When it comes to woodworking, whether you’re a hobbyist or someone who uses it as a trade, there are few tools more convenient than a miter saw.
Smaller saws might work just fine for little projects like birdhouses, hedgehog huts, and basic repairs.
If you’re taking on real woodworking projects, however, you want a tool that’s more versatile, reliable, and powerful that can cut at new angles and work with more types of wood. That’s where a miter saw comes in.
What you’re looking for in a miter saw
There are a few elements that you should be looking for in particular when choosing a miter saw. What you want to do, what kind of cuts you want to perform, and what kind of woods you want to work with might depend on what features you prioritize. Here are a few worth considering in particular:
- Sliding or compound: Compound saws allow you to adjust the height of the saw as you cut, but sliding saws also allow you to move the blade closer to or further from the fence. Sliding enables you to cut wider materials.
- Blade width: Even more important is the saw isn’t sliding, this width decides the upper limit of what you can cut.
- Blade guard: An essential safety feature, the more transparent and resilient the blade guard, the better it protects you without getting in the way of your work.
- Electric brakes: In the event of something going wrong, an electric brake allows you to immediately stop the blade and save yourself from the risk of serious damage.
- Marked scales and angle presets: Clearly defined settings and presets allow you to better make a variety of cuts.
- Cutting guide: A laser guide allows you to be precise in your cuts by showing you exactly where the blade’s going to go before it touches the wood.
- Dust-collection ports: This handy feature is going to make cleaning up after woodworking much easier.
Take the above factors into account when making your final decision. You don’t want to jump the gun and buy a saw that doesn’t do what you want it to.
Budget Mitre Saw Comparison Table
The DEWALT DW715 12” Single-Bevel Compound Miter Saw is powered by a 15-Amp motor driving 4,000 RPM, to deliver extended power and durability.
It features an adjustable stainless steel Miter detent plate with 14 positive stops and cam Miter Lock that provide repeatable accuracy and durability with easy adjustments. Also, a Miter detent override allows you to override the miter stops and adjust to the desired setting without the saw slipping into the Miter detents, with an arbor size of ⅝” tall.
Sliding fences support crown molding up to 5-¼” nested and up to 6-½” inch case molded vertically against the fence while easily sliding out of the way for bevel cuts.
The machined base fence support maintains fence perpendicularity with a blade for cutting accuracy for a cross-cut capacity of up to 2×8” dimensional lumber at 90° and a 2×6” dimensional lumber at 45°.
It bevels to the left up to 48° and the right up to 3°, with positive stops at 0°, 45, and 33.9° for cutting crown molding lying flat with 4 hardened steel bevel stops at 0°, 33.9°, 45°, and 48° that delivers versatility at most common bevel angles.
Included is a carbide blade, dust bag, blade wrench, vertical clamp, and comfortable side handles in the base. Its lightweight design with a built-in carry handle provides excellent portability.
- Impressive capacity
- A resilient, thin blade
- Angel presets make for repeated precision cuts
- Quick cutting allows for quicker project completion
- Larger blade and single-bevel increases the range of cuts and kinds of wood you can work with
- Stainless-steel miter detent plate of 12-inch miter saw blade comes with 14 positive stops
- The mitre saw features the precise miter system and machined base fence support
- Tall sliding fence of DEWALT miter saw supports 5-1/2-inch base vertically
- Bevels 0 degree - 48degree to the left and 0 degree- 3degree to the right. Tool height-15 inch
- 2-inch x 8-inch dimensional lumber cross cut capacity at 90 degree and 2-inch x 6-inch dimensional lumber at 45 degree
Another compound, 15-amp, single bevel saw. The most immediately noticeable difference between this and the Dewalt is the difference in blade sizes.
As you might imagine, this means that the Hitachi has slightly less range in the wood that it can cut, but that does help account, in part, for the lower price.
The single bevel has the same range of motion as the Dewalt, but the Hitachi offers a great range of angles on the miter, improving the flexibility of your cuts.
If you’re looking for a portable tool, this might be the perfect option for you, weighing at a tiny 24.2 lbs. It’s a powerful saw with relatively no-frills and represents one of the cheaper options on the menu, here.
The thumb indexing for preset stops is highly intuitive, too, so finding a good cutting angle and keeping it is far from difficult.
- Light, easy to use, and quick
- High-quality, thin blade
- Great value, looks and feels like a more expensive product
- Easy-to-use stops for repeated cuts
- Wrenches attached, making for easier blade replacement.
