Mitre Saw vs Compound Mitre Saw (Differences & Comparison)
Miter saws are some of the best saws for making angled cuts. But there are many kinds of miter saws, and two kinds that often get compared are regular miter saws and compound miter saws.
So which should you own and what are the differences between them?
Below, I take a look at miter saws vs. compound miter saws to see which saw is superior and when you should use each one. Let’s dig in!
In This Article:
Differences Between a Miter Saw and Compound Miter Saw
The key difference between a “regular” miter saw and a compound miter saw is this: A compound miter saw can make beveled cuts whereas a regular miter saw can’t.
But there are different kinds of regular miter saws and different kinds of compound miter saws, and one must take this into account when comparing regular miter saws with compound miter saws. Specifically, there are:
Fixed miter saws (otherwise known as chop saws)
- Sliding miter saws
- Fixed compound miter saws
- Sliding compound miter saws
- Dual compound miter saws
But to keep things simple, I’ll compare the most basic regular miter saws with the most basic compound miter saws throughout the following sections, though we do reference the capabilities the variations on these saws possess.
Comparing regular miter saws with compound miter saws in terms of types of cuts possible, price, usability, portability, and maintenance is smart if your goal is to figure out which saw is best for a particular project.
Check out this miter saw vs table saw comparison to find out which is best for your project!
Types of Cuts
A regular miter saw specializes in making cross cuts, specifically plunge and angled cross cuts. Most miter saws have a locking mechanism that allows for precise angled cuts.
A compound miter saw can make plunge and angled cross cuts too, but it can also make bevel cuts because it tilts to one side. And if you have a dual compound miter saw, you can tilt the saw either way to make bevel cuts quicker and easier.
You should refrain from cutting against the grain with either miter saw—these kinds of cuts are executed best by table saws.
Both regular sliding miter saws and sliding compound miter saws can make longer cross cuts—about 12 to 13 inches—because their blades slide out on rails.
And when it comes to bevel cuts, if you’re using a compound miter saw that can only tilt one way, you’ll have to adjust the wood numerous times to get the angled cut you want, which is more demanding and difficult than using a saw that can tilt either way. There’s minimal wood adjusting with a dual compound miter saw.
The price of a regular miter saw can range from a couple hundred dollars to over $1,000. Compound miter saws are similarly priced, though they’re generally more expensive than regular miter saws, in large part because they have additional capabilities.
Taking price into account before you purchase a regular or compound miter saw is important. After all, if you’re not going to be utilizing the additional capabilities a compound miter saw offers, it’s much more cost-effective to choose a regular miter saw.
You could pick up a secondhand regular or compound miter saw for under $150 at a local hardware store or online. On the other hand, most brand new models that are sold at big-box hardware stores are priced between $200 and $600.
Both saws can handle a range of tasks, but the compound miter saw is more versatile. And as far as usability is concerned, both saws are easy to operate once you’re familiar. That said, using a compound miter saw definitely takes more skill, especially if you’re using the bevel feature.
The good thing, however, is that modern miter saws make use of numerous locking systems, and these ensure precise cuts. And operating the arm on either saw is simple and doesn’t require a lot of strength; the arm moves up and down steadily, whether the blade is spinning or not.
In either case, it’ll take some time to get used to the tool, but once you’re familiar you can make both simple and complex cuts quickly and easily.
When it comes to portability, regular miter saws and compound miter saws are about equal. These saws are stationary, and once you set one down it’s likely you won’t have cause to move it, unless you find a better spot or you have to take it somewhere.
If your regular or compound miter saw is small and compact, it probably can be packed up quickly and moved to a different location with little hassle.
Because of its complexity and the cuts it’s often used to deliver, a compound miter saw usually requires more maintenance than a regular miter saw.
Specifically, to maintain either saw you want to:
- Make sure the blade is sharp and greased; you also want to make sure the parts of the saw that move are greased.
- Check the locking mechanisms to see if they’re sturdy.
- Make sure the blade guards are attached properly.
- Check the electric brakes to make sure they’re functional.
