Miter Saws – The Details that Matter

Whenever we look at making a significant purchase, we tend to look at the “big picture” and sometimes overlook the details that really make a difference in how happy we actually are with whatever it is we end up with. I don’t want you to settle for a miter saw that will just make you happy, I want you to find one you’ll be thrilled with; one that will make you excited to start your next woodworking project.

So I put together a list of additional details you may want to consider when shopping around for a miter saw. They are not as ultra important as the safety features I outlined in my safety article, but they will certainly make using your miter saw easier and many will help you to finish your projects more quickly as well. These features are not standard on all miter saws, but the best ones will have them and I’ve found that they can significantly affect the quality of your work, which affects how happy you are with using your saw.

Clearly Marked Scales

Setting the correct angles for cutting materials is obviously important if you are to make accurate cuts. Having a clearly marked scale, whether miter or bevel, certainly makes it much easier to set accurate angles and make precise cuts. You don’t want to have to get out a magnifying glass every time you need to adjust your angles, you want to be able to clearly see what you’re doing. More and more miter saws are now being equipped with digital displays to make your angles easier to read and set up. Some of those saws can be more expensive, but the difference is truly something you’ll notice.

Fence Adjustability

Generally, I recommend you get a saw with a fence guard that is at least 4 inches high so you have some extra support when cutting large workpieces. Even if you won’t normally be cutting large pieces, having this increased capacity is still a good idea as you never know when you may need it. Ideally, the fence guard should also be adjustable and if the upper sections glide out of the way when you are making bevel cuts, that’s even better.

Stock Blade Quality

While you probably won’t get a fine finish blade included with your new miter saw, it would be nice if the one that you do get with it is a good quality stock blade that can handle the greater portion of your cutting jobs. Ideally, it should be no less than a 40-tooth carbide-tipped blade. I have a few different saw blades and I switch them around fairly often depending on the type of materials and type of cuts a job calls for, and you’ll probably want to do the same. For this reason, you’ll also want changing the blade on your new miter saw to be a fairly simple process, so be sure you read some user reviews to make sure you don’t need 3 hands to do it.

Effective Blade Guards

Personally, I find blade guards that pop down when the saw starts cutting to be very annoying because they typically disrupt my view of the material I’m cutting. This is why I prefer for a blade guard to be transparent, so I can see what I am doing. I also like having the ability to adjust the height of the blade guard with my thumb. Not all blade guards have that capability, but it’s really nice to have. As annoying as they may be sometimes, a blade guard is a very important safety feature so don’t you want to have a saw without one, or get so disgusted with the one your saw has that you remove it, so while it might seem like a small detail, it really does make a big difference.

Weight and Portability

If you will be moving your saw around a lot, I would also suggest that you look for one that is lightweight and portable. It’s also helpful for it to be easy to mount on a universal saw stand so it doesn’t take much time for you to set up and start working. I would say one that has a saw head you can lock into place as well as a comfortable handle for carrying is a good choice. Ideally, it should also be small enough that it doesn’t take up a lot of your workspace. There are plenty of high performance miter saws, like the DEWALT DW715, that are designed to be lightweight and portable without sacrificing quality.

Miter Saw Stand Compatibility

Very few miter saws come with a saw stand, but using one will give you a nice firm surface to work on. That kind of support can really make a difference and help produce the best results for your projects. There also are some cutting jobs you just won’t be able to do without the support of a sturdy stand. When shopping for a miter saw stand, always make sure the saw stand will fit your saw. Most of them are pretty universal, but you don’t want to get your new stand home only to find out your saw won’t fit on it. Another important point is to be sure the stand you buy will be able to accommodate the tallest workpiece you can imagine actually working with.

It’s the Little Things that Mean A Lot

So there you have it – the details that are often overlooked but really make a difference. I really believe they will help you get the best results and make using your miter saw a delight rather than a disappointment. While you may have a huge tool collection and several different types of the same tool, a miter saw is one power tool you should be able to turn to for a wide variety of projects, it should last a good long time, and you should enjoy using it every chance you get. With that in mind, you can see how important it is to make every effort to ensure you get the best one for both your current and future needs, and that means paying attention to the details.