The 10 Best Miter Saws
This wiki has been updated 36 times since it was first published in February of 2015. Miter saws are, basically, a smaller version of a chop saw that's also able to make angled cuts across the width and length of a piece of lumber. They're essential for a huge variety of tasks, such as furniture making, window framing and roof truss construction. These incredibly useful tools open up a world of woodworking opportunities for hobbyists and professionals alike. When users buy our independently chosen editorial choices, we may earn commissions to help fund the Wiki.
November 24, 2020:
We removed the Craftsman Mach 2 due to availability issues, and replaced it with the DeWalt DW715R. This new model has a really nice balance of power and size, and its 12-inch blade would be a valuable addition to a workshop or job site that needs to cut deep and wide cuts, like 2 x 6 lumber, or 7.5-inch cross cuts. Keep in mind that this is a refurbished model, a fact that the listing doesn’t exactly make very clear. Refurbished tools aren’t inherently inferior to brand new ones, but there is always a small risk that you might get one with a flaw or issue. The DeWalt DW715R has a 1-year warranty from the DeWalt store itself, so that should give you some peace of mind.
Whichever miter saw you choose, it’s extremely important to closely read the safety and operation manual before you even plug it in. These are extremely dangerous machines and can cause serious injury or death in a fraction of a second. Since the risk of flying debris is high, you should always wear proper eye protection when using your miter saw. Proper footwear is also very important. One of the easiest ways to slip and injure yourself is if you lose your footing and throw yourself off balance. Keeping control of your body and your balance is incredibly important when operating a miter saw. Keeping your work area clean and clear of clutter and sawdust can also help prevent slips and falls.
If you frequently find yourself at isolated job sites without a convenient power supply, you might want to consider a cordless miter saw. These models allow you to be much more mobile while working, and their lack of power cords reduces tripping hazards. However, battery-powered saws tend to lack the power of corded models, and you’ll need to have a stock of backup batteries if you plan on all-day projects.
You may find yourself unimpressed with the stock blade that comes with your miter saw, so you may want to purchase a dedicated miter saw blade. These options are sure to last longer and cut cleaner than the factory blade that comes out of the box.
December 13, 2019:
This round of updates saw considerable evolution for the category. We removed the Craftsman Compact and DeWalt 713 due to availability issues, and also eliminated the Ryobi 14-Amp due to quality concerns. The Delta Homecraft was replaced with the more-current Delta Power Tools S26-262L, and the Hitachi C10FCH2 was replaced with the Metabo HPT C10FCGS – a product of Hitachi’s new merger with German tool manufacturer Metabo (the HPT in Metabo HPT stands for Hitachi Power Tool).
We also added the Makita LS1019L – a 10-inch offering from a company with an excellent reputation for making good miter saws, the Skilsaw SPT88-01 – a highly capable model from another iconic company in the rotary saw space, and the Makita XSL06PT – a portable offering that closely resembles the LS1019L, but runs on lithium ion batteries.
A few issues to cut through before making your final purchase decision in this category:
Flexibility A miter saw’s defining talent is its ability to make angled cuts, which can be achieved two ways. The first way is adjusting a saw’s miter angle, which spins the saw in such a way that it allows you to make a diagonal cut across the length of a board – for example, a 45-degree cut to build edging for a picture frame. The second way is to adjust a saw’s bevel angle, which allows you to make diagonal cuts across the depth (thickness) of your material – for example, trimming up two pieces of MDF baseboard to come around a corner.
When it comes to these abilities, not all saws were created equal, and you can expect their miter and bevel ranges to vary considerably. So, while the Metabo HPT C10FCGS can only cut bevels of 45 degrees or less, and only to the left – at that, the Makita LS1019L is a dual-bevel offering that can cut up to 48 degrees in either direction, for a total bevel range of 96 degrees. That being said, you can definitely save some money by settling for a saw with a narrow range, and unless you’re a serious carpenter or contractor, it’s unlikely you'll need the feature.
Accuracy: Unfortunately, as is often the case with power tools, this is a situation where you’ll likely get what you pay for – so you’ll need to decide what to spend based on your personal needs. If you’re just an average homeowner looking to hack down some 2x4’s so you can build a deck and a shed next summer, some of our lower-ranking selections for this category are budget-friendly offerings that might serve you well for years.
But, if somewhere down the road your ambitions begin to extend to more complex projects, requiring finesse, it won’t take you long to notice that the Metabo HPT C10FCGS rarely makes a perfect 90-degree cut, or that the denoted stops (which allow you to easily “click-in” to common, nominal angles) on the Delta Power Tools S26-262L don’t work so well. If you want precision and accuracy, you’re going to need to double down and invest some cash in one of our top-end picks, like the Bosch Glide or the Skilsaw SPT88-01. The Milwaukee Dual-Bevel even has a digital readout, so you can keep your angles dialed in to within a tenth of a degree.
