Compound Mitre Saws Explained
The prime uses of a compound mitre saw are to allow you to make standards cross cuts, square cuts and whenever required bevel cuts. They work in pretty much the same way as a basic mitre saw, in that, they work by pulling down a blade, powered by a motor into the material that needs to be cut.
These are not of any use for cutting wider stock and materials or for just ripping up lumber. For doing those jobs you will need to go for a sliding compound, which you can read about here.
Not everyone will actually need to buy the compound version of the standard mitre saw. Sadly a lot of people seem to have been convinced that they do, but in all reality a standard one would be more than enough for most people.
Let us examine what added benefits this compound one has, and that will help you make a much better and more informed decision.
There are two types of compound saws and they are known as:
- 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. Don’t worry too much about that right now, as I have explained it in more detail below, along with a video. Before we do that, it is a good idea to understand the types of cuts.
If you buy a compound, then it is pretty easy to make these more complex joints. If you just need to do straight cuts on standard sized timber, then a basic one will do just fine.
In reality very few people bother with a basic mitre saw any more as the difference between a basic and a compound is about $10-20. For that small amount of money you may as well have the upgraded version and that will open up the number of joints and cuts that you can make.
These saws, once set up properly, will continue to deliver a wide variety of very accurate cuts, and a lot less work for you.
A compound saw will cost on average around $120-150. A good example of this is the best seller at Amazon which is the Dewalt DWS780 which I have reviewed, and you can read by clicking here.
Understanding Mitre & Bevel Cuts
With a standard mitre saw you can get a basic mitre cut. With a compound saw you get the standard mitre cut, but you also get a bevel cut and when combined together, these two cuts are called a compound mitre cut. These are used for jobs such as:
- Crown moulding
- Picture frames
- Joining long pieces of wood together such as skirting boards.
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.
Video – Compound mitre saw: why you need this type of mitre saw?
I used a different saw but I also did decking with mine and I 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 I used mitre cuts for the corners and a few bevel cuts on the hand rails.
So 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, I also had to do a few bevel joints with some of the joists and decking boards.
I didn’t actually have to do any compound joints though for this particular project, but nonetheless I completed certain elements of this, mainly the handrails and 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.
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.
Compound Mitre Saw Stands
These saws can stand on a bench but to get them out out of it a stand is better. There are plenty of choices for these which you can read about by clicking here. The reason I say that is that a stand gives you another pair of hands when it comes to supporting the longer pieces of wood.
Blades and Sizes
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 I said the 10″ is the usual pick for most people.
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 the 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.
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 should be then used as a guide for cutting.
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. My 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.
It is nevertheless a good idea for general cutting but not something that would make my mind up on a saw either way.
Some of these 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. I still prefer to use a stand but this at least offers an alternative.
Compound Saw Summary
Just remember there are three types of mitre saws, the basic, the compound and the sliding compound. The basic one will do straight and mitre cuts, the compound will do those along with bevel cuts, and the sliding one will do the same as the bevel but will be able to cut wider and larger pieces of material such as wood.
The most popular is the 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 I have reviewed their ranges of saws including compounds.
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 I 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.