Compound Miter Saw Vs Miter Saw

by Joost Nusselder | Updated on:  March 20, 2022
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The miter saw is one of the most popular tools in the world of woodworking. That’s because it is a very versatile and useful tool. But a compound miter saw is even better.

However, it is still not as popular as a simple miter saw. So, What sets a compound miter saw apart from a miter saw?

For the most part, a miter saw is not very different from a compound miter saw. As the names suggest, they are both miter saws, just of a slightly different type to serve slightly different purposes. Compound-Miter-Saw-Vs-Miter-Saw

One thing to note is that the differences are becoming less and less apparent. The reason being the companies that make these products are trying their best to fit just one more feature or utility into their tools without pushing the budget to get one up over other companies.

Thus, slowly but surely, usual miter saws are becoming the same as a compound miter saw. With that said, we will discuss the similarities between a compound miter saw and a basic miter saw, which is also the cheapest and most available form of the miter saw.

Why Do I Want to Compare It With a Basic One?

Because there is no point comparing two devices with similar specs, if not the same. That won’t help to make a clear picture of either one. Also, the basic miter saw (not an advanced one) is still a staple ground in the genre.

What Is A Miter Saw?

A miter saw is a power-tool, which is used to cut, rip, or shape pieces of wood, metal, plastic, ceramic, or so on. This device uses circular-shaped sharp-toothed or abrasive blades to cut across the piece you are working on.

The tool mainly uses electricity for power via power cable but can also operate with a battery. The saw is a powerful and efficient tool, but the variety of operations are pretty limited on a basic miter saw.

They cut fast but cut only vertically. The cutting angle is always perpendicular to the height of the board: no bevel cuts, only miter cuts.

Besides, the width of the board a saw can safely operate on is also somewhat limited. This may create a bad idea about the tool and its capability, but it is not as bad as it sounds. It is very much useful when you need to make a lot of cuts fast.

Now, this limitation is not entirely valid to most of the advanced miter saws since they have mechanisms to mitigate this issue.

You can implement and control both the miter angles and bevel angles on a modern miter saw like these. But then again, those no longer fall in the category of “miter saw.” They are more like, “mini-compound miter saw.”


What Is A Compound Miter Saw?

A compound miter saw is a bigger and bulkier form of a miter saw. They are heavier and sturdier and can perform all the tasks that of a miter saw, plus a few more. Since they are bigger both in size and power, they use bigger blades that cut through hard materials faster and easier.

Almost all the compound miter saws allow you to make miter cuts, bevel cuts, and compound miter-bevel cuts. The machines offer very precise control on the miter cut angle, as well as the bevel cut angle. What really makes a compound miter saw special is the sliding arm.

The sliding arm lets you pull the saw outward from the base while maintaining the miter and bevel angle. This effectively increases the width of the board you can work on, without repositioning the piece or flipping the piece over or some other shenanigans like so. When you need to make a lot of cuts, this will pay off for sure.


Why Is A Miter Saw Better Than A Compound Miter Saw?

Despite the fact that the compound miter saw is more featureful, powerful, and faster than a miter saw, there are a handful of situations when you might still want to stick to a basic miter saw. For-

  • A compound miter saw is bulkier and heavier. Therefore, they are not as mobile as a miter saw. They are pretty much stationary. It is a hustle if you want to reposition.
  • It is much easier to learn and master a miter saw than a compound miter saw, especially when you are starting in woodworking.
  • A compound miter saw has a bigger footprint. Thus, it requires a bigger table when operational, as well as a bigger space in storage. This matters when you are using a smaller workshop, or you are simply a DIYer.
  • A compound miter saw costs more than a basic miter saw.

With all things considered, a simple miter saw is a handy tool to learn a new skill with. It is especially true if you are devoted to woodworking and want to start a career. It is a great starting point for newcomers or intermediate level workers but might lose its value to the necessity of intricate cuts later on.

Why Is A Compound Miter Saw Better Than A Basic Miter Saw?

There are a few reasons why a compound miter saw would be better than a basic miter saw. A bigger and stronger machine should always outperform a simpler one, right? Yes, for the most part. Reasons like-

  • A compound miter saw offers more features like miter cuts, bevel cuts, or compound miter-bevel cuts. Despite some simple miter saws offering the same functionalities, a compound miter saw will always provide more range and control.
  • A compound miter saw has a sliding arm that allows the saw to extend outwards, which pushes the limits of the board width you can work on.
  • A compound miter saw has a bigger and stronger motor that allows for faster cuts more efficiently. It will save a lot of time when you need to make a lot of cuts.

Overall, a compound miter saw is a tool to go to when you are devoted to woodworking and want to invest a lot of time in it. A compound miter saw might seem a little tedious to absolute newcomers, but it is a tool to fall in love with for experts as well as intermediate workers.

Why Is A Compound Miter Saw Interchangeable With A Simple Miter Saw?

There is a lot in common between the two tools, thus a heap of situations when either of the two tools could be used and get the job done. Both of the two tools are miter saws, after all. They both will enable you to make straight vertical cuts and miter cuts.

They both can work on hardwood, softwood, metal, plastic, tiles, plywood, hardboard, as well as sheets of metal (sandwiching and clamping it between two slightly thicker pieces of wood). This depends mostly on the blade being used, but pretty much the same blade is used in either of the two.

The functionality of both a miter saw, and a compound miter saw is pretty much the same. Thus, if you can use one, it won’t take long for you to be comfortable with the other.



Carpenters and DIY workers need to have different types of saws in their workshop. And both the miter saw, and compound miter saw are two most common cutting tools found in their workshop. They have a lot in common; one can quickly move to the other one without much effort.

A compound miter saw can perform the same operations as a miter saw, plus a few more. A miter saw is a good starting point, whereas a compound miter saw will take you further and beyond what you thought possible.

I'm Joost Nusselder, the founder of Tools Doctor, content marketer, and dad. I love trying out new equipment, and together with my team I've been creating in-depth blog articles since 2016 to help loyal readers with tools & crafting tips.