What Size Miter Saw Do I Need?

Does size matter?  It’s a question often asked, and in woodworking, size does matter when it comes to your power tools.  In particular, when it comes to miter saws, it’s the blade size that is the first consideration.

The right tool for the right job is one of our mottos at Obsessed Woodworking, as you know.  In choosing a miter saw for your shop, the first consideration is the need:  what kind of projects will you be pursuing?  As Goldilocks learned, you want to make sure the miter saw you choose will be a good size for those projects: 

  • Too small, and the job doesn’t go well, like having to flip material or making more than one cut.
  • Too large, and the cut capacity is wasted, along with some of the money you spent.
  • Just right, and the job goes well, no cut capacity is wasted, no money spent poorly.

So, let’s look at the options.

Types of Miter Saws

We’ve written in the past about miter saws, including this piece on single and dual bevel miter saws.  We like miter saws here at Obsessed Woodworking and think every woodworking hobbyist should have one in their shop.

There are 3 main types of miter saws to choose from:  standard, compound, and sliding.  Each has its own qualities and strengths and brings something worthwhile to your shop.

Standard.  A standard miter saw rotates to the side, allowing you to cut at your desired angle from top down.  This makes it easy to cut corner pieces accurately – door frames, window frames, picture frames, for instance.  The standard miter saw is sometimes referred to as a chop saw – – the cutting motion is down and through the workpiece, thus similar to “chopping” through.

Compound.  A compound miter saw also bevels (tilts).  This allows you to cut at angles both horizontally and vertically, something that comes in handy when cutting crown molding, for instance.

Compound saws come in single and double bevel models.  Each works well, but with the dual bevel models, the workpiece does not need to be flipped.  This makes cutting easier, more convenient, and less involved.

Sliding.  A sliding miter saw does just that – the blade can be drawn toward you through the workpiece, not simply down through it.  This extends the cutting width, allowing you to cut wider lumber.

Is a Sliding Miter Saw Better?

Is a Sliding Miter Saw Better

It depends on what projects you will likely be working on, as well as the size of your shop.  Each plays a part in your choice.

Sliding miter saws allow you to make those wider cuts, but it does not increase the cutting depth.  Their compact size, though, fits well in shops with limited space that otherwise could not accommodate a larger saw.  The sliding depth, how far forward the blade can be drawn, determines the total width of the material you can cut.

If space is at a premium but you need the ability to cut wider materials, a sliding miter saw is a good choice.  The blade size you choose will determine the depth of the cuts you will be able to make.  So, type (standard, compound, sliding) and blade size are related, and the best choice will then be determined by the projects you will tackle.

Miter Saw Blade Sizes

Freud 12" x 80T Thin Kerf Fine Finish Crosscut Blade (LU88R012)

Within these three types of miter saws, there are different blade sizes, too.  Blade size refers to a blade’s diameter.  The 3 most common sizes are 8-inch, 10-inch, and 12-inch, although there are some monster 15-inch blades for those who need the power and cutting capacity.

In addition to the blade’s diameter to consider, there is also the tooth count.  The lower the tooth count, the coarser the cut will be, cutting a 2 x 4 or 1 x 6 deck lumber, for instance, where the cut does not need to be fine.  The higher the tooth count, the finer the cut, something you would want for interior trim like baseboard, crown molding, window and door frames, picture frames, etc. 

Miter Saw Motors

Most miter saws are corded.  While a standard miter saw (sometimes called a chop saw, although a true chop saw blade is sealed to protect it from heat generated by cutting metals) might be a job site power tool, that job site most likely has a power source to plug in to.  Even trim work in new construction takes place in a house that already has a power supply to plug into, so corded saws are common. 

There are cordless miter saws, though, too.  They will likely be more costly – yes, you pay for the convenience – but they often come with neat features like brushless direct drive motors and automatic speed controls.  Again, though, you pay for the innovation.

Miter saws come with 10-, 12-, or 15-amp motors.  If your projects will include the making of wide crosscuts or your materials will be hardwoods, you will want to consider a more powerful motor.  If your projects will use your miter saw to cut thinner trim or composite materials, a less powerful motor will suit you well.  Again, there is a cost difference, and you’ll pay more for a more powerful motor model.

