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36 Miter Saw Tips and Tool Reviews

A miter saw is an extremely useful home improvement tool. Learn something new about this workshop workhorse in the following collection of 36 miter saw tips and tool reviews:

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Wait for the Blade to Reach Full Speed

Wait for the Blade to Reach Full Speed

Be prepared for a startling experience the first time you squeeze the switch on a power miter saw. The saw will jerk and whine as the blade gets up to speed. Listen for the blade to reach top speed before starting your cut. Then lower the blade slowly and steadily through the board until the cut is complete. Hold the saw carriage down in this position and release the switch, allowing the blade to come to a complete stop before raising it. Maintain a firm grip on the workpiece until the blade stops spinning.
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Mark Danger Zones

Mark Danger Zones

Draw red lines on the bed and fence of your saw to indicate the “no hands” zone. Draw the lines 7 in. from 10-in. blades and 8 in. from 12-in. blades.
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Use Stop Blocks for Repeat Cuts

Use Stop Blocks for Repeat Cuts

Screw two blocks of wood to the miter saw stand to act as a stop for repetitive cutting to the same length. Set the lower block back about 1/2 in. so that if sawdust or wood chips pile up against it, they won't affect the cutting length.
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Build a Jig to Hold Crowns and Coves

Build a Jig to Hold Crowns and Coves

Construct a jig to hold crown moldings at the correct angle. Set a scrap of your molding upside down in the jig and mark the position of the stop. Screw the stop to the jig. Place all fasteners away from the path of the blade. Attach the jig with 3/4-in. screws through holes in the miter saw fence. Cut miters with the crown molding upside down.
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Use Shims to Shave Miters

Use Shims to Shave Miters

Close a gap on the top of a miter by placing a skinny (1/16-in. or less) shim against the portion of the fence farthest from the blade. Slide the molding tight to the shim and against the fence near the blade. Hold it in this position while you make the cut. Caution: Keep your fingers at least 6 in. from the path of the blade. Trim the other half of the miter using the same technique. Use the same shim and place it the same distance from the blade. Drop the blade slowly through the wood to shave thin slices.
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Make a Miter Saw Stand

Make a Miter Saw Stand

Use 8-ft. 2x4s for the base. Cut a piece of plywood about 16 in. wide and the length of the miter saw and screw it to the 2x4s. Rip 2×4 blocks so they'll support the 1×8 top flush with the bed of the saw. Screw the blocks to the long 2x4s. Then screw the 1×8 bed extensions to the blocks.
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Retrofit a Miter Saw With a Laser

Retrofit a Miter Saw With a Laser

If you’ve seen those laser cutting guides on miter saws and wonder if you can add one to your old saw, take heart. It’s possible, and not terribly expensive. The guide fits alongside the blade, replacing the outer washer. When the saw starts running, the guide shoots a laser beam that shows exactly where the blade will cut. Click here for more information.
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Cut a Wide Board with a Miter Saw

Cut a Wide Board with a Miter Saw

In this video, The Family Handyman carpentry expert, Mark Petersen, will show you how to cut boards that are wider than what your miter saw was designed for.
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Set Up a Stop Block

Set Up a Stop Block

The Family Handyman carpentry expert, Mark Petersen, will show you how to set up a stop block for your miter saw to save you time. Watch the video now.
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Add a Wood Fence for Cutting Small Pieces

Add a Wood Fence for Cutting Small Pieces

Cutting off small pieces is one of the most challenging and dangerous operations on a power miter saw. You're never sure where the piece will end up. It usually becomes a high-speed projectile when it falls into the spinning blade. But there is a way to avoid this problem. The auxiliary fence helps keep the cutoff from falling back, and stopping the blade keeps the teeth from catching it.
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Sliding Miter Saw Review: DewaltFamily Handyman

Sliding Miter Saw Review: Dewalt

Model #Dw717

Dual bevel

Cost: $447

Another top-quality saw, the DeWalt has many great features that set it apart from the pack. We especially like the easy-to-use miter lock and the accessible bevel lock and detent releases. One small feature that's easy to overlook but very thoughtful is a latch that drops down to best position the saw for 'fixed' operation. Just hook the lever and tighten the slide and the saw functions like a non-slider. The Makita saw has a similar feature. Blade changing is a little tricky on this saw. And you'll have to replace the included general-purpose 40-tooth blade with a better one for trim work. But despite these complaints, this is a great saw that any of us would love to have in our workshop.

