Guide written by:
Alice, Furniture Maker, Manchester
Got some skirting boards, door frames or trim to cut? A mitre saw is the perfect tool for the job. Whether you go for a hand saw or powered model, these saws can be used for a range of angled cuts. Looking for more? A sliding mitre saw features a sliding mechanism for increased cutting width. Read on for our top tips!
- Hand mitre saw
- Power mitre saw
- Power rating
- Sliding mitre saw
Choosing the right mitre saw for your job
Your choice of mitre saw will essentially be based on the following:
- the kind of material you want to cut;
- the size of the wood you want to cut;
- how often you plan to use the tool.
Cutting trim and other small workpieces
If you only plan on occasionally cutting edge, door or quadrant trim, a hand mitre saw will do. The size of the saw will depend on the largest piece of wood you plan to cut. A manual mitre saw will be able to handle the following jobs:
- finishing work around the home (door frame, skirting boards, etc.)
- making wooden frames for displaying sketches or paintings;
- making crosscuts and mitre cuts for the occasional DIY task.
Laying solid wood parquet and regular woodwork
Go for a powered mitre saw if you find yourself doing regular carpentry jobs or you plan to make a lot of cross and mitre cuts for jobs such as:
- laying solid wood parquet flooring;
- building a treehouse or garden shed;
- installing a gate or shutters.
Choose an electric mitre saw with a cutting height that can handle the biggest timber you plan to work with. If you only have the occasional project to do (such as laying parquet flooring in one room), go for a low-end mitre saw. A cheaper electric mitre saw will get the job done while saving you time and providing clean cuts. If you plan to use your mitre saw regularly, go for a recognised brand. When it comes to picking a power rating, bear in mind that the higher the rating, the greater the depth of cut and height.
Laying flooring and cutting large timber
Choose a sliding mitre saw if you plan to do any of the following:
- cutting large timber;
- cutting wide boards;
- cutting parquet flooring or decking boards.
The cutting height and depth offered by these models will make your job easier. If you plan on using this type of saw on a regular basis, it's best to choose a model fitted with a dust extractor, variable speed dial and laser guide.
What is a mitre cut?
A mitre cut is an angled cut made at the end of a piece of wood to form a corner (or mitre joint) with another piece. Mitre joints are usually made using fairly narrow timber to create finishing pieces such as trim, skirting boards, moulding, and so on.
A true mitre cut is made at a 45° angle to form a 90° corner with another piece but it is possible to cut any angle ranging from 0 to 90° (to create a pyramid shape, for example).Mitre cuts can be used to assemble two pieces face to face or to finish off one piece of wood at a certain angle.
Different types of hand mitre saw
Hand mitre saws come in two forms: mitre boxes (which usually offer three types of cut) and precision mitre saws (which offer a wider selection of cuts).
The saw itself is flat and rectangular in shape and is similar in shape to a tenon saw. These saws feature a fine-tooth blade that create clean and precise cuts. A mitre box can be made of wood, metal or plastic. Rectangular with a U-shaped profile, these boxes feature grooves that are used to hold and guide your saw blade at preset angles (which are usually limited to 90° and 45°).Simply place your timber into the box, choose your cutting angle, hold the piece steady and saw back and forth until you get a mitre cut! The only downside of this system is that mitre boxes offer a limited cutting width.
Precision mitre saw
This type of saw is mounted on a board secured to a movable guide frame on a metal base. The guide frame ensures your saw moves back and forth with precision, while the metal base allows for a range of graduated mitre cuts. A lever under the table is used to adjust the frame and a clamp is used to keep the workpiece steady. You can choose from a range of cutting angles; 15, 22.5, 30, 36, 45, 90° are generally standard.These saws also feature fine tooth blades for clean, precise cutting. Some saws are equipped with additional clamps on the base board to fix the saw to a workbench.Cutting height varies between models so you'll have to make your choice based on the types of workpieces you have to cut. The width of the base will impact both user comfort and cutting precision so the bigger the better.
Hand mitre saws
Hand mitre saw vs. power mitre saw
Electric mitre saw
An electric mitre saw consists of a base table and a motor which is used to drive a blade; the motor and the blade make up the saw itself. Similar in appearance to a handheld circular saw, these saws feature a swingarm which is used to come down on timber to make cross and mitre cuts.
Powered mitre saws allow you cut thicker workpieces in larger quantities without effort and with greater precision.
Hand mitre saws
Hand mitre saws are easy to handle. Designed to make cuts at 45° and 90°, these saws are ideal for small jobs but must be used with care.Before cutting anything, you will have to take precise measurements and position your workpieces carefully.
Features of an electric mitre saw
When choosing your electric mitre saw, you'll have to consider the type of wood you plan to cut. If you want to cut panelling or skirting board joints, a model with a relatively low power rating and cutting height model will suffice. For more demanding applications, pay attention to the following points.
The power rating of the motor generally ranges from 1400 to 2000 W. The rotation speed of the blade can vary between 3000 and 5000 rpm. Both of these characteristic impact the cutting capacity of the saw.
The blade should be chosen according to the type of material you plan to cut (e.g. PVC, wood, non-ferrous metals). The number of teeth usually ranges from 40 to 60 and this will affect the quality of the finish.
Saw tables are usually made of diecast aluminiumor steel and are fitted with adjustable angle stops. These stops are used to hold the workpiece firmly in the correct position. Additional clamps are sometimes supplied to provide extra grip.
The cutting height determines the size of pieces you can cut. This is a factor well worth considering if you plan to cut roof timbers!
The cutting width determines the maximum width of the wood you can cut. A basic mitre saw can handle a width of about140 mm while a sliding mitre saw will be able to cut up to 320 mm.
Benefits of a sliding mitre saw
A sliding mitre saw is equipped with a mechanism that allows the blade to move backwards and forwards to provide a greater cutting width. The table is equipped with a track that the saw slides along to complete the cut.
Some sliding mitre saws are mounted on a raised base designed to provide an increased cutting height.This type of saw can run on three-phase power if you are looking for a lot of cutting height. Of course, these saws also allow mitrecuts of different angles. A compound sliding mitre saws can also be used to create bevel cuts.
Additional options for your mitre saw
As with any tool, a range of additional features are available to help improve the functionality of your mitre saw:
- A laser guide to visualise your cut;
- A dust extractor system to link up to your on-site dust extraction system;
- Clamps for securing the saw base to a workbench;
- Stops and presses to grip and hold your workpieces to the table;
- Saw tables with extension wings for added stability when working with long timber;
- A trolley for portability;
- Slow start to avoid jolts;
- A variable speed drive for working with different materials;
- A depth stop to use your mitre saw like a router;
- Precise adjustments for mitre and bevel cuts.
Guide written by:
Alice, Furniture Maker, Manchester, 10 guides
I have been handy since my childhood, I have always been fond of new tools and other small practical machines. Beyond my interest in tools and materials, I am interested in building of all types. My professional experience as an artisan craftsman (ok the word says ‘man’, but it can work for me too.), allows me to with a material and that’s both noble and common at the same time: wood. Surrounded by carpenters and other builders, I am constantly interacting with professional and amateur wood workers, but also various kinds of manufacturing. I am also an amateur gardener, I like to cultivate my vegetable garden. You could say that summer ends under the sign of ratatouille. So, with two passions, I hope to answer your questions.