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TOH Tested: Sliding Compound Miter Saws

These souped-up chop saws ride on rails, giving you the ability to plow through wide stock—we're talking 2×12s!—with ridiculous ease

Powerful, Big-Cut Saws

Photo by Wendell T. Webber

These souped-up chop saws ride on rails, giving you the ability to plow through wide stock—we're talking 2×12s!—with ridiculous ease.

What to look for

1. A powerful motor that won't bog down.

2. A tall fence to support angled crown.

3. Built-in side extensions to support long boards.

4. Easy-to-read angle markings.

5. Up-front controls for no-hassle angle adjustments.

NOTE: For testing purposes, we replaced the blades that came with the saws and equipped each one with a 10-inch, 80-tooth Diablo blade, available from freudtools.com.

DeWalt DW717

Photo by Wendell T. Webber

Huge vertical-cutting capacity easily tackles large crown molding. We loved how easy it is to adjust miters with its fat cam-lock lever. The bevel control, however, is in the rear, tucked under the dust bag, which didn't do its job. There's no safety trigger and no laser, but this is still a great all-around saw.

About $500, 51 pounds; DeWalt

Fine print:

15-amp, 4,000-rpm motor.

Max miters: 60 degrees left, 51 right.

Max cutting depth: 6 inches.

max cutting width: 14 inches

Hitachi C10FSH

Photo by Wendell T. Webber

It's the most portable of the pro-grade bunch. We like its painless blade change, vertical handle, and quiet, soft-start motor. The trade-offs: limited cutting depth and miter range, and lame angle markings, on a printed sticker. Yet we always came back to this no-frills saw because of its smooth, comfortable feel.

About $500, 43 pounds; Hitachi

Fine print:

12-amp, 3,800-rpm motor. Laser guide. Max miters: 45 degrees left, 57 right.

Max cutting depth: 3 11/32 inches.

max cutting width: 1 29/32 inches

Makita LS1016L

Photo by Wendell T. Webber

This massive saw sports a tall, 4¾-inch fence and runs on four sturdy rails instead of the usual two. You can select which side of the blade you want the laser to shine on, and it has excellent dust collection—both huge pluses. We liked the cool design but never got used to its odd, twisting miter lock or the need to push harder as the blade neared the end of a cut.

About $500, 53 pounds; Makita Tools

Fine print:

15-amp, 3,200-rpm motor.

Max miters: 52 degrees left, 60 right.

Max cutting depth: 4¾ inches.

max cutting width: 12 inches

Kobalt 358938

Photo by Wendell T. Webber

Although less than half the price of the others, this saw comes with many high-end features: micro-miter adjustment, built-in side extensions, a tall fence, and an extra handle for easy transport. The downsides are its sticker-printed miter angles, single-bevel tilt to the left, and tendency to blow sawdust everywhere but into the collection bag.

About $200, 36 pounds; Lowes

Fine print:

15-amp, 4,800-rpm motor. Laser guide.

Max miters: 50 degrees left and right.

Max cutting depth: 3½ inches.

max cutting width: 12 inches

Ridgid MS255SR

Photo by Wendell T. Webber

With its rubber-coated controls and soft-start motor, this tool has a user-friendly vibe. It's also the only one of these saws with an LED to light up the cut and double lasers—one on each side of the blade—to take any guesswork out of where the blade will land. Unfortunately, the awkward bevel control didn't engage half the time, and it takes a good two seconds for the blade to come up to speed. This was one of the heaviest saws tested, so once you set it up on the workbench, you'll want to keep it there.

About $400, 49.5 pounds; Home Depot

Fine print:

15-amp, 3,600-rpm motor.

Max miters: 54 degrees left, 60 right.

Max cutting depth: 4 9/16 inches.

max cutting width: 12 ¼ inches

Ryobi TSS101L

Photo by Wendell T. Webber

A rear extension bar, an adjustable front foot, and a hefty weight give this saw the stability to withstand a small earthquake. While it has good dust collection and it cut square right out of the box, it was the only saw we tested that didn't have a safety switch or a detent override. As a result, setting miter angles was needlessly difficult. It's not built for the long haul; when we went to change the blade, the screws holding the guard in place immediately stripped. But if workshop space is limited, this saw's small footprint (approximately 20 by 35 inches) makes it worth considering.

About $200, 48 pounds; Ryobi Tools

Fine print:

13-amp, 5,000-rpm motor. Laser guide.

Max miters: 46 degrees left, 50 right.

Max cutting depth: 3 9/16 inches.

max cutting width: 12 inches

Craftsman 21237

Photo by Wendell T. Webber

Lining up difficult cuts is a breeze with the precise laser, and the easy-to-use side extensions and stops make this a good saw for repetitive cuts. The motor bogged down when cutting thicker lumber, but the comfortable miter-adjustment handle and a smart selection of features still make it a good buy.

About $250, 40 pounds; Craftsman

Fine print:

15-amp, 4,800-rpm motor.

Max miters: 50 degrees left and right.

Max cutting depth: 3 9/16 inches.

max cutting width: 12 inches

Bosch 4310

Photo by Wendell T. Webber

Both the bevel and micro-adjustable miter controls sit up front, so you don't have to reach behind to adjust them. We wish it had a laser to show where the blade will land on the work. Machined angle markings in large print pop. While it's not the lightest tool, a second handle makes for an easy carry. Just be sure to wear ear protection, as the powerful motor on this saw screams like a banshee.

About $540, 55 pounds; Bosch Tools

Fine print:

15-amp, 4,800-rpm motor.

Max miters: 52 degrees left, 60 right.

Max cutting depth: 3 ⅝ inches.

max cutting width: 12 inches

Check for True: How to Test Cut Accuracy

Photo by Michael Chini/Time Inc. Digital Studio

Straight cuts: Make a 0-degree cut through a stack of two pieces of 1×4, edges to the fence. Butt the cut ends together, with the same edges against the fence. If there's a gap, adjust the saw.

Miters: Make a 45-degree cut through two stacked pieces, edges to the fence. Mark these edges and put them against a square, as shown. The cuts should mate perfectly.

Bevels: Cut a 45-degree bevel through two pieces set on edge, faces against the fence. Form a corner against a square to see if the cuts mate.

Proper Use

Illustration by Gregory Nemec

1. Holding the work firmly against the fence with one hand, use your other hand to pull the saw all the way toward you.

2. Pull the trigger and lower the blade fully. 3. Slowly push the blade forward through the wood. Raise the saw, release the trigger, and wait for the blade to stop before removing the pieces.

TOH Tip: "Here's an easy way to fine-tune your cuts: Lower the blade—don't start it—and push your work against its side, deflecting it slightly. Now raise the blade and make the cut. Only a thin sliver will come off." —Norm Abram

Back Bevel

Illustration by Gregory Nemec

Whether you're making miters or straight cuts, beveling the cut slightly toward the back side of a piece of trim—a trick known as back beveling—helps ensure tight butt joints. You can tilt the blade, of course, but it's quicker and easier to shim up the stock by slipping a pencil underneath it, close to where the cut will be made.

Dadoes

Illustration by Gregory Nemec

Mark the desired depth across the end of scrap stock. Unplug the saw, loosen its depth stop, and lower the blade until its lowest tooth hits the mark. Retighten the stop. Now shim the stock away from the fence so that the lowest tooth meets the back edge of the work-piece. If a test cut looks good, cut each side of the dado, then make repeated cuts to remove the material in between.