As a finish carpenter who specializes in custom stairs and
hand-railing, I've used sliding compound saws regularly for
years, and have switched brands once or twice as my needs
changed. Currently, I have two of these saws — a Bosch
4412 and a Hitachi C10FSH — and find plenty to like in
both of them. However, a recent opportunity to check out the
entire current field of sliding compound miter saws was too
good to pass up, and held a few surprises. I looked at 13 saws
in all, including two 8 1/2-inch, six 10-inch, and five 12-inch
A sliding compound saw should be user-friendly, both for an
experienced user and, perhaps more important, for an
inexperienced user. Positive miter and bevel detents are key
for cutting crown molding efficiently. Otherwise, you go mad
trying to locate and repeat the compound bevel and miter
settings. Equally, those detent settings should be easy to
override when necessary. But the most important detail of all
is visibility. Few of these saws are used in a shop setting
with good lighting. Instead they're out on the job, working in
a dimly-lit interior space or outdoors in glaring sunlight. I
looked for high-contrast, easy-to-read miter scales and bevel
gauges and accessible controls.
Portability is certainly a consideration when choosing one of
these tools, which vary both in bulk and weight from saw to
saw. The lightest saw in this group weighs 43 pounds, and the
heaviest weighs 59 pounds. In use, my saws are almost always
bench-mounted, so weight and size aren't primary
considerations. On the other hand, a trim carpenter on the go
is more likely to prefer a smaller, lighter saw.
Street prices range from a low of $370 to $750, with a median
price of $500 (tools priced at www.amazon.com and Home Depot),
so this isn't a small acquisition. In comparing the entire
field of pro-duty saws, it became obvious that higher price
does not mean better quality in every case.
Making the Cut
These saws are designed to excel at cutting compound miters.
But if you're switching from a standard chop to a sliding cut
in wider stock, be prepared for a change in style. The
recommended technique is to draw the blade forward before
activating the trigger, and then cut only on the push stroke.
Cutting on the pull stroke may grab the wood and send it flying
in dangerous directions. For chop cuts, it's recommended to
lock the slide carriage for safe operation.
Blade quality. A rough or
irregular cut can prevent a mitered joint from fitting tightly
together, a critical consideration in stain-grade woodworking.
I tested each saw with the blade shipped by the manufacturer.
And although blade styles varied greatly, from 26 to 80 TPI
(teeth per inch), so did the diameter and the respective RPMs
(see Chart, below). I didn't use any "after-market" blades and,
because of the unique characteristics of each tool, I won't
venture to say what swapping in a "better" blade might do for
any one saw. All in all, I found surprisingly little difference
from one tool and saw blade to the next — all produced
acceptably smooth compound miter cuts in the wide poplar crown
molding I used for testing.
Blade size. For really
precise work, a smaller blade diameter is preferable because,
in theory anyway, it produces less rim wobble and therefore
makes a finer cut. But an 8 1/2-inch blade is too small to
handle much of the stock I work with. And although the 10-inch
Hitachi has long been my favorite saw, the 12-inch Bosch saw is
a little more versatile and is set up at my primary cutting
Changing blades on a sliding compound saw is an infrequent
event and therefore not a major consideration. Several of the
saws are designed with the blade guard mechanism mounted on the
right-hand side of the blade where it doesn't interfere with
access to the blade arbor. Where this isn't the case, the
fumble factor goes up.
Better bevel controls.Manufacturers are making bevel controls
easier to get at. Bosch has done the best job, placing the
bevel lock right up front next to the miter handle (top).
Ridgid's bevel lock is on the side at the rear of the saw
(bottom left), while Milwaukee's single-bevel saw has a
top-mounted lock, with an easy to read scale (bottom
To check the precision of the combined angle and bevel detents
provided for cutting crown molding flat on the saw table, I
made a perfectly square outside corner profile using
3/4-inch-thick MDF (medium density fiberboard) and screwed it
to my workbench. I cut left and right compound crown miters on
each saw and tested their fit against the corner. In every
case, the test pieces fit tightly together at 90 degrees.
Actually, all the saws performed well. Some performed
perfectly; the top finishers cut a little better than the
others. But in the real world, true 90-degree wall corners are
the exception, rather than the rule. So I also evaluated these
tools on the ease with which I could tweak the setting just off
the detent, by a fraction of a degree. This is an essential
ingredient that some of the manufacturers have addressed better
Faster depth stops.Bosch's depth stop has a quick-release
button that allows it to quickly move in or out of position
(top). Ridgid uses a cam device (bottom).
