Miter saw recommendations
January 20, 2015 11:39 AM   Subscribe

I’m in the market for a weekend warrior miter saw. I'm looking for a 10”, but I can’t decide between a fancy double-bevel sliding compound model, or a less expensive single-bevel non-slider, and using the savings to upgrade the blade, get a stand, etc. Projects (and limitations) inside.


Biggest project is going to be some trellises and a new front gate. That will take some 4x4 cedar, but I’ll cut that with my circular saw. Otherwise, it will just be 2x4s and smaller.

I’ll also be making some Adirondack chairs, and some garden planters, picture frames, etc. Again, just weekend warrior stuff. I’m not going to be making my living with this saw. I’m also not cutting big pieces of trim that might require a slider—though I guess it would make notching easier to have a slider.


I’ll be doing any wood work in my single-car garage, or in my backyard. The garage is not big enough for a permanent workshop, and may not be big enough for power tools to live there anyway, and so I may have to store the saw in my basement—but I can’t do work down there, due to the proximity to the gas furnace and the risk of a fire. So, there’s a reasonable likelihood that I’m going to have to carry the saw up and down the stairs when I want to do work. Lighter would be better than heavier.

Also, I still plan to buy a number of other tools for some of the projects I’ve lined up—router, jig saw, compressor and finish / brad nailers, shop vac, plus a stand for the miter—so all things being equal, cheaper is better. But I’m done cheaping out and then replacing in two years.

Any thoughts here? Am I going to miss a slide if I get that basic Hitachi? Or is a simple, light, cheap miter the way to go, and take the savings for the other shop buys?
posted by Admiral Haddock to Home & Garden (26 answers total) 6 users marked this as a favorite
Most miter saws cannot really cut anything wider than a nominal 5" ( 4.25"), so if you are planning any shelves or drawers you may want the sliding saw.
posted by Gungho at 11:53 AM on January 20, 2015

If it was me, I'd get the double-bevel sliding. The slide really increases the width of the wood you can cut and therefore the versatility of the tool. The double-bevel reduces the likelihood that you'll cut miters incorrectly, thereby saving you from wasted materials.
posted by mchorn at 11:54 AM on January 20, 2015

I have the basic Hitachi and while it's great for stuff like mouldings, it's not big enough to miter 2x6s. If you have the option, go for the compound saw.
posted by bonobothegreat at 11:55 AM on January 20, 2015

Are you planning to put up trim any time/ever ? Trim that's wider than 4 inches ?

If so, spend the money, get a 12" compound, sliding saw.

Otherwise, a basic 10" should get just about everything you need done.

(edit: trim == crown molding, chair rails, and the like, if that wasn't clear)
posted by k5.user at 11:55 AM on January 20, 2015

I upgraded to a 12" slider and it has made a world of difference. And a better saw means less wasted materials. Also, I use the table saw a lot less - the miter is faster and safer for lots of cuts.

I built a stand for mine - and some slides for longer materials. If you are judicious, it doesn't have to take that much space.

I know its easy to spend other people's money, but if I had to do it again, I really would have just gone to the 12" slider.
posted by Pogo_Fuzzybutt at 11:59 AM on January 20, 2015

I have a 10" non-sliding saw -- and every time I cut a 2x6 and have to lift it to get through the last 1/8" of the board, I wish I'd bought a 12" slider.
posted by liquado at 11:59 AM on January 20, 2015 [2 favorites]

I'm only a *somewhat poor* woodworker, but I can't figure out the purpose of a chopsaw for anyone other than a contractor, for the most part, when I can have a table saw instead. I get that chops are cheaper and lighter, but there's nothing save for compound miter that's any easier on them than a t-saw, and compound miter on a tsaw just takes a jig.

