If you thought a regular miter saw was great, wait until you get your hands on a sliding compound miter saw. No other tool can beat the simplicity that a sliding compound miter saw provides in crosscutting wide boards. With one of these in your workshop, complicated carpentry projects can be done in a jiffy.
What is a Sliding Compound Miter Saw?
Before we go too far, let’s talk about the sliding compound miter saw.
A sliding compound miter saw is like a compound miter saw in how the head can tilt to the left and right to produce compound cuts (beveled and mitered). The most prominent feature and the one that separates it from classic compound miter saws is the sliding saw head. By tugging on the head, you can extend the capacity of the saw to cut wider boards in a single pass. No more flipping boards to complete cuts.
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Do I need one?
The real benefit that a sliding compound miter saw offers is convenience. When using a miter saw, crosscutting lumber hardly requires any adjustments in the tool. Simply tweak the miter and bevel of the saw and plunge the blade into your piece. Sliding compound miter saws take it to another level by extending its reach to crosscut wider boards.
Is it possible to produce mitered, beveled, and compound cuts using other sawsOf course. A handheld circular saw, and table saw can do anything that a miter saw can do. The drawback of using these tools over sliding compound miter saw is the amount of time used to set the angle of the blade properly. As for table saws, you’ll need to either purchase a miter jig or construct your own. These are relatively inexpensive to buy or make, so if you’re on tight on cash and already have a table saw in your workshop, then the more cost-effective thing to do would be to get a miter jig.
Best Uses of a Sliding Compound Miter Saw
There are four main jobs that a sliding compound miter saw is designed to do. Using any other type of saw can be inconvenient or impossible to match the precision of one of these saws. Although there are numerous things you can do with a sliding compound miter saw, we’re only going to talk about the following.
If you need to cut a long board into multiple pieces, a miter saw will almost always be the optimal tool of choice. Other saws worth mentioning include handsaws, radial arm saws, table saws, and circular saws. However, sliding compound miters trump all others saws for the following reasons.
First, a sliding compound miter saw packs a powerful motor. It’s highly unlikely that you’ll come across a type of wood that a sliding compound miter saw can’t handle. Also, this saw is heavy yet portable so you can mount it onto a workbench for extra stability. The amount of clearance on either side of the tool is dependent on any size restrictions of your workshop.
Second, sliding compound miter saws are extremely user-friendly. Lining up boards is a simple matter of pushing the piece against the fence. You can check where the saw will penetrate the surface of the board by pulling the sawhead down and resting the blade onto the piece. Some models come with laser guides, but they’re not always reliable, and vibrations can knock the laser out of position.
The third reason is the cutting capacity of a sliding compound miter saw. One of these tools equipped with a 12-inch blade can crosscut a 12-inch wide board in a single sweep, though it depends on the thickness.
There are hardly any woodworking projects that don’t require making angled cuts, or mitered cuts (hence the name of the tool). You can make mitered cuts simply by swinging the sawhead to the left or right. Many models have mitering capacities of up to 50° in one or both directions, while others can go beyond the 50° mark. The swinging sawhead will come in handy in a number of situations, including but not limited to trim work and flooring.
This is one of the more complicated cuts that you will hardly ever need to produce. However, when the time comes to make compound cuts for crown molding and other trim, you’ll be glad that your workshop is equipped with a sliding compound miter saw. Compound cuts are when you both miter and tilt the saw head to redirect the angling path of the cut. The sawheads on sliding compound miter saws can bevel in both directions and typically up to 45°.
Like any good stationary saw, a sliding compound miter saw is great at producing repeatable cuts. You can lock the bevel and miter angles of the sawhead to keep it from shifting as you plunge the blade over and over again. Utilize the saw’s fence by clamping scrap pieces of wood to serve as stops. This will help you cut long boards down to identical lengths without having to measure and re-measure the board repeatedly.
Even though sliding compound miter saws are stationary units, it doesn’t mean that they’re not portable. The weight of this tool is typically around 80 to 100 pounds or so, so loading it onto your truck shouldn’t be too difficult. When you need to cut boards down to size at the job site, a sliding compound miter saw will be the much more convenient tool to take with you compared to full-sized table saws and circular saws.
The main differences between traditional miter saws and sliding compound miters saws are its ability to produce compound cuts and cut through wide boards in a single pass. To some, a sliding compound miter saw might be a luxury tool that they won’t need very often, and we really can’t argue with that fact. However, the true luxury of a sliding compound miter saw is the convenience it provides when making repeatable cuts across long or numerous boards without any additional adjustments.