New Miter Saw

Our team is looking into purchasing a new miter saw. Does anyone have any suggestions for what we should buy? Also if you posted pros and cons of the one you have that would be much appreciated.

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We have a Dewalt 12" compound miter saw I believe. It’s pretty good, but there aren’t any good places to clamp to on it. We have used a carbide tipped wood blade to cut aluminum with it for the past 4 or so years. It is very loud, but it cuts very accurately (we can get within .005" if we want).

The most recent one I have used is similar to this one:

I really liked this one because it combines the miter saw with the concept of the radial arm saw which is really handy for cutting wood that is larger than 2x4’s. There is a smaller version of this saw available, which I have also used, however I prefered the larger one for what I was cutting. It is also useful when cutting sharper angles in 2x4’s as has the ability to make the longer cuts when cutting such an angle.


we have a DeWalt DW718 double bevel compound miter saw. Works great. We didn’t pay for it though (someone brought it in from home), and at around $800 it’s awfully expensive if you’ve got to actually pay for it.

I have a Hitachi that I got at Home Depot or Lowe’s that wasn’t all that expensive, maybe $160. It does a very nice job. Check the range of angle adjustments - not all are as flexible. If you are using one to chop aluminum, you might want to consider a bandsaw instead. The most bang for the buck is the $200. Homier bandsaw, if you can get it in a tent sale and not pay for shipping. It is much safer for chopping metal.

We had an incident in our team shop where a metal-cutting sawblade on a chopsaw shed a tooth or two. One carbide sawtooth nearly penetrated the goggles of the student, right at the center of one of his eyes. Fortunately, it did not, but it left a hole!

Not sure if you are taking about using the saw for aluminum or wood but, we bought one from home depot we cut 95% of our alumunum with it. We use a 60 or 80 tooth carbide tipped blade and it works like a champ. The saw leaves no burrs and is very accurate. Here is the saw we have 10" COMPOUND MITER SAW. We also have a horizontal band saw. Since we got the miter saw the bandsaw has not been used. You just have to be careful and make sure the material is clamped in well (like any metal cutting opperation).

I’m talking about chopping aluminum with a high-speed saw. Be very careful, and very wary. The least imperfection in the blade can cause a disaster. These are not the low speed “cold saws”. Do be very careful!

You’ll be fine with a 10" saw, in the end it’ll probably save you a good bit of money on blades (and 10" saws are usually cheaper) You may also want to factor in portability because you may find it nice to be light enough that you can take to competition just in case. Some teams like to have a small arsenal of machinery just in case something needs to be fixed. Generally you’ll see drill presses, vertical band saws, once in awhile a sander and miter saw if not a circular or reciprocating saw.

There are a few brands that you can look at especially since you want to cut metal, DeWalt, Hitachi, and my personal favorite, Makita. Some other makers you might want to look at, but I would be a little questionable about as I haven’t used them much are Bosch (Drill motors woot!), Porter Cable, and Rigid, as a word of advice, stay away from Craftsman, Black and Decker, and any other company you haven’t heard of before that makes power tools There are other companies out there that produce great working hand saws, but these companies (particularly Makita and DeWalt) build them to take a beating.

Good luck with your search, hope you have fun!

A lot of people say that, but I don’t know. I’ve never liked our Dewalt drill, and it wobbles and makes funny noises now, and I easily cooked a Makita grinder (and it didn’t seem all that powerful to begin with). I didn’t like the spindle lock on the one Dewalt grinder I used. Someone I know cooked a dewalt grinder. And the one Makita drill I’ve owned was just about the worst design imaginable. I think some of the more expensive tools have a made-up reputation to some extent. I’ve used Milwaukee tools a lot too (very expensive) and I didn’t like them any better than anything else. Their batteries didn’t seem so great either.

I whole heartedly agree. There is a picture floating around here from last year where my index finger had a run in with the saw blade. But it was my fault. I did not clamp the material right. As with any power tool you have to use caution especially when you are using the tool or something that its not made for.

