Complete Chop Saw Buyers Guide
The mitre saw is one of the most important power tools that you can have in your workshop. It might not be the most versatile saw you ever use, but it is still quite effective when utilised for its primary functions.
If you have ever shopped for a saw, you probably realise that it can be somewhat daunting at first, mainly due to the number of options available, but also due to the fact that it can be hard to know what to look for in one. However, it does not have to be hard to find the best chop saw for your needs.
What You Should Keep in Mind When Buying a Chop Saw
It is far easier to make an informed purchase if you know what you should be looking for in a chop saw. Here’s what you need to keep in mind when buying a chop saw:
1. Mitre Saw Types
It is important to pay close attention to the type of chop saw you buy. The actual type of mitre saw refers to its cutting ability, which references how the saw’s head actually operates. Chop saws are of three main types:
The chop saw is the most basic of all mitre saws. It features a circular blade that can be lowered straight down onto a workpiece and back up afterward. It is incredibly simple and has fewer moving parts compared to other saws, but it is the most limited. A drop-down cutting motion is all that some people need. No bevels, no angles. It is perhaps the reason why some people consider the chop saw to be technically not a mitre saw.
Standard Mitre Saw
The standard mitre saw is the commonest type you will see being used. It has the same cutting ability as the chop saw, but you can also rotate the saw’s table to make angled cuts also known as mitres. With this saw, you can quickly create angled cuts ranging between 22.5 and 90 degrees while offering multiple angles depending on the model. If you have simple woodworking needs and all you need are straight and angled crosscuts, this saw will probably be your best option and help you save money too.
Compound Mitre Saw
A compound mitre saw has the functionalities of a standard mitre saw but you also have the option of rotating its head and blade to the side, thus creating an angled cut down onto your workpiece. This allows you to easily make bevelled cuts, usually at a 45-degree angle, although you have other options too. If you are not familiar with bevelled cuts, you should picture a ramp that slopes downwards. If that was a board, it would have a bevelled angled on the end.
The compound mitre saw has it all when it comes to the maximum cutting angles across and down through your workpiece. You can even find a better option too. The dual-compound mitre saw lets the head and blade of the saw rotate on both sides, which saves you from having to flip the head and table back around to make a bevelled cut on the other side. It might seem like a minor convenience, but it helps you make faster and more accurate cuts.
Sliding Mitre Saws
The sliding mitre saw has its saw assembly mounted in a set of sliding rails, which lets you expand the maximum cut size possible. The sliding assembly sort of guide you when you move the saw across your workpiece, which is what’s referred to as a radial arm saw.
It gives the saw a wider variety of cutting options for the more massive workpieces you come across, which also increases the saw’s functionality. In some instances, the saw’s sliding aspect can double the blade’s cutting size.
Sliding mitre saws are also compound saws too, which means that you can get the widest range of cutting with regards to bevels, sizes, and angles. If you plan to use a mitre saw frequently and anticipate working with lager workpieces, you can never go wrong with a sliding mitre saw.
One of the key aspects of a mitre saw is the fact that you cannot use it to run along a workpiece, such as is the case with a jigsaw or circular saw. The cutting ability of the mitre saw is limited to the size of its blade in most cases, which means that the blade’s size is an important consideration.
While some chop saws can slide to take on an expanded cutting space, the size of the blade is still an important factor. A larger-sized mitre saw is better suited to professional and industrial use, while a smaller-sized saw is more preferable for home use.
The standard blade that mitre saws usually come with might be okay for rougher cuts, but it is not the best option for fine woodworking projects. If you will need fine finishes, you have to be ready to buy an additional higher quality blade. In situations where you believe you will be required to change blades frequently to handle different tasks, you should take note of how easy it is to change blades. The blade can be a major pain to change one some models and you might even be required to ask for assistance from someone else.
It is important to ensure that the mitre saw you buy has enough power to handle all your cutting jobs. Mitre saws typically have anywhere between 10 and 15 amps of power. A really powerful motor is not always necessary, but if you plan to use the saw regularly, it is important to choose the most powerful one for your needs.
It is also important to consider the maximum RPMs that the motor can provide since this will affect the smoothness of your cuts. Keep in mind that direct drive motors usually produce more power and last longer than belt driven motors.
If you plan to be doing a lot of heavy cutting or require particularly smooth fine cuts, it can be an excellent idea to consider a motor that features smooth start technology, which reduces the burst of power that you feel once the motor starts significantly.
5. Safety Features
Safety is always a critical concern with all saws and the mitre saw is no exception. It is always good when a mitre saw has extra safety features that can help prevent accidents. Mitre saws typically have three main safety features, namely:
Trigger-Like Power Button
The trigger-like power button is usually located under the handle. You activate the saw by pressing down on the power button and deactivate it once you take your finger off the button, which prevents the saw from spinning on its own.
The blade guards are another critical safety feature, but some function differently than others. Blade guards encapsulate the saw’s blade fully with the bottom portion being either removed before cutting by hand or moving off the blade’s bottom as the saw is lowered down. Just about all mitre saws now come with a bottom blade guard that gets out of the way once the blade is lowered down. Some guards have a hinge, while most rotate into the top half of the blade guard.
Electric brakes are another important safety feature, though not as prevalent. The brakes activate once you take your finger off the power button, which causes the blade to come to a complete stop in between 1 and 3 seconds. It is always advisable to use a mitre saw with electric brakes whenever possible.
6. Laser Guide System
A laser guide system might not necessarily be a critical feature, but having a laser guide on your mitre saw can be incredibly useful. An effective laser guide system makes it easier to use the saw and make more accurate cuts. However, some laser guide systems are not effective, which is why you should check out the system that your preferred mitre saw uses.
7. Dust Collection System
The dust collection systems usually found in most mitre saws typically consist of just a dust bag, which is not very effective in most cases. However, there are some mitre saws that have an effective dust collection system.
You can easily tell whether a mitre saw has a good dust collection system by reading its reviews. Having an effective dust collection system keeps your work area clean and can even increase the lifespan of the saw by ensuring that dust does not get inside it.
With so many different mitre saws in the market, it is important to do proper research to find one that best suits your needs. You should not let popularity or price be the only determining factors when buying your mitre saw.
A lot of information, tips, and advice has been provided here, but it is still important to do your own research once you narrow down your favourite choices. Ensure that you put good thought into what you plan to be using the mitre saw for and then go about finding one that actually meets those needs.