Framing Tool Reviews

Best 12-inch Miter Saw Reviews 2020


Deckbuilding and miters saws are a perfect match up of a tool to a project. When I was approached about doing a comparative best 12-inch compound miter saw review I couldn’t think of better timing. Finding the best 12-inch miter saw requires testing many different tools at once. My comparison review coincided with a renovation of two side-by-side 1920’s bungalow-style homes. Both feature full-width front and back porches and all four had seen better times. The project required complete demolition and rebuild. Between that and the eventual trim-out—I had LOTS of cutting in my future!

My new porch design for these homes departed slightly from the original framing. That consisted primarily of 2×6 members with tongue and groove porch flooring. To meet the current Florida hurricane codes, I had to beef things up slightly. I chose 2×8 framing members and larger timbers for the columns and railing posts. Needless to say, I had plenty of cutting planned for these seven saws.

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Best 12″ Corded Miter Saw

Bosch GCM12SD Axial Glide Miter Saw

Bosch GCM12SD Miter Saw 45 Degree Bevel
  • Pros: Compact size, Integrated expanding table extensions, Easy access side bevel level
  • Cons: Clunky thumb-activated trigger safety, No crown bevel detent

The Bosch GCM12SD Axial Glide miter saw has a lot of great features that make it an easy top pick. The axial glide mechanism makes these the smoothest gliding miter saws we’ve ever used. Even years after its initial launch, we still haven’t used a smoother saw. For something close, check out the 10-inch Delta Cruzer miter saw.

The 12-inch Bosch Axial Glide saw cuts in a more compact manner than most, yet it allows some of the tallest cuts. You can burrow right through 6-1/2″ tall material held up against the fence.

We love the front-mounted bevel adjustments—among the easiest to set in the industry. They don’t force you to reach behind the saw. We also really like the integrated table extensions that expand easily out of the base from both sides.

This saw runs about $599.

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You can’t talk about 12-inch corded miter saws without recognizing the Milwaukee 6955-20 miter saw. With its incredible power and handy LCD angle display, this saw distinguishes itself as the “Cadillac” among corded miter saws. While the basic design remains little changed over the past decade or so—there’s a good reason. You don’t mess with something already so well-developed. If you can afford it, this saw will transform your shop space. Just don’t expect to move it around easily without mounting it to a good wheeled stand.

This excellent saw retails for $749.

We also like the Skilsaw worm drive miter saw. It’s a powerful, accurate saw that also moves around the job site easily. So easily, in fact, that other manufacturers should take note. This miter saw works really well as a framer’s saw or for remodelers—mostly due to the power output and size. Trim carpenters and fine woodworkers should also factor in a high-TPI blade upgrade right from the start.

You can pick it up for $650.

Finally, the DeWalt DWS716XPS also remains one of our stalwart favorites with its solid build quality. We also love the LED cutline that works in broad daylight. You’ll never want to use a laser again. Handles both 6-1/2 in. of base molding vertically and 6-5/8 in. of crown molding vertically nested.

Grab it for $380.

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Best 12″ Cordless Miter Saw

Makita XSL07PT Cordless Miter Saw (also XSL08PT)

Makita XSL07 Miter Saw
  • Pros: Front bevel controls, against-the-wall placement, excellent run-time, zero blade wobble
  • Cons: Expensive, cutting standing crown with a left bevel requires fence removal

The Makita XSL07PT cordless 12-inch miter saw runs off a pair of 18V batteries for 36V power. This flagship cordless 12-inch compound sliding miter saw helped us run through cuts on trim and framing material like butter. For all its capacity and size, the tool takes is remarkably portable and compares well against its competition.

The saw exhibits absolutely no blade wobble, giving us perfectly consistent cuts every time. We found we could cut 5-1/4″ speed base upright at 45 degrees in either direction. You get convenient front bevel adjustments and the saw miters to 60º in both directions.

The innovative rail design allows placement of the saw up against the wall without the complexity of a Glide system. Lastly—and perhaps most importantly—we cut an entire day’s worth of crown and base off one pair of 5Ah batteries!

