Miter saws are commonly found in woodworking shops and are usually on the list of necessary power tools to outfit a new shop with from the start. Easy to use, quick to cut, they are essential if you will be making picture frames, trimming windows, and many other projects that require accurate 45-degree miter cuts.
Also called drop saws and even chop saws (actually a misnomer, since chop saws make 90-degree cuts only), they are used to make those quick cross cuts, or miter cuts, on wood. They are commonly used to cut wood trim and molding, picture frames, and other cuts that require a bevel, or angle, cut.
Single Bevel Miter Saw vs Dual Bevel Miter Saw
Miter saws make cuts at angles. But, there are different kinds of angles at play when using a miter saw.
It’s important to understand the difference between the cuts you can make with a miter saw:
- Miter cut. A cut made across the width of a board. It does not change the angle of the end of the board.
- Bevel cut. An angled cut made through the thickness of a board. This changes the angle of the end of the board.
A bevel cut, for instance, would be used on two pieces of board that would, when assembled, create a neat corner for baseboard molding. A miter cut would not – the joining of two pieces of material that had been miter cut would be an end to face joining at a right angle.
Now that we know the difference between the two cuts, let’s discuss a single-bevel vs double-bevel saw.
A single bevel miter saw has a saw head that rotates, or bevels, in only one direction. This is usually to the left.
A dual bevel miter saw has a head that rotates, or bevels, in both directions, left and right. Thus it can make bevel cuts (see above) in both directions. This feature is advantageous in that you can make identical bevel cuts without having to turn your material around, as you would need to do with a single bevel miter saw.
Bevels, or rotations, usually range between 0-degrees and 48-degrees. This feature allows for complex angles to be cut, a significant advantage in the types of finish carpentry work mentioned earlier – frames, window framing, molding cuts.
Single bevel miter saw advantages:
- Price – generally a couple hundred dollars less than a dual bevel miter saw
- Simple – simplicity of use is an advantage, especially if most of the cuts you will be making are 90-degree cuts
- Beginners – a good starter miter saw, with the versatility of a dual bevel miter saw with just a bit more effort
Single bevel miter saw disadvantages:
- Abilities – fewer than a dual bevel miter saw
- Uniformity of cut – having to make cuts separately by turning the material around could mean less uniformity of cut
- Time – materials must be turned for bevel cuts at both ends, increasing work time
Dual bevel miter saw advantages:
- Efficiency – no need to turn materials; only need to rotate the saw head
- Faster – again, no need to turn materials; simply rotate saw head
- More precise – rotate saw head and cut measured bevel identical to the first cut
Dual bevel miter saw disadvantages:
- Price – a few hundred dollars more than single bevel miter saws
- Complexity – perhaps not suitable for the beginner because of the expanded capabilities; an example would be the bevel cuts on crown molding, which may not be a beginner’s project.
As we have written often in other pieces, the projects you are likely to tackle, and your level of experience, will play a part in deciding which to purchase.
How To Use a Dual Bevel Miter Saw
Dual bevel miter saws allow you to make bevel cuts with precision and accuracy on both sides of your material. The job is made easier with a dual bevel miter saw because you can make quicker repetitive cuts on your workpieces. The efficiency of your work is improved by using a dual bevel miter saw.
After careful measurement and determination of the desired angle, most often 45-degree cuts, and depending on whether you are right-handed or left-handed, you’ll lay your piece on the track bed of the saw with the end to be cut aligned with the cut line. Then, you’ll rotate, or bevel, the saw head to the desired angle on either the right or left side of the cut line.
Find your measure mark, power on, and make your cut.
Move the board down the track bed, rotate the saw head to the other side at the desired angle, find your measure mark, power on, and make your cut. Done.
There is no need to flip the board, and this is important. While you can make your needed cuts with a single bevel miter saw, it will take more time and with a risk of less precise cuts.
Here’s a video we found that shows a dual bevel miter saw in action. You’ll see how bevel angles are measured and set and see in action the difference between using one as a single bevel and dual bevel manner.
Do I Need a Dual Bevel Miter Saw?
The short answer is no; you don’t “need” one. But, you’ve seen the advantages of having one in your woodworking shop, including ease, precision, and accuracy of cuts.
Yes, a dual bevel miter saw will be a few hundred dollars more than a single bevel miter saw, and you may be on a budget. A beginner woodworker hobbyist may not need the additional features, and advantages of a dual bevel miter saw at the beginning of their woodworking career.
But, if you are serious about woodworking and expect to grow in your hobby, taking on more complex projects over time, you’ll appreciate the facility of the dual bevel features to handle those complexities.
Prices for single bevel miter saws can range from $99 up to $225, depending on the brand and size of the saw blade. Prices for dual bevel miter saws can range from $250 up to more than $550, again depending on the brand and the saw blade size.
Equipping your woodworking shop with a dual bevel miter saw that you can grow into as your experience broadens and project complexity increases, even though it will cost you a few more dollars, is certainly an option worth considering.