Mitre saws are stationary cutting instruments with serrated blades used to slice through lumber, metal, brick, stone, and other materials. There are several types of mitre saws on the market, but the most popular tool is the sliding mitre saw, thanks to its versatility.
A sliding mitre saw is a tool that cuts lumber with a blade traveling back and forth on rails. The sliding mechanism allows the saw to cut longer, thicker workpieces. Some sliding mitre saws also make side-to-side cuts. Non-sliding mitre saws don’t use rails or move back and forth or side to side.
In this article, I’ll explore everything you need to know about these cutting tools, including what they are, their function, and the two main types of sliding mitre saws. I’ll also cover the benefits and drawbacks of sliding mitre saws and help you learn what to look for when shopping for one. Read on to learn more.
Sliding Mitre Saw: Everything You Need To Know
Contractors, woodworkers, carpenters, and other craftspeople use sliding mitre saws to make cross-grain cuts in workpieces made of lumber, masonry, plastic, and other materials. The blade on sliding mitre saws sits between two rails, allowing it to slide back and forth. This back-and-forth sliding motion increases the blade’s cutting capacity.
While non-sliding mitre saws can only cut a few inches less than their blade diameter, sliding mitre saws can cut several inches more than their blade size. For example, a non-sliding mitre saw with a 10-inch diameter blade can make cuts less than 10 inches on a 90-degree angle. A sliding mitre saw with a blade of the same diameter, however, could easily achieve a 14-inch cut (or more on some models).
Types of Sliding Mitre Saws
There are two main types of sliding mitre saws:
- Sliding Compound Mitre Saws – Sliding compound mitre saws are the standard sliding mitre saws. As mentioned, the blade moves forward and backward. The sliding mechanism makes it possible to cut longer pieces than non-sliding mitre saws.
- Sliding Dual-Compound Miter Saw – Sliding dual-compound mitre saws can achieve everything that sliding compound mitre saws can, but they also have the ability to achieve bevel cuts and move from side to side.
Benefits of Sliding Mitre Saws
Sliding mitre saws are generally more popular than non-sliding mitre saws, especially for cutting wider materials. Craftspeople often prefer them, thanks to their many benefits.
The primary benefit of sliding mitre saws is the versatility provided by the sliding mechanism. Non-sliding mitre saws are limited in the depth and length they can cut, but the back-and-forth movement of sliding mitre saws allows a larger cutting capacity. Users can easily use these saws to complete projects that are too challenging for non-sliding mitre saws.
Easier and Saves Time
Contractors may find sliding mitre saws especially useful, as they allow for precise, easy cutting of long pieces of varying material, including crown molding. This makes the job much quicker and easier, thus saving time. With a non-sliding mitre saw, contractors would have to flip the wood around to finish cutting through each piece.
Simple Setup and Ease of Use
Setting up a mitre saw is straightforward. The saws are stationary, so you’ll need a dedicated space for the tool. As long as you properly place and adjust the sliding mitre saw, you can ensure accurate, straight cuts. Also, because these saws cut from above, you needn’t adjust the blade’s depth for differences in thickness.
Deeper Cuts and Chop Saw Cuts
Sliding mitre saws also have the capability to cut deeper, so thicker cuts are possible. Most models also feature a function allowing users to stabilize the rails for pull-down cuts. That way, they can use the sliding mitre saw more like a chop saw.
Disadvantages of Sliding Mitre Saws
Although sliding mitre saws have many advantages, there are some drawbacks to consider before committing to a purchase.
Movement Restricted By Rails
The biggest advantage of sliding mitre saws is also its greatest disadvantage: the rails. The rails allow the blade to slide back and forth, but they also restrict the blade’s movement. This can cause issues, particularly when you need to cut maximum angles for more complex projects.
Sliding mitre saws are more expensive than non-sliding mitre saws because they feature stronger blades that cut deeper into the material. If you opt for a dual-compound sliding mitre saw, you’ll end up paying even more. On average, expect to pay upwards of $400 (€408.95).
Bulky and Heavy
Contractors who regularly bring their equipment along to complete jobs may not appreciate the extra weight and bulkiness of the sliding mitre saw. These cutting instruments are much more difficult to lug around, aren’t easy to store in a vehicle for travel, and take up quite a bit of space.
Safety Precautions When Using a Sliding Mitre Saw
As with every cutting tool, sliding mitre saws are potentially dangerous. They utilize powerful motors and large, sharp blades. The motors are designed to slice through thick materials and, when used improperly, can propel wood or other materials away from the machine, creating hazardous projectiles that could cause injury or damage. Not only that, but they can also pull objects toward the blade, causing anything holding onto it to be drawn in as well.
Fortunately, as long as you use common sense and understand the way the tool works and the force of the motor and blades, you can avoid these problems. Use the following tips to stay safe when using a sliding mitre saw:
- Never lift the blade as the mitre saw runs. Allow the blade to come to a complete stop.
- Do not engage the trigger switch while the saw is touching the material you intend to cut.
- Never clamp the material you’re cutting at both ends.
- Avoid wearing long, flowing garments when operating the mitre saw.
Shopping for a Sliding Mitre Saw
When in the market for a sliding mitre saw, look for one that contains the following features:
- Trigger switch activation
- Retractable blade guard
- Mitre scale and mitre table
- Mitre lock
In addition to these features, some of the latest saws include other handy add-ons that could help you with your projects, including built-in LED lights, laser cutline indicators, and more.
Sliding mitre saws are versatile and highly efficient tools. Though they’re heavy and costlier than non-sliding mitre saws, the added benefits and time savings make up for the drawbacks.