- 0-52 degree miter angle range to the right & left for increased flexibility
- 0-45 degree bevel range to the left to provide clean and accurate bevel cuts.Thumb actuated positive stops for quick miter adjustments
- 24.2 lbs to facilitate maneuverability and easier transport.Dust collector attachment included to minimize airborne particle
- 15 Amp motor delivers high power for the toughest cutting jobs.Large table for better material support with vice clamping system to secure work piece
- Miter ranges – left 52, right 52
With a 12-inch blade, a very similar range of motion, and a powerful 15-amp motor, the SKIL is even closer to the Dewalt but offers one powerful advantage that explains the slight hike in the average price.
This quick-mount saw comes with a laser cutting guide that allows you to make sure your blade is going exactly what it wants. A fantastic feature for new users and old-hands alike, you can use it in conjunction with the nine quick stops to make sure that accuracy and repeatable cuts are no issue.
The hardened bevel stops allow for a similar range of control over a single bevel blade. At 45 lbs, it’s relative in size and weight to the Dewalt, but doesn’t have quite the capacity for boards as thick as that one offers.
That said, the laser might be a deciding factor for those looking for unmistakable precision that can lower your risk of errors significantly.
- Powerful blade with several easy stops for a range of cuts
- Smooth bevel cuts thanks to presets
- Laser guide allows for highly accurate aim
- Angle markings are precise, no margin of error here
- Big blade allows for a more versatile tool
- Laser cutline guide for fast and accurate cuts
- 9 positive stops for setting common miter angles
- Powerful 15 amp motor with 4,500 RPM
- Table extension with left/right extension rails for long, large work pieces
- Quick-mount system for quick and easy setup on SKIL miter saw stand (3302-02)
Another powerful 15-amp single bevel blade, the Makita comes in around the same price range as both the Dewalt and the SKIL. However, it contains a smaller blade which might urge you to ask where the extra cost is coming in.
As a single bevel machine of 27.3 lbs, it seems more in line with the cheaper Hitachi, but the truth is that this is a highly resilient and well-made machine.
You might be limited in the woods you can work with, and the single-bevel and miter presets allow for around the same range of motion as the SKIL.
The machined aluminum base, slide rails, and carbine tip blade are made to the highest standards, however, making it one of the longest lived-machines on the list and the powerful blade ensures a smooth cutting speed regardless of load.
That said, the other saws mentioned after far from flimsy, so it’s all about deciding whether you’re willing to make that trade-off. It’s a simple, reliable tool for those who know they don’t need a 12-inch blade and want a no-bells-or-whistles approach to their saw.
- High-quality, long-lasting
- Cuts 4x4s in a single pass
- Super lightweight and portable
- Straightforward design with reliable presets
- Lacks some of the functions contained in the other saws
- Powerful 15 AMP direct drive motor for improved performance; 4,600 RPM
- Dual post compound pivoting arm
- Miter cuts 0°-45° left and 0°-52° right
- Positive miter stops at 9 settings: 15°, 22.5°, 30°, 45°, right or left and 0° (90° cuts)
- Bevel cuts up to 45° to the left
Part of the CRAFTSMAN V20 cordless system, the CMCS714MI V20 20V 7-1/4” Sliding Miter Saw is powered by a powerful motor running at 3,800 RPM designed for cutting 2x dimensional lumber, hardwoods, baseboard, and trim with ease.
The sliding 7-1/4” blade allows for a cross-cut capacity of up to 8 in, while the 9 Miter detents and single bevel blade allow for angled cross-cuts at 45 degrees and 90 degrees at 5.5”.
It has the capacity to cut 3-5/8” nested crown and 3-1/2” baseboard vertically. The cordless lightweight design weighs just 21.8 lbs. Coupled with the side carry handles make this unit an extremely portable compact miter.
The LED light eliminates shadows and provides an accurate and easy-cut line to follow. For your protection and peace of mind, the CRAFTSMAN CMCS714MI V20 20V 7-1/4” Sliding Miter Saw comes with a 3-year limited warranty.
