It may appear as the best miter saws for DIY (first called chop saws) have existed since the beginning of tools, it’s just not so. In fact, they were not invented until 1964 by a man named Ed Niehaus. He was a tool designer for Rockwell. Ed was given the task of automating the activity of hand sawing framing lumber as well as trim to the correct size. At the time all he was using a hand saw with a miter box. Chop saws were Ed Niehaus’ primary mission. The first miter saw was also referred to as a chop saw. Why?…because it chopped boards up into small pieces. Most of the original chop saws were capable of cutting miters with a rotating blade and motor. However, they did not tilt at an angle. That came in the next generation of miter saws.
His mission became to see if he could cut a 2×4 to the desired length perfectly. He also set out to see if he could do the same with crown molding. Believe it or not, Ed’s original design had the saw sliding directly up and down on tracks that came down to cut the board. After having issues with stability, he soon found that putting the saw on a pivot was much more effective. Soon after, a spring action was added so that the saw would return to the upright position. To finish it off, he added a retractable guard blade, breaks, and a dust collection mechanism.
After a few years of improving the design, Rockwell released a power chop saw by the name of model 34-010. This saw ended up outselling every other Rockwell tool.Chop saws could have been only made by Rockwell. There was one problem though. Rockwell failed to patent the design of the new miter saw, so other tool companies started to make their own versions of miter saws. That’s really where the miter saw took off. With so many other companies like Bosch, DeWalt, Makita and Festool making miter saws, they just became better and better, with more and more options and varieties.
Choosing a miter saw that is right for you may not be easy, since there are so many to choose from. Of course, the 12 inch miter saws can cut the widest material. But then again, the 8 1/2 inch saws are the easiest to move around. A 10 inch saw combines wide materials and portability. But if you’re looking at a 10 inch, doesn’t it seem like you might as well go with a 12 inch?
It can be surprising how each size of miter saw can perform compared to the other. Bigger doesn’t always mean better.
The biggest difference between the saw sizes is the thickness of board they can handle. All saws from 8 1/2 to 12 inches can handle 8/4 stock (which is 1-13/16?). If you want to take on 4?x4?‘s though, you’ll have to go with a 10 inch or 12 inch. As far as your stock width goes, all sizes of saws either come close to or exceed the 12 inch width cut mark. Also consider that if you are cutting wide boards around 12 inches or doing base boards, the 10 and 12 inch saws will make things alot easier. You’ll also find that the amount of space any of these saws take up in the workshop is not that different from one another.
These 3 saws are able to crosscut 2×12. They can also handle 2×12 at a 45 degree bevel cut. Even if you had a 12 inch saw, you could probably also cut most boards on a 10 inch miter saw.
Some interesting info about maximum board width sizes here that may help you.
Many boards can be cut on the smallest 8 1/2 inch saw, but with a little more difficulty. Here is an example. A 1?x4? baseboard while standing up against the miter fence on a 10 or 12 inch saw allows you to easily slice off a hair to get to boards to fit properly. A 1?x4? baseboard on an 8 inch saw would have to lay flat in order to cut of a partial degree. You can still do it, but it’s harder to tune the angle just right. The scale is a lot smaller on the 8 1/2 inch saw so you’d have to be rediculously precise to get it right on the first try. The larger saws have larger scales on them which gives them more playing room. This is really important. There’s no such thing as an entire house having perfect 45 degree angles in them. So quite often you may find yourself shaving off half a degree from time to time. If you expect to do this often, consider a 10 or 12 inch saw with a bigger scale on it.
All three sizes of saws will cut crown molding. However, with the smallest 8 1/2 inch saw, you’d have to hold the board flat while doing a compound miter cut. You’ll need some practice to be able to do that without thinking. On the larger saws though, crown molding is cut with the board up against the fence. When it’s against the fence, it’s easier to picture the cut in your head.
Of course the 8 1/2 inch saws are cheaper than the 12 inch saws. That doesn’t mean the cheaper 8 1/2 inch saw will cut worse. In fact, because the blade is smaller, it takes less horse power to spin it at the same rpm. That means you’ll find the smaller saws cutting through the same hardwood as the 12 inch saws with similar ease.
Generally speaking, you’ll find the larger saws have more add on options and features. As well, there may be more blade options for the larger saws.
If big and wide stock is common for you, the 12 inch miter saw is your pick. If you really need some portability and big cuts, look at the 10 inch. If 8/4 (1-13/16?) is your max size for your cuts, and you want to be able to carry a 30 pound saw from place to place, then by all means get the 8 1/2 inch. Remember, the 8 1/2 inch still cuts through the hard wood just as well as the big boys.
Being an amateur carpenter , having a good miter saw is essential to achieving perfection. Miter saws are used in the cutting of angles in moldings on an archway, or door trim. These new saws are a huge step up from the older miter box, which I used to have and it was the biggest pain in the neck. Miter saws help make the cutting process smooth and efficient, while keeping the wood aesthetically pleasing.
I own one of the best miter saws on the market, in the Makita LS1013FL model. It is very reasonably priced, although being one of the higher priced ones on the market. It costs about five hundred dollars, but is well worth the price tag. Once you use it, you will never want to part from it. This saw can make cuts that are extremely smooth on boards up to twelve inches high.
The Makita comes with a soft start motor, which means that it uses very little power on start up and even though it has reduced power, it still cuts through even the thicker boards efficiently. There are a few cons when it comes to the Makita. It only has a yearlong warranty, which for saws is not very good, since they can break or wear down easily. The only other con I have noticed is that the degree limit is only forty five, and I have had clients where I needed more than forty five degrees in a cut.
Another great saw, is the Festool 561287 KS120 EB Kapex. This saw is extremely expensive, pricing in at over one thousand three hundred dollars. I have used this saw, although it is out of my price range. Every carpenter would love to own this saw. It makes the finest cuts and trims out there; as it should for being priced at three times higher than most of its competitors. It eliminates all the dust for you automatically. It is extremely compact and does not weigh a lot at all.
It has what is called the Fast Fix system for blade switching which is great. This makes changing the blade as easy as pie, and can be done with just one hand! It does have a larger bevel degree range than the previously described Makita. This is one of the fastest saws I have used. It is usually spinning at around three thousand revolutions per minute.
One last saw, which is the best for people on a budget, but still very good is the Craftsman 21231. It only costs one hundred twenty dollars. Craftsman’s are good saws, as they stand by their products one hundred percent. It comes with a stand, which saves a few bucks. It is also limited to forty five degrees like the Makita, and it is also made of plastic parts not steel, so it really isn’t that durable. If I were to pick, I would take the Makita as the Kapex doesn’t do that much more to warrant nearly a three times markup on the saw
Finding the best saw miter for your needs is necessary in order to maximize the outcome. However, you should not worry, as there are many options you can choose from.
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