Miter saws are undoubtedly the masters of cross-cutting and beveling timber, but you’re asking yourself — do I need a sliding miter saw?
These mother-of-all woodworking tools offer immense and unparalleled versatility. But, hitting your wallet slightly more than their standard compound counterparts, there’s little point shelling out your hard-earned dollars on features you’re never going to use.
This sliding miter saw vs compound miter saw exposé reveals the secrets behind these two formats — permitting you to make the correct purchasing choice for your home improvement, DIY, and trade projects.
The Three Types of Miter Saw
Like all the best things — rocks, volcanoes, and web-slingers in Spider-Man: No Way Home (2021) — miter saws come in three formats.
Before we get down to whether you need a compound miter saw sliding or not — it’s crucial to understand how this trio of timber tools differ.
1. Standard Compound Miter Saw
The most basic saw in the miter category — and the easiest on the wallet, such as the Makita LS1040. Ok, that’s not strictly true, you can purchase a miter wood block for use with a handheld tenon saw — but unless you’re a prepper, traditionalist, or hard-work masochist — these relics are pretty much consigned to history.
Featuring a circular blade on a pivoting arm — you literally drop or plunge the blade down onto your target material.
I know what you’re thinking — that’s a freaking chop saw you electric tool ignoramus. Admittedly, it is, but the miter saw has an additional superpower — the ability to make miter joints (hence its name) and bevel cuts.
As the blade can be tilted from its perpendicular position through to 45 degrees, you can make angled shears through wood — permitting you to effortlessly create joints and decoration on picture frames, baseboards, and cabinets.
- Straightforward to use.
- Excellent for the beginner miter user.
- The cutting width is restricted.
- Only addresses from one side.
2. Sliding Compound Miter Saw
‘Slip-sliding away, slip-sliding away, you know the nearer your destination, the more you’re slip-sliding away’ — so sang the diminutive pop-meister Paul Simon (after his split with one-time soft porn actor, Art Garfunkel).
According to music aficionados, he was talking about relationships falling apart or something equally mushy — but I prefer to believe he was extolling the benefits of sliding compound miter saws.
These units, for example, the excellent DeWalt DWS779, boast the drop-head and angled miter capabilities of their standard compound cousins, but with an additional feature — their blade arms are mounted on rails.
This permits you to effortlessly coast the rotating blade backward and forward — increasing the width of timber that the machine can handle. Furthermore, it allows for a sliding cutting angle instead of a purely chopping motion — typically leading to smoother shears that could be crucial in fine furniture work.
- Can tackle wider wood than a standard compound.
- Ideal for furniture and vintage baseboards.
- More precise shearing with less splintering.
- Harder on your bank balance than traditional compounds.
- Larger and heavier than non-sliding machines.
- Head rails can inhibit seriously extreme cutting angles.
3. Dual Compound Miter Saw
If you want to push your miter sawing to the extreme, and be the Tony Hawk of the wood chopping world — you need a dual-compound miter saw such as the DeWalt DW716.
Also known as dual bevel miters, these versatile machines have a blade arm that tilts both to the left and to the right — whereas standard compounds only tip to the right.
This means that you don’t have to continually remove, flip, and replace timber to make an opposite angle cut — increasing accuracy, removing the likelihood of incorrect angle creation, and saving valuable downtime.
As both traditional compound and sliding miters can incorporate a dual feature — it’s not a factor in deciding whether a compound miter saw vs sliding is best for you. Instead, it’s something to consider after you have made your choice.
If you want more detail on the single vs dual machines, check out my complete guide here.
- The most flexible miter saw in both compound and sliding categories.
- Excellent for intricate work.
- Reduces the risk of mistakes.
- Ideal for left-handers.
- Adds extra dollars to the miter price.
- More components mean a greater chance of malfunction.
- Larger than single compound and sliding miters.
Miter Saw Sliding or Not?
Donuts or bagels, iOS or Android, Marvel or DC — the biggest decisions in life. Now, you can add to that triumvirate, compound miter saw vs sliding.
And while the answers to the first three conundrums are plainly obvious (donuts, Android, and Marvel) — when it comes to wood cutting power tools, there are some factors you need to consider before making the correct choice.
Size of Your Wood
It’s the primary consideration. When God invented the sliding compound (actually, it was Hitachi in 1988) the reason was to accommodate larger timber than a standard compound machine.
Cutting capacities in both formats depend on the size of the blade. However, generally speaking, a single compound will cut a 5.5 to 7-inch piece of lumber in one pass, whereas a slider can tackle around 15 inches.
So, if your projects frequently require you to address larger timbers — go for a sliding unit — if not, opt for a standard compound.
