Miter Saw Features and Options

I don’t care what it is that you’re buying, there are always a lot of bells and whistles available as extra options, and miter saws are no different. Many of those extras can be really helpful, but there are some that sound great but just don’t hold up to their end of the deal. A basic miter saw will generally be able to perform most of the cutting tasks you want it to, but there are some features that can make those jobs easier. I thought it would be a good idea to take a look at some of the most popular features and important options that are available so you can decide whether or not you really need them.

Laser Guide

An effective laser guide system will project a beam of light onto your work piece, showing you exactly where your cut is going to be made. This helps you make more accurate cuts, and some laser guides are really great. This can be a very useful feature, but it is definitely not a necessity. Beginning woodworkers may find it helpful to use a miter saw with a laser, such as the SKIL 3317-01, while they hone their woodcutting skills, but most craftsmen with enough experience and a good miter saw will be able to make accurate cuts even without a laser to guide them.

Depth Stops

Depth stops have the very simple function of limiting the depth of your cut. You can set depth stops when you need them and then remove them when you want to do regular cutting. This feature is especially useful on a miter saw when making rough dados or repeat shallow kerfs.

Angle Presets/Positive Stops

When doing woodworking, you will find hat there are some angles you will repeatedly. 45 degree angles are an excellent example of this. When a miter saw has positive stops for the most common angles, which many of them do, it means you won’t have to spend
as much time setting up your cuts. A miter saw may have positive bevel and/or miter stops, and the best ones will also have a detent override that will let you lock in custom settings.

Digital Display

Traditionally, the measurements on a saw are etched into the miter and bevel scales. These types of measurements may or may not be easy to read, depending on the materials used for the surface of the scales. With a digital display, not only will you find it easier to read the measurements, you will also be able to set more precise angles, even as small as 1/10 of a degree.

Changing Blades

Changing the blade on some miter saws, like the Bosch 4310, can be difficult. If you know you’re going to need to change your saw blade often, you’ll want to look for a miter saw that has an easy to use blade replacement feature so you don’t suffer too much aggravation when changing it. I do regular woodworking and I work with many different types of materials which require different blades to get the best cuts, so it’s important for me to be able to change blades quickly and easily.

Extension Arms

If you move your saw around a lot or if you don’t have an outfeed table for support, you would do well getting a miter saw with extension arms (sometimes called wings). They are used to support long work pieces during while the miter saw is doing its job of cutting.

Dust Collector

Sawdust can get into everything including your eyes, nose and mouth, as well as inside your saw. A miter saw with an effective dust collection system will help to keep the amount of dust under control, keep your work area clean, and extend the lifespan of your saw. If the saw you really want only comes with a dust bag, I would recommend that you get a shop vacuum to help with dust collection. There are only a few miter saw models that I have come across (the Bosch GCM12SD is one of them) that have effective dust collection systems, so don’t be too disappointed if you end up getting a shop vac, too. Besides, a good shop vac comes in handy for all sorts of things.

A Final Word On Features

The above are some of the most common and best features you will want your miter saw to have. Your saw doesn’t need to have all of them, but you should ideally choose a saw that has the extra features that will be of most value to you. A miter saw that has a lot of additional features usually has a higher price tag as well, and you don’t need to shell out extra cash for features you may or may not use, so give some thought to what you need and what would just be cool to have, and let that be your guide.