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View Dan Corbin's profile

Miter Saw -- a woodworker's friend?

by Dan Corbin
posted 07-01-2012 10:50 PM


28 replies so far

View Loren's profile

Loren

7809 posts in 2373 days


#1 posted 07-01-2012 11:00 PM

For cutting mouldings they are great, both quicker to set
up cuts on than a table saw and easier to visualize and
eyeball cuts on. For making furniture though, you can
totally get by without one. The fancy big ones are
really carpentry tools designed for jobsite use where
their messiness isn’t a problem and their weight/versatility
balance is useful.

An argument can be made however that the table
saw is not really a furniture making machine however
and the band saw, jointer and planer are really where
it’s at. A small, accurate table saw comes in handy
for joinery and in relation to that a miter saw is useful
for crosscutting the larger boards a smaller table saw
doesn’t handle easily.

-- http://lawoodworking.com

View Sawdust4Blood's profile

Sawdust4Blood

362 posts in 1746 days


#2 posted 07-01-2012 11:14 PM

As with all other tools it really depends on the kind of woodworking you do. For long moldings like trimming out the interior of a house, the miter saw is hard to beat. On the other hand, if you spend all your time making small jewelry boxes, you’d probably never want to use one in favor of a sled on the table saw. Mid to large size furniture projects are somewhere in between.

I had both but ended up selling the miter saw because a sled or precision gauge on the table saw was more accurate for the work I do. If I were a trim carpenter in the housing biz, I would have probably made the exact opposite choice

-- Greg, Severn MD

View AHuxley's profile

AHuxley

208 posts in 2046 days


#3 posted 07-01-2012 11:59 PM

I can’t imagine not having a CSMS or RAS at the front end of my shop. It is usually the first machine to touch most every piece of wood. First thing is to rough cut the boards to length then off to the milling triad (jointer, planer, TS). That all said one could easily cut to rough length with a circular saw and a speed square (or just freehand).

View Bobmedic's profile

Bobmedic

302 posts in 1527 days


#4 posted 07-02-2012 12:14 AM

They are two different tools with different applications. Some of those applications overlap. If you get a quality miter saw and tune it correctly they can produce very accurate cuts. Keep in mind if you plan on cross-cutting boards of significant length, the miter saw is best for that application. A miter saws accuracy is also determined by the operator. Sometimes people when cutting will introduce pressure one way or the other and the saw can deflect causing cuts to be off. Table saws and sleds take this deflection out of the equation because the sled is fixed in the miter slots and the blade doesn’t move. The same can be said of accuracy on the table saw too. A poorly made sled or a table saw that is set up improperly will be inaccurate as well. Quality sharp blades on either of them also play a huge role in accuracy. If you have to force the blade through the material or the material through the blade that is where deflection becomes an issue. Not to mention safety and cut quality. So to answer your question, hey are both useful tools and neither one of them cancels out the other. I have both and wouldn’t give up either one. As far as versatility I would say the table saw is much more versatile, especially fitted with the many shop made jigs available.

-- Save lives, ease suffering, reduce morbidity and mortality, stomp out pestilence and disease, postpone the inevitable, and fake compassion. The Paramedics Creed

View Dusty56's profile

Dusty56

11679 posts in 2413 days


#5 posted 07-02-2012 12:14 AM

CMS = COMPOUND MITER SAW , versus just a plain old “chop saw”
Big difference, and then again versus a table saw , I don’t think I would want to be setting up compound miters on the table saw very often , if at all. Different tool , different uses : )
I always rough cut my wood to length on my CMS because I don’t own a Radial Arm Saw , and don’t want to use a hand saw. The sled you’re asking about is a whole different animal and is used for precision work / smaller pieces.

-- I'm absolutely positive that I couldn't be more uncertain!

View Jim Finn's profile

Jim Finn

1733 posts in 1647 days


#6 posted 07-02-2012 12:19 AM

I use my compound sliding miter saw for all crosscuts and only rip on my table saw. I am making small crafty items.

