Do I Need a Sliding Compound Miter Saw?

When doing millwork, a compound miter saw may seem like it will be sufficient for simple jobs around the house. However, if you are someone who uses a miter saw on any sort of a frequent basis, or even infrequently for larger projects, once you get used to the functionality on a sliding compound miter saw, you really won’t want to go back. You’ll likely be spoiled forever—I know I have been!

So what are the pros and cons of a sliding compound miter saw vs. a regular one? Well, most of it really comes down to the size of the wood you are using for your projects and the amount of money you want to spend. First, let’s look at what a regular compound miter saw will do well:

Trim Work

miter edgeIf you are mostly in the practice of doing trim work around the house, cutting some mitered edges for baseboards or smaller work, then it is likely that even a 10 inch compound miter saw will work well for you. A compound miter saw allows you to pivot the blade for specific cuts such as crown molding or other types of trim.

If you need to move the blade in two different directions at the same time, then the compound miter saw is what you want. It’s simple, lightweight, most affordable, and does well when cutting the same measurements repeatedly. A 12 inch compound miter saw will give you the flexibility of making cuts on a larger piece of wood which offers some flexibility.

So if you are just doing a little bit of trim work, a simple compound miter saw will save you a little bit of money. You may also find that a fixed saw can perform a “tight” cut which remains longer. But if you find you want to do work that is more complicated, you can do it much more efficiently with a sliding compound miter saw. Here’s what sliding compound miter saws are good at:

Precision Cross Cuts

On materials up to 14 inches wide, my 12 inch sliding miter saw allows me to use the sliding functions to make precise cuts. It acts almost like a radial arm saw but it is much more portable and easy to use. However, I have also found that a 10 inch sliding compound saw is sufficient for most tasks that I would need it for, and it is more affordable to purchase up front as well as having less expensive replacement blades.

On Site Installations

sliding compound miter sawFor installing cabinetry or shelving on a jobsite, using a sliding compound miter saw makes the task a great deal easier. With lightweight function that still gives an accurate cutting performance, a slider is much more efficient. For onsite installations of decks or something more heavy duty, a regular compound miter saw placed on a portable miter saw table may make more sense because you might find it to be more durable.

Otherwise, the slider offers the flexibility needed to do the work on the jobsite for cabinet building, shelves, and other woodworking projects, and it is accurate enough to provide a good quality finished project.

Price Difference

Of course, the price range of any miter saw is going to vary greatly depending on brand, features, size, etc. A high-end, dual bevel, compound saw may run significantly more in price than a lower-end single bevel slider with lower amps and fewer features. However, when comparing apples to apples (i.e. DeWalt 10 inch to DeWalt 10 inch or Makita 12 inch to Makita 12 inch), you’ll find that a slider compound is going to cost a bit more than a regular compound of a similar size with similar feature. A saw with a sliding feature may cost around 20%-25% more than the cost of a regular compound saw. For instance, a compound that runs around $500 might be compared to a slider at around $650 or so. But these prices can vary and if you catch it on a good sale then you might find the difference to be much less.

Even so, for convenience and ease of use, I think it is completely worth it! The more work you do, the more time you will save, and the more you can get done. Even for a hobbyist, your time is more valuable than you may think and the frustration you can avoid by owning a slider saw makes up for the difference in cost, especially if you factor the price in over the number of years you plan to use the saw? If there is a $150 difference and you use the saw for just five years, it only costs you $30 more per year for the added efficiency of a slider. That seems like a pretty good deal to me.

So, if the question is “do you NEED a sliding compound miter saw?”–the answer is probably no unless you are a professional. However, could you very easily and affordably benefit from a sliding compound miter saw? The answer is a resounding YES!

What Others Are Saying

Dewalt Saw

When it comes to cutting capacity, the DeWalt DW713 will not let you down. It is able to cut 3-1/2-inch crown nested vertically and 3-1/4-inch base vertically. There’s even a 0-50 degree miter capacity in each direction so that you can cut a wide variety of miters. This DeWalt model uses a unique miter cam lock system that makes the saw extremely easy to use and makes for fast and precise miter table positioning, so you won’t be struggling if you’re a beginner. Read more here…

Pros of the Makita LS1221

The Makita LS1221 is a high quality, adaptable saw that requires little alteration or adjustment. A powerful saw that offers accuracy and precision, it cuts a range of materials, from baseboard and moulding to decking and siding, with clean, smooth cuts. Additionally, its higher fence allows it to cut thicker woods like oak and ash with little effort.  Read more here…

Top Rated Compound Miter Saws

Name/ImageLearn MoreBrandRatingPrice Range
DeWalt DW713 10-Inch Compound Miter Saw

DeWalt DW713 10-Inch Compound Miter Saw

Buy NowRead ReviewsDeWalt4.5 Star Average Rating $200 to $500
Makita LS1221 12-Inch Compound Miter Saw Kit

Makita LS1221 12-Inch Compound Miter Saw Kit

Buy NowRead ReviewsMakita4.5 Star Average Rating $200 to $500

Photo Credits:

D. Bjorn via Flickr


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