All of the major power tool manufacturers offer all three types of miter saws – standard, compound, and sliding.  They also offer different size models: 8-inch, 10-inch, and 12-inch, and all of them offer different motor sizes, too.  These manufacturers include  DEWALT, Milwaukee, and Festool.  Hitachi even offers a 15-inch miter saw, a beast that comes with a 15-amp motor.

Miter Saw Tables

Miter Saw Tables

While you don’t necessarily need a miter saw table for your work, they do come in handy.  You can use your miter saw on any table or flat surface and even build your own workstation for your miter saw. 

A standard countertop is 36 inches, and if you’re comfortable in your kitchen with a 36-inch countertop, that’s a good height for your miter saw.  You will want to be able to reach the saw handle, and line up the miter saw blade with the cut line you’ve marked without having to bend over or reach up.

Miter saw stands are commercially available at any of the big DIY stores.  They are made for the purpose, often have wheels on one side of the stand for easy moving, and are both retractable, foldable, and adjustable for height.

If you want to really spend up, you can purchase a miter saw bench.  But, if you are a creative and ambitious woodworker, you can also make your own.  Here are a couple of videos to show you how: 

stationary model

mobile model

Each of them is pretty cool, and the videos are worth watching, as they look like fun projects.  All you need for them is a miter saw (joke intended) and the usual project accompaniments of a drill, measuring tape, marking pencil, and such.

Best Miter Saw Size For Particular Tasks

We’ve already mentioned the right tool for the right job rule early in this piece.  But, now that we’ve discussed miter saws a bit, you can see that miter saw decisions have several components to them:  the type of saw, the size of the blade, the power of the motor, and the blade’s tooth count.

There is no single general rule to guide you in your miter saw choice.  It depends.  To illustrate this point, we’ll mention a couple of projects, and the right miter saw considerations for them.

Can The Miter Saw Cut a 4 x 4?

If you are going to be working with 4 x 4 stock, the choice of miter saw is important.  While you can cut a 4 x 4 with a 10” miter saw (blade diameter), you will either have to adjust the blade guard (not recommended – it’s a guard, for your safety, and you shouldn’t mess with safety) or make two cuts by flipping the stock.

For a few cuts of 4 x 4 stock, the minor inconvenience of making two cuts by flipping the stock is nothing.  Your 10” miter saw will be up to the task, as will you, as long as you line the blade accurately.  Maybe it’s for planting in the ground to hang a bird feeder from in your garden or simply for guide posts.  The 10” saw will serve you well.

A 12” miter saw (blade diameter), though, can make that cut at 90 degrees in a single pass.  If you are going to be cutting a lot of 4 x 4  stock in your projects or your work, perhaps the 12” size is a better choice. 

Your budget and your likely projects will determine which to choose.  But the short answer to the question is that yes, a miter saw can cut a 4 x 4, whether it’s a 10” or a 12” saw.

Can a Miter Saw Cut a 6 x 6?

The answer to this question is basically the same as the answer to the 4 x 4 question.  A 10” miter saw can cut a 6 x 6 at 90-degrees, but not in a single pass.   The piece will need to be rotated several times to cut from multiple sides in order to cut through a 6 x 6 completely.  A sliding miter saw is the recommended type for this cutting to ensure each cut is lined up properly on the piece.

A 12” miter saw can cut your 6 x 6 at 90-degrees, also, but again not in a single pass.  The same process of rotating the piece several times to cut from multiple sites will be necessary.  Again, a sliding miter saw is the type to use so that you can line up each of the multiple cuts properly for a straight cut.

Here’s a video to show you what we mean about cutting a 6 x 6  with your miter saw.  It’s short and to the point.

Can You Cut 5 ¼ Baseboard With Your Miter Saw

Tall baseboard material presents a unique problem when cutting for corner pieces because the miter saw motor can hit the top of the baseboard as the blade is drawn down to cut, or at least on one of the cuts.  Let us explain.

As we have explained earlier, a compound miter saw can make bevel cuts.  This tilts the blade to the desired angle.  This becomes important for the second corner baseboard cuts and makes a compound miter saw the saw of choice for tall baseboard.

On the first cut for the corner pieces, you are making a 45-degree angle cut on one end of the workpiece, and the baseboard piece is upright.  The motor does not interfere with the cut. 

But for the second cut, another 45-degree cut but at the opposite angle, the motor will hit the tall baseboard and prevent the cut.  The compound miter saw can make bevel cuts, though, and this is how the second cut will be made.  This is so because the workpiece can be laid flat, and a 45-degree bevel cut on it will match with the first workpiece to complete the 90-degree angle of the corner.