If I was buying one that wasn't Ridgid brand, I'd buy from a pawn shop, personally. Great deals to be had.
posted by TomMelee at 12:00 PM on January 20, 2015 [1 favorite]

My dad (avid DIY-er) has had the 10" Dewalt for 10 or 15 years now and swears by it. It goes on promo periodically at Home Depot etc. where you get a free stand with it. The stand folds up nicely and makes it a lot easier to cut long stock. The saw itself is heavy and awkward, although it does (barely) fit in my Sunfire. You can do 4x4s on it if you cut once, flip the 4x4 over, then cut through the little bit remaining.

I've borrowed it for a number of projects and used the slide a lot more than I thought I would. Recently I used it to cut 12" wide plywood shim pieces on a bathroom reno - quick, easy, and you get a beautiful right angle every time. I hardly got the table saw out at all on the project since so many jobs could be done quicker and safer with a little ingenuity on the miter saw. If I were buying one myself I would definitely get the slide, although I don't think I would upgrade to a 12" blade.
posted by pocams at 12:02 PM on January 20, 2015

Most of what you've described is likely to be done with fairly soft woods and is as much carpentry as woodworking. But I'm a person who, like you, started out with a planter, and I did a few "slab some edge banding on plywood sheets and call it a desk" sort of projects, and that eventually spiraled out of control.

Two things caught my eye: One: Picture frames. Two: "I’m done cheaping out and then replacing in two years"

Picture frames can be easy, if they're rustic, or even if they're rail and stile. But cutting good miters is hard. Like, really hard. You want the best possible tools for that.

A few years ago, when my woodworking was set up on the deck or in the living room, my wife convinced me to drop $3.5k on some basic Festool tools. We've since added to that and built a dedicated shop, but when I was in the garage swearing at something, she came out and said "didn't buy the Festool version, huh."

If the picture frames are serious, and if you're serious about not cheaping out, Fine Woodworking recently had a round-up of miter saws. Go check that. Look for what kind of repeatability the various saws are giving you. Consider that you will never buy another good saw (you will buy another good router, because having several routers is very handy).

(And I haven't bought a SCMS yet, I still have the Festool MFT and sliding circular saw. Not as much depth as I'd like sometimes, but does pretty much anything else I'd want out of a table saw, and knocks down to stuff in a closet small. But when I do buy an SCMS, it'll be a Kapex.)
posted by straw at 12:02 PM on January 20, 2015

We bought a used 12" dewalt compound miter and it is great for everything we need it for and only cost $120. For long cuts we use the circular saw or the table saw. BUT it sucks for cutting angles (especially since ours doesn't have a laser). We were able to cut 2x12 on it by doing two cuts per cut.

Honestly, we're thinking about buying Festool version of everything, in our new wood workshop. It'll pay for itself when we build the kitchen cabinets.
posted by ethidda at 12:17 PM on January 20, 2015

I have (on older version) of this one and have never wanted for the sliding capability in the 15 years I've had it. Maybe it's a 12 inch. I'm thinking it is because the blade is larger than my table saw. The only real reason to get a 10 inch is to share the saw blades with your table saw.

You know what's been great? My dad got me the folding stand and it makes moving the saw closer to the job site much easier as well as making repeatable cuts on easier because of the stops. In December, we had some unseasonably warm weather, so the Mrs. and I put together some raised beds. I cut the wood for this way faster than the time it took to assemble the beds.

When I bought my saw, the quality of miter saws was iffy and slider quality was even worse. Hopefully this has improved, but I would still avoid purchasing a saw with so many degrees of freedom without making sure the saw could be made rock solid throughout the modes.
posted by plinth at 12:17 PM on January 20, 2015

Definitely get the slider. I have the basic Hitachi 10" without slider and while it's excellent, I would like the added functionality. Spotted an entry-level 10" slider (forget brand name) at Sears this weekend, at a comparable price. You might check that out.
posted by bennett being thrown at 12:18 PM on January 20, 2015

I have the dewalt 10" slider and it is great. It is repeatable, does trim miters pretty good (saw is better than I am and a non straight 110 year old house makes it...challenging). It can cut through a 4x4 in one pass (if set up right) and is awesomely fast for doing a rip cut on just about anything except a full plywood sheet.

it is so good I have skipped buying a table saw and am able to do most jobs just fine between the miter saw, a GOOD router table, free hand router and a GOOD circular saw (with a rockwell jawhorse-that makes a HUGE difference in time and accuracy for cutting up sheet goods).

