Mitre Saw Buying Guide
The right tools are a must-have for any DIY woodworking project. Find out everything you need to know about mitre saws in order to choose the best one.
How to Choose The Right Mitre Saw
Mitre saws feature a motorized circular blade that is capable of making angled cuts and crosscuts. They are often called drop saws for their quick and plunging cutting movements.
The versatile mitre saw is an important tool for professional and DIY woodworkers alike. You can use it both as a portable saw and as a table saw in the workshop. Select the right model for any job with the help of this comprehensive guide.
Types of Mitre Saws
Mitre saws are used to cut planks, crown mouldings, and window trims, as well as to make bevelled edges and frames. There are three main types of mitre saws to choose from.
The standard mitre saw is a basic drop saw that provides the convenience and capability of a power saw. It combines the capabilities of a manual mitre box and a handsaw to make 45-degree mitre cuts and 90-degree straight crosscuts. Typical applications include framing tasks and cutting baseboards.
The blade and head of a compound mitre saw can rotate to the side, which allows for both regular cuts and compound cuts. A single-bevel compound saw can rotate to either the left or the right for mitre and bevel cuts of varying angles, with certain models able to tilt up to 50 degrees. A dual-bevel mitre saw tilts both ways, providing greater flexibility. It is capable of making mitre and bevel cuts in either direction.
The sliding compound mitre saw offers the same advantages as compound models with the addition of a sliding saw head for enhanced capability. Available in both single- and dual-bevel models, this moveable design allows the saw to accommodate wider and longer pieces.
Parts of Mitre Saws
When trying to pick a mitre saw, it can help to familiarize yourself with the different saw components.
The blade is the part of the saw that does the cutting work. Different types of blades are used to cut different materials like wood, plastic, aluminum, and leather. The tooth angle for a mitre saw blade is usually zero or negative.
A mitre saw's blade is driven by an electric motor. The motor is either directly attached to the blade or connected to it by a belt. Direct-drive motors offer more power than belt-drive motors.
A mitre saw fence secures the workpiece against the saw table for lengthwise cuts.
Typically transparent, blade guards protect the sharp blade edges when the saw is not in use and retract when the blade is lowered.
The lock handle allows the blade to be secured at a specific mitre angle.
Bevel Lock Lever
Found in compound mitre saws, the bevel lock lever secures the saw head at the desired bevel angle.
Found only in sliding mitre saws, the slide bar guides the movement of the saw arm.
The lockdown pin secures the saw head for easier transport, reducing the risk of damage.
The handle of a mitre saw provides a good grip when cutting or transporting. It can be mounted vertically or horizontally and may be adjustable as well.
Built right into the handle, the trigger is the power switch of the mitre saw.
Mitre Scale Indicator
A mitre scale indicator shows the angle of the blade, allowing for precise cuts.
Bevel Scale Indicator
A bevel scale indicator shows the tilting angle of the blade, necessary for accurate bevel cuts.
The dust port directs sawdust into a bag for quick and easy cleanup.
Mitre Saw Features
Understanding different mitre saw features will give you a better idea of the model that is suited to your needs.
Motor power refers to the amount of power drawn by a mitre saw. It is measured in amps (A) for corded models and volts (V) for cordless models. The higher the amps or the voltage, the higher the cutting power of the saw. Corded mitre saws typically range from 13 to 15 A and cordless mitre saws from 18 to 24 V. When looking for a mitre saw, make sure you note both the MAX power (peak power at startup) and nominal power (running voltage). Nominal voltage represents the actual working power of the saw. Also take note of the No Load RPM, which refers to how fast the motor spins the blade. No Load RPM will vary based on blade diameter and decrease when cutting harder materials.
Blade size refers to the diameter of the blade. Mitre saw blades are usually 10 and 12 inches but can measure as small as 7 ¼ inches. Mitre saws accept blades of only one size.
Flip and slide fences provide extra support when making mitre cuts in tall workpieces. They can slide or flip aside when not needed.
An electric brake stops a spinning blade quickly by reversing the flow of electricity when the trigger is released. Minimizing blade spinning time when not in use increases the safety of the saw.
Positive stops are pre-set points for blade angles that make it quicker and easier to adjust the saw. They indicate common cutting angles for cutting casing, crown moulding, and trim.
A depth stop allows you to adjust the blade height, providing control over the depth of the cut.
A laser guide helps to improve the accuracy of cuts by projecting a beam onto the surface of the workpiece, providing a line to follow. Different models may project the beam onto the left, right, or both sides of the cut.
Quick-Change Blade System
A quick-change blade system allows for easy blade switching in just a single step.
Mitre Saw Accessories
The right mitre saw accessories will make any project quicker and more convenient.
Mitre saw blades are circular saw blades, typically with a steel body and carbide teeth. A 10-inch saw blade is suitable for most home workshops, while 12-inch blades are needed for thicker workpieces. Additionally, most blades come with 40 to 60 teeth. A higher tooth count is good for a smoother finish, while fewer teeth make it easier to cut through thicker workpieces. Make sure to only choose blades that are compatible with your mitre saw.
Extensions attach to the sides of a mitre saw deck, making it possible to support wider materials. Some models come with extensions included, but they are also available separately.
Saw stands are a useful accessory to have if you need to use your mitre saw on a jobsite. Some stands fold up for easy transport and storage, while others have wheels for easier movement around the work area. A stand can also provide extra support on either side of a mitre saw, which is beneficial when cutting longer pieces.
Clamps hold the workpiece securely in position on the mitre saw table. They may come with your saw but are available as accessories as well.
There are a number of benchtop accessories that can improve your cutting efficiency, such as an LED work light to help you see in dimly lit conditions. Your accessory kit should also include a power sander, a dust vacuum, and a portable fan.
Tips and Tricks For Using a Mitre Saw
Once you have picked a mitre saw and it's time to get started on your project, here are some usage and safety tips to keep in mind.
Reach further wall outlets by using a high-quality, thick gauge extension cord. A thin gauge cord carries too much amperage and may damage the saw. If your work area has no available outlets, then the best solution is a cordless mitre saw.
Make sure you pick up and charge additional batteries as well.
Check the alignment of your mitre saw before using it for the first time. It may not be calibrated properly or it may have fallen out of alignment in transport. Verify that your mitre saw is properly calibrated on a regular basis for continued cutting accuracy.
Practice safe sawing technique by starting from the side of the workpiece closest to you and moving the blade away from you as you cut.
Always wear hearing protection and safety glasses to protect against loud noise and flying debris when using a mitre saw.
Reduce downtime when using a mitre saw by choosing a cordless model with a rapid-charging battery and keeping extra batteries on-hand.
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