- Clean out the dust extractor.
- Make sure the sliding fences are functional.
If you don’t perform maintenance regularly, your saw’s lifespan may be reduced significantly, and its cutting quality will also suffer.
The good news is both saws are easy to maintain—it’s just that one (the compound miter saw) requires a little bit more maintenance than the other.
What is a Miter Saw?
A miter saw is a kind of saw that woodworkers often use to make angled cross cuts. The saw’s blade is mounted on a swing arm that can move from right to left, and its ability to hold materials at an angle is what allows it to make precise angled cuts.
Miter saws are used exclusively for cross-cutting; cutting against woodgrain with one of these saws is likely to yield an unsatisfactory result.
A regular miter saw doesn’t make bevel cuts, and that’s because it doesn’t tilt.
Miter saws that have a limited extension range are referred to as chop saws, whereas those that slide on rails are referred to as sliding miter saws. A sliding miter saw has a larger, usually 12 to 13 inches, cross-cut capacity; that is, it can extend out further and therefor make longer cuts.
Check out this video comparing miter saws!
When Is a Miter Saw Used?
Since miter saws are great at making precise angled cuts, they’re often used to make trim, flooring, furniture, or mechanisms. Usually, miter saws are used to cut wood, but certain blades can cut through non ferrous metals. Miter saws can also cut through plastic.
Regular and compound miter saws can both make angled cuts well, so either can be used for the tasks listed above. But if you want to deliver a more complex cut or bevels, going with the compound miter saw is the right move.
What is a Compound Miter Saw?
A compound miter saw looks like a regular miter saw; the only difference is that the arm of a compound miter saw can be tilted.
If the system is a basic compound miter saw, it’s going to tilt one way; if it’s a dual compound miter saw, it can tilt to the left and to the right. The compound miter saw’s ability to tilt is what allows it to make precise bevel cuts.
The compound miter saw is for the most part operated like a regular miter saw, but some additional mechanisms are employed when you make bevel cuts, so you need to be aware of these to ensure a precise bevel cut.
Like a regular miter saw, the compound miter saw is only good for cross cutting.
When it comes to versatility, the compound miter saw outshines the regular miter saw, especially if we’re talking about the dual compound miter saw.
Because of its versatility, the dual compound miter saw delivers a range of cuts quickly and easily. Plus, you don’t have to run the risk of messing up your material from switching it around constantly, as the dual compound miter saw has ultimate flexibility.
Here’s a video explaining more about compound miter saws!
Consumers ask many questions when they compare regular miter saws with compound miter saws. Some of the frequently asked questions are answered below.
What is a compound miter saw used for?
A compound miter saw is mainly used to make bevel cuts. This kind of cut is necessary if your goal is to round wood edges. Generally speaking, rounded edges are more durable than sharp edges. While a compound miter saw is great at doing bevel cuts, it’s not the only saw that can make these.
Can you rip with a compound miter saw?
Yes, you can do rip cuts with a compound miter saw, but these saws aren’t designed to make rip cuts. Instead, compound miter saws are mainly used for cross-cutting. If all you have is a miter saw when you need to make rip cuts, it’s best to refrain from making these cuts against the woodgrain, as the result from doing so is often an imprecise cut.
Do I really need a compound miter saw?
A compound miter saw is only worth having if you make bevel cuts often. If you don’t make these cuts often, you can use a regular miter saw. If you need a compound miter saw, it’s best to use a dual compound miter saw, as this saw tilts both left and right, which means it’s able to deliver precise cuts quicker and with minimal hassle.
Final Thoughts on Mitre Saws vs Compound Mitre Saws
After analyzing miter saws vs. compound miter saws in depth, it’s clear that both saws can deliver a range of cuts, including angled and plunge cuts. But the compound miter saw can make bevel cuts, whereas the regular miter saw can’t. So does this one difference give the compound model the edge?
Well, the saws are similarly priced, they’re both easy to use, and they can make angled cuts a lot quicker and more precisely than other saws. In the end, I think the compound miter saw is the better choice considering they cost around the same price.