I’ve liked DeWalt and Milwaukee tools I’ve used more than their cheaper counterparts. We’ve got an assortment of DeWalt drills (corded and cordless), jigsaws(corded and cordless), a cordless reciprocating saw, and a miter saw. They all work great and we haven’t had problems with any of them.

When we were constructing extra field elements for the field we setup for teams to practice on during build we bought a combo pack of Ryobi tools to supplement our own. While for the price they were pretty good (and 18V, vs our DeWalts which are mostly 14.4V) the drill is currently fried, the jigsaw is pretty mediocre, and the circular saws can barely rip a 1/2" sheet of plywood without stalling.

Again, considering that the entire package cost less than the price of the DeWalt cordless drill, they performed admirably, but you definitely get what you pay for. Our DeWalt tools will still be going strong 5 years from now whereas if we switched to Ryobi we’d be replacing half the tools every year or so.

I was just about to post a thread like this. We’ve always used our schools old and abused horizontal band saw to cut our aluminum. The school does have a 10" miter saw ( not a low speed chop saw). I was considering Using that to cut our aluminum this year. I was looking at blades for aluminum and there are so many types I’m kind off at a loss at which would be best for cutting 6061 angle and bar. Most blades have at least 80 teeth up to 120 and many different rakes and tooth designs. What have others used? I also found abrasive blades just for aluminum. Has any body tried the abrasive ones? I really doubt there is any accuracy left in the old band saw and would rather not put the time and effort in it to use it again.

Stay away from abrasive blades. They generally leave very nasty burrs. We just go to Home Depot and but what ever the cheapest 80+ carbide tooth blades is. I don’t see why you would need any special tooth offset or tooth angle.

As with most “what tool should we buy” threads that show up here on CD, I have an opinion so I guess I’ll chime in on this one. First off, the type and size of miter saw you buy will depend on what you plan to cut. For FIRST use I assume you will want to use it to build practice field elements and maybe cut some light aluminum stock. Over the years, the majority of the stuff you would cut on a miter saw for constructing a practice field could be cut on a 10" non-sliding type saw. If you have the $ and space and don’t mind the bulk of a 12" saw, then by all means go ahead.

I personally own 2 miter saws. A “good” one and a “cheapie”. My “good” saw is a 12" non-sliding single-bevel Porter-Cable model almost identical to this one but without the laser. I bought it several years ago before laser lines were all the rage. It is a really solid workhorse of a saw. I have cut about a zillion 2x4s, 2x6s, 2x8s, 4x4 posts, 3x5 landscape timbers and even a few 4x6s over the years and it is still going strong. I have just completed a large deck using it to cut every single post, rail, and deck board because every board had to be individually cut to fit because the deck was not square or rectangular but sort of oddly shaped to fit and existing space. My point is Porter-Cable makes good stuff built to last and do the job. Our team has also used it extensively during build season for the practice field and to cut about another zillion feet of aluminum stock. We used a lot of the 80/20 Aluminum QuickFrame material on our 2006 robot and my Porter-Cable cut (and re-cut) every inch of it. 80/20 QuickFrame is basically like 1" box tubing with about 1/16" wall. Cutting aluminum stuff like the kitbot frame size material is also no problem. Cutting round stuff is another story. A while back I discovered that it isn’t really a good idea to cut round tubing on a miter saw. I was trying to cut some thin walled aluminum tubing to use as spacers for the 5/8" keyed shaft in those black plastic helical gear boxes FIRST supplied in 2003/2004. Besides the fact that I couldn’t get good cuts, it was just plain dangerous. A piece of cut tubing somehow got shot out of the saw like a bullet, went zinging past my head, ricocheted off a trash can behind me and flew about 150 feet across the street (I had the saw setup in my driveway) and landed in the neighbors yard after bouncing off their house. My point is be very careful using a high speed saw to cut aluminum. With a carbide tipped blade the saw will cut it fine but once the piece is cut in two the problems can happen very quickly. I have no problem cutting flat stock up and rectangular stock within reason but I will never cut round stock on it again. The largest aluminum stock I have personally cut was probably 1/2" x 2" 6061 flat bar. Also, don’t try to cut anything too small like say shave a 1/4" off the end of a piece of something unless you are fond of the idea of bullets flying past your head. (It goes without saying but I somehow feel compelled to say it anyway, never, ever, ever, cut anything, especially metal on a miter saw without your safety glasses on and make sure there are no bystanders nearby or in line with the saw cut.)

