Workers in the building trade often need to make frequent or repetitive straight, 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 as well. As a result of this ability of mitre saws to be set at a range of different angles in different rotational axes, makes cutting specifications on them quite complicated. Consequently, 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.
Corded or Cordless
As with many power tools, both corded, mains-powered, machines and cordless, battery-operated, versions of mitre saw are available. Each type has its advantages and disadvantages. For a more in-depth understanding of the pros and cons of each type of power system, check out our general comparison of Mains vs Battery power.
In the case of mitre saws, mains-powered devices are typically less expensive than their battery-based brethren and allow for unlimited cutting. On the other hand, battery-powered mitre saws tend to be more portable and eliminate the need to be close to an electrical socket to run the machine. However, cordless machines require a certain level of battery discipline to ensure that one has enough compatible batteries and that they are sufficiently charged to perform the work at hand. Fortunately, most cordless mitre saws belong to a company's power tool battery system, which is designed to allow one type of battery to be used across a range of different power tools. In this way, batteries that power other tool types of a particular brand can be used to power its cordless mitre saw as well.
Compound or Sliding
Mitre saws come in a few 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 spent 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. 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. This will ensure the maximum amount of choice when purchasing replacement blades 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 some 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 specification 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 or chamfer in the wood or material being cut. When the blade is angled in this way, 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. 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 CORDED 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)
(Width x Depth)
|Einhell TC-MS 216|
|Einhell TC-SM 2131|
(W x D)
Popular CORDLESS Mitre Saws in the UK
* Depends on the mitre saw variant.
** Weight includes battery pack(s). The use of different battery pack capacities changes the overall weight of the mitre saw.
†† Weight values are only approximate.
Mitre Saw Reviews
Evolution R210SMS+ Mitre Saw 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 if you are a woodworking professional. Even so, 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 through a range of materials and not just timber. This is 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 50º, which can be more useful than the usual 45º 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 65 mm of depth. It can also cut up to 230 mm 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 45º, and at this fully-bevelled orientation, it can cut up to a maximum depth of 38 mm, while at a 45º mitre, it can cut up to a maximum of 150 mm wide. The blade diameter that comes with the saw is 210 mm with a bore size of 25.4 mm. 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 relatively very 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.
Evolution R255SMS+ Mitre Saw Review
Evolution Power Tools sells three different sizes of mitre saws, each size category consisting of a small set of similar machines with modest variations between each model. We have already examined one of Evolution’s medium-sized mitre saws, the R210SMS+, and in this review, we are looking at their largest version, the R255SMS+, which can essentially be seen as the same type of machine as its smaller sibling but with a larger blade size. Like the R210SMS series, there are a few different variations of the R255SMS saw. These variations include machines with either a single or double bevel head as well as R255SMS mitre saws with extra parts making up part of Evolution’s ‘Plus Pack’ of optional accessories. The key differences between the R255SMS model variations are shown in the table below. In this review, we have focused on one of the more popular R255SMS variations, the R255SMS+, but many of the same characteristics apply across the series.
Key differences between the model variations of the R255SMS mitre saw
Feature-wise, the R255SMS+ has a more powerful 2000W motor and runs at a lower 2500 rpm to accommodate its larger blade size. Turning on the R255SMS+ reveals that the device has a soft-start feature while releasing the trigger reveals the presence of an integrated brake function within the machine. The soft-start and the electric brake together make the R255SMS+ comfortable to start up and fast to slow down. As with the majority of Evolution mitre saws, the power button is ergonomically positioned within the handle (see image) making it comfortable to use for both right and left-handed users. Along with a handle at the back, the front handle also serves as a carry handle when the machine needs to be moved. And with a weight of a reasonable 15.3 kg, the R255SMS+ mitre saw is light enough to be easily moved around the worksite although it remains a touch awkward to do so due to its overall bulkiness.
