Comparing Compound And Sliding Miter Saws: What are the differences?

sliding vs compound miter sawsWhen you are standing at your local hardware store looking at miter saws, you probably have several questions that you want to be answered before you purchase one.

You probably know that you want a saw that can make both bevel cuts and miter cuts, which means you need a compound saw.

However, there are still so many options that it can be overwhelming.

Do you want a compound miter saw or a sliding miter saw?

What is the difference between a compound and sliding mitre saw?

Luckily, you have found this miter saw buyers guide that will explain the differences between the saws and what to look for when shopping for a miter saw. You will learn how sliding miter saws differ from compound miter saws and which saw is best for different types of jobs. Let’s take the plunge and begin our journey towards understanding the differences between a compound miter saw and a sliding miter saw.

The Pros and Cons of Compound Miter Saws

festool kapex ks 120d

The Festool Kapex KS 120 is one of the best compound miter saws on the market.

Compound miter saws are also known as bench miter saws. These saws have the ability to do more than just cut simple miter angles. They feature a pivoting arm that allows you to tip the blade so you can do a bevel cut.

These saws are considered a compound saw because they are able to cut two different angles- the miter cut and the bevel cut at the same time. The Dewalt DW716 is a great example of this type of saw. Read my review on this saw for more information and details.

One of the best advantages to this type of saw is a greater cutting arc as compared to a sliding compound saw. This is because you are not limited by the sliding rails found on a sliding miter saw. If you will be cutting corner joint moldings, this can become an issue. For these types of cuts, you will be better of with a compound miter saw as the sliding rails will not get in the way.

A miter saw is limited by the width of the material. For example, a 10-inch miter saw can only cut materials up to 6 inches wide. Most people who do woodworking projects will not find this limitation a problem because they rarely need to cut wider materials that this. The miter saw is great at cutting all types of molding, including crown molding. Cutting molding with a miter saw is much simpler than a regular miter saw. A standard miter saw can be used to cut narrow trim as well as wider boards, so long as the board is no wider than 6 inches. For wider pieces, you may have to make two cuts.

The Pros and Cons of Sliding Miter Saws

-saw-12-inch best miter saw for the homeowner diyThe main difference between a sliding compound miter saw and a compound miter saw is the rail or rails on the sliding saw. These rails allow you to slide the saw back and forward as you cut. The saw can do everything that a compound miter saw can do. It just allows you to cut wider materials. This can be especially beneficial if you are working on a project that features wider boards.

The Bosch GCM12SD is a sliding miter saw that has a 12-inch blade (learn more about Bosch miter saws here). This saw allows you to cut materials that are up to 16 inches thick. This makes cutting thick materials like fence post much easier. A good compound miter saw would be unable to handle this type of work. Sliding saws are often used for cutting wider logs, lumber and boards.

Compound as well as sliding miter saws feature single or double bevel models. Single bevel saws allow you to make a bevel cut in one direction only- either left or right. To make matching bevel cuts, you will need to flip your wood over and make the cut again. Dual bevel miter saws allow you to make compound bevel cuts in both directions without flipping the wood over. Instead, you simply pivot the arm which flips the saw. This feature ensures that both cuts are accurate. It also saves you time, which is great when you are in a hurry.

Final thoughts when deciding on a compound or sliding miter saw

You now know the differences between compound miter saw and sliding compound miter saws. Compound miter saws are great for smaller projects and projects that require long materials. Sliding compound miter saws are the preferred miter saw for larger projects with wider materials. Sliding compound miter saws allow you a greater cutting capacity; however, they are more expensive than compound compound miter saws.

Most woodworking specialists that deal with thicker materials on a regular basis opt for the sliding compound miter saw. If you will not be cutting wider boards or will only need a miter saw occasionally, save your money and opt for a compound compound miter saw. Most of the time, this saw will give you all of the cutting power you need at a more affordable price.

No matter which saw you choose, make sure to read reviews and find out the best saw in the category that you decide to go with. And more importantly, make sure you know how to use a miter saw safely. You can find my reviews of both compound compound miter saws and sliding compound miter saws on this site. Use this information to understand the warranties of each brand and the advantages and disadvantage of each miter saw (including why you should choose a 10 inch over a 12 inch, and vice versa). No matter which type of saw you choose, you will be able to complete both miter and bevel cuts.