We explain the differences between a compound mitre saw vs sliding mitre saw. If you are considering buying a mitre saw, then it's really important to know the differences, between the two distinct types. These are usually referred to as a compound mitre saw (standard mitre saw) and a sliding mitre saw.

The key difference between a compound mitre saw and a sliding mitre saw is simply the width of cut that the mitre saw is capable of doing. Sliding mitre saws have an extension arm and the blade can move along this arm, allowing wider pieces of wood to be cut.

To make the differences easier to understand, it is better to look at them from a cutting perspective. They can make the following types of cut:

  1. Straight 90 degree cuts also known as cross cuts. These are usually made perpendicular to the grain of the wood or length of material. Most people will use a normal hand saw for this purpose but you can also use a chop saw or a mitre saw with the normal 90 degree setting. Power tools simply take the effort out of manual sawing and will always be more accurate
  2. Mitre cuts - any angle up to 50 degrees with the most popular angle being 45 degrees used in picture framing, window and door frames. A mitre joint is very neat looking though not all that strong.
  3. Bevel cuts - rarely used, other than by carpenters and joiners and is a slanted surface. You normally see this type of cut along the edge of a table to prevent sharp corners. It is classed as a decorative type of joint that is also very strong and will last a long time
  4. Compound cut - this is a combination of a mitre and a bevel and where mitre saws get their name from. These are used when doing crown moulding. They can also be used for a variety of other purposes. It is most commonly used in roofing work, and a good way to describe it is to think of times when two pieces of wood have to meet, but at different angles. There are jigs available that help make this a great deal easier.

These cuts are explained below in a short video.

Both a compound and a sliding mitre saw can make a basic cross cut, mitre cut, bevel or compound cut.

Key differences between a compound mitre saw and a sliding mitre saw

Compound Mitre Saw Features

compound saw cutting width vs sliding mitre saw
  • Average width of cut 100-120 mm (4-5") and varies by brand
  • Mitre cuts and bevel cuts will be shorter
  • Lighter so easier to move around
  • Takes up less space
  • Average price £65-£100

Sliding Compound Mitre Saw Features

compound mitre saw vs sliding mitre saw
  • Average width of cut 210-300 mm (8-12") and varies by brand
  • Mitre cuts and bevel cuts will be larger
  • Heavier so more difficult to move around
  • Takes up more space
  • Average price £150-£700
  1. We mentioned earlier that the key difference between a compound mitre saw and a sliding mitre saw is simply the width of cut that the mitre saw is capable of doing. The width is the really important thing to understand. It impacts on all types of cuts. For example let's assume you wanted to cut a board that is 150mm wide (6") wide? A sliding compound saw will do this easily. With a compound mitre saw, you would need to make an initial cut, and then turn the board around and try to line up the second cut. That can get fiddly and hard to do with accuracy.
  2. The other key difference is the price points. A standard compound mitre saw costs on average around £65- £150 whereas a sliding compound saw cost on average £150-700. Prices vary a lot between brands with saws from Dewalt and Makita being expensive, Bosch at the mid-range of prices and brands like Evolution at the lower end of the price points.
  3. It is also worth mention the size, weight and portability. Compound saws are considerably lighter and easier to move around. If you are working on decking, fencing, floorboards etc a compound saw will do the job really well and they are also easier to use.

TOP TIP

For the vast majority of home owners, a standard compound saw is the better choice. You will be able to so most jobs with this, they are lighter, easier to move around, easier to use and a lot cheaper.

For professionals and those working in the trade the better choice is a sliding compound mitre saw, as that will be able to do almost every job. A good circular saw will take care of anything that your mitre saw can't.

Mitre Saw Cross Cut Comparison

Saw Type

Cutting Width Capability

Compound Mitre Saw

Can cut widths up to 100-120mm (4-5") and includes floorboards, decking boards, most skirting boards, all timber up to 4-5", conduit, trunking, pipes etc

Sliding Mitre Saw

Can cut widths up to 210-300mm (8-12") and includes floorboards, decking boards, all timber up to 8-12", sheets and boards up to 8-12", conduit, trunking, pipes etc

Reduced Width on Mitre Cuts

The above information in the table is for straight cross cuts. However on mitre cuts, the cut you will be making is a diagonal cut. For example imagine you are making a mitre cut on a board with a width of 190mm. The mitre cut would be 269mm. A compound saw would not be able to do that. A sliding compound saw would be able to do that.

The main reason for buying a mitre saw is to be able to make these types of mitre cuts. If that is your main intention, then really worth checking if the mitre saw you decide to buy, can cater for the width of the mitre cut that you need to achieve.

Single Bevel vs Dual Bevel

Bevels are also referred to as left swing (single bevel), or left and right swing (dual bevel). This simply means that with the single bevel, the arm of the saw will swing to the left only. With the dual or double bevel, the saw blade can swing to the left and also to the right. If you think you are going to make that type of bevel joint, then just make sure that your saw has that as a feature.

The bottom line is that unless you need to use bevels, then you will not need a saw that tilts to the left or the right. If on the other hand you plan on doing a lot of work with wood, then it is probably a good idea to have this extra feature.

Having this extra feature will make the saw more expensive, but then you get a lot more value in terms of the type of joints that you can make, and be able to do more complex projects. 

You can get both single bevel and double bevel compound mitre saws and sliding compound mitre saws, so no real difference in the type of cut, but there is a difference in the width of cut that you can do. The sliding compound mitre saw allows you to do wider cuts.

Summary

It's really all about the width of material that your saw will be able to cut, when making the various cross, mite or bevel cuts. People working in the trades want a saw that can achieve cuts of all types, and will be prepared to invest in a sliding mitre saw that can achieve that.

The smaller and lighter compound saws still have their place though. They are ideal when working on smaller timber and do that really well.

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