Here’s a video that demonstrates this process.

Although the workpiece is only a 3 ½” colonial baseboard, the principal is the same as it would be for a 5 ¼” piece. 

Is a 10” Miter Saw Big Enough?

For the woodworking hobbyist and the home DIY woodworker, a 10” miter saw is likely going to serve all of your needs.  If your projects are simple framing jobs (doors, windows, picture frames, boxes, and such), you will likely be working with smaller stock for which a 10” saw is well suited.

If your projects will stretch to include baseboard or crown molding, you’ll want to choose a compound miter saw.  If your budget will stretch enough, make it a dual bevel compound saw. 

And if you will occasionally be working with larger stock and need a wider cutting capability, and the budget allows, spend up for a sliding saw.

A 10” miter saw of any type will turn its blade faster than a 12” saw, and make a cleaner cut.  A 10” saw will cost less, be lighter, and more easily moved when necessary.  They are intended to be portable, after all. 

How Much Does A Miter Saw Cost?

On SaleBestsellers
Metabo HPT 10-Inch Compound Miter Saw | 0-52 Degrees Miter Cutting Range (Left/Right) | 0-45 Degrees Bevel Cutting Range (Left) | C10FCGS
  • MOTOR: 15 Amp motor delivers high power for the toughest of cuts generating a no-load speed of up to...
  • LIGHTWEIGHT: Only 24.2 lbs. to facilitate maneuverability and portability
  • MITER ANGLE RANGE: 0-52 degrees, to the right and left for increased flexibility
  • BEVEL RANGE: 0-45 degrees, to the left with adjustable bevel stops for precision cuts
On SaleBestsellers
DEWALT 12-Inch Miter Saw, 15-Amp, Single Bevel, Compound (DWS715),Black
  • 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
On SaleBestsellers
DEWALT Miter Saw, 12 Inch, 15 Amp, 3,800 RPM, Double Bevel Capacity, With Sliding Compound, Corded (DWS780)
  • Integrated CUTLINE Blade Positioning System provides adjustment free cut line indication for better...
  • XPS technology uses an LED to project light down either side of the blade, creating a shadow on the...
  • Super-efficient dust collection system of DEWALT miter saw captures over 75% of dust generated
  • Tall sliding fences support crown molding up to 7-1/2-inch nested and base molding up to 6-3/4-inch...
On SaleBestsellers
Skil 10" Dual Bevel Sliding Compound Miter Saw - MS6305-00
  • POWERFUL 15 AMP MOTOR - Delivers 4,800 RPM for quick, detailed cuts
  • DUAL BEVEL – Perform cuts in four positive stop positions at 48° & 45° left, 0°, and 45° right
  • LED SHADOW LINE - Provides high precision cuts with greater accuracy than lasers
  • 2x12 CUTTING CAPACITY – Cross cuts lumber up to 2x12 at 90 degrees, and 2x8 lumber at 45 degrees
RYOBI 7-1/4 in. Miter Saw 9 AMP. Light Weight With Blade
  • Powerful 9 Amp motor boasts 5,100 RPM for heavy duty cutting
  • Up to 2 in. X 4 in. cutting capacities and 4-1/4 in. cross cut capacity
  • Miter stops located at the most common angles: 0°, 15°, 22.5°, and 45° left and right for quick...
  • Extended miter range from 47° left and right for a wide variety of cuts

A standard miter saw will start at around $100; a sliding miter saw will start at around $150, and a compound dual bevel miter saw will start at around $200.  Higher level (for the pros) miter saws with lots of bells and whistles can run upwards of $800. 

Brand, as well as sourcing (the large DIY stores, for example), come into play with miter saw prices, too.  Single bevel vs. dual bevel will impact the cost, as well.

If you have decided to purchase a miter saw, shop wisely.  Look for sales, check warranties, and read user reviews.  Don’t be afraid to ask sales associates questions about a saw’s capabilities; we’ve given you a lot of information about the different types of miter saws, their sizes, and what each is well-suited for. 

On a final note, here’s a video for the miter saw beginner, a Miter Saw 101 Basics.

We think, though, that once you have a miter saw in your woodworking shop, you’ll wonder how you ever got by without it. 

Last update on 2023-09-28 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API

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