What to Look for in a Compound Miter Saw

Updated 3/10/2023

Compound miter saws are an invaluable tool for any carpentry job. They make cuts at different angles and can be tilted to one side for beveled cuts.

The tool is typically used to cut crown molding, window casings, door and window frames.   

Often, people wonder what to look for in a compound miter saw. The answer is not that straightforward. Various factors determine the best miter saw for a job.

Here, you can learn some of the factors you should consider when buying a compound miter saw.

*Disclosure: This site earns commission from Amazon for qualifying purchases*

1. Blade Size

First off, you should select the right blade size. Common miter saw sizes include (but are not limited to) 8, 10, 12, and 15 inches.

Larger blades can create deeper and longer cuts. However, we’ve found that a 10 or 12-inch miter saw blade is sufficient for most jobs.

While you can use a larger sized miter saw for cutting small boards, it will be harder for you to achieve accurate cuts.

So, you must buy a miter saw with a blade size that is just right for the job.

2. Motor Power

The power of a compound miter saw motor is measured in amps. Miter saws with high-powered motors have more cutting power and can make deeper cuts.

Therefore, if you want to make a lot of crosscuts for a carpentry job, go for a high-powered miter saw.

Similarly, a saw with a high power rating is ideal for installing shutters or gates, building a garden shed, or building a treehouse.

3. Positive Stops

Compound miter saws have positive stops for commonly used angles. These are factory set points that let you quickly choose the right angle for cutting boards.

Some miter saws have thumb-activated stops. The feature allows quick adjustments, saving you a lot of time when making a cut.

Miter saws also come with depth stops, which allow you to adjust the blade height easily. You can control the depths of the cuts.

Saws with stops are relatively pricier, but they will save you time and offer convenience while cutting.

4. Electric Brakes

Electric brakes are also a helpful feature that reverses the electricity flow when you release the trigger.

The blade can stop in as little as three seconds. This feature is important if you are into carpentry, as it can save you a lot of time. 

5. Articulated Blade Guards

If you’re wondering what to look for in a compound miter saw, a miter saw with articulated blade guards is the answer.

When the saw is raised, articulated guards cover the blade completely.  It offers carpenters a better view of the cutting line.

Additionally, the guards also protect the blade when the saw is in use. The guards can automatically adjust, depending on the thickness of the material.

6. Miter Detent Override

Miter detent override is another important feature you should look for in a compound miter saw.

The feature allows detent action to be locked out when cutting a board. As a result, you can make micro-adjustments to the angle and get the desired cut.

With a compound miter saw having a miter detent override feature, you can position the saw close to the miter stops.

This makes it easier for you to operate the saw at an angle.

7. Spindle Locks

A miter saw with spindle locks is another important feature you should look for in a compound miter saw. It allows you to immobilize the blade or shaft. In this way, you can quickly change the blade when required.

8. Guide Lights

Guide lights are another useful feature to look for in a compound miter saw. The lights project a beam onto the workpiece and help in getting accurate cuts.

Compound miter saws come with standard guide lights or laser guides.

9. Sliding Compound Miter Saw

DEWALT Sliding Compound Miter Saw, 12-Inch (DWS779)
  • Stainless steel miter detent plate of the 12-inch miter saw blade comes with 10 positive stops
  • The mitre saw has a precise miter system and machined base fence support
  • Precise miter system and machined base fence support Cam-lock miter handle with detent override delivers quick and accurate miter angles for DEWALT miter saw
  • Tall sliding fences support 6-3/4-inch base vertically
  • Bevels 0 degree – 48degree left and right

Sliding compound miter saws offer more flexibility during a carpentry job. But it is more expensive as compared to a standard miter saw.

The saw has the same features as a traditional compound miter saw with the exception of a sliding arm.

The sliding arm of a sliding compound miter saw ensures wider and thicker cuts. You can cut thick materials like wood with it.

It is also the right option for cutting larger materials.

10. Power Source

When buying a compound miter saw, check its power source. Most miter saws are corded and have motor ratings of up to 15-amp power.

You can select a portable cordless miter saw if you work on small carpentry projects.

Cordless miter saws are battery-powered and are suitable for simple DIY carpentry jobs. The saws are generally smaller and lighter as compared to corded saws.

These are best for small to medium needs. The compound miter saws often have brushless motors that require little maintenance and are also durable.

Putting It All Together

After reading this blog post, you now know what to look for in a compound miter saw. The type of job you want to perform will determine the best miter saw for it.

A miter saw with a large blade can make wider and deeper cuts while a small miter saw is economical and easier to maneuver.

You should consider buying a corded miter saw with a powerful motor if you work on large projects. For minor jobs, a cordless miter saw will be a better option.

Make sure to look for the right features in a miter saw, such as a miter detent override, guide lights, spindle locks, and articulated brake guards.

Your job will become easier if you buy the right compound miter saw. A quality miter saw may be expensive.

But it lasts a long time and can save you money in the long run.

Check out our Ultimate Guide to the Best Compound Miter Saws here!

DIY Spotlight