I have built beds, cradles, bookcases, some cabinets and a LOT of home DIY renovation with the above very portable setup. A good stand is a must, I got a craftsmen stand that I am not thrilled with (good enough to live with, not good enough to recommend). Buy the dewalt stand, it makes transport of the saw MUCH easier.
posted by bartonlong at 12:28 PM on January 20, 2015

While I believe that Hitachi makes the best saws in the business, you really want a slider if you want one go-to saw. The Dewalt is the better choice here.
posted by Benny Andajetz at 12:58 PM on January 20, 2015

I had an older DeWalt fixed miter saw, and a couple years ago bought a single bevel slider, similar to this one (they don't sell 10" ones anymore). The top end of the market, the saw I drooled over, has been updated this baby . IMO, nobody makes a better slide arm than that one on the top-end Bosch, for extra clearance or stability.

There were two big benefits to the slider over the fixed saw: being able to cut larger pieces of stock, and secondly having easier and more flexible mitre setup on corner cuts. I bought this mostly to do flooring and trim during a house reno and it's been a huge timesaver. The slider allows me to cut up to 10" wide stock without much trouble. I can also easily do 4x4s but not 6x6s.

A bigger saw is nicer, but a slider is even better than an non-slider. I don't regret paying the extra.

At the time I bought, buying a single bevel saved about $100 over the double bevel saws. I've not found the single bevel to be too much of a problem, but I've not done any really trough trim like a built-up crown molding. On the other hand, I did do some with the old fixed DeWalt, which was also single-bevel. It's not impossible, just a bit more finagling. I see the single bevels are still a bit cheaper. That may be a way to save a bit of money.

Personally, I really like the way the Bosch controls are laid out compared to the DeWalts, but that's just my preference. I'd buy the brand you prefer, considering whatever is on sale at the moment. They are both highly rated saws.

Laser guides are nifty, but don't sweat if the saw you like doesn't have one. Widgets like this are easy to add and much cheaper.

I use a shopmate as a stand (which I already had) and a pair of cheap sawhorses as feed supports. This works great; I have never felt the need for a custom saw stand (nor do I have the space to store it).
posted by bonehead at 1:03 PM on January 20, 2015

Go sliding dual compound. I have this Bosch version, couldn't be happier with it. Miter saws are one of those strange tools that I never imagined how many different things I would use it for until I had it.

TomMelee: the big thing for me about a chopsaw is the footprint in a small shop. My shop is a 1-car garage and I just don't have the room around my table saw to easily maneuver and cut large stock to length. I did without one for many years, wished I'd bought it sooner.
posted by N-stoff at 1:10 PM on January 20, 2015

On that list of tools for the future:
- think about a router table. They really increase the usefulness of any router.
- ask yourself if you really need the compressor/nailers. I've found them great for flooring/interior trim/framing, never needed them for furniture/garden stuff.
- and add some clamps to your shopping list. Lots and lots of clamps. You can never have too many clamps when gluing up projects.
posted by N-stoff at 1:21 PM on January 20, 2015

I can't figure out the purpose of a chopsaw [vs a table saw]

Miter saws are much, much faster to use. When you're doing flooring or trim, when cutting stock is a major portion of the job, the miter is the goto tool. Particularly for boards longer than a few feet.

Miter saws are more portable and quicker to setup. They go to the job, the work is less brought to them.