- Great value for money
- Highly portable
- Safe and easy to use thanks to its well-designed features
- Works with any miter saw stand
- Up to 585 cuts in 3-1/4” MDF base molding on one full charge of the 4.0 Ah battery
- POWERFUL MOTOR: 3,800 RPM motor of CRAFTSMAN miter saw is made for cutting 2X dimensional lumber, hardwoods, baseboard and trim with ease
- SLIDE CAPABILITIES: The mitre saw has 8-inch cross cut at 90-degree and 5-1/2-inch cross cut at 45 degree
- ADDED CAPACITY: The sliding miter saw cuts 3-5/8-inch nested crowns and 3-1/2-inch baseboards vertically
- ACCURACY AND VISIBILITY: LED cut line positioning system
- QUICK AND ACCRUATE: 9 casted miter detent stops for adjustments
Budget Miter Saws – The Basics
We understand that not everyone looking to purchase a miter saw is completely familiar with their use and all the terminology around them.
You may have some knowledge but not be an expert. You may be a complete beginner who wants to learn about miter saws because you are thinking about buying one for the first time.
So we’ve compiled a list of some of the terms and words you’ll see in this and other articles, to help you understand better and clear up any confusion you may have about miter saws. Then the task of choosing the best budget miter saw will be much easier.
A Miter cut is an angled cut across the widest face of a length of wood (or other material).
If a length of wood is 4 inches wide by 1 inch deep, a miter cut would be cutting across the 4-inch face at an angle.
Normally miter cuts are made on two pieces of wood which are then joined together to form an angled join between the two pieces. This is called a miter joint or simply a miter.
Most commonly this consists of cutting each piece of wood at a 45-degree angle and joining them to form a 90-degree joint.
Common examples would be picture frames and casing around a doorway.
A bevel cut is an angled cut across the narrowest face of a length of wood. So on our same length of wood, 4 inches wide by 2 inches deep, the bevel cut would cut the 2-inch side at an angle.
Common uses are on baseboards and crown moldings around walls and ceilings.
A cross cut is a simple straight 90-degree cut across the wood. Though designed to be able to make miter cuts, miter saws can still make cross cuts. After all, 90-degrees is an angle too.
A miter saw is, in effect, a regular circular saw attached to a moveable arm that is itself attached to a steady base or table. This arm is called a swing arm, or blade arm. As its name suggests, it swings or pivots up and down, bringing the saw down onto the wood to make the cut.
In the base of the miter saw, is the table or turntable. This is the clever part that allows you to cut angles. This table rotates on a horizontal plane, or vertical axis, depending on which you understand better. In less technical terms, like a merry-go-round.
Because the swing arm and saw are attached to this table, as the table rotates so does the saw. This table rotates separately from the part of the base that holds the wood still, thus creating an angle for the angled cuts.
The fence is a vertical attachment on the fixed base part of the miter saw. The wood for cutting is pushed up against the fence to make sure it is in the correct position, and properly aligned, and doesn’t move for accurate cuts.
Various accessories are available to attach to the fence.
A stop block is used to align the wood lengthwise which is particularly useful if making multiple cuts of the same length to save measuring every time.
A jig for cutting crown moldings holds the molding at the angle it would be attached to the wall/ceiling for easier cutting.
A miter gauge, or miter scale, has angle markings on the table so you can rotate the table to the desired angle to achieve the correct miter cut precisely.
Most miter saws, even inexpensive miter saws, can rotate in both directions from center. And they have different maximum miter angles in each direction which will be shown in their specifications.
For example, the Makita LS1040 10 inch compound miter saw in our list of the best budget miter saws cuts angles from 0° to 45° left and from 0° to 52° right.
Blade Size Matters
You may be wondering if the blade size matters that much. You may be getting a clue from this heading that, yes it does.
It basically determines the width of the wood the miter saw will cut. And a 10-inch blade won’t cut a 10-inch wide piece of wood.
Because the blade is connected to the motor at its center the blade can’t cut down into the wood using its full width.
On a 2 inch thick piece of wood, a 10-inch blade will only be able to cut around 6 inches width, and that’s when making a 90-degree cut. A 12-inch blade will manage approximately a 2 x 8 at the same 90-degree angle.
When it’s turned to cut at 45 degrees the width drops to around 4 inches for a 10-inch blade and 6 inches for a 12-inch blade on the 2-inch thickness. And the thicker the wood, the less width they will be able to cut.
So the size of the blade is very important.
However, there is one exception to being restricted by the blade. That is a…
Sliding Miter Saw
Sliding miter saws also have an additional mechanism, sliding rails, that allow the saw to move forwards and backwards as it cuts through the wood. This is so it can cut through wider pieces of wood.
A miter saw without a sliding mechanism only cuts by lowering the blade down into the wood so, as explained above, its cutting width is restricted by the size of the blade.
A sliding miter saw can cut through a wider piece of wood with the same blade size because of its ability to slide forwards and back.
