With their speed and accuracy at making crosscuts or mitered angles, the miter saw is a critically important piece of your woodworking equipment. With the many applications possible, it can sometimes be hard to determine just which one miter saw will perform best for you.
First off, you have to decide just what you are going to be using a miter saw for. Figure how heavy your work load is and the types of material you will most often work with. You will need to understand how where you use the saw will affect its performance. Knowing these things and about how much you are willing to spend are necessary when selecting your tool.
Unless you specifically need a very small or very large cutting bore, it will be best to stay with the standard 10″ to 12″ cutting capacity saws.
The compound miter saw will usually only have three basic cutting directions. They will go up and down, they can move up to 45 degrees to the right or left and they can lean left or right to create bevel cuts. While less expensive, these compound miter saws are less likely to make deep cuts or cut through wide materials in one pass.
The sliding compound miter saw on the other hand is built with two rails that allow the saw to be swung back and forth. This provides a much larger range of motion and cutting distance. These saws are, however, much heavier and take up more room in the workspace.
Miter saws can have a single bevel control which will require your material to be flipped for the second cut or a double bevel where the material is cut twice from the same position. While the double is more expensive, it is not too much so if you need this feature a lot.
Finally, check the extension wings. While they can be very useful, a cheap brand of miter saw will often have loose, easily shifted wings that render them almost useless for critical work.