If you’re framing a new deck one weekend and then installing some intricate stain-grade crown molding the next, you might be wishing for one saw that could handle both those tasks — and everything in-between. If so, then you don’t need to look any further than one of the big and versatile 12-inch compound or sliding compound miter saws that are now on the market. Tough and powerful yet remarkably accurate, these saws can power through wet framing lumber or handle delicate cuts on fine trim.
A compound miter saw is one that is capable of cutting a miter and a bevel on a piece of wood at the same time — known as a compound cut — making it perfect for anything from roof rafters to crown moldings. With a sliding compound miter saw, the head of the saw is mounted on single or dual rails to allow it to slide over the table, which increases its cutting capacity and adds the ability to cut overhead dados and rabbets.
Several of the top tool manufacturers are now producing these saws, so you have a variety of different configurations, features and price ranges to select from. When you’re in the market for one, look for a home center or tool store that has several different brands side by side, to allow you to make accurate comparisons.
One of the top saws in the 12-inch compound slide saw field is the Bosch 12-inch Dual-Bevel Slide Miter Saw (Model 5412L, $629.95). This workhorse of a saw is beautifully designed and constructed, with a number of great features that add to its versatility. Perhaps the handiest of those features is the upfront bevel controls — the only 12-inch sliding miter saw that has them — which allows you to quickly and accurately set and lock the bevel angle of the head from the front of the saw, rather than having to reach around behind it.
The saw head tilts to a maximum bevel of 47 degrees both left and right, and there are built-in stops at 0 and 45 degrees, as well as at 33.9 degrees for crown molding. The saw can bevel to 52 degrees to the left and all the way to 60 degrees to the right, with built in stops at 0, 15, 22.5, 31.6 (for crown molding) and 45 degrees.
The Bosch saw is also well designed from a user’s standpoint. The comfortable main control handle — where you activate the motor and pull and lower the cutting head — can be rotated and locked vertically, horizontally, or at 45 degrees in either direction, so it can be set where it feels most comfortable and also works well for both left- and right-handed operators. There are slide-out extensions on both the left and the right to extend the length of the table for better stock support, as well as a hold-down clamp and a stop for cutting repetitive lengths. The saw also has an arbor-mounted laser, and large, easy-to-read angle markings.
One of the great things about the big 12-inch sliding miter saws is their capacity. You can cut lumber up to 4 1/4 inches high and 12 1/2 inches wide with this saw, and the 15-amp motor will power through wet beams. An adjustable stop holds the blade at variable heights above the table, so you can also cut dados at accurate and repeatable depths. The saw is not light — 59 pounds — but there are two carrying handles that are well located for lifting and carrying the saw in a well-balanced position, as well as a cord wrap to keep the cord out of the way.
For a great saw that’s a little lighter in both weight and cost, you might want to take a look at the Ridgid 12-inch Dual Compound Miter Saw (Model R4121, $333). Another big, tough, 15-amp saw, this nonsliding miter saw bevels to 48 degrees in both directions and miters to 50 degrees in both directions, and also has built-in stops for cutting the compound bevels required for crown molding.
Even without the slide, the Ridgid saw will easily handle cross-cutting a full 2-by-10, and can miter a 2-by-6 at 45 degrees. The front miter locks are easy to use, and the quick, positive-locking feature lets you accurately set and hold any desired angle. The saw also features an adjustable laser and a big, quick-release hold-down clamp. At 46 pounds it’s a rugged saw made for shop or job-site use, but it’s still well balanced and easy to carry.
And for nice smooth cuts, you might want to have a look at the Final Cut carbide saw blade ($74.95). This nicely engineered blade has a sanding disk on each side that is slightly wider overall than the width of the saw teeth, so the blade will cut the wood and then sand the cut smooth all in one operation. The result is a very clean cut with no kerf marks, and you get the added advantage of a reduction in kickbacks.
The Final Cut blade will perform both rip and cross-cuts in hard or soft woods. It will work on your miter saw, table saw or radial arm saw, and the self-adhesive sanding disks are easily replaceable. You can check it out at www.finalcutblade.com.
Remodeling and repair questions? E-mail Paul at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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