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What's the Difference Between a Compound Miter Saw and a Sliding Compound Miter Saw?

Posted by Mallory Kramer on November 1, 2013

Get the Scoop: Discover the Main Difference Between a Compound Miter Saw and a Sliding Compound Miter Saw

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Many miter saws do a lot of the same work. They cut boards, they cut angles and they make your life a whole lot easier. But some miter saws offer a different design with different capabilities – some miter saws offer a “sliding” feature. But what does that mean? What does a sliding compound miter saw do that a compound miter saw can't?

The Real Difference Between a Compound Miter Saw and a Sliding Compound Miter Saw

While the compound miter saw and the sliding compound miter saw offer many of the same features, the primary difference is in crosscutting capacity. As far as similarities are concerned, both saws have a blade that can move in three basic directions – first, the blade can move up and down in a very general chopping motion; second, the blade moves to the left and right (typically about 45-degrees) to cut miters (miters are angled cuts usually made at 45-degrees for applications like building picture frames), and third, the blade can tilt to the left (this is called a single bevel - bevel being the tilt of the saw blade from it's vertical position) or tilt to both the left and right (a double bevel) to perform compound cuts. A compound cut incorporates both the bevel and the miter angle.

Those features are essentially all you'll get from a compound miter saw and for many tool users, this is enough. When you need a saw that can crosscut wider boards, though, there is no substitute for the sliding compound miter saw. It's in that crosscutting capacity that sliding miter saws offer the most serious benefit. The design of the sliding miter saw makes the blade and the motor assembly more mobile and, incorporating tube-like rails, the saw can now slide forward and backward. This gives you the extended cutting capacity to cut wide boards in a single pass. The rails significantly extend the saw's crosscutting capacity making crosscuts faster and simpler to perform.

With more capacity, though, the sliding compound miter saw also gains more weight and a higher price tag. Accordingly, sliding mire saws are often more clunky, less mobile and more expensive. The plain-old compound miter saw, on the other hand, while it can't crosscut wide boards in one pass, is more portable and more affordable.

An Additional and Totally Relevant Note About Finding The Best of Both Options

bosch-CM10GD-10-inch-axial-glide-miter-sawTo provide the best of both worlds, Bosch has developed their axial glide system which utilizes an articulating arm in lieu of the rails. These miter saws, offered in both 10-inches and 12-inches, deliver extended crosscutting capacity without the clunky rails making them, while pricey, both compact and more functional. The axial glide technology is super smooth, deadly accurate and absolutely durable. Accordingly, if you have an extra dollar to spend and you're looking for the best of the best miter saws, the axial glide saws are a really great place to start.