Now, my “cheepie” saw is a 10" sliding compound from Harbor Freight. It was $99 on sale and is similar to this one. It is smaller and lighter than my 12" Porter-Cable and is easy for me/one person to move around so I usually grab it if I just need to cut a few small things like 2x4s or 2x6s. The quality of construction is definitely not anywhere near that of the Porter-Cable but it can cut a 2x12 and my 12" non-sliding Porter-Cable can’t without flipping the board over. One interesting thing though is the cheap Chinese saw from Harbor Freight was spot on square right out of the box and has remained that way for the several years I have owned it. When I bought the Porter-Cable and opened up the box it was way out of alignment and I spent hours getting it right. During my recent deck building project I noticed that it has again gotten out of alignment and I am dreading spending the time to re-align it so that all the angles are true. The other major differences are that the “cheapie” 10" HF saw doesn’t have near the power that the 12" Porter-Cable does (duh) and that the HF saw doesn’t have an electric brake on the blade which makes it somewhat less safe to use than the Porter-Cable. All in all, I am very happy with both but each has it’s use in my shop.

Now with all that said, if I had it all to do over again I would buy a DeWalt dual-bevel saw like this one or if I had the $$$ the sliding one like this one. The dual bevel DeWalt saws place the motor behind the blade so you can miter and bevel in both directions. In practice you can usually get around the limitations of a single bevel saw by flipping the material around but sometimes this is very awkward.

So, bottom line, if you are limited on funds and don’t need to build a whole house I personally think the $99 saw from Harbor Freight can be very useful to a FIRST team. If you have the $ and prefer a solid built tool that will last forever then stick with the DeWalt. Don’t get me wrong, I love my Porter-Cable and either it or it’s brother made by Delta (same saw - Delta and Porter-Cable are the same company) are great saws but in hind sight I now see why all the contractors use those yellow Dewalts.

For the record, I’m not connected to any of these tool companies and own all sorts of power tools from Craftsman, Porter-Cable, DeWalt, Bosch, Harbor Freight, Black and Decker, Milwaukee, Ryobi, and others that I can’t think of right now.

just a small thing to add.

a lot of people will go for the non sliding saws for cost and they dont see a point in them.
when it comes to it though, the sliding saws are significantly safer then straight up and down saws, especially when working with people who may not have a significant amount of experience with a miter saw.
say when you hit a really rough knot in the wood (and if you cut a lot, you will), the saw tends to jump. either because you dont have an amazing grip or because its just to hard. when your cutting in an up and down fashion, and the wood catches, it will fly outward because of the angle your cutting at, and possibly hit you, or someone around you. when cutting with the sliding saws, you can pull it out all the way, push it down, then cut in a move that when the wood cuts, because of your angle, the wood will fly backwards, into the back board on the saw, and not into you.
not to mention, you can cut 1x6 or larger with the sliding.

just something to keep in mind. while you may not have a significant amount of money, its worth it in the long run for safety.

If you do cut aluminum or other non-ferrous metals, make sure the blade is designed and rated for that! Some are expensive, others not so bad. Harbor Freight used to have a 10 inch #46234 blade at a reasonable price, but it’s either out of stock or discontinued. Home Depot carries the Freud Diablo SKU # 341031 for $55.

I also caution against nipping a bit off the end of a piece. If the piece is tiny, it can get jammed down in the kerf where the blade meets the base, or come flying around inside the guard. If both sides of the metal aren’t clamped, things can be launched with disastrous results. Also take care that the blade is not dropped and that no teeth are chipped!

A band saw is much safer.