Compound Miter Saw Features

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Blog entry by rance posted 05-27-2011 01:51 AM 1394 reads 0 times favorited 2 comments Add to Favorites Watch

A CMS purchase can be made based on one or more features: Accuracy/portability/cost/cut capacity/floor space(is it a wall hugger?), single vs. double bevel, and more. You most likely cannot get all these features on a single saw. You make sacrifices for the features ‘you think’ you want.

In General-
Many of these saws excel at one or two functions. The new Bosch saw’s “claim to fame” is that it is a wall hugger. The fact that it looks so sexy is just a byproduct. The DeWalt-maybe they claim to be more Rugged than the others. The Festool Kapex, they guarantee it will always be the higest priced saw. No, seriously, I believe they claim to have high accuracy. Actually, the Kapex appears to be a wall hugger too. By offering one feature, you often sacrifice another.

Take for instance the Sliding feature. You gain the width in cut, but you often loose rigidity(and accuracy) over time as the slider gets slidy-er(I just made up this word). And most likely you loose floor space by having to account for the slider not banging the wall.

I’d gander that MOST CMS owners rarely(if ever) make true compound cuts on their Cms. (ducking from the professionals on the list now) Like boat owners, many folks talk about compound cuts when they buy(or sell) a CMS but I’ve yet to see ANYONE actually set up their saw for a compound cut for an actual project. Folks I know have always used the cheater method of making compound cuts by propping the board(usually crown molding) up at the angle it will be installed and simply setting the lateral cut angle to 45-ish. I see nothing wrong with that. Now before you reply by telling me about how much you use yours for true compound cuts, understand that I’m talking about MOST folks here on this list. Yeah, generalizations are not often a good thing to be broadcasting. So why are most folks hesitant to set their saw for the infamous ‘Compound Cut’? I believe it is because it is difficult to get it spot-on accurate. Or maybe they just don’t understand it.

Why is this, you ask(yes, you asked)? Have you ever noticed the tiny protractor scale at the rear of most CMS’s used for compound cuts? Measure the distance from the pivot point to the actual scale. Maybe 2.5 – 3 inches if memory serves me well. Now go look at the nortiously accurate Kapex. Notice the difference? It is closer to 5-6 inches away. So? “Big deal” you say. Actually it IS a big deal. The Kapex boasts accuracy, and that 5-6 inches is one place it gets a lot of it. The further you move the scale from the pivot point, the better resolution you have in setting an angle. That’s why you can get such good accuracy when setting the lateral miter setting on MOST miter saws. That lateral miter scale on most CMS’s is often 8-10 inches from the pivot point. Add to that, the indents and the adjustability. Now there’s where I measure the worth of a CMS, how accurate are the indents, and how fast and easy is it to bang your saw around and get them out of whack(a technical term)? Going back to the compound setting… they offen suffer from the lack of those handy little precision indents that the lateral miter setting has up front. It is usually relegated to those cheesy screw stops that seem nortoriously inadequate.

Cut Capacity-
Well, you just can’t complain about cut capacity on a slider unit can ya. However, I often recommend a non-slider CMS if the person also has a RAS, or if they can’t see a real need for one. By real, I’m talking about making ACCURATE cuts on a wide board more than once a month. IMO, lopping off a rough cut plank does not justify the slider. I believe a lot of folks use the slider feature for something they could easilly accomplish with another tool they already have in the shop. Again, I’m making generalizations here.

Single vs. Double Bevel-
“So how lazy can someone be? Is it really that difficult to use the saw left-handed for a few cuts?”. Well, if I go back to my non-compound argument, then this one is a no-brainer. If you never cut true compound cuts, then this is nothing more than throwing money to the wind. If you actually DO make more than one compound cut in a month, then you STILL need to seriously consider if you really ‘need’ this feature, otherwise forget it.

Portability/Cost/Floor space-
These pretty much speak for themselves. It all depends on how much you value these features.

I’m not promoting one brand over another. I just wanted to point out my sometimes bizarre point of view. Hey, “Life is about tradeoffs”. Unless you are in Norm’s shop, then you often have to work within the boundaries of your limited tool set.

-- Backer boards, stop blocks, build oversized, and never buy a hand plane--

2 comments so far

View Todd A. Clippinger's profile

Todd A. Clippinger

8901 posts in 4128 days

#1 posted 05-27-2011 06:35 AM

Better Duck! I make compound miter cuts…but in many ways I am not “most folks” so you are accurate in your statement:)

-- Todd A. Clippinger, Montana,

View lilredweldingrod's profile


2496 posts in 3135 days

#2 posted 05-27-2011 07:58 AM

I agree Rance. I almost never us mine. In fact I just moved it to the storage shed and am going to sell it and the mobile base.

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