Work around construction or remodeling projects for long and you’ll realize you won’t make it very far without a miter saw. Walk into your tool store and you’ll find a dizzying array of options from nearly every major brand on the market. There are 7-1/4″ battery-powered options, 8-1/2″ compact models, 10″ mid-size saws, and (often with a heavenly beam shining on them) 12″ full-size models. It’s not good enough to just pick a brand, either. Several make more than one 12″ model. Designs like the Makita 12″ Dual Slide Compound Miter Saw are flagships for the brand. They go well beyond the basics by including slide rails, mitering to both the right and left, and beveling to the right and left. They give you the maximum versatility and features for making all the angled cuts you may come across.
There are plenty of ways to pick the best 12-inch miter saw for your work. At its core, what matters most is the power to cut through tough materials, accuracy to form perfect joints, and cut capacity to handle larger material. Makita addresses each of these needs in their LS1216LX4 – and they toss in their miter saw stand to make it mobile for the jobsite for good measure.
Editor’s Note: Check out our best miter saw article for our top recommendations.
Makita LS1216L Setup and First Impressions
The first thing you need to do is calibrate the miter saw before using it. While some consider it a pain, it’s actually a great way to make sure you understand the adjustments and features on your new saw before you make the first cuts into what you’re hoping will leave professional results. Makita handles the calibration for both miter and bevel before it leaves the factory.
Then it gets put on a truck and the control process is thrown out the window.
When the