A miter saw, also known as a chop saw, is an indispensable woodworking tool for cutting molding, making picture frames, or other applications involving bevels and angled cuts. They also work well for general purpose cross-cutting. In many woodshops, the miter saw has replaced the radial arm saw.
There are several different types of miter saws. A standard miter saw features a blade assembly that pivots left and right up to approximately 45 degrees either way to make straight cuts or angled cuts. A basic chop saw if you will. A compound-miter saw has a blade assembly that flips to the side, which allows cutting simple miters as well as compound miters (angled in two dimensions). This capability is very handy for cutting crown molding. A sliding compound-miter saw is the next step up. It features a blade and motor assembly that slides forward and back on a rail, allowing it to cut significantly wider stock than a fixed head miter saw (up to approximately 12 inches).
Some features to look for in a miter saw are a retracting blade guard (which most decent saws have) and a dust collection port on the back side of the blade guard. The bigger the port the better. And you will want to connect it to a dust collection system — don’t waste your time with the dust bag that’s packaged with the saw. Another really nice feature is a laser light so you can quickly see where the cut line is — a real time saver for cutting simple or compound angles.
Miter saws come in 8″, 10″, or 12″ blade models but it’s best to focus your sights on a 10″ or 12″ model. Many of the newer saws are designed for 12″ blades — that extra blade diameter really helps when you’re cutting 6″ wide stock. In terms of blade types, a 60 to 80 tooth crosscut blade is a good choice for precision work. If you do a lot of rough framing, consider going with a 40 tooth blade.