What is a Miter Saw and What is it Used For?

If you are planning to get into woodworking, you need to own a few basic tools. One of these essential tools is a saw that you can use to cut wooden planks and boards. These boards can measure up to eight feet, so you’ll need a versatile saw to cut them into smaller pieces. A miter saw is designed for this task and makes the job easier for professionals as well as DYIers. 

Miter saws are popular with DIYers of all skill levels. They are also a staple in a carpenter’s workshop. 

What is a Miter Saw? 

miter saw in a home construction site 

A miter saw is a circular blade hinge mounted over the cutting surface. When powered up, the blade rotates at a fast speed and you can swing it down onto the material that you want to cut. Since the hinge is fixed, the blade always comes down in a controlled motion to create clean and consistent cuts. 

It is a stationary piece of equipment that you can place on your worktable and feed the wood to it. The set up works well for cutting flat ends, but with its ability to rotate, the power saw can easily create miter cuts, bevel cuts, cross cuts, and compound cuts. It is also great for cutting longer boards, thanks to its large cutting capacity. 

Miter saws are available in different sizes. The most popular sizes include 165mm, 190mm, 230mm and 260mm. The blade diameter is what determines their cutting capacity. The bigger the blade, the more material it can handle. You can also choose between corded and cordless models with corded models usually being more powerful, while the cordless models offer better portability.

Types of Miter Saw

Man cutting wood into small pieces using a miter saw

There are different types of miter saws currently available in the market, including sliding, compound, single, and dual-bevel. Let’s look at the various types of miter saws to understand what makes them different from one another. 

1. Fixed Miter Saw

The fixed model is a miter saw in its most basic form. It features a table that can rotate from left to right but the blade drops straight down. You cannot change the cutting angle from 90°.  The rotating miter table lets you adjust the angle of the cross-cut you’re making. 

This type of miter saw is also referred to as chop saw. It can handle various materials such as wood and metal. 

2. Compound Miter Saw 

Compound miter saws are also known as single bevel miter saws. Unlike the fixed variation, the blade in a compound miter saw can swing or rotate in one direction. This means you don’t have to turn the table or the material itself to create appropriate miter cuts.

In addition to mitering ability, this type of miter saw can also make bevel cuts. This saw is a good choice when you are working on crown molding or any other trim that installs on a wall. 

3. Dual Compound Miter Saw 

Dual bevel or dual compound miter saws are similar to single bevel ones in design and functionality. However, the blade in these saws can rotate and swing in both directions.

They create miter cuts when you rotate the saw blade around its base and make bevel cuts when you swing it in either direction. The miter base in these saws is often equipped with a scale that tells you the angle you are adjusting the blade at. It saves you a lot of time and effort that you would otherwise spend in switching the direction of the material. 

4. Sliding Miter Saw 

The blade moves forward in a sliding miter saw. It incorporates rails into its design that let the saw blade slide front to back across the cutting material. 

With this type of saw you gain valuable inches to the cutting width. It allows the blade to slide out so you can use it to cut wider trims. A sliding miter saw gives you more control over the depth of the cuts you are making. Plus, it also gives you a much greater depth of cut than the same size non-sliding miter saw. 

5. Compound Sliding Miter Saw 

A compound sliding miter saw combines the goodness of sliding rails and blade rotation in one power tool. The rails in this type of miter saw improve its cross cut capacity, while the blade rotation enables it to create compound or bevel cuts. 

These miter saws tend to be the heaviest and the most expensive. However, their versatility makes them a top choice amongst both hobbyist and professional woodworkers. 

What is A Miter Saw Used For? 

worker using a miter saw to cut a metal rod

The basic purpose of a miter saw is to create angled cuts. Sure, you can also make these cuts with a hand saw or circular saw, but they will also make the task more complicated. A miter saw is a simple and easy way to create accurate and consistent angle cuts. 

There are four types of cuts that any decent miter saw can perform. What cut you want depends upon the nature of the project you are working on. 

In any case, you will need a stable surface to use your miter saw on. It can be a regular but stable table or a proper workbench. If you haven’t got either, you can use it on the ground too, but need to be very careful when doing any cutting job. It is important that a miter saw remains stable at all times. 

Once you have your miter saw securely placed, you can use it to create any of the four types of cuts. These include cross cut, miter cut, bevel cut, and compound cut. Let’s enumerate uses of these cuts in more detail. 

  • Cross Cuts

Cross cuts are cuts that you create across and against the grain of the board. The length of the cuts a miter saw can make are dictated by its diameter. For cross cuts, a miter saw is the tool that’ll deliver with minimum effort. 

  • Miter Cuts 

Cross cuts are straight. But if you create them at an angle, usually at 45°, the cut is called miter cut. Miter saws are named so because these cuts are their specialty. 

Miter cuts are useful for numerous projects, including installation of trim, baseboard, and crown molding. You’ll also find a miter saw useful when making frames for doors or windows, picture frames, and boxes. 

  • Bevel Cuts

If an angled cut is made relative to the edge of the board, it is called a bevel cut. These cuts are difficult to make by hand, yet are necessary to get the project right. A miter saw makes it easier to create accurate bevel cuts in projects that involve installing weather stripping or making geometric shapes. 

  • Compound Cuts

A compound cut is the most complicated cut to create. It combines both miter and bevel cuts. When making a compound cut, you cut the board at an angle across the grain and also at an angle relative to its edge. It is an intimidating cut, but is often necessary for accurate trim installation. 


A miter saw is a useful tool for anyone who wants to cut angles in a material. Where other tools may make you frustrated when trying to get these cuts right, a miter saw will help you make them quickly and effortlessly. The end result will look a lot more sophisticated than doing the same thing with other tools or manually.