Hold-down clamp. Cupped
lumber will affect the cutting accuracy of any saw. Every tool
in this group features an effective hold-down as a standard
option. The designs vary somewhat, but all supply more than
enough force to flatten a cupped 1-by. It's like having a third
hand on steroids.
Fence points. The fence has
a direct effect on accuracy of cut. If not perfectly square to
the table, it can throw off the cutting angle enough to create
problems, especially when fitting handrail easements or
performing other demanding mitering tasks. And two-piece fences
have a tendency to move out of precise alignment under hard
use. Misalignment affects the precision of any cross-cut where
both sides of the fence are used to position the material being
cut. A one-piece cast fence solves this problem.
For the kind of work I do, there wasn't a saw in the bunch
that struck me as being underpowered. Manufacturers routinely
default to published amp ratings, but those tell little about
actual performance. There's a subjective element, too; who's
using the tool and for what purpose can make for big
differences in perception. While I made no attempt to simulate
other types of work for testing, these saws all seemed to have
enough power to handle common applications.
Versatile handle.Bosch's swivel handle fits any user
preference. The two red thumb-activated trigger releases adapt
to left- or right-handed use.
Several of the saws — the Delta, both DeWalts, the
Milwaukee, and the Porter-Cable — had no lock-out safety
button on the trigger. While these buttons vary from one saw to
the next in their comfort and ease of use, they do serve an
important safety function in preventing accidental
Noise. Ninety decibels is a
standard threshold level at which noise becomes a threat to
your hearing. By this standard, none of these tools runs at a
safe level, so it's a really good idea to include some kind of
easy-to-use hearing protection with your purchase.
Stability. Many of these
saws are off-balance in the retracted slide position; some
provide a counteracting rear stabilizing bracket. But all of
the saws include mounting holes for screws, bolts, or nails,
and these should definitely be used. A few of the base designs
also permit them to be clamped to the bench.
What I'd Buy
If small size and portability are important considerations,
the good news is that the two 8 1/2-inch saws I tested have
plenty of cross-cutting capacity; both can cut a full 2 inches
high by 12 inches wide at 90 degrees, and 8 1/2 inches by 1 3/4
inches at a 45-degree compound bevel. But a left-tilt-only
limitation (shared by five saws in this review) means that you
have to flip the lumber around instead of simply changing the
bevel setting, which can be both awkward and disorienting. And,
although I never noticed it years ago when I owned Hitachi's
original 8 1/2-inch saw, the motor location — off to the
side and low to the table — makes it difficult to see the
cut line on the board.
Considering how good many of the dual-bevel saws are, I can't
think of a good reason why you'd consider a single-bevel saw.
Neither the Delta 36-240 or the Porter Cable 3807 saw delivered
equivalent bang for the buck compared to other tools of similar
capacity and price. Milwaukee's single-bevel 10-inch 6497-6 is
built like a tank and might be a good candidate for general
crew use and abuse. But, generally speaking, the increased
motor clearance and dual-bevel capability of the other 10- and
12-inch saws make them easier to operate and worth the extra
If I were considering buying a non-sliding miter saw, the
additional depth capacity of a 12-inch saw over a 10-inch saw
might be a persuading factor. But the advantage mostly
disappears with sliding capability, where otherwise vertical
cuts can be performed on the flat. And the extra blade diameter
generates extra blade wobble at the rim and affects the quality
of the cut. So I approached this review with a definite
preference for 10-inch saws. That said, the Ridgid 12-inch saw
wowed me in every respect. If I didn't already own two good
saws, I'd buy this one, hands down. There's no shortage of
great features on this saw, although its bulky size and weight
deterred me at first. No other saw approaches its compound
beveling capacity (61-degree miter by 47-degree bevel, both
left and right) or equals its comprehensive attention to
user-friendly details. While dust collection isn't a strong
suit for any sliding compound saw, the bag on this saw is
well-placed and effective. And, at $597, it's even the least
expensive of the 12-inch saws.
My second choice is the 10-inch Bosch 4410. This saw is
beautifully designed and couldn't be easier to use. Although
the Bosch 4412 matches it feature for feature, I wouldn't pay
$140 more for the larger blade, which adds only a small
advantage in capacity.
The 10-inch Hitachi C10FSH is a slightly improved version of
the saw I've owned for years — with a more visible miter
scale and a better bevel lock — and is a close contender
for second place. Its miter detents are really easy to work
with, the spring return is perfectly balanced and takes the
fight out of chopping, and the slide mechanism is smooth and
solid. And when I need a saw in the field, this is the one I
take along for its lighter weight and portability.
Richard Harkowns and operates Stairways in East
Harwich, Mass.See Next page for Reviewer's Comments and tool