-- In God We Trust

View MrUnix's profile

MrUnix

609 posts in 924 days


#7 posted 07-02-2012 12:29 AM

Like others have said, a CMS is hard to beat when you have lots of molding work to do. I bought mine for just that purpose many, many years ago (way before the sliding ones came out).. was putting down tile in a 3000sq.ft. house and had to redo all the base moldings. Lots of odd angles, sunken floors, etc.. just what a CMS was made for and 1000 times easier than if I had tried using a table saw or even a RAS. Since then, I’ve found dozens of other uses for it. They are quite versatile and a great addition to most shops.

Cheers,
Brad

-- Brad in FL - To be old and wise, you must first be young and stupid

View a1Jim's profile

a1Jim

112550 posts in 2302 days


#8 posted 07-02-2012 12:30 AM

I use my sliding miter all the time but unless you have a very high end miter saw the table saw with the jig you gave a link to (from woodsmith Magazine)is much more accurate than most miter saws at least for molding.

-- http://artisticwoodstudio.com Custom furniture

View Sawkerf's profile

Sawkerf

1730 posts in 1793 days


#9 posted 07-02-2012 12:43 AM

My SCMS is the second most used tool in my shop. Third most if I include the DC.

-- Adversity doesn't build character...................it reveals it.

View Beginningwoodworker's profile

Beginningwoodworker

13347 posts in 2398 days


#10 posted 07-02-2012 01:24 AM

I own a miter saw and RAS, and I wont get rid of nethier one!

-- CJIII Future cabinetmaker

View Dusty56's profile

Dusty56

11679 posts in 2413 days


#11 posted 07-02-2012 01:49 AM

”......unless you have a very high end miter saw the table saw with the jig you gave a link to (from woodsmith Magazine)is much more accurate than most miter saws at least for molding.”
How are you going to make a compound miter cut on a 12’ length of moulding on that table saw jig ???
That jig appears to be strictly for 45 degree cuts on short and narrow pieces of wood. Majority of mouldings cut on the CMS are at least 3 1/2” high , just for starters.
http://www.woodsmithshop.com/download/511/table-saw-miter-sled.pdf

-- I'm absolutely positive that I couldn't be more uncertain!

View Mainiac Matt 's profile

Mainiac Matt

4351 posts in 1053 days


#12 posted 07-02-2012 02:22 AM

If you ever frame a house…. Or trim a house…. A SCMS will be your best friend…

Set it up with an 80 tooth 10” blade, dial in and tightly lock in your 90 deg. Setting and with a sacrificial fence to back up you cuts…. You can make cuts so smooth they shine.

I love my TS ….. But I’m not putting anything 10’ long on it.

-- Pine is fine, but Oak's no joke!

View Mainiac Matt 's profile

Mainiac Matt

4351 posts in 1053 days


#13 posted 07-02-2012 02:23 AM

If you ever frame a house…. Or trim a house…. A SCMS will be your best friend…

Set it up with an 80 tooth 10” blade, dial in and tightly lock in your 90 deg. Setting and with a sacrificial fence to back up your cuts…. You can make cuts so smooth they shine.

I love my TS ….. But I’m not putting anything 10’ long on it.

-- Pine is fine, but Oak's no joke!

View MonteCristo's profile

MonteCristo

2098 posts in 913 days


#14 posted 07-02-2012 02:54 AM

I pretty much agree with Loren’s reply and would add that, if you can choke down the price, a tablesaw with an attached sliding table will blow the doors off any miter saw and is a significant step up from a sled. But don’t get a cheap add-on slider like that crappy one Delta (used to ?) sells. I had one of those and it was always out of adjustment.

