Miter saws, compound miter saws, and sliding miter saws all come from the same family, but they do have differences between them. Yes, they are all very useful power tools in their own right, but what is the difference between a compound and sliding miter saw?
The Miter Saw
Before we get into the special kinds of miter saws, let’s take a look at the basic miter saw first. A standard miter saw is designed to make angled crosscuts. Some basic miter saws let you choose the angle of this cut, whereas others come with pre-set angles, such as 15, 30, and 45 degrees.
All you have to do here, one the angle has been chosen, is to hold the wood or workpiece against the fence so it is stable, and then pull the circular blade down and through the material.
A basic miter saw is a good option to go with if you are cutting materials of a limited width, anywhere under 8 inches, plus it’s a good option if you have thicker materials, as there are no sliding rails to get in the way. Let’s move on and take a closer look at the compound miter saw.
The Compound Miter Saw
Now, what you do need to know here is that although the miter saw and the compound miter saw share the same name, the compound version is really a different machine altogether, and it comes with an added feature that helps make it much more versatile than the basic version.
The compound miter saw comes with a pivoting arm that can be tilted to angles other than 90 degrees. What this means is that the compound miter saw can make the basic miter cuts, as well as bevel cuts too. It’s a big deal depending on the task you are looking to accomplish.
You might be wondering what the difference between a miter cut and bevel cut is. Well, a miter cut is meant for joining several pieces of wood together. This is what you would use to create the angled corners on four pieces of wood when creating a picture frame. A miter cut is actually angled through the horizontal plane of the wood, whereas the bevel cut is angled through the vertical plane. For a bevel cut goes through the face of the material, so from top to bottom, not side to side.
Therefore, when it comes to compound miter saws, they have a lot more versatility in terms of the number of tasks they can accomplish, when compared to a basic miter saw. So now we have figured out what a basic miter saw is and what a compound miter saw is, but what about a sliding miter saw? As you might be able to tell by now, a sliding miter saw has even more features that can help make life a bit easier for you.
Just remember that the compound miter saw is ideal for fairly thick materials, but not wide ones, and it’s great for making precise miter and bevel cuts.
The Sliding Miter Saw
The sliding miter saw is in fact fairly similar to the basic miter saw, but with one big added bonus. The sliding miter saw, just like the compound miter saw, has the ability to make both miter and bevel cuts, but there is something else too, and as you might realize, it has to do with the word “sliding”. The sliding miter saw features rails which allow the blade to move forward and backward.
This means that the sliding miter saw can handle much wider materials that your basic miter saw or compound miter saw.
A compound miter saw can handle boards as wide as 8 inches, but that’s about it, and if you are cutting wider materials, this will mean that you have to reposition the material halfway through the cut to allow the compound miter saw to get through the full width.
However, the sliding miter saw, because the blade can slide back and forth, can handle materials twice or even three times the width without the user having to reposition the material being cut. This is the big advantage that you get with the sliding miter saw, that it can handle much larger materials.
Yet, what you do need to think about here is that the sliding miter saw is going to be much more expensive than a compound miter saw, so you do need to consider your budget. Moreover, a sliding miter saw, due to that sliding feature, also takes up a bit more space than a compound miter saw.
The bottom line is that both compound and sliding miter saws have their uses. If you are cutting smaller materials of a decent thickness, you can purchase a brilliant budget compound miter saw that will great results for years to come.
Although if you plan on scaling up and have some more serious future DIY projects planned, like crown molding, buying a high quality sliding dual bevel compound miter saw might be the better option as you'll be able to slice through a wide range materials with ease.