The Craftsman CMCS714M1 in our budget miter saws list is a great value budget sliding miter saw.
Compound Miter Saws
A compound miter saw is a miter saw that can also make bevel cuts.
It achieves this by having an extra mechanism that allows the saw to tilt to the side, or leaning over. With the saw tilted to the side like this, when the saw blade is lowered it doesn’t come down perfectly vertically.
It comes down aligned with the angle it is set to, so the blade cuts through the wood at that offset vertical angle.
A compound miter saw has an extra gauge on the swing arm to set the desired bevel angle.
A compound miter saw is therefore able to make angled cuts on both horizontal and vertical planes, which are known as compound cuts.
The Skil 3821-01 12-inch compound miter saw, number 3 in our budget miter saw list, is a good compound miter saw.
If you look at the first picture of it in the review you can see it is a great illustration of a compound cut on a length of crown molding. The saw is nicely rotated at an angle for the miter cut, as well as leaned over for a bevel cut.
Dual Bevel or Single Bevel
A dual bevel or double bevel compound saw can tilt towards both left and right of vertical. So it can cut a bevel from top left to bottom right and from top right to bottom left.
A single bevel compound miter saw is one that only tilts to one side of vertical for bevel cutting. This makes it a bit more limited as you need to turn wood over for bevels in the other direction.
Positive stops are positions that stop the saw at common angles. As you rotate the table or lean the saw it clicks into place at these points.
Often there is a lock handle that you release to move the table or swing arm and it clicks back in at the positive stop points.
Positive stops make it much easier to quickly and precisely set the saw to cut at these common angles.
A detent plate is a disc with slots or detents in them at specific positions to create the positive stops.
Miter stops are just positive stops specifically for the miter cuts. You’ll see the Dewalt DW715 single bevel compound miter saw has a healthy 14 miter stops.
Bevel stops are, likewise, positive stops specifically for setting the bevel angles. Looking again at the Dewalt DW715 you’ll see it has bevel stops at 0 degrees, 33.9 degrees, and 45 degrees.
The stops at o and 45 degrees seem obvious but some may be wondering why 33.9 degrees. That is the perfect bevel angle for cutting crown moldings if laid flat, and combined with a 31.6 degrees miter angle. Hence why there is often also a miter stop at 31.6 degrees.
As previously explained at the start of this article, you can get a miter saw with laser guide to give you a visual line for precision cutting.
Lastly, we come into a bit of a muddied area, as is often the case when it comes to names, especially of tools. Some people will say a chop saw is the same as a miter saw. So you will often see miter saws being called chop saws.
However, some say that they are different because chop saws only cut at 90 degrees straight across the material. Whereas, as you know, a miter saw cuts various angles.
Some will say they are even more different because chop saws are not even for cutting wood, but they are for cutting metal, or harder materials like concrete.
Purists will also say another difference is that chop saws don’t even have a blade like miter saws do, they in fact have an abrasive disc instead of a circular blade for cutting.
The result for you in these muddied waters, or sawdust clouded workshops, is that sometimes you may see a miter saw called a chop saw.
As long as you are clear about what you need then you shouldn’t have a problem. And no need to smugly correct someone for their error – unless you really want to.
Hopefully, you should understand by now that choosing the right saw from the many miter saws on the market all depends on your needs.
Of course, the best miter saws come with all of the available features but as ours is a search for the best budget miter saws it would be hard to find that in this price bracket.
You may now understand what a ‘compound sliding miter saw with dual bevel and multiple miter stops’ is, but affording it is a different matter.
We have looked at a range of different single-bevel saws, and for a dual-bevel tool, you might need to look into a higher price range.
To find the best budget miter saw for you, compromises may need to be made, and to prioritize what matters most to you. More than anything do you need a cordless miter saw or a portable miter saw?
Then the best budget miter saw for you would be the Craftsman CMCS714M1 cordless miter.
Is price the priority and you want the most affordable miter saw? Even a basic miter saw can still be very useful.
If you want to cut with a 12-inch saw for a more versatile range, however, we can recommend SKIL Compound Miter Saw with Laser. It offers almost everything the Dewalt does but with added accuracy and it’s only a tiny bit more costly.
If you are still trying to decide whether or not you need a compound miter saw, check out this YouTube video from SKIL demonstrating how they work and what you can do with them:
For the largest woodworking projects, you may need an even bigger saw such as a band saw. No matter which saw you use, always be sure to use the proper safety precautions.