Should I buy a sliding compound miter saw or is a compound saw enough for my work?
Say you are working on a job and you hear from an expert or you read in a guide that you need a miter saw. At first, it may seem simple just to go out and buy one if you don’t already own one, but the reality is more complicated.
There is a variety of different miter saws out there and it can be difficult to pick the best one for your needs. In this article, I will explain what a sliding compound miter saw is and how it differs from a regular miter saw; as well as what the advantages of using this type of miter saw over a regular saw.
What is a sliding compound miter saw?
A sliding compound miter saw is a mitre saw with guide rails on which the saw head can move back and forth.
There are essentially three main kinds of miter saws out there. There are standard or basic miter saws. These types of miter saws can only make crosscuts and miter cuts (cuts at an angle other than 90-degrees along the length of the wood). Another kind of miter saw is called a “compound miter saw.” These kinds of miter saws are capable of making two kinds of cuts (hence why they are called compound saws). A compound miter saw can make both miter cuts and bevel cuts (for those who don’t know, a bevel cut is a cut at an angle beside 90-degrees, but along the thickness of a piece of wood). Finally, a sliding miter saw is a miter saw that has guide rails, which allows the saw head to be move forward and backward, which in turn makes it easier to make a longer cuts.
So, as you can probably guess from the name, a sliding compound miter saw is a miter saw that essentially combines all three aspects into a single saw. It can make both miter and bevel cuts, and it has the rails that enable the blade to cut lengthier.
Advantages of using a sliding compound miter saw
The primary advantage of the sliding compound miter saw is its ability to cut wider workpieces. Your standard miter saw can cut materials that are 6 to 8 inches thick with relative ease. However, if you plan on cutting anything wider, than you are going to struggle to make good, accurate cuts because of the inherent weakness of a regular miter saw. This is less of an issue with a sliding compound miter saw.
For example, a 12-inch sliding miter saw can easily cut materials that are up to 16 inches wide baseboards. This makes a variety of jobs far easier. For example, think if you are trying to build a fence. You are going to need a miter saw to make the accurate cuts needed to build the fence posts. But, your average miter saw is going to struggle to cut through thick fence posts. That same job will be much easier with a sliding saw blade.
One of the biggest advantages of a sliding compound miter saw is how much time it will save you. Because of the ability of the miter saw to make different kinds of cuts and because its rails allow it to make wider cuts, you will get through woodcutting projects a lot faster than normal. This does not just apply to professionals either. If you are an experienced DIYer, then you will find that using a sliding compound miter saw saves you a ton of time on home renovation projects.
Despite some major advantages, the addition of dual slide rails has its cons.
Price: For starters, a sliding compound miter saw will end up costing you a bit more than a regular miter saw. Price differences are hard to talk about because of the wide differences in prices from store to store, so I will avoid mentioning exact prices. However, you should be expecting to spend a lot more on sliding compound saws because of the extra features they offer.
Space: Since the sliding arm has to move forward and backward, you need a lot more clearance behind a sliding miter saw than a non-sliding one. Take care of this when you mount your sliding compound miter saw on a stand or on a table. Otherwise, you will end up with dents on the drywall behind your saw.
Portability: Another factor to consider is mobility. Your standard miter saw is fairly mobile. You can easily pack it up and move it from place to place. They are necessarily meant to be moved, but it is still very easy to do so. The same cannot be said for a sliding compound miter saw. Because of all the extra parts, these types of miter saws are a lot bulkier and harder to pack up. They can still be moved if you really need to do so, but it is going to take a lot more effort unless you invest in a rolling miter saw stand.
Accuracy: Over the time dust will get accumulated on the dual sliding rails causing hindrance to the smooth motion. Frequent use of the sliding arm will also result in wear and tear resulting in a lower accuracy of cut.
Differences between the 3 kinds of miter saws
There are a couple of key differences between the kinds of miter saws that you should keep in mind before buying. There are the obvious differences that I have already covered in this article. For example, a regular miter saw cannot make two different kinds of cuts in the same way that a compound one can. Likewise, the saw head can be slid forward only in a sliding miter saw, which means that the length of the cuts that you can make with a non-sliding miter saw will be limited.
Bosch Axial Glide Miter Saw
This patented technology from Bosch is a variation of sliding mechanism in the miter saw. Normally you will find dual slide rails on which the blade head moves forwards and back. In case of Bosch Axial Glide design, a two-axis multi-joint articulated arm mechanism with ball bearing is used.
The high precision sealed ball bearing provides exceptionally smooth sliding motion and hence the name, glide. In fact, Bosch has added a glide damper mechanism for those who feel that the axial movement of the blade head is too smooth.
There are three distinct advantages to Bosch axial glide miter saw:
- The movement is extremely smooth
- Since the bearings are sealed the guide rails will not get worn-out or accumulate dust.
- The compact design doesn’t need any clearance behind the miter saw.
Here is a video that explains the Bosch 12 inch glide miter saw in action.
I expect to see more and more miter saw manufactures coming up with articulated sliding arm design.
When to use a sliding compound miter saw
Basically the only time you need a sliding compound miter saw is when you do angular cuts wider than 6 inches. For most people a 10 inch or 12-inch non-sliding compound miter saw is adequate.
However, you should consider investing in a sliding saw if you ever dealing with a very large project that requires a large variety of cuts to be. This is because the versatility and efficiency of a sliding compound miter saw will allow you to get through big projects faster and with less hassle overall. Any project or job that requires a regular miter saw, can also be done with a sliding compound variant as well.
Who should buy a sliding compound miter saw?
For professionals, I would always recommend going for a sliding compound miter saw over a more generic, regular miter saw. The reason for this is that the sliding compound versions can do all the same things that a regular miter saw can, but can cut much wider work-piece.
DIY enthusiasts and hobbyists do not need it. Most of the work like building small furniture, photo frames and crafts does not demand wide miter cuts. Cutting small thickness crown molding also usually don’t need call for the use of a sliding miter saw.
Construction professionals who have to cut large crown moldings and mass production woodworking shops that need to do miter and bevel cuts on wider lumber accurately should get sliding compound miter saws.
The sliding compound miter saw can cut up to 16 inches wide baseboards. For those who do not want to cut more than 6 inches wide lumber, you do not need a sliding arm. However, if the added cost is not too much for you, I would recommend that both professionals and interested amateurs alike invest in a sliding compound miter saw.
Which is brand makes the best sliding compound miter saw?
This is a difficult question to answer since brands are personal preference. The following are some of the popular brands that offer sliding miter saws.