-- Dwight - "Free legal advice available - contact Dewey, Cheetam & Howe""

View live4ever's profile

live4ever

983 posts in 1735 days


#15 posted 07-02-2012 07:01 AM

They serve different but overlapping purposes. For a long time, I didn’t have a SCMS. The TS with a good miter gauge and/or sled can handle most common woodworking crosscutting tasks. But it can be a pain to get the sled out when you need to make a quick crosscut to length on a 6’ or longer workpiece.

As others have pointed out, when it came time to do some trim work in my home and build a deck, there was no substitute for a chop saw.

As with all things in woodworking, there is usually more than one way to skin a cat. But some ways are more efficient, yield higher quality results, or are safer, for a given task.

-- Optimists are usually disappointed. Pessimists are either right or pleasantly surprised. I tend to be a disappointed pessimist.

View Rick's profile

Rick

7028 posts in 1758 days


#16 posted 07-02-2012 08:13 AM

All depends on what type of “Woodworking” you do. I’m a Hobby Guy. That doesn’t mean I never do Complex Moulding Cuts. In fact One Builder always wants want me to trim out his $$$$$$$’s Houses.

Maybe once or twicea year I’ll do it. My 10” Makita Dual Compound Mitre Saw (With Lazers, that I NEVER use) goes with me. It will do 12” cuts in 2” Material, 6-5/8” Crown, 5” Base. It’s only a $600 to $650 saw.

My Ridgid Contractor Table saw is Primarily used for Long Rips on Standard “Boards”, Cutting up Sheets of Plywood, and Dado Cuts. I’ve Never use it for Cutting Mouldings. Maybe for trimming down an 8” or 6” Base to a Lower height. GREAT saw for $350 Bucks.

I also agree with Dusty although I don’t make any “Fine Furniture”.

———————————————————————————————————————————————

”…...unless you have a very high end miter saw the table saw with the jig you gave a link to (from woodsmith Magazine)is much more accurate than most miter saws at least for molding.”
How are you going to make a compound miter cut on a 12’ length of moulding on that table saw jig ???
That jig appears to be strictly for 45 degree cuts on short and narrow pieces of wood. Majority of mouldings cut on the CMS are at least 3 1/2” high , just for starters.”

————————————————————————————————————————————————

-- LJ's "Be Nice" Policy. "Reach out and touch someone." NO! Not There!! ... ;-}

View ShipWreck's profile

ShipWreck

536 posts in 2477 days


#17 posted 07-02-2012 09:07 AM

A compound scms/cms are invaluable to any guy who makes a living with power tools. I could not imagine anyone trying to cut 12’ length of 4” molding or crown molding on a TS. A scms/cms is also far safer than TS regardless of what sled you might be using. I always have the Ridgid portable TS nearby when I am doing a house, but it used strictly for ripping and doing custom window casements. My CMS does about 95% of the grunt work. My next jobsite saw investment with be a 12” SCMS by either Dewalt/Bosch/Makita. You just cant beat a slider saw for what they can do.

View knotscott's profile

knotscott

5567 posts in 2100 days


#18 posted 07-02-2012 09:37 AM

I find my CMS useful for really long boards like molding. Otherwise, I find my TS to be more robust and inherently more accurate (and even easier since I don’t leave my CMS permanently setup). So my CMS is definitely more than “useless” but is not a primary tool in my shop.

-- Happiness is like wetting your pants...everyone can see it, but only you can feel the warmth....

View Craftsman on the lake's profile

Craftsman on the lake

2409 posts in 2162 days


#19 posted 07-02-2012 10:01 AM

I have an older delta/rockwell contractors saw It rips well. So, I complimented that with a Bosch 12” compound sliding miter saw. It crosscuts like a dream. My two tools lets me do the job and still get the last breaths out of my table saw. And the miter saw, for straight cuts up to 12” wide is very, very accurate and a pleasure to use. It is the most used power tool I have. It starts by rough cutting lumber of any length then on to the finish cuts.
Is a table saw really good for compound cuts? Say 21.3 degrees blade tilt along with a 47 degree angle cut? I don’t know. I don’t have a table saw that can do that.

