What is a Miter Saw? [2022 Update]

Updated on September 23, 2022 by

A miter saw is powered circular saw hinged-mounted to a table that allows accurate cross-cuts in timber.

A miter saw is mounted on a hinge and brought down to the material to be cut. This allows you to cut at angles or add a bevel to a workpiece. 

Most miter saws allow you to adjust the angle of the blade between 45 degrees and 90 degrees in increments of a single degree. If you need to cut a board at an angle, you should learn more about miter saws, including their purpose, design, and main features.

Purpose

A miter saw is typically used to cut wood at an angle, also called a miter cut. You may also cut a bevel, an angled cut made through the board’s depth. 

Many miter saws include stops at common angles, such as 45 degrees and 60 degrees, when adjusting the saw for a bevel cut. Depending on the design, you may be able to adjust the angle 45-degrees to 50 degrees to the left or right from the starting position. 

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Common uses for a miter saw include:

  • Cutting Angles
  • Cutting Bevels
  • Molding
  • Trim 
  • Rafters
  • Furniture
  • Flooring

A miter saw is also useful for making regular crosscuts. If you need to cut a board in half, a miter saw can ensure a straighter cut than a handheld circular saw or a handsaw. 

what is a miter saw

Features and Design

A miter saw is basically a circular saw mounted to a hinge, which is mounted to a table. The fixed hinge allows the blade to produce clean, straight cuts every time. 

The typical miter saw can perform cross cuts and miter cuts. However, not all designs can make bevel cuts. Other features to consider include:

  • Cutting capacity
  • Adjustable handles
  • Electric brake
  • Laser guide
  • Dust port

The cutting capacity determines the depth of the material you can cut. Larger blades can cut deeper and longer compared to smaller blades. The standard sizes are 10 inches and 12 inches.

Adjustable handles are useful for ensuring optimal comfort and safety. You can ensure that you have complete control over the blade by adjusting it to suit your height and position.

An electric brake is a safety feature included in most miter saws. It automatically stops the blade when you release the trigger.

A laser guide is not too common, but I find it extremely helpful. It ensures that the blade is properly lined up before you start the cut.

A dust port is another feature I look for in miter saws, as I can hook up my wet/dry vac and collect sawdust as I work instead of dealing with a messy workspace. 

Types of Miter Saw

The main types of miter saws include:

  • Sliding miter saw
  • Compound miter saw
  • Sliding compound miter saw

A sliding miter saw includes a sliding arm. The design lets you slide the blade down and forward instead of just down, which increases the cutting capacity and allows for wider materials. You can perform cross cuts and miter cuts, as the blade can pivot to the right or left to cut boards at an angle.

To cut a bevel, you need a compound miter saw. A compound miter saw can tilt to the sides instead of just pivoting, allowing you to adjust the angle on another plane. 

A sliding compound miter saw combines the features of a sliding miter saw and a compound miter saw. It can rotate to the sides to cut bevels and swings on a sliding arm to accept wider materials and cut deeper. 

There are dozens of different hand saw types available, depending on the material and angle you need to cut, but they don’t offer the same power and accuracy.

miter saw in shadows

Modern Brands of Miter Saws

As with most power tools, a few brands stand out as the most trusted options for miter saws. You can rely on these brands for durability and precision. You can also find miter saws to cover all budgets. 

Some of the most popular brands for miter saws include:

  • DeWalt
  • Bosch
  • Ryobi
  • Makita
  • Skil
  • Milwaukee

Skil, Makita, and Milwaukee make some of the highest-end miter saws for professionals and hobbyists. You can find options ranging from a few hundred to thousands of dollars.

Ryobi and DeWalt offer some of the most affordable miter saws and several mid-range options. Bosch is also known for offering a variety of mid-range power tools, including sliding and compound miter saws.

What Is the Difference Between a Miter Saw and a Chop Saw?

A chop saw slightly resembles a miter saw, as it includes a blade mounted to an arm that you bring down to the material you want to cut. However, a chop saw does not rotate to cut at an angle or cut a bevel. It only makes cross-cuts. 

A crosscut involves cutting across the width of a length of wood or another material. You typically make crosscuts to cut the wood into shorter pieces.

Conclusion

Miter saws are handy for cutting molding and trim when completing home renovations. It can also replace the need for a table saw, or chop saw in certain situations. You can make crosscuts with any of these saws, but the miter saw adds the ability to cut at angles.


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Michael Culligan

I am a lumber worker who performs logging services for the forestry industry. I have spent years honing my skills and experience to become a well-rounded axeman. I'm exited to share my knowledge of axes and lumber tools with everyone to help.