The 10 Best Miter Saws
10. Delta Homecraft
9. Ryobi 14-Amp
8. Craftsman Compact
7. Festool Kapex
6. Milwaukee Dual-Bevel
5. Hitachi C10FCH2
4. Craftsman Mach 2
3. Bosch Glide
2. DeWalt 713
1. DeWalt S780
Making The Cut: The Right Saw For The Job
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.
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.
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.