The prime uses of a compound mitre saw are to allow you to make standard cross cuts, square cuts and whenever required bevel or compound cuts. They work by pulling down a blade, powered by a motor into the material that needs to be cut.
Typically mitre saws are not of any real use for cutting wider stock and materials or for just ripping up lumber. For doing those jobs you will need to go for a circular saw.
Not everyone will actually need to buy a mitre saw. Sadly a lot of people seem to have been convinced that they do, but in all reality they may not really get much use out of it.
We will explain the real benefits of a compound mitre saw, and that way you can make your own mind up if they will get enough use to justify the spend.
Types of Mitre Saw
Generally speaking a mitre saw lets you make straight cuts, mitre cuts, bevel cuts and compound cuts.(A compound cut is a combination of a mitre and a bevel) These saws, once set up properly, will continue to deliver a wide variety of very accurate cuts, and a lot less work for you.
With a compound mitre you can normally angle it to 45 degrees to the left or right. You can check and set this measurement using a gauge that is on the body of the saw. You will also find what are called "hard stops. These are pre-set angles where the saw will automatically stop, and these are typically at 0, 15, 23, 30 and 45 degrees. If you do need an angle in between these you can of course set that, and then lock that angle into place
There are slightly different types of mitre saw:
- A standard compound - this is cheaper and good for working on smaller tasks
- A sliding compound - more expensive but the saw allows you to work on larger work pieces
Understanding Bevel Options with Mitre Saws
- Single Bevel
- Double Bevel
Sometimes these are also referred to as left swing, or left and right swing. This simply means that with the single bevel, the arm of the saw will swing to the left only.
With the dual or double bevel, they can swing to the left and also to the right. If you think you are going to make that type of joint, then just make sure that your saw has that as a feature.
The bottom line is that unless you need to use bevels, then you will not need a saw that tilts to the left or the right. If on the other hand you plan on doing a lot of work with wood, then it is probably a good idea to have this extra feature.
Having this extra feature will make the saw more expensive, but then you get a lot more value in terms of the type of joints that you can make, and be able to do more complex projects.
We used a variety of joints when working on some decking. We have shown a couple of pictures below of the job, from laying the joists to the finished job. Most of these were straight cuts and we used mitre cuts for the corners and a few bevel cuts on the hand rails.
As you can see a saw like this is great for doing any type of cross cut and also for making those internal and external corner mitre joints. When doing this project, we also had to do a few bevel joints with some of the joists and decking boards.
We didn't actually have to do any compound joints though for this particular project, but nonetheless we completed certain elements of this, mainly the handrails by using stronger bevels. For that you do need to have a compound saw rather than a standard mitre one. Just be aware that the type of work that you will want to take on will always decide which type of saw you will need
How Much Do Compound Mitre Saws Cost?
A standard compound mitre saw costs on average around £60- £80
A sliding compound mitre saw will cost on average around £100-£150
A cordless sliding compound will cost on average £180-300
Prices vary a lot between brands with saws from Dewalt and Makita being expensive, Bosch at the mid-range of prices and brands like Evolution at the lower end of the price points.
What are Compound Mitre Saws Used for?
These saws have a number of uses and a few popular ones are:
- Making corners with Crown moulding
- Making picture frames
- Joining long pieces of wood together such as skirting boards
General Compound Mitre Saw Features
You will find that all mitre saws are either made from aluminium or from steel. The guards and knobs however are normally made from a hard plastic, but a few of these will have a full metal construction, and these will be tougher in the long run. Handles are normally made from some form of rubber.
The reason for that is simply to try and reduce the vibration in your hand when completing the sawing action.
Laser Guides - In the last few years many of the manufacturers have started to add lasers to their saws. This simply produces a line on the material being cut, and comes from the laser beam on the saw. This can be then used as a guide for cutting. They are pretty much a standard feature now. Many woodworkers or contractors draw a line in pencil or use a chalk line for marking the wood. In principle a laser beamed light should be more accurate. Our own personal opinion is that unless you buy a saw at the very high end price points, then these lasers are not that accurate at all
Extension Wings - Some saws will come with a set of wings which allow you to increase the capacity of cutting. Mostly these are a simple slide out and in extension that helps support larger pieces of wood. We still prefer to use a stand but this at least offers an alternative.
Mitre Saw Stands
These saws can sit on a bench but to get the most out of them using a mitre saw stand is better. The reason we say that is that a stand gives you another pair of hands when it comes to supporting the longer pieces of wood.
Mitre Saw Blades
Compound mitre saws come in slightly different sizes and this is measured by the blade size that your saw will take. For most uses a good 10" blade is enough, but you can get them in 8" and in 12". Your decision will come down to the type of work that you will be doing, but as we said the 10" is the usual pick for most people.
Summary of Compound Mitre Saws
Just remember there are two types of mitre saw, the compound and the sliding compound. They can both make straight, mitre, bevel and compound cuts. The sliding saw will do the same as the standard but will be able to cut wider and larger pieces of material such as wood.
The most popular is the sliding compound mitre saw as it allows you do a variety of joints and is affordable for most people who have to a lot of sawing. All the leading manufacturers make these and you can read about their ranges by clicking the links below. There we have reviewed their ranges of mitre saws.
By clicking on any of the links above you will be taken to a page that shows you what ranges of saws are available for each brand, and then we have shown you the best saws made by each brand. Hopefully you will find that helpful. The most important thing to remember is to know what type of work you will be doing with your saw. Then you have to know how much you have to spend.
Once you know both of those your selection becomes a great deal easier. In my opinion Dewalt is the best brand by some considerable way but also the most expensive. Typically you will find that is what professionals and contractors will use. Evolution provide a nice range and should be affordable for most people.