Updated: June 8, 2015
Miter Saw Reviews:Miter saws are handy tools to have in any workshop and they come in 3 different models. The traditional miter saw has the motor mounted on a swing arm that pivots right or left to make angled cuts. The compound miter saws motor also swings left or right and they tilt for beveled cuts. When you tilt the saw on both of its axes at once, you get a compound miter cut. Projects that require angled cuts in two planes (like picture frames or crown molding) are perfect for compound miter saws. A compound miter saw is more expensive than a traditional miter saw, but the added convenience of one pass compound cuts is worth the money. Lastly, a sliding compound miter saw gives you the versatility of a compound miter saw with a sliding feature (like a radial arm saw). The sliding feature allows for increased length of cut (crosscuts more than 11"). Added features on a miter saw can sure make life easier and we have gone over them below.
Choosing a Miter Saw - Blade size is important when choosing a miter saw. The basic sizes are 8", 10", and 12" - the larger diameter miter saw blades can make longer cuts. Positive stops refer to factory set points which permit accurate cuts on specific angles. Hence, the more positive stops, the less time to setup the saw and the quicker the job will get done. Self retracting blade guards are a big safety feature to look for - they keep the guard clear of the stock giving you a good view of the cutting line. While the saw is raised the guard covers the blade completely. Electric brakes help stop the saw motor when the trigger is released. Some electric brakes will stop a blade in about 2 seconds (can take up to 12 seconds on saws without this feature). Shaft locks immobilize the blade and shaft making blade changes easy. Dust bags collect sawdust and mount right to the saw. Table extensions mount on the sides of the saw and give longer stock better balance which equates to more accurate cuts. Sliding fences add support to tall stock on basic miter cuts but slide out of the way for bevel cuts. Portable stands create a sturdy base and improve safety. Common blade types are the steel blades (cheap and good for softwood cuts - dull faster in hardwood), high speed steel blades (harder than steel blades) remain sharper longer, carbide tipped blades - expensive, but stay sharpest the longest of all blades. Top brands include Ridgid, DeWalt, Hitachi, Craftsman, Makita, Ryobi, Milwaukee, Delta, and Bosch. You can find them in stores like Sears, Home Depot, and Lowes. Online, stores like Amazon.com carry large inventories of all the top makers. We found several miter saw reviews online, most specifically the owner reviews posted on Amazon.com. We also read the latest Consumer Reports article where they tested over 12 miter saws for accuracy, speed, ease of use, edge finish and for features like laser guide and extensions. Consumersearch.com does a good job of highlighting the best miter saws on their site. There was also an excellent review done a few years back by Wood Magazine on 7 of the top rated 12" sliding compound miter saws which pitted them in a head to head competition. They were rated on things like fences, tables, controls, adjustments, size, portability, left/right bevel, and blades. The miter saws were put through power tests, cut accuracy, and ease of use. The models tested were the Makita LS1212, Bosch 4412, DeWalt DW708, Ridgid MS1290, Hitachi C12FSA, Craftsman 21292, and the General International 50-700. Not all of these models still exist, but some have been improved and renamed with new model #'s. Popular Mechanics did some reviews as well that are posted on their website, and again the models are older versions of current ones, but you can learn a lot from these type of articles on what to look for when buying a miter saw. Amazon has perhaps the largest selection we could find online with Compound Miter Saws and Sliding Miter Saws.