Compound and Sliding Mitre Saw Reviews: Which is the Best Mitre Saw in the UK?
Workers in the building trade often need to make frequent or repetitive angled and / or beveled crosscuts such as those involved in the construction of baseboards or door frames. A number of different power saw types can be used to do this sort of work but one of the best suited is the mitre saw (or miter saw if you are of North American persuasion). A mitre saw is a table top machine with a semi-fixed cutting head that can be lowered on to the workpiece to make a cut. Since the cutting head on a mitre saw can only move primarily in one axis (up and down), this makes for crosscuts that are very accurate, and produce sawn surfaces that are truly flat and perpendicular to the length of the workpiece.
In addition to cross-cutting, the mitre saw, as its name suggests, can also be rotated in the horizontal plane and fixed to a specific angle in order to make diagonal or mitred cuts. Mitre saws also usually have the ability to have their cutting heads tilted to one or both sides in order to make bevelled cuts also. As a result of this ability to be set at a range of different angles in different rotational axes, this makes cutting specifications on mitre saws quite complicated and comparing different machines in order to choose the best one for one’s needs can be more challenging than with other types of power saws.
In this review of mitre saws, we first look at the different aspects of the mitre saw in order to determine what to look for when buying one, before going on to examine what mitre saws are readily on offer in the UK.
What to look for when buying a Mitre Saw
As with most power tools, looking at the different technical specifications of different mitre saws is critical to deciding on the best mitre saw for one’s situation. Below we outline some of the key technical characteristics to look at when buying a mitre saw.
Compound or Sliding
Mitre saws come in a few of different variations but can be generally categorised into being either a compound mitre saw or a sliding mitre saw. Compound mitre saws are simpler and cheaper machines than their sliding counterparts but they have a more limited cross-cutting capacity. Sliding mitre saws have heads that can slide forwards increasing the maximum width of wood that they are able to cut. Deciding on which type of mitre saw to go for at the start of one’s search can help to significantly narrow down the field of options to choose from. In general, if one can afford the higher cost, it is usually best to opt for a sliding mitre saw instead of a compound one since it will almost always be a more capable machine, able to tackle wider workpieces. However, for some DIYer’s needs, especially for those who know exactly what they intend to use the saw for, having an excessively more capable sliding mitre saw as opposed to a more limited and economical compound one might represent overkill for some, with the extra money saved being better used elsewhere.
Blade Diameter and Bore Diameter
In addition to the distinction between the sliding and compound variations, mitre saws also come in a number of different sizes with larger sizes increasing the maximum cutting capacities of the machines. Larger machines will use larger diameter blades which will give them a greater maximum depth of cut. This means that increasingly thick workpieces can be cut on increasingly large machines, so having a good idea of the maximum thickness of wood that one is likely to encounter will be important in choosing the right-sized mitre saw for the job.
Different mitre saws also have different central spindle bore diameters on which the blade fits and while there is no best size for the bore, choosing a machine that has one of the more common diameters is usually the best way to go in order to have the maximum amount of choice when purchasing replacement as well as other types of mitre saw blades.
Another factor to take into consideration are the other saw types in one’s workshop, in particular any table saws or circular saws that one already owns, which can also aid in the decision as to which mitre saw to buy. Choosing a mitre saw with the same blade size and bore hole diameter as these other saw types will often allow one to interchange blades between the different machines when needed.
Probably one of the most important specifications to look at when deciding on a mitre saw are the cutting metrics of the machines at the different angles at which they work. In general, there are four cutting capacity metrics provided with mitre saws:
1. Perpendicular cross-cutting
The first cutting metric of the machine to look at is its maximum cutting depth and maximum cutting width in the default non-angled (neither beveled nor mitred) cutting head orientation (i.e. straight down 90 degrees perpendicular to the workpiece). As alluded to earlier, this is usually dependent on the size of the machine and the diameter of its blade.
2. Bevel angles
Most, if not all, mitre saws can angle their blades by certain amounts to the left and right of the vertical to create a bevel in the wood or material being cut. When the blade is angled, it reduces the maximum depth at which it can cut through a workpiece so checking whether the maximum cutting depth of the blade when maximally angled fits one’s needs is also an important check to make before purchasing.
3. Mitre angles
The same applies for the other type of angled cut that the saws can perform, the mitre cut. Similar to bevelling, cutting at a non-zero mitre angle will reduce the maximum width of material that the mitre saw is capable of cutting through and once again, making sure that one’s future mitre saw is capable of cutting the maximum-sized workpiece that one is likely to work with when the saw is angled to the maximum mitre degree is yet another important consideration to make before taking the leap.
4. Simultaneous bevel and mitre angles
Finally, mitre saws can also cut at both a non-zero bevel angle and a non-zero mitre angle simultaneously which will further reduce the maximum cutting capacity of the saw, so checking that this metric also fits one’s needs is the final metric to pay attention to.