This saw retails for around $999 for the XSL07PT kit with two 5.0Ah batteries, dual port rapid charger, blade, dust bag, vertical clamp, wrench, and triangle. If you want the XSL08PT model with AWS-capable wireless Bluetooth connectivity, it runs $1,059.

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For a full-size cordless miter saw, the Milwaukee M18 Fuel cordless 12-inch sliding miter saw does well. At just 48 pounds with the M18 High Output 12 Ah battery pack installed, it’s 26% lighter than their corded Milwaukee 6955-20 miter saw. With the easy-to-grab side handles, that makes this full-size saw as portable as possible. And it cuts like a corded saw.

You can pick it up for $849 as a kit or $699 as a bare tool.

Of course, if you occasionally need a corded connection, it’s hard not to love the DeWalt FlexVolt DHS790AT2 miter saw. Built on the flagship DWS780 platform, this is one of the only 12-inch cordless miter saws with an available power adapter to let you run it indefinitely on AC power.

The kit with batteries and AC adapter costs just $799.

Best Portable 12″ Miter Saw

Makita LS1221 Miter Saw

best portable Makita LS1221 miter saw
  • Pros: Lightweight, Easiest trigger safety to use, Almost no plastic, table extensions, material clamp
  • Cons: Short material cut height against the fence, small dust collection port, No crown bevel detent

The Makita LS1221 came in as the lightest saw in our round-up. Ironically, it also had the least amount of plastic parts—figure that one out! Put it all together, and the Makita LS1221 easily qualifies as our best portable 12-inch miter recommendation.

Don’t let the lightweight fool you into thinking that this saw lacks features or power, however. This saw has a gear reduced direct-drive motor which makes it by default a single bevel saw. Every bit of the saw is either painted or has a nice machined finish. There were no unfinished or sharp edges hidden anywhere. The overall build quality of this saw feels like a Swiss watch.

Unlike all the other saws in the review, the swing arm that activates the blade guard is almost completely hidden which makes for a tidy appearance. We really appreciate the dual table extensions that remove easily. You also get a material clamp. Also, every user-removable or adjustable item can adjust using the same included wrench!

This saw retails for around $300 and includes the saw, 12 in. 40-tooth blade, vertical vise, (2) extension wings, socket wrench, and dust bag.

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Also recommended:

  • Skilsaw SPT88-01 12-inch Worm Drive Miter Saw

51 pounds may not seem like the ultimate in portability, but given the power of the Skilsaw SPT88-01 12-inch worm drive miter saw, it’s super-light. Also one of our favorite corded models, we love the power and accuracy of this saw. For framing or carpentry, we find the power and size almost perfectly balanced.

You can pick it up for $650.

Best 12″ Miter Saw for the Money

DeWalt DW716 Miter Saw

best 12 miter saw for money dewalt dws716
  • Pros: Quiet, Tons of miter and bevel detents, removable fence allows for cutting up to 2×10
  • Cons: No material clamp included, Blade guard can slice your thumb (read the manual)

Due to its power and unbelievable capacity, the DeWalt DW716 set itself apart as our recommendation for the best 12″ miter saw for the money.

We quickly identified the DeWalt as the quietest 12-inch miter saw in the bunch. Its refined belt drive system plays the largest part in making that possible. The saw bevels up to 48° in both directions with five common detents. We liked the speedy miter lever lock and the 11 stops (more than all the other saws we tested).

The DeWalt DW716 started out accurate right out of the box. Probably our biggest gripe is that if you hold your thumb to the side of the handle, rather than down, you can expect the blade guard to swing up and potentially grab your thumb as you move the saw towards your workpiece. Of course, this only happens once before you learn how DeWalt intended you to hold the handle. In the manual, it explains that this is by design (not the thumb slicing part!). You can use your thumb to position the guard for certain cuts when you need to hold the guard out of the way.

Remove the main fence, and you can use the remaining smaller fence with a 1-1/2″ thick sacrificial board. That bumps up your crosscut capacity to an astounding 2×10. Remember, this saw lacks a slide! This alone makes it one of our favorites. If you pick up this saw, we suggest you spring for the excellent DWX726 stand as well.