Extras: It wouldn’t be a power-tool category without frivolous (or, sometimes ingenious and incredibly useful) bells and whistles to push these machines over the top. Many offerings, including the Craftsman Mach 2, include laser alignment guides, which can be great – but keep an eye out for the ones that aren’t battery-powered, for the convenience’s sake. Vertical vices, like the ones on the Makita LS1019L, are fantastic for securely holding material in place, and vacuum ports, like the one on the Skilsaw SPT88-01, are a far superior option to some of the feeble dust collection bags offered in this category – so long as you have access to a decent shop vacuum. These tools can generate a LOT of dust.
Now that you’ve got your saw all figured, you just need to wrangle a matching miter stand and it’s time to get to work!
Making The Cut: The Right Saw For The Job
If you're making rougher cuts on beams used for framing, then a handheld skill saw may be the ideal tool.
With the right tools, shaping even the most robust, durable hardwood can be an easily managed task. You simply have to know which saw is appropriate for the woodworking job at hand.
If you're skilled and experienced enough for the dextrous cuts created by a jig saw, then by all means get to work with this deft tool. If you're making rougher cuts on beams used for framing, then a handheld skill saw may be the ideal tool. For ripping boards and sheets of ply lengthwise, it's important to use a good table saw. And for making cross cuts perpendicular to the grain of the wood, or to make angled cuts also called miters, it's imperative you use a good cross cut saw. Or, as they are commonly called, miter saws.
A power miter saw (which is less commonly called a drop saw, for your reference) is a vital tool for any professional carpenters working with framing lumber or finishing work, from cutting moldings to building cabinetry. Some saws that are called miter saws can only reliably create 90 degree cuts across the grain of the wood; their blades go up and down, the cut depth limited by the size of the blade itself. Many miter saws can also pivot to create angles of 45 degrees or even more, allowing for the easier joining of two pieces of wood forming the corner of a piece of furniture, for example.
Choosing The Best Miter Saw
In some limited cases, including but not limited to a tool used in a shop class or for training purposes in a professional setting, it makes sense to choose a cross cut saw with a fixed blade; that is, one that does not pivot to varied angles. A saw that only cuts at 90 degree angles limits versatility, but it also helps ensure that the lumber cut with such a unit will always be at a perfect right angle.
This trade off will be appreciated every time your back doesn't ache at the end of a work session where you moved the saw from place to place.
In most cases though, it is the ability to cut those angles -- or miters -- that a saw operator needs. Make sure the saw you consider can swivel enough to cut the angles you need, and also consider whether or not it swings in both directions; some miter saws only allow for angle cuts to one side, though this usually presents only a small issue, as you can simply flip over the piece of wood to compensate for the lack of movement.
If you're going to need to move your saw around a work site and/or to load it into and out of your vehicle frequently, then make sure to consider its weight and its carrying features. Many miter saws have handy built in handles, but many are also too heavy for most people to lift with practical ease. You might have to sacrifice blade size or range of motion for a lighter weight, more compact saw. This trade off will be appreciated every time your back doesn't ache at the end of a work session where you moved the saw from place to place.
Last, consider the work environment in which you'll use your miter saw. If you work outside, then there's less concern about sawdust collection. If you do your cutting in a smaller workshop or garage, then you should absolutely spend the money on a miter saw with superior sawdust collection attributes and keep your workspace, and your lungs, that much cleaner.
Safe Miter Saw Use And Maintenance
One of the best ways to keep yourself safe when using a miter saw is to make sure the blade is always sharp and clean. This helps to prevent the kickback that can ruin a piece of wood or, much the worse, that can send hunks of wood flying through the air and potentially cause serious injury. A sharp blade also helps resist the sudden binding: when a blade gets caught in a knot or other section of material, and pulls on the material and potentially the operator.
Also be wary of wood that may have started to rot, as it will rarely allow for clean cuts in such circumstances.
It's also important that you clean all the sawdust and scraps produced by a miter saw after each use. A buildup of fibers and debris can prevent the saw from proper function and can also lead to an annoying mess as sawdust and scraps of wood fall all about the saw instead of being directed to its collection port.
When using a miter saw (or almost any other power tool, for that matter) you should be wearing safety goggles and gloves as the minimum level or protection. Wearing a mask that covers your nose and mouth and prevents particulate inhalation is also a good idea, as is working in a well ventilated area. It's also wise to consider wearing thick clothing, such as denim pants and a work apron.
Always make sure your saw's angle is locked in place before starting up the blade: any accidental shift can ruin a project or cause injury, or both. Also make sure to keep any material you're cutting held or even clamped securely to the saw's fence. This ensures cleaner cuts and reduces the chance for injury.
While any competent carpenter knows that not all woods handle a saw the same way, also be aware that the same type of wood will respond to a miter saw differently given the various conditions. A wet wood, or one that has not fully seasoned and is filled with pitch, will be harder to cut through than dry, aged wood of the same type. Also be wary of wood that may have started to rot, as it will rarely allow for clean cuts in such circumstances.