Cutting with the R255SMS+ is a pleasure to do, producing beautifully clean cuts and, like other Evolution saws, the machine and the blade are designed to cut a variety of materials. These include timber, metal and, with a separately-purchased diamond blade, even masonry. This multi-material cutting capability is the reason why Evolution saw blades rotate at slower speeds relative to competitor saws, allowing them to cut well in different materials where optimal cutting speeds are generally lower for metals and masonry. The 255 mm diameter blade has a non-standard bore size of 25.4mm, as well as 28 teeth and a 2mm kerf. It should be noted that, due to the unique multi-material cutting abilities of the Evolution saws and the speeds at which they rotate their blades, it is recommended to only use Evolution brand blades, and not those from other brands, in Evolution machines.
The cutting capacities on the R255SMS+ are generous with it capable of cutting timber up to 80 mm in depth in the default 0º blade orientation. Anything thicker, up to double the thickness, can still be tackled if the workpiece is flipped over and also cut on the reverse side. The saw can also cut up to 45 mm in thickness when the blade is bevelled at its maximum bevel angle of 45º. Notably, however, the R255SMS+ can only angle the blade in one direction unlike the R255SMS machine variations with a double bevel, namely the R255SMS-DB and R255SMS-DB+ models. Mitre cuts on the R255SMS+ can be performed both to the left and to the right of centre up to a maximum mitre angle of 50º. The machine also neatly incorporates mitre detents at 0º, 15º, 22.5º, 30º and 45º angles making the process of setting the mitre angle at these commonly used values easy to do. As for cross-cutting capacity, the sliding aspect of this Evolution mitre saw gives the machine a generous maximum cutting width of 300 mm in its default position and a 210 mm maximum width when the mitre angle is set to 45º, providing the R255SMS+ with more than enough capacity for most crosscutting jobs.
To aid with cutting accuracy, the R255SMS+ mitre saw also features a laser with its own independent power switch if ever it needs to be switched off. Unfortunately, however, the laser is one component of the saw that tends to let the machine down, with multiple users having reported problems with its functioning. Firstly, the laser on the Evolution power saw often arrives misaligned and, although the user can correct it, the adjustment process is far from user-friendly. Also, several reports have indicated that the laser can be either delivered altogether broken or fails relatively quickly after purchase. This failure should not be confused with the laser becoming obstructed by the accumulation of wood resin on it over time which can be easily resolved through the removal and cleaning of its plastic protective cap. The final deficiency with the laser is its relatively low brightness, making it essentially useless if the mitre saw is used outdoors or in a similarly bright environment.
Other accessories that come with the Evolution R255SMS+ mitre saw that make up part of the ‘Plus Pack’ of accessories include easy-to-use dual quick-release clamps that do a good job of holding the workpiece securely, as well as a dust collection bag. Unfortunately, however, when it comes to sawdust collection, the Evolution R255SMS+ once again falls a little short, with most of the sawdust preferring to find its way outside of the dust bag! The dust collection port which has an outer diameter of 42.5mm can alternatively be used for attachment to a vacuum system, but here too, dust collection does not succeed in keeping the work environment dust-free.
The mitre saw also comes with a 3m long power cable that can be neatly wrapped around two integrated hooks on the machine when putting the saw away or preparing it for transport. The cable also has its own cable clip that helps with securing it as well. For those of us with a dedicated mitre saw workspace, the R255SMS+ can also be bolted to the benchtop through the use of 4 bespoke holes, integrated into the base, which also serve to attach the machine to its bespoke mitre saw stand that can be purchased separately.
Overall, the Evolution R255SMS+ mitre saw is an excellent, very capable machine that has been well-designed and constructed out of good quality materials not dissimilar to the higher pedigree saws of other very well known power tool brands. In addition, the R255SMS+ comes at a fraction of the cost of these other premium mitre saws making it an exceptionally good value. Its generous cutting metrics and its ability to cut a range of materials also make it ideally suited for the DIY market, where a range of different cutting jobs are often encountered in the home. The R255SMS+ does have a couple of minor flaws, notably with its poor laser function and dust collection, but these are relatively minor issues that can be easily overlooked given the many positive aspects of the machine.