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Miter saws are handy tools that allow you to make various crosscuts or angle cuts by pressing down their circular blades onto a piece of wood. They’re convenient for a wide variety of jobs, including cutting two-by-fours or window trims.
But how can you tell if the tool you’re considering is the right one for you? If you want to learn more about the features found on a miter saw, here are the things you should keep in mind:
The Types of Miter Saw
1. Basic Miter Saws
Basic miter saws can be adjusted to make miter or angled cuts. They’re the ideal choice for trimming studs to frame a house as only 90-degree cuts or less are required.
But keep in mind that it’s only effective when you want the speed of a power saw instead of a manual saw and miter box.
Some basic saws come with stops on their miter index –listing of angles on the base of the saw- which can be set to the most commonly used angles.
2. Compound Miter Saws
A compound miter saw can be used to make both bevel and miter cuts –which makes them superior to the basic ones.
Although some of them can pivot in both directions, left and right, most of them can make bevel cuts in only one direction.
These saws are the ideal choice for more versatile tasks such as cutting crown moldings.
3. Sliding Compound Miter Saws
If you’re looking for the most versatile option of the three, the sliding compound miter saw is your answer.
The motor and blade assembly is mounted on a mechanical arm designed to fit longer pieces of wood. But that doesn’t mean you can’t work with smaller or shorter pieces as well.
Some models –like the compound miter saw- have a blade that pivots in only one direction. However, there are more advanced models on which the blade can tilt to the left or to the right.
Materials and Construction
Typically, you’ll find miter saws made from aluminum or steel. However, the blade guard and handle could be made from heavy-duty plastic.
But generally, miter saws are built to endure heavy workloads.
The size of the blade is what controls the depth or height of the cuts you make. There are three common blade sizes: 8, 10, or 12-inch blades.
You should pick the size according to the kind of task you’ll be performing.
However, you can find some which are suitable for multi-materials or are multi-purpose blades to cut through wood, aluminum, or mild steel.
Moreover, there are teeth on the blade that determine how fine or how coarse your finish will be.
For finer finishes, you should get a blade with a higher number of teeth.
Dust Extraction and Management
When you’re working with a miter saw, you’re bound to face a lot of dust and debris generated by the cutting process.
The more confined the area in which you’re working is, the more important it is to get an efficient dust extractor or vacuum.
You simply attach those to the miter saw, and they work on reducing the sawdust in the air and around your workspace.
The more accurate you want your cuts to be, the more visibility and guidance you should have. That’s why using a laser can be an excellent idea to achieve more precise cuts.
Lasers guide you to where you should place your blade by shining a beam onto the material at the exact spot. This way, you’ll know where the blade will cut before it even comes in contact with your workpiece.
Not only does this produce more accurate results, but it also eliminates the risk of error and provides the worker with more safety.
However, if you’re going to work outdoors, the laser won’t be visible anyway. That’s why you should stick to those if you’ll be working indoors only.
Other Features and Accessories
Some accessories, such as a stand, would be useful when it comes to transporting your saw onto a job site.
These have a universal style that resembles a folding table for your saw to sit on. They can also come in a leg stand-style, which is also foldable but has long extensions and various features such as clamps, roller carriers, supports, and adjustable legs.
These are especially useful for worksites where a wider variety of cuts would be required.
You should also look for adjustable rear fences, extension arms, and workpiece clamps.
Some of the more recent models come with variable speed dials that allow you to set the speed of the motor in order to give your workpiece the perfect finish.
Corded vs. Cordless Miter Saws
If you’re going to be working in an area where you don’t have access to an electrical power outlet, you should consider a cordless miter saw that runs on a battery.
However, these aren’t suitable for continuous and heavy-duty work as it would drain the battery quickly. If you want to work for extended periods of time with cordless miter saws, bring some extra power packs along.