-- The smell of wood, coffee in the cup, the wife let's me do my thing, the lake is peaceful.

View AHuxley's profile

AHuxley

208 posts in 2046 days


#20 posted 07-02-2012 10:18 AM

I don’t think there is much question that on-site work will often include a miter saw of some sort and is essential to those people.

I am curious about the shop workers. I always use my cut list to cut my stock to rough length before milling, not only does it make it easier to mill it save wood on twisted and bowed boards. For those that build furniture and don’t commonly use a miter saw do you cut your boards to rough length? Sometimes in my bubble I can’t see out.

View knotscott's profile

knotscott

5567 posts in 2100 days


#21 posted 07-02-2012 10:23 AM

”For those that build furniture and don’t commonly use a miter saw do you cut your boards to rough length?”

Yep….I usually cut rough sawn boards to rough dimensions (~ +1/4”) before the board hits the jointer and planer, then finish it on the TS.

-- Happiness is like wetting your pants...everyone can see it, but only you can feel the warmth....

View AHuxley's profile

AHuxley

208 posts in 2046 days


#22 posted 07-02-2012 11:40 AM

Scott, I forgot the salient phrase at the end of “do you cut you boards to rough length” it should have ended with “and if so, what do you use to cut them”.

View Maveric777's profile

Maveric777

2691 posts in 1801 days


#23 posted 07-02-2012 12:12 PM

Just me personally if I have to make an accurate (or even multiple accurate cuts) there is no doubt I am heading over to my super sled on the table saw over my miter saw any day of the week. As far as what I like to build it just isn’t safe or accurate enough for me. But, like mentioned before… It all depends on what type of woodwork you do.

-- Dan ~ Texarkana, Tx.

View Cato's profile

Cato

641 posts in 2037 days


#24 posted 07-02-2012 12:16 PM

I use both as well. For DIY stuff around the house I use my SCMS, and also for breaking down boards to length before milling on finer wwking projects.

Use the TS for ripping to size and then crosscut smaller stuff using the Osborne miter gauge on the TS.

View jmos's profile

jmos

681 posts in 1094 days


#25 posted 07-02-2012 12:31 PM

I don’t have a miter saw, and really don’t have space for one. I cut boards down with a hand held circular saw and a couple of saw benches. Might even switch to a plain hand saw once I pick up a decent rip saw. I trim to final length on the TS.

I do miters on the tablesaw and tune them up with a shooting board. I mostly do furniture.

Now, the Wife and I are talking about installing hardwood flooring in our second floor, and if we do that I’ll pick up at least a chop saw, just so I can move it around. If she starts talking molding (only a few rooms where the builder didn’t install it ) then I’ll get a CMS. Not sure I’ll ever use a slider.

-- John

View lumberjoe's profile

lumberjoe

2847 posts in 973 days


#26 posted 07-02-2012 12:42 PM

When I had a bench top table saw, I used my miter saw ALL the time. Now it barely gets used. I rough cut lumber on it when it fits. but because of it’s location, handling 10 to 12 footers is not that easy unless I am cutting them in half (and I’m usually not). I find most of the time now I am just going at it with a circular saw. Cross cuts are made on the table saw. Period. The only time I cannot do without my CMS is molding, especially crown molding

-- www.etsy.com/shop/KandJWoodCrafts

View Alexandre's profile

Alexandre

1417 posts in 916 days


#27 posted 07-02-2012 10:30 PM

Get both.
They both have advantages, and disadantages.

-- My terrible signature...

View CharlieM1958's profile

CharlieM1958

15714 posts in 2943 days


#28 posted 07-02-2012 10:47 PM

I have a non-sliding miter saw, and I have it well tuned. When I’m making small boxes, I find it much easier to cut the mitered sides on the miter saw than to try to do it with the table saw. Besides that, and cutting lumber to rough length, I use the table saw and a sled for most other cuts.

-- Charlie M. "Woodworking - patience = firewood"

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