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We Like Easily Accessible Bevel ControlsFamily Handyman

We Like Easily Accessible Bevel Controls

The four least expensive saws tilt only one way, and all utilize a lever or knob on the back of the slides that you loosen to tilt the saw. None stand out as better or worse than others in this evaluation to find the best miter saw. Of the dual-tilt saws, the Bosch is a clear winner for ease of use. The tilt release is conveniently located at the front of the handle. All the saws require you to perform a second operation to tilt the saw in the opposite direction. Once again, the Bosch stands out for also placing this control up front. DeWalt wins second place in this category for placing the bevel control on top of the rails and a tilt release on both sides. Makita and Hitachi have knobs on the back of the rails.
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We Prefer Ambidextrous SwitchesFamily Handyman

We Prefer Ambidextrous Switches

It's not about whether you're right- or left-handed. You have to be able to operate a saw with both hands because it's not safe to reach across the blade. The Craftsman and Kobalt saws are difficult to operate with your left hand because the lock-off button is placed for right-hand use. We prefer switches like the ones found on the Chicago, Ryobi and DeWalt that don't have a lock-off button. At least the lock-offs on the Bosch and Makita saws are easy to press with either hand in this test to find the best miter saw.
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Are Four Rails BetterFamily Handyman

Are Four Rails Better

The Makita is the only saw with two pairs of rails. Makita claims this adds rigidity and makes the saw more compact. We can't verify the rigidity claim, but the saw does make ultra-smooth cuts. The total front-to-back length is about 6 in. shorter than that of the Bosch; however, the footprint from the front of the base to the rear of the extended slide is about the same as on the DeWalt in this best miter saw evaluation.
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Other Features Worth Looking ForFamily Handyman

Other Features Worth Looking For

  • A blade guard that's easy to see through. It's a real nuisance to have to lift the blade guard every time you make a cut in order to line the blade up with the mark. That's just what you'll have to do with all of the single-bevel saws and the Hitachi. None has a blade guard we like. The Bosch, DeWalt and Makita saws all have excellent blade guards with good visibility.
  • A good-quality blade. The Makita, Bosch and Hitachi saws come with excellent blades. The rest of the saws will benefit from an upgrade that'll set you back from $40 to $90, depending on the quality.
  • Intuitive controls without gimmicks. We think you should be able to walk up to a saw and figure out how to use it without having to study the manual. The single-bevel saws are easy to use. Of the dual-bevel saws, Hitachi and DeWalt stand out as the most intuitive.
  • Easy blade changing. Even though changing blades isn't something you do very often, we prefer saws that make it easy. Makita provides onboard storage for the blade-changing wrench, and the blade-changing process is quick and intuitive.
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Sliding Miter Saw Review: CraftsmanFamily Handyman

Sliding Miter Saw Review: Craftsman

Model #21237

Single bevel

Price: $209

This saw gave us average-quality cuts and with a better blade would be suitable for trim work. But it has a few problems that are hard to overlook. The pin that's meant to hold the saw head down when you're transporting it kept dropping into the slot when we tried to cut a 45-degree bevel, preventing us from making the cut. We wrapped a rubber band around it to solve the problem. Also, the lock-off button on the switch makes it difficult to use with your left hand. For the same price, the Ryobi or Kobalt saw would be a better choice.

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Sliding Miter Saw Review: MakitaFamily Handyman

Sliding Miter Saw Review: Makita

Model #LS1016L

Dual bevel

Cost: $500

The Makita saw has several unique features that contribute to an overall impression of superb quality and thoughtful engineering. First, it's the only dual-tilt saw with an angled, geared motor rather than a belt drive. We would expect this design to be trouble free over the life of the tool. Also, the Makita is the only saw to incorporate two pairs of rails for a smaller footprint and greater rigidity for better quality cuts. In addition, the saw includes a top-quality 60-tooth blade that gave our testers excellent quality cuts. Some of the controls, such as the miter lock and bevel detent release, take a bit of getting used to, but overall this is an excellent saw and our top pick.

