, which is a step up from all the other three types that we have looked at so far. As you might be able to tell by the name of it, here you get the best of both worlds.
This type of miter saw allows the blade to pivot left and right for making angled cuts on the horizontal plane, which is miter. It also allows the blade to tilt either left or right (only one direction), which allows you to make angled cuts on the vertical plane. Finally, this type of miter saw also features rails that allow the saw blade to slide forward, thus greatly increasing the capacity of cutting width.
Here, you get the flexibility of a compound miter saw with the added cutting capacty of a sliding miter saw.
Dual-Compound Sliding Miter Saw
The final type that you need to know about is the biggest and most feature-rich one of all, the dual-compound sliding miter saw. This saw allows the blade to pivot left and right for miter cuts. It also allows the blade to slide forward along the horizontal plane for large cuts.
Now, the real defining feature of this type of miter saw is the dual-compound feature. A normal compound miter saw only allows you to tilt the blade in one direction, which can limit its functionality. However, a dual compound miter saw allows the blade to tilt at certain angles in both directions, left and right, thus allowing for maximum versatility and functionality.
Corded vs. Cordless Miter Saw: Which One to Choose?
One important thing to consider when choosing any sort of miter saw is whether you want to go for a corded or cordless model. With that being said, most of the higher-quality miter saws out there are corded.
Now, of course, cordless saws do have certain advantages, mainly the fact that they are very portable and can be used anywhere as long as the batteries are charged. That said, on the flip side, you do always need charged batteries, and once the batteries start to deplete, the power goes as well.
In general corded saws will always be more powerful than cordless saws.
For a more detailed look at the advantages and disadvantages of corded and cordless tools, check this article.
8- vs. 10- vs. 12-Inches: What Size Miter Saw to Get?
What size of a miter saw you should get really depends on what kind of tasks you are looking to complete. Eight inches is generally the smallest of the sizes, and with a blade with 8-inch diameter, the cutting depth is going to be just under four inches.
You can assume that the cutting depth of a miter saw will be just under half of the blade’s diameter. Therefore, the larger the materials being cut, the larger the blade needs to be.
With that in mind, you need to consider what sort of materials you are looking to cut and how thick those materials are. In general, though, you should get at least a 10-inch one for some versatility.
For more information on which size to pick, read this article.
What Is the Best Type of Miter Saw?
Simply put, there is no so-called best type of miter saw. The specific type you get depends on what tasks you need it for. If you need just a basic saw for cross-cutting and angled cross cuts of small pieces, a standard miter saw is just fine.
If you need these features, but the materials being cut are larger, then the sliding variety is best.
On the other hand, if you need to make plenty of angled cuts, specifically vertical angles, such as if you are working with crown molding, then either compound or dual-compound miter saws are best.
Finally, if you want the maximum amount of features and functionality possible, then the dual-compound sliding miter saw is the way to go.
The bottom line is that there are five main types of miter saws out there, and each one has its specific uses, benefits, and drawbacks too.
Just remember to consider your own needs, specifically the jobs you expect your miter saw to do, and then go from there.