Power and Speed of rotation
Similar to table saws and circular saws, the power and speed of rotation of the blade on a mitre saw will also affect how well it cuts as well as what materials it will be able to tackle. If exclusively cutting wood, then one wants to go for the highest powered and highest speed mitre saw that is available as long as other characteristics and affordability fit one’s requirements. This is because with greater power on a mitre saw, the harder and larger the wood substrate it will be able to tackle, while the greater the speed of rotation will provide greater control while cutting. There is, however, one exception to this general rule and that is for mitre saws that have been specifically designed to cut other materials in addition to wood, which usually means metal and plastic. Lower rotational speeds are needed to cut metal and plastic properly and some mitre saw manufacturers may have intentionally kept rotational speeds lower on their saws such that they are not cutting at their very best in any one particular material but instead are capable of cutting well across a range of different materials.
Popular Mitre Saws in the UK
(If you are located in the US, then check out what the popular mitre saws are in the US here)
(W x D)
|Einhell TC-SM 2131|
|Bosch Professional GCM 8 SJL|
(W x D)
Mitre Saw Reviews
Evolution R210SMS+ Review
The Evolution R210SMS+ sliding mitre saw is an excellent choice for the DIYer, especially for someone who needs a capable mitre saw to work on a range of projects. However, it may come up a little short in the specifications department for a woodworking professional. This saw has a number of useful features including a multi-material cutting capability, a laser guide and a mitre cut that can be made either to the left or right of centre.
Evolution saws that make use of a circular blade, such as their table saws or hand-held circular saws, are renowned for their ability to cut a range of materials and not just timber. A characteristic that is also true of their mitre saws, which use lower motor speeds than most competitor machines. In the case of the R210SMS+, it runs at only 3750 RPM. This lower speed allows the R210SMS+ saw to cut a wide range of materials, including wood, plastic, metal, brick, stone, tile, and concrete. However, some of these materials may need a special diamond blade, though the motor on the Evolution saw can handle the work.
The Evolution R210SMS+ mitre saw requires some assembly out of the box, which can be a bit of a challenge for most purchasers of the tool. The task is made difficult, mostly due to the assembly pictures in the accompanying operating manual being unnecessarily small. One workaround for this is to download the digital copy of the assembly instructions and then digitally zoom into the individual images as needed. If enough time is taken to make sure all of the components of the saw are aligned and square, one will generally be able to get excellent, accurate cuts, with the alignment on the machine not needing to be rechecked for a while. The laser guide on the saw can also take some time to set up out of the box, but once again if done carefully, it too can prove to be very useful with the saw cutting precisely for many projects to come.
Specifications-wise, the mitre on the Evolution saw can be set to a maximum angle of 50 degrees, which can be more useful than the usual 45 degrees found on a lot of other equivalent competitors. Like most other mitre saws, the Evolution machine can mitre on both sides of the centreline, which can come in handy when cutting a lot of corners with opposite angles. So, rather than having to flip a board, just adjust and cut. When the saw blade is cutting in its default straight up and down, or perpendicular-to-the-work-surface, position, the saw can cut up to a reasonably good 65mm of depth. It can also cut up to 230mm in width with its sliding action, which is probably sufficient for most DIYers, but notably smaller than most other competitor machines at its level. The machine has a single maximum bevel angle of 45 degrees, and at this fully-bevelled orientation, it can cut up to a maximum depth of 38mm, while at a 45 degrees mitre, it can cut up to a maximum of 150mm wide. The blade diameter that comes with the saw is 210mm with a bore size of 25.4mm. These blade size specifications are standard for mitre saw blades, making alternative blades for the Evolution mitre saw easier to get hold of.
Notably, this particular Evolution mitre saw is the ‘Plus’ model meaning that it comes with a number of extras. This includes a carry handle on the saw for convenient relocation of the power tool, and a set of quick-release clamps for keeping the workpiece in place on the cutting area. There is also a dust collection bag on the back of the saw, which is standard on most of today’s mitre saws, as well as a vacuum attachment adaptor. The saw also comes with a 3m power cord, which can save the need for an extension cord. All of these Plus model features are mostly there to provide added convenience to the end-user but are not absolutely essential. The Evolution power tools company also make a mitre saw stand that is compatible with the R210SMS+, which can significantly aid in the cutting of a broader range of workpiece sizes.
On the more negative side, there is very relatively little to complain about with the Evolution R210SMS+ mitre saw. The dust-collection bag on the saw does have some issues with actually catching the sawdust as it not particularly effective. This isn’t exactly uncommon with mitre saws, however, which is why vacuum coupling to the saw tends to be the preferred method for better dust containment and a cleaner work environment.
Overall, the Evolution R210SMS+ mitre saw is ready for a majority of DIY projects. With a powerful motor, a sliding arm, dual mitre cutting, and a carry handle, the Evolution machine is versatile in performance, just as it is in design.