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Best Miter Saw Blade for Trim

Best Miter Saw Blade for Trim

Even the best carpenter can't cut a tight-fitting joint with a dull saw blade. Invest in a good carbide trim blade for your power miter box. Read the labeling on the package and choose a blade designed for cross-cutting trim on a power miter box. A thin-kerf 60-tooth blade will make even the least expensive miter box perform like a champ.
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How We Tested ThemFamily Handyman

How We Tested Them

To evaluate the saws, we put them through a series of test cuts ranging from a brutal compound angle on a 2x8 to simple miters on oak casing. We made note of the quality of the cuts and the ease of setup and use. From these tests and based on our experience with each saw, we ranked the saws. But the truth is, making the choices was difficult. We have minor gripes with all of the single-tilt saws and can't recommend any of them as a primary trim saw for pros doing top-quality work. But if you're willing to spend some money on a top-quality blade, it would be an affordable and versatile addition to your workshop. The more expensive dual-tilt saws are a different story. They all are capable of topquality cuts and deserve consideration from even the fussiest carpenter. In addition to our testing, we requested feedback from our Field Editors on their experience with sliding miter saws. Read on to see what we found out.

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Sliding Miter Saw Review: RyobiFamily Handyman

Sliding Miter Saw Review: Ryobi

Model #TSS101L

Single bevel

Price: $199

Ryobi did a nice job of building a medium-cost saw that cuts well and has no major design flaws. The switch is easy to use right- or left-handed, making this saw a good choice for lefties. The cut quality is acceptable and improved dramatically when we installed a higher quality blade. We had a hard time choosing between this saw and the Kobalt for our 'Best Value' award.

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Tall Fences are a Handy FeatureFamily Handyman

Tall Fences are a Handy Feature

Sure, you can always screw a board to your fence to increase the height, but it's nice to have a tall fence available when you need it. Of the saws we reviewed, the Makita and the Kobalt have the tallest fences, followed by the DeWalt and the Bosch. We liked the lever locks and easy adjustability of the Makita fences.

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Sliding Miter Saw Review: BoschFamily Handyman

Sliding Miter Saw Review: Bosch

Model #4310

Dual bevel

Cost: $527

It's hard to fault this saw. The cut quality was excellent, and the saw felt smooth and solid. It has maximum bevels of 47 degrees left and 46 degrees right so you can tweak baseboard bevels if needed. We like the up-front bevel lock and included table extensions. The saw is a bit of a monster?the 43-in. front-to-back is longer than on any other saw, and the 55-lb. weight makes it the heaviest, so it's not the most portable choice. We do have a few minor quibbles. The detents are soft, and locking in a miter that's slightly off detent is a little more difficult than on the Makita and DeWalt saws. Even so, this is a top-quality saw that we heartily recommend to even the most finicky pro.

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Miter Saw Safety

Miter Saw Safety

Power miter saws are simple to use and safe if you follow the precautions and instructions included. Take time to read and understand them. Here are a few of the most important safety precautions:
  • Unplug the saw when you're changing the blade or not using it.
  • Keep your fingers at least 6 in. from the path of the blade. Some saws have lines to indicate the danger zone.
  • Wear safety glasses and hearing protection when you're operating the saw.
  • Don't reach under the blade while it's spinning.
  • Let the blade come to a complete stop at the end of each cut before lifting it.
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It's Easier to Lock in the Miter on Some SawsFamily Handyman

It's Easier to Lock in the Miter on Some Saws

On all but DeWalt and Makita saws, you lock in the miter by tightening the knob on the front. On the DeWalt you lock the miter by simply pressing down on the handle. It's quick and easy. The DeWalt also has levers on either side of the handle that when clicked down release all detents, allowing you to easily set any angle.

The Makita system for locking the miter requires even less effort than the DeWalt, but it's so unique that testers had to be instructed on how to use it.

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Use Clamps on Small Pieces

Use Clamps on Small Pieces

What if you need to cut a piece that's shorter than the 7- or 8-in. hands-free area? The best solution is to cut short lengths from longer boards whenever possible. However, when you have to trim a short piece of molding, use clamps to hold it in place. The auxiliary fence comes in handy for this task by providing a better clamping surface. You'll get better quality miters because the molding can't slide away from the blade. And you'll be assured safer, hands-free cutting.
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Sliding Miter Saw Review: ChicagoFamily Handyman

Sliding Miter Saw Review: Chicago

Model #98199

Single bevel

Price: $140

With the lowest cost by far, this saw is worth considering for general carpentry tasks like cutting deck boards or siding. With a better blade, you could also use it for trim. But if you're a fussy carpenter, consider buying a more expensive saw in this category.

