Miter Saw VS Compound Miter Saw

Ready to invest in a miter saw but aren’t sure to buy a regular miter saw or a compound miter saw?

Below you’ll find when to use a miter saw and compound saw for specific scenarios as well as their pros and cons. We’ll also recommend some products that will help you on your journey.

If you’re ready, let’s get to it.

Miter Saw VS Compound Miter Saw Summary

  • The difference between a plain miter saw and a compound sliding miter saw is that compound miter saws have the additional feature of a tilting blade for making beveled cuts. 

  • While on a regular miter saw you can angle the blade to make angled cuts, you can only do vertical cuts into a piece of timber. With a compound miter saw you can do both angled and beveled cuts. 

  • Nowadays there isn’t much reason to not buy a compound miter saw. The only real reason you would buy a regular miter saw instead of a compound miter saw is to save money. Plus, while it is possible to save money by buying a regular miter saw, you won’t save much and they are actually harder to find. 

  • What you’re more likely to end up wondering is whether you should get a double or single bevel compound miter saw. On top of this, you might also wonder whether or not to get a sliding miter saw.

What is a (Regular) Miter Saw Used For?

You will actually find it harder to find a basic miter saw nowadays than a compound miter saw. 

All miter saws (whether they’re regular or compound) are stationary saws with a cutting table and a straight edge, known as a fence, along the back. Timber can be held against the fence for stability and the blade is moved up and down to make cuts. The cuts they make are short cuts, usually across a piece of timber, rather than long lengthways cuts. 

A basic miter saw is primarily for making fast and accurate repetitive cuts of certain kinds. A good example of the kind of cuts that miter saws are good for is roofing rafters. If, for example, you were making an A-frame roof for a shed, a miter saw would allow you to cut all the rafters quickly and accurately. 

With a basic miter saw a piece of timber is placed on the cutting table and the saw blade is angled across the timber to make short diagonal cuts at any angle required. These cuts are easy to set, accurate, and can be repeated with ease.

Benefits of a Miter Saw

  • Potential cost saving compared to a compound miter saw
  • Fast, accurate and easy to repeat angled cuts
  • Reduced chance of repairs needed as there is no beveling function to break

Downsides of a Miter Saw

  • No beveling possibility. This could turn out to be a major downside
  • A regular miter saw is actually harder to find than compound miter saws nowadays
  • There is no easy way of upgrading a plain miter saw to a compound miter saw

What is a Compound Miter Saw Used For?

Most miter saws that are available nowadays are compound saws. 

A sliding compound miter saw does everything that a regular miter saw does, but also allows for the possibility of making beveled cuts and has the ability to “slide” the blade forward and back. Beveled cuts, as I have already explained, are cuts made with the blade tilted. 

A common example of a beveled cut is the one which is made in the corner of every room which has a skirting board fitted. If you are in a room with a skirting board, look at the corner and you will most likely see that the skirting board has been cut with a bevel so that the two boards which join fit together more neatly. 

Beveled cuts, while they’re less common than angled cuts, are still used quite often in woodworking and it’s helpful to have the option of making bevel cuts. 

With modern production techniques making it easier and cheaper for manufacturers to produce compound miter saws, the price difference between a plain and a compound miter saw is relatively small. What you get for paying a small amount extra for a compound saw is worth it for most people.  

Sliding miter saws also allow you to “Slide” the blade allowing you to slide the blade forward allowing you to cut wider pieces of wood. They are more dangerous though as they introduce more moving parts, so do be aware of that.

Benefits of a Compound Sliding Miter Saw

  • You can do bevel cuts
  • Fast, accurate and easy to repeat angled and bevel cuts
  • Sliding compound miter saws are easy to find
  • Can cut wider pieces of wood with the sliding feature

Downsides of a Compound Sliding Miter Saw

  • Slightly more expensive
  • There is a small chance the bevel function will break and require repairs
  • You will need to decide whether to get a single or double bevel saw
  • You’ll also need to decide whether or not to get compound sliding miter saws or the fixed version

When To Use a Miter Saw Over Compound Sliding Miter Saws

You should only buy a regular miter saw if you are looking for the cheapest possible miter saw or if you are certain that you will never need to do bevel cuts or use the sliding miter saw feature.

Non sliding miter saws which are available are regular miter saws and if you are looking for the most affordable saw, it will be a regular miter saw. You can take a look at the best miter saw buying guide and find one suitable for your price range.

Some people will be buying a saw for a specific purpose and will definitely know that they will not need to make beveled cuts or use the sliding miter feature. In this case, a regular miter saw will suffice and there will be no need to pay the small extra amount for a bevel function. 

When To Use a Compound Miter Saw Over a Miter Saw

The vast majority of people will find that a sliding compound saw is a better choice. A Miter saw is much more affordable nowadays than it used to be and it costs relatively little extra to have the bevel function provided by a compound miter saw.  The ability to move the blade with the sliding function will also make it easier to cut wider pieces of wood than VS a basic miter saw.

While many woodwork applications won’t call for any beveled cuts, eventually you are likely to find that it is a very useful function to have on your saw. 

Final Thoughts

As I said earlier, when you compare miter saws for purchase, you are more likely to end up wondering if you should get a double or single bevel compound saw and also if you should buy a saw with a slide. 

Sliding miter saws have an increased maximum cut width because the blade can be moved up and down along a slide. This obviously allows larger pieces of timber to be cut. 

Double bevel compound saws allow for the blade to be tilted in both directions. While if you don’t have this feature it can be got around by turning a piece of timber around, it does make things easier. 

The price difference between a non sliding single bevel compound saw and saws which have slides or a double bevel can be significant. It is up to a person to decide whether or not they would like to pay the extra amount for the additional functions. 

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