This saw retails for around $349 and includes the saw, 12 in. 40-tooth blade, vertical vise, (2) extension wings, socket wrench, and dust bag.

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Also recommended:

  • Skilsaw SPT88-01 12-inch Worm Drive Miter Saw

51 pounds may not seem like the ultimate in portability, but given the power of the Skilsaw SPT88-01 12-inch worm drive miter saw, it’s super-light. Also one of our favorite corded models, we love the power and accuracy of this saw. For framing or carpentry, we find the power and size almost perfectly balanced.

You can pick it up for $650.

Best Budget 12″ Cordless Miter Saw

Ryobi TSS121 12 in. Sliding Miter Saw with LED

ryobi tss121 miter saw
  • Pros: Low cost of entry, tons of clearance for up to a 13-1/4 in. crosscut, electric brake
  • Cons: Single bevel, average dust collection

For the serious DIYer, we find it hard not to like a 15-amp sliding miter saw for $269. You get all the clearances of a 12-inch miter, but for the price of a 10-inch model. On the slide, you get plenty of room to cut through 2×12 boards at 90-degrees. An LED cutline indicator and work-light help improve cut accuracy and visibility.

The saw miters 47° left and right with stops at the most common crown molding angles 0°, 15°, 22.5°, 31.6°, and 45° both left and right. There’s also the expected miter detent override.

The 1-1/4 in. dust port works OK, but this won’t collect as much dust as other saws we’ve used. Lastly, we do appreciate the electric brake which stops the blade quickly and you can’t go wrong with a 3-year warranty.

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Also recommended:

  • DeWalt DWS715 12-inch single-bevel miter saw ($229)
  • Metabo HPT C12FDHM 12-in dual-bevel compound miter saw ($179)
  • Ridgid R4222 dual-bevel sliding miter saw ($399)

Common Features

Of the dozen or so saws we considered and tested for these recommendations, certain features remain common throughout. These should be the minimum standard of what to look for when shopping. All the saws have 15-amp motors, electric motor brakes, top-mounted carry handles, adjustable fences, and dust collection bags.

Each of the saws came with a carbide-tipped blade that ranged from 30 to 60 teeth. For adjustments, all the saws are able to offer left and/or right miter cuts past 45 degrees. Also, as a minimum, all could do left-hand bevel cuts up to 45 degrees.

Not every manufacture offers both single and dual bevel capabilities, and not every user requires both (though we generally prefer dual-bevel). Finally, all saws tested provide preset miter and bevel angles—typically with stops. Most have at least 9 positions of built-in miter stops with a dedent at 0 degrees and detents in both directions at 15, 22.5, 31.6, and 45 degrees. Bevel stops typically have detents at 0 and 45 degrees.

Testing Preparation

As the saws came in, we carefully opened each box and inspected the tools. When checking out a brand new saw, one of the first things we do is to verify how true the blade is to the table and fence. We had to adjust the squareness of two of the saws that came in. Everyone should learn to how to calibrate a miter saw rather than trust they arrived from the manufacturer dead-square.

To further even the playing field we removed the factory-installed blades and replaced each with brand new blades. We alternated using blades from both Irwin Marples and Diablo depending upon the test and cut. Both blades feature thin kerf ATB (Alternate Top Bevel) ground carbide teeth. With each saw cutting with the same new blade, it made it easier to compare performance.

Testing 12-inch Miter Saws

90 Degree Cut Capacity Testing

Testing seven saws is not something that happens all at once or in a very fast way. These are large size tools and it takes a while to get to know the features of each tool. Thankfully we had a reasonable amount of time to use the saws on multiple occasions. We tested both in the shop and out in the field on one of our four porch projects.

Milwaukee 6955-20 miter saw cutting

In testing, one of the first things that come to mind with a miter saw is how big a piece of wood will it cut. Given the blade size, you would think that all the saws would have about the same cut capacity, but given the geometry of the blade axis, the fence, and the swing arm design there is some room for differences. The best 12″ compound miter saws will slice through 2×8 lumber with no problem, but some models will exceed even that by a small margin. 12-inch sliding miter saws should easily clear a 2×12.

