Miter Saw vs Compound Miter Saw: What are the Differences?

miter saw vs compound miter saw cutting through wood

While it can be easy to mistake the miter saw for a compound miter saw, they are both very different in their application and operation. Both saws provide accurate angled cuts. You are able to do a little more with a compound saw than a miter saw based on the additional features it offers.

To help you understand the differences between the two saws and which is best for each application you have in mind, we’ve compared the miter saw vs the compound miter saw here. Read on to find out more about these very capable cutting tools.

​What is a Miter Saw?

​A miter saw is a powered saw which has a circular blade mounted to the head of the saw. The blade uses a circular motion to cut through materials by lowering the head and blade down into the cut.

This saw also uses a dial-in system to create angled cuts in a variety of degrees. By simply dialing the degree of the angle you need, you can match the saw blade to the angle of cut needed almost perfectly.

To improve accuracy as you cut, your miter saw also incorporates two fences. ​One is used to hold your wood material in place securely as you cut. The other creates the angle of cut by moving the head of your miter saw and blade into the right position for the cutting angle.

This will give you a good cut accuracy with your miter saw when it is properly dialed into the angle you need.

Related: ​​Making a Table Saw Fence on your own​​​

​Miter Saw Applications

​Miter saws are good cutting devices for applications which require right or left degree angles cut. Cutting crown molding is a popular use for miter saws, as well trim work on the interior or exterior of your home.

Any time you would need to create an angled cut, a miter saw is your best option for cutting as it provides that very exact cut accuracy.

​A miter saw, often confused for a chop saw, can also be used for cutting metal ​as long as the right type of blade is used. This is a good choice for creating very precise angled corners which need to fit together without issue.

A miter saw can provide you the range of accuracy you need when cutting, so these angled edges fit perfectly together.

Learn more about the Miter Saw vs the Circular Saw

miter saw vs compound miter saw cutting through wood

​What is a Compound Miter Saw?

​A compound miter saw is also known as a non sliding miter saw. It does have the ability to create compound cuts by using both axis during the cutting process.

This saw, like the traditional miter saw, has a circular blade that also spins as it cuts. It does need to be lowered into position to cut, but can also pivot left and right to create very specific angled cuts.

You’ll appreciate the compound miter saw can create beveled cuts by simply tilting the blade in one direction to make your cut.

Unlike the chop saw, you will get plenty of accuracy when cutting with a compound miter saw as well as be able to cut longer lengths of wood or other material, if the right blade is attached.  

​Compound Miter Saw Applications

​There ​are a series of applications which use a compound miter saw. The best option is crown molding or another type of trim work that needs a perfect edge to fit together with another piece.

A compound miter saw can create the compound angles that work well with moldings, trim, and also picture frames.

You’ll want to use a compound miter saw any time you have a project which requires you to create a left or a right angle or a beveled edge.

You can also use a compound miter saw to cut longer lengths as needed. This saw is a real workhorse and can cut heavy-duty material with ease.

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​Miter Saw vs Compound Miter Saw

​When you compare the miter saw vs a compound miter saw, you will see you do get some additional features when upgrading to the compound miter saw.

You will want to keep in mind the standard miter saw is easier to use than a compound saw. As a novice to woodworking projects, you might want to start with a miter saw first.

While both saws may have a very similar appearance, they are very different in their overall use and operation. The standard miter saw cuts angles right and left facing.

The compound miter saw can do that and more. The compound saw can also cut beveled edges by moving left and right to make the precise cut.

miter saw vs compound miter saw angled cut through wood

The miter saw is also geared toward wood materials that have thinner dimensions as the blade can only extend so far during the cut.

The compound saw can cut longer length materials because it is able to pivot to the right or left as needed. Both saws are used to cut crown molding or trim work.  

Both saws are also able to provide very precise cuts as you can easily dial in the angle of cut as needed. You will find you have a clean-cut edge with these saws, and are able to execute a cut exactly as you need to.


​With a thorough understanding of the miter saw and the compound saw, it will be easier to select the one that is right for you.

We recommend the miter saw for beginners. The compound saw is a good option for those who are looking for a saw that offers more capabilities and features. 

You’ll get plenty of use out of both these saws. The compound saw will take you ​further than a standard miter saw,  as you are able to cut beveled edges with ease as well as longer length material, giving you more versatility with its use.

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