Seven Things to Consider When Buying a Miter Saw

Posted by John on November 18th, 2011

Since I’ve been in the market for a new miter saw, I thought it would be a good idea to write a post about all the features that I take into consideration when making a new miter saw purchase. If you don’t have a lot of experience with one of these or are thinking about buying one, then this post may be helpful.



First, let me show you my current miter saw.

This model is a Makita LS1011 that I bought used from craigslist a couple years ago. I had bought it because my other miter saw at the time, a Ridgid, had essentially crapped out. The Makita is a 10″ sliding compound miter saw. Shortly after I bought it, it started to show some signs of wear. One of the buttons fell out. I replaced it though, with a cement board screw. Yeah.

You may also notice that the blade guard is missing, making this saw a total hazard. Immediately after I bought it, I changed the blade out and I couldn’t figure out how to put it back together, so I just left it off.

So, I’ve been looking around for a saw for about a month now and yesterday I went out and bought a DeWalt 717. It’s also a 10″ sliding compound miter saw that has a lot of positive reviews. Best part of my purchase today was the 10% discount I got because the box was damaged.

See that handle sticking out of the box? That hole saved me a bunch. Plus the handle was fine.

So here’s the meat of the post: Seven things to consider when buying a miter saw.

1. Use. What are you going to be using the saw for? Are you just doing basic molding or window trim or are you building a deck or a shed and will be cutting much wider pieces of stock? Are you planning on keeping the saw until the day you die or are you looking to just get an entry level saw? Would you like to get into making cabinets or furniture? If you can determine what you’ll be cutting with the saw, selecting a model will be much easier.

2. Price. The main factor for most people when buying just about anything. Miter saws can vary wildly in price from a basic $99 chop saw up to a $1200 Festool Sliding Compound Miter. The bulk of the units are between $200-$500. When it comes to miter saws, in my opinion, you get what you pay for. If you have a price range, my advice is to set a price ceiling and then down select to the saw that has the functionality you’re looking for. DO NOT buy the cheapest saw you can. The more expensive saws are often worth it, but the features may be more than what you’re looking for.

3. Blade Diameter. Miter saws can vary in blade diameter from 8″ to 12″ with the most common probably being the 10″ blade. The size of the diameter blade can determine how thick a piece of wood the saw can cut. A 12″ blade can cut a thicker and wider piece of board than an 8.” My vote here is for the 10″ or 12.” But, personally, I think the 12″ units are too big. The 8″ saws, in my opinion, are not as useful. There’s no room for growth in a 8″ saw, but maybe that’s all you need. Also, bigger blades cost more as do the saws that run them.

4. Miter (above photos). So the miter is the left to right movement the blade makes. Since these are miter saws, they generally all “miter” to some extent. The extent to which the saws miter is variable, but they generally are all capable of an angle on one side of 45 degrees and around 50 on the other.

5. Compound (above photos). The compound is the tilting of the blade head. A single compound miter saw only has a tilt in one direction. A dual compound miter saw tilts in both directions. The tilt allow you to cut stock on angles and the dual option gives you the freedom to position the board in multiple ways. For two cuts on a single compound miter saw, you may need to flip the board over, whereas on a dual compound, you can just tilt the saw head without moving the piece. Get it? It’s another bell and whistle. Personally, I would pop for the dual compound, but it’s not necessary.

6. Sliding (above photos). A sliding miter saw is obviously a saw that slides through the cutting area. It allows the saw to cut very wide boards, considerably wider than non-sliding saws. This feature is expensive and sliding miter saws tend to be heavier since there is more equipment there. Do you need this? You do if you’re going to be building a deck and cutting 12″ wide skirt boards or making built-in furniture.

7. Weight. Really only relevant if you are going to be moving it around a lot. If you plan on setting up this up once and leaving it stationary, then it’s not a factor right? Because your table saw weighs 200 lbs right? If you plan on taking it to job sites or friends’ houses, then you may want to consider getting a smaller more compact model. A 12″ sliding compound miter saw can weigh over 70 lbs! Yikes. I think my DeWalt weighs around 45 lbs.

Hope this helps! We picked this saw up because we started a new project which we’ll post about next week, but here’s a sneak peek.

Anyone have any extra advice on what to look for?

Posted in Garage and Tools. Tagged in ,,

  • We have a similar Miter Saw made by DeWalt. We love it!
    I can't believe the work you're doing! It will be fabulous! We just finished our baseboards, so I'm not ready to tackle another project like that! Best of luck!

    • John_OHFScratch

      Thanks! Yeah it is a lot of work, but it\’s worth it!

      Oh and so far we\’re very happy with the saw too.

  • I've had a Dewalt for over 10 years and it is the best investment I made. I use frequently and it has never disappointed. I am a little jealous yours is the sliding version…all the better. Have fun and watch those fingers.

    • John_OHFScratch

      Thanks! So far I\’m really impressed with it. Very smooth machine.

  • Awsome saw. I was very close to getting that exact one, but snagged a 12" on Black Friday. These things fling dust like crazy. Any success with dust collection?

    • Thanks John. No, dust collection for this saw consists of aiming it at a basement wall.