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, 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.
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.
We Don't Like Lasers
OK. I admit we're a bunch of old duffers who learned our carpentry skills before manufacturers started putting lasers on everything from drills to circular saws. But still, we've tried them and we don't like them. We don't think they're precise enough for the exact cuts needed for top-quality trim work. And even if they were exact enough, you'd still have to keep them adjusted.
It's just too much fuss for too little gain. And that's why we don't mention them in this review, despite the fact that many of the saws include lasers. If you like lasers, then look for a saw that has them.
What Our Field Editors Think
We asked our Field Editors for feedback on sliding miter saws and received more than 100 replies. All of them said the main reason for buying a sliding miter saw was for the ability to cut wide boards. Most also own a non-sliding saw and have the sliding saw mounted in their shop. The biggest complaint by far was poor dust collection. Most were happy with their purchase.
'I own a Makita ten-inch dual compound slider. Mine's a few years old now, but I still love it. I've had absolutely no problems with it?still very solid and accurate. The only drawback is that it's heavy. ? Paul Bianchina, Field editor'
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. 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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Do You Need a Sliding Miter Saw?
It depends on what you intend to do with your miter saw and how portable you need it to be. A non-sliding miter saw is all you'll need for 90 percent of interior trim work. If you only have a few hundred dollars to spend and can sacrifice the wide cutting capacity of a sliding saw, we recommend buying a non-sliding compound miter saw instead. You'll get a miter saw capable of top-quality work.
A sliding miter saw adds the ability to crosscut wide boards, which is handy for mitering wide baseboards, cutting up to 12-in.-wide shelves to length, or cutting extra-wide crown moldings. The downsides are the heft and the extra space the saw takes up?and the expense! For a permanently mounted workshop saw, it's hard to beat a sliding miter saw. But if you plan to lug the saw from room to room or from one job to another, it's not the best choice unless you need the extra cutting capacity.
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.
Single Bevel vs. Dual 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 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.
Sliding Miter Saw Review: Kobalt
This Kobalt saw and the Craftsman have almost identical specs, but the Kobalt 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.
Sliding Miter Saw Review: Ryobi
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.
Sliding Miter Saw Review: Craftsman
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.
Sliding Miter Saw Review: Chicago
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.
Sliding Miter Saw Review: Hitachi
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 you can do better.
Sliding Miter Saw Review: Makita
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.
Sliding Miter Saw Review: Bosch
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.
Sliding Miter Saw Review: Dewalt
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.