So you’re kitted out with the basics for DIY and woodwork and that means you probably already have a circular saw in your kit. Now you’re ready to take your woodwork to the next level and you definitely want greater precision, power and speed. Enter the mitre saw.
WHAT IS A MITRE SAW?
At first glance it would be easy to think of a mitre saw as just another circular saw. It’s anything but. Yes, they both have circular blades, but that’s pretty much all they have in common. Because unlike a circular saw that is guided by hand and pushed through wood, a mitre saw is stationery. It’s fixed in place and the blade drops from the top down onto the wood. The result? Exceptional accuracy for straight cuts and angled cuts, especially the popular 45-degree angle required to achieve perfectly mitered corners on any kind of frame.
In theory you could make angled cuts with a handheld circular saw, but it would take great skill to achieve the same faultless cutting that a mitre saw delivers. If your intention is to make picture frames, make furniture or do a lot of finish carpentry like mold and trim work, a mitre saw moves from luxury-buy to toolkit must-have. And then it’s decision time because there is more than one kind of mitre saw. Let’s unpack them and find you the perfect cutting machine.
The most basic of options, the straight-cut mitre saw can cut at angles anywhere from 0-90 degrees. Bear in mind that because the saw is stationery and the blade only moves up and down, the length of the cut is limited to the size of the blade. The bigger the blade, the wider the board you can cut, but ultimately we’re talking fairly narrow pieces of wood. A basic straight-cut mitre saw is more than adequate for making straight and angled cuts for wooden picture frames, furniture and skirting boards. Bottom line? This is a great choice for the home DIY enthusiast.
The compound mitre saw is a considerably more versatile tool because you can rotate the blade head at various angles to the cutting board. This means it can do everything the straight-cut mitre saw does, plus it allows a ramp-angled cut into the side of the wood. If beveling is what you want to do, the compound mitre saw is what you need.
Bear in mind that the head of the compound mitre saw (aka single compound mitre saw) can only tilt to one side, either left or right, allowing you to cut a compound angle only in one direction. To cut a compound angle that slants the other way is however simple to remedy – simply flip the board you’re cutting. (If you want to push the boat out and buy a compound mitre saw with a head that can rotate on both the left and right side of the saw, look out for what is called a dual compound mitre saw.) So who should consider a compound mitre saw? It’s a great choice for kitchen manufacturers and specialist woodworkers.
Precision cutting, great speed for repetitive cutting tasks and power are the benefits of the mitre saw. The drawback, as mentioned earlier, is the cutting width limitation. The sliding mitre saw solves this quandary to some extent because, unlike other models, its saw head travels horizontally on two polished steal rails, giving you the ability to cut pieces up to 40cm wide. Sliding mitre saws are a good choice for cabinetmakers and flooring specialists.
As you can gather from the name, this saw combines the benefits of a compound mitre and sliding mitre in one, making it by far the most versatile mitre saw choice. It’s very much a specialist tool with the expected higher price tag to match and is a good choice for tradesmen and joiners.
We’ve spoken only of wood in reference to mitre saw cutting, but of course any of these models will cut a variety of other materials too, including Perspex, aluminium and mild steel. Still not sure which model is best for you? Let’s talk. At toolcityonline we’re always happy to get your call.