The key is to pay for what you need — not what you don’t. If you go for an all-singing all-dancing dual-angle sliding compound with bells and chocolate sprinkles — and all you need is a chop saw — you need to examine your financial priorities.
Price differences between sliding miter saw vs compound miter saw units are significant — expect to pay around 75-100 percent more for the benefit of a sliding feature. That’s assuming all other factors (blade size, laser guide, motor capacity, etc.) are equal.
For excellent value models in both categories, check out the Makita LS1040 compound, and the DeWalt DWS779 slider.
Consider whether your projects need a fine finish or a more rustic edging. Moving along the horizontal plane, sliding miters deliver a cleaner cut than their standard compound counterparts — which basically hack downwards onto your wood.
So, if you spend your weekends cutting panels or planks for garden fencing, the smoothest of edges aren’t a necessity. Conversely, should your spare time involve creating high-end cabinets, you need a perfect finish.
If you’re anything like me, your garage and workshop space is both valuable and severely limited — so take into account the size of the saws when making your purchase.
Sliding compounds, while around the same width as normal compound miters, are much deeper — as the slip rails have to be incorporated into the build. Since you’re unlikely to sit cross-legged on the floor using the machine — well, unless you’re a Buddhist carpenter I suppose — your miter saw will be located on a workbench.
Therefore, check that not only is your table support deep enough to accommodate the tool — but also that there is sufficient clearance at the rear, away from walls, that allows the blade arm to freely move backward and forward.
Dual or Single Compound
After you’ve decided between a sliding vs compound miter saw, consider whether you need a dual or single compound — that is, if the blade arm tilts to either one or two sides.
If you go for a single model — you’ll need to flip and turn the wood to create an opposite angle. And, if like me, your brain doesn’t work in mirror mode, this can lead to mistakes — meaning you end up making the cut in the wrong direction. While not a major issue, it can mean additional expense as you have to throw away the timber and start again.
Dual compounds are much more convenient, faster, and don’t require you to repetitively manhandle the lumber. Furthermore, for left-handers, they offer greater user equality, since the right-handed fascist single compound units discriminate against sinistrality (you’ve learned a new word — this article is both informative and educational).
But of course, nothing in life is free. Expect to pay around $50-$75 dollars more for a dual machine.
When selecting your ideal machine, consider the size of timber your projects demand, your power tool budget, the finish you require, and how much free space you have in your workshop. And, when you’ve made your decision, ponder upon whether a single or dual compound unit is preferable.
I hope you found this article useful, and that it has given you all the knowledge you need to purchase the most suitable unit. And, if you have a buddy or colleague who you believe would benefit from this Do I Need a Sliding Miter Saw exposé — please feel free to share!
Compound Versus Sliding Miter Saw FAQs
Q: What Is the Benefit of Sliding Miter Saw?
With a circular blade arm mounted on rails, the sliding miter saw permits you to make bevel and miter cuts in wide volume timber — up to around 15 inches.
Q: Do You Push Or Pull a Sliding Miter Saw?
Due to the angle of the teeth on the circular blade head, sliding miters are designed to shear through wood with a pushing motion — pulling it towards you will cut the timber, but will lead to an extremely rough finish.
Furthermore, for safety reasons, you should obviously always direct the blade away from your body — not toward it.
Q: Are Sliding Miter Saws Accurate?
Yes! Miter saws with sliding feature an index guide — allowing you to effortlessly select the correct angle for miters and bevels.
Q: Are Sliding Miter Saws Safe?
Indeed they are — but only when used correctly.
My top tips for user safety are:
- Read the manufacturer’s instructions.
- Always push the blade away from you.
- Wear protective gear.
- Bolt the saw to a workbench.
- Ensure the blade is at full speed before addressing timber.
- Keep all guards in place.
- Only cut one piece of wood at a time.
- Immediately replace worn or damaged blades.
- Wait until the blade has come to a complete stop before removing timber.
Q: What Should You Never Cut on the Miter Saw?
Miter saw machines, and their concomitant blades, are designed to address timber. Therefore, don’t use these tools for cutting metal.
Furthermore, never tackle any small pieces of wood that would require your stabilizing fingers to be less than six inches from the rotating blade.
Q: Is a Chop Saw the Same as Miter Saw?
No. A chop saw can only make plunge cuts into wood at a ninety-degree angle. Miter saws permit you to address timber from a plethora of directions — enabling you to create miters and bevels in your material.
Q: Should I Lubricate the Rails on My Sliding Miter Saw?
If the blade arm sticks, jumps, or is tough to move — it’s time to lubricate the rails. However, only use a dry lube or silicone spray, never liquid oil or grease.
As the rails are exposed to your workshop, any wet lubrication will rapidly attract dust and wood shavings — exacerbating the sticky situation and clogging up the movement.