For house reno, a miter saw is probably more useful, for speed and portability. For woodworking, table saw has better precision and more flexibility. I'd probably still want a miter saw in a woodshop though, for doing rails and panel frames.
posted by bonehead at 1:28 PM on January 20, 2015

re: chop saw verses table saw, there is a safety issue...
Trimming lengths cross-grain on a table saw is awkward and can be dangerous if they're long.
posted by ovvl at 3:45 PM on January 20, 2015

Definitely check out a couple pawn shops. Construction work is feast or famine, so it's not unusual for guys to pawn professional grade tools. I think they'll let you check if it works. Don't forget to barter.
posted by spork at 5:16 PM on January 20, 2015

I'd go with the smaller saw. First off it is so wildly cheaper. Second for an occasional use saw it is much lighter to haul around and requires less storage space. Thirdly even if you end up needing a big slider the small saw is nice to have around at the same time. You can set your large saw for an angle and use the small saw for 90 degree cuts without having to switch back and forth.

A ten inch non-sliding saw will cut 2x6s no problem. All you need to do is fasten a 1x8 or 2x8 to the top of the table. Many saws have holes already in the fence and top for this and if not just drill a couple holes. Bonus: take a 1x4 and screw it to the back of the Xx8 for an extended fence. Length of 2x8 depends on your space, I generally use a piece about 6' long.

Not only does this increase the width of material you can cut it greatly increases the support given to the cut material. You get a better job and it's safer too.

An 12-18" wide chunk of 3/4" plywood works even better
posted by Mitheral at 6:20 PM on January 20, 2015 [1 favorite]

I get the speed of the chopsaw for wood under x-width, but imo in a small shop, a chopsaw is somewhat of a unitasker. You absolutely can't really cut anything wider than 2x your blade diameter unless you're a pro. I do have a friend who is a contractor who routinely cuts countertop with a 12" sliding chop saw, so there's that.

Regarding crosscutting on a table saw...that's what they're FOR. Ripping on a tablesaw is the dangerous activity. I built a crosscut sled for my piece of garbage tablesaw, and since most of the cutting I do is crosscutting, it stays on the saw almost always. It's RAD for clamping on a stop and repeating the same cut a bazillion times, or for super accurately cutting anything premeasured and thinner than 2'. My whole shop fits in the space of a 1 car garage, and that includes an 8' workbench. I'm not saying my setup is ideal, just giving my experience. My local pawns often have decent 10" compound chops for like $125-150 though, so that's pretty hard to beat.
posted by TomMelee at 7:11 PM on January 20, 2015

Mitheral (whom I esteem) notwithstanding, there seems to be a weight of opinion in favor of sliders. I still think I'd go for a 10"--12" just seems massive to me, but I'll play with them again in the store, and there are deals on 12"s that you just don't see on 10"s. But I'm not wedded to the Dewalt I linked to. The Bosch seems like a good, if pricy option, and then there's this Makita.

Dewalt is generally my default, but I'd be curious to hear whether people have a strong opinion on 10" sliders from other makers.

At this point, I've spent so much time hemming and hawing over this I could have built half the projects I'm planning on.
posted by Admiral Haddock at 7:14 PM on January 20, 2015

They're spendy but, IMO, Hitachi makes the best sliding miter saws. They were really the first to design an accurate and reliable sliding/ double bevel mechanism.
posted by Benny Andajetz at 7:27 PM on January 20, 2015

Spend the bread, buy a 12" sliding compound miter. Yep, true, you may never use it. But damn, when you need it, nothing like the right tool for the job.

And keep an eye out for a table for it, with arms extending out either direction; I caught a really good sale last year, great table, light-weight, super-easy to set up.

Fact is that you likely won't *need* this tool, or not need it often anyways. But you'll damn sure be glad you spend the extra $100 for it when you *do* need it.

Skimp on some things -- not tools. Spend the money; it pays back huge.
posted by dancestoblue at 2:36 AM on January 21, 2015

The slider is nearly $300 more than the fixed saw.
posted by Mitheral at 12:24 PM on January 21, 2015

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