Cutting Lumber

First, we tried different size pieces of nominal sized lumber at a 90-degree cross-cut and it pretty much boiled down to a pass/fail on if the saw could handle it when it came to nominal sized material like 2×4, 4×4, 2×6, 2×8, and 1x material from 4 through 8 inches. Of course, each saw was able to handle any of these materials. We tested the widest and thickest pieces that could be cut laying flat on the table.

Ridgid R4221 12-Inch Miter Saw Review

In our deck building, we largely used these saws for cutting the 2×8 framing members to length and trimming the 5/4”x6” deck boards. Since each saw had the same blade and essentially the same size 15-amp motor, we never experienced any instances where the motors bogged down or seemed stressed, even when cutting new, wet pressure-treated wood.

Angled Cut Capacity Testing

Miter angle cuts on all the saws were easy to adjust and lock In, even if it was not one of the preset detents. There is a range of methods to adjust and lock in the miters with most of the saws having a screw-down type handle to lock in the miter angle. All the saws had at least 9 miter stops with the DeWalt being the one with more at 11. These preset angle stops make it a snap to quickly find common cut angles. All the saws allowed an override on the detents with the Milwaukee providing the most accurate way to measure miter angles thanks to its digital miter angle readout. All the saws were able to fully rotate the table in both left and right directions.

DeWalt DWS780 miter cut

The commonalities in the bevel cuts with these saws are where we discovered the largest differences. Since some of these saws in this review are single bevel and others are dual, there are some obvious differences there. All the saws have stops at 0 and 45-degree bevel angles and four of them also have a 33.9-degree detent setting for cutting crown.

Cutting Crown Molding

If you are not a regular at cutting crown molding, it can be one of the most challenging cuts to make since they need a compound angle cut. Since all these saws allow for compound angle miter cuts, you no longer have to use the traditional method of standing your crown trim boards upside down against the fence. Still, vertical cut capacity rules the roost and makes these cuts very simple.

Makita Cordless 12-inch Miter Saw

You can also easily set the miter and bevel using the integrated stops and cut the crown trim laying face up, flat against the table. We love that most Ridgid miter saws actually put a crown cutting guide permanently affixed to the miter adjustment handle. For most (or anyone who hasn’t done it in a while), it takes a little thinking to still get it right—even with the built-in angle stops.

Adjusting Bevel Angles

Adjusting the bevel angles varied greatly. The best 12″ compound miter saws allow easy adjustment of bevel and miter. Most of the ones we tested have some sort of large rotating handle on the back of the saw that must be loosened before you can pivot the head. On these saws, you must reach behind or the saw to adjust.

The Hitachi has a unique micro-adjustment that, once the main screw is loose, you can rotate the barrel to dial in an exact angle. With the Milwaukee 6955-20, Makita LS1219L (and XSL07Z/XSL08Z), and the Bosch GCM12SD Axial Glide, you get bevel controls right up front. This makes adjusting the bevel angles almost effortless.

Makita cordless 12-in Miter Saw front bevel

Conclusion

While no single miter saw did everything, I think we have some good recommendations for most users. I used budget-minded Ryobi and Skilsaw models right next to the most expensive Milwaukee and Makita saws. There are differences to be sure. Your next miter saw purchase will come down to how you need to use it, price, capacity—and possibly even convenience.

Plus, with new cordless 12-inch miter saws, you may find yourself trying to match a new model to your battery platform of choice.

Keep in mind that the best 12-inch miter saw targets users looking for the highest cut capacities. You may find that you’ll do better with a smaller, more portable sliding saw.

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Ted Moxon

Would have loved to see you guys review the Harbor Freight Hercules 12″ miter saw. It has the price point and feature set to compete with all the saws you have here.

Jason Moore

Cool review but seeing as the bosch axial won its a shame you didn’t review the delta dual axial… it probably would have dusted the competition