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Fine-Tune Cuts

Fine-Tune Cuts

Adjust the blade angle slightly to fine-tune miter cuts for a tight fit. Nudge the blade adjuster and hold it in position until you tighten the locking handle.
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Allow the Blade to Stop Before Raising It

Allow the Blade to Stop Before Raising It

Complete the cut and release the switch. Now here's the key. For safety, let the blade come to a complete stop before you raise it.
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Cope Baseboard Faster

Cope Baseboard Faster

Coped joints for baseboard look great, but can be time-consuming. Instead of using a coping saw, learn to cope baseboard with a miter saw. It's faster and works great for common baseboard profiles. Click here to learn how to do it.
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Back Up Small, Delicate Pieces

Back Up Small, Delicate Pieces

Back up small pieces with a sacrificial board to prevent the cutoff from being thrown by the blade. Hold the saw down at the end of the cut until the blade comes to a complete stop.
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Look for Solid DetentsFamily Handyman

Look for Solid Detents

Every saw has detents for the common miter angles. The detents on the Ryobi and Bosch saws are a little 'mushy.' You must tighten the miter lock knob to be sure you're locked in. The other saws 'click' solidly into the detents. But when you need to tweak the miter angle, the ability to adjust and lock in the miter a fraction of a degree from the detent angles is just as important, and for this task the DeWalt and Makita saws stand out as the best miter saw.
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Line Up the Blade with the Mark

Line Up the Blade with the Mark

Lift the blade guard with your thumb and sight down one edge of the blade to align your cut. Caution: Remove your fingers from the switch while you're aligning the cut. Firmly hold or clamp the workpiece. Then gradually release the blade guard and return your hand to the switch to make your cut.
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Single Bevel vs. Dual Bevel SawsFamily Handyman

Single Bevel vs. Dual Bevel Saws

Single-Bevel Saws

The four single-bevel saws have similar cutting capacities, and all are able to crosscut a 12-in.-wide board. The weight of these saws ranges from 36 lbs. (Chicago) to 42 lbs. (Ryobi). All but the Chicago include a laser, and they all include some sort of table extension.

Dual-Bevel Saws

Dual-bevel saws allow you to make opposite bevels without having to reorient the piece you're cutting. This saves time and eliminates confusion. In addition, the dual-bevel saws up the ante on quality. Everything about them is more refined and precise. Of course, you pay for the better quality in both cost and weight. These saws range from 43 to 55 lbs. and all cost about $500. They all have similar cutting capacities and the ability to miter beyond 45 degrees in both directions. The Bosch and DeWalt can also cut bevels exceeding 45 degrees on both sides, a handy feature for trim work.

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Sliding Miter Saw Review: HitachiFamily Handyman

Sliding Miter Saw Review: Hitachi

Model #C10fSh Dual bevel Price: $495 Hitachi manufactured one of the first sliding miter saws, so we expected great things from this saw. And in fact, the saw runs smoothly, has nice rails and smooth-rolling bearings, and makes good-quality cuts. But other features on the saw are basic and seem outdated. It's the only saw with a vertical handle that we don't feel is as comfortable as the horizontal handles on other saws. The blade guard slides inside the blade housing, a design that's more likely to get jammed with a wood chip, and the fence is low on the right side, so you'll need to add an auxiliary fence to cut even 3-in.-tall baseboards. If the saw were about $100 cheaper, we could recommend it as a good upgrade from the single-bevel saws, but at the listed price we feel that this is not the best compound miter saw and you can do better.
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Sliding Miter Saw FeaturesFamily Handyman

Sliding Miter Saw Features

Sliding miter saws offer the advantage of crosscutting boards up to 12 in. wide while still providing all the benefits of non-sliders. They're available with blade sizes ranging from 7-1/2 to 12 in. and cost $140 to more than $1,000. For this review to find the best miter saw, we chose to limit the field to 10-in. saws, but be aware that you may find 12-in. saws with similar features for just a little additional cost.
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Sliding Miter Saw Review: KobaltFamily Handyman

Sliding Miter Saw Review: Kobalt

Model Kobalt Miter Saw SM2505LW Single bevel Price: $199 This Kobalt miter saw and the Craftsman have almost identical specs, but the Kobalt miter saw includes a taller fence. Like on the Craftsman, the safety switch placement makes left-handed cuts difficult. Testers also noted that when the dust bag is partly full, it jams against the carrying handle, making it difficult to complete crosscuts. You could fix the problem by removing the handle. The tall fence, bed extensions and three-year warranty are nice features that give this saw a slight edge over the Ryobi and Craftsman to win our Best Value designation.