Sliding Compound Miter Saw for DIY Home Improvement

Jack February 9, 2018

Now that you’ve decided on a sliding compound miter saw, likely to get the added horizontal cutting capacity of a slider, there are some other choices that can help that saw fit both your current and future needs while staying within your budget. Deciding just what kind of home improvement projects you plan to tackle and even whether you might try your hand at woodworking will give you some direction when considering the following points:

  1. Will you need the extra vertical capacity afforded by a dewalt DW71712″ model over a 10″? While it varies between manufacturers and models, ¾” additional is a good minimum figure. Model specifications can be found on manufacturer’s web sites for quick comparison, which is especially useful if you are concerned about a particular cut that the 10″ model might not handle. The DEWALT DW717 for example, has tremendous vertical and horizontal capacity for a 10″ slider, and is worth considering if you’re looking for greater capacity while retaining the size / weight / accuracy advantages of a 10″ miter saw.
    1. Would it be even better to go smaller than 10″ to 7-1/2″? Depending on your intended use, something like the Makita LS0714 7-1/2-Inch Single Bevel Sliding Compound Miter Saw might be the ticket. Light weight, small footprint, with a high RPM motor that delivers glass smooth cuts, and the accuracy of a small blade it’s worth considering. Note that it’s a single bevel saw.
  2. Would the convenience and speed of being able to cut bevels both left and right without flipping the stock be worth the added cost of the dual bevel feature? Angle cuts usually mean a complementary cut on the opposite end of the same piece and the adjoining piece, requiring the angles to be reset for each cut. Complex or nonstandard angles make the constant resetting particularly tedious and time consuming.
  3. If you plan on transporting the saw, possibly to use at a vacation property, cottage, rental, etc., then the physical size and weight of the saw might be a factor. The ever-increasing number of woman do-it-yourselfers should consider that while even 10” models can vary by ten pounds, while 12” models can weight an additional 20 pounds. It’s much easier to handle a 45 lb. saw, as opposed to one weighing 65 lbs. Some models are specifically engineered to be light and compact.
  4. Miter saw blades need to be chosen carefully as well, not only in regard to the material being cut, but given that a sliding saw can actually walk up a piece of stock, the blade “hook angle” should be kept to a very small positive angle at most, with a neutral or negative hook angle affording even greater control. If you plan on doing remodeling as well as woodworking you’ll want to consider having one blade for rough cuts and one for fine work. Depending on your projects, you might want to add a blade for non-ferrous metals and plastics.
  5. Since you will actually be moving the saw blade horizontally on a sliding compound miter saw, feeding it into the stock, as opposed to just lowering the blade on the best miter saw or a regular one, the handle and trigger should be in a comfortable position. Saws have either horizontal or vertical handles, many rubber clad. If you’re a “lefty,” be aware of the placement of the trigger safety switch.
  6. A “soft start” feature and electronic brake makes your saw easier to live with and safer. Additionally, the brake actually speeds the cutting process by stopping the blade much sooner so the next cut can be lined up.
  7. Effective dust collection is an important consideration for home improvement do-it-yourselfers, since you’re working around your home as opposed to a jobsite. Miter saw dust emissions are tough to tame, given that the exhaust is directed toward the stand in back of the saw, which acts as a deflector. Rubber dust boots attached to the back of the blade guard help to better channel the dust to the extraction point. In some cases, a good shop vac can tame an otherwise dusty monster, or virtually eliminate all but the finest dust from a saw with an already effective dust collection system. If you already have a vac, see if the saw’s pickup diameter matches your vac hose.
  8. Will your saw be permanently mounted on a workshop bench, or set up only when in use and otherwise stored out of the way? In the latter case, and possibly even for workshop use, a miter saw stand is an excellent investment for ease of use, stability, safety, and flexibility of shop space.
  9. To reduce the amount of clearance needed in back of the saw due to the sliding rails, consider the saws that allow the slides to be alternately secured to the motor assembly or the stationary mount, meaning the space for the slides can be switched to either the front or back of the saw. Pulling the slide all the way forward and securing them to the stationary mount reduces the clearance needed between the back of the saw and the wall.
  10. Will the accessories and special features available for a particular model or brand of saw suit your needs? Milwaukee, for example decided to forego a laser on the Milwaukee 6955-20 in favor of dual work lights because lasers go out of alignment, and doesn’t include extension rails because it determined its target market of professionals mounts the saw on a stand. Watch for particular fence configurations as well. Some fences are tall for cutting crown molding, others slide on one side but not the other, some are removable for greater capacity. Checking out the additional accessories available will help you figure just how far you can expand on a saw’s uses and capacity. You may not be a pro, but those specific features could be one of the deciding factors in choosing a saw.

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