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Miter saws can be used for a range of jobs, from crosscutting long stock, to cutting picture frame and crown mouldings, to quickly cutting lots of boards to the same length. These saws have an electric motor mounted on a swing arm, which can pivot to the left or right to make angled, miter cuts. Miter saws a fast and reliably accurate, which explains their rise in popularity over the last few years.
With compound miter saws, the swing arm not only pivots but also titls to either side to allow for bevelled cuts. The two actions, pivoting and tilting, can also be combined to make bevelled miter cuts. This ideal for jobs that require angled cuts on multiple planes, such as picture frames and crown moulding.
Compound miter saws are a bit more expensive than their basic counterparts, but the ability to make a bevelled miter cut in one go is definitely worth the added cost. The only downside to this kind of saw is that the motor doesn’t slide, so the blade can only be pushed downwards through the wood.
In order to solve this problem, the sliding compound miter saw was created. Once the blade has been lowered into the workpiece, it can be pulled forward in order to allow cutting of much wider stock. Combine this with the tilting for bevels and intricate cuts on large stock can be achieved, such as cheek cuts for rafters.
Blade size is another important factor when choosing a miter saw. The most common sizes of blade are 8-inch, 10-inch and 12-inch. The larger the blade is, the longer the cuts it can achieve. Depending on what kind of material you wish to cut, different metal blades should be chosen. Steel blades are ideal for softwood as they are inexpensive. However, they will quickly dull when cutting hardwood. High-speed steel blades are hardened versions of the regular steel blades and stay sharp for longer. At the expensive end of the spectrum are the Carbide-Tipped Blades. These will stay sharp for far longer and are the ideal choice for cutting hardwood.
For added safety, electric brakes can be added to your saw. They change the direction of the power current when the trigger is released. This can stop a blade from spinning in as little as two seconds, compared to twelve seconds without electric brakes.
Other useful features of miter saws include:
Self-retracting blade guards which automatically lower and cover the blade when the saw is raised off of the workpiece. The guard is kept out of the way during cutting so that it doesn’t impede your view of the cutting line.
Table extensions that mount on the side of the saw to increase stability of longer workpieces.
Positive stops are pre-set points that enable precise cuts on specific points. They make it easy to quickly line up an angle without having to measure. The more positive stops a saw has the more time you’ll save on setup.
Dust bag attached directly to the saw to collect the sawdust.
Weight is also an important thing to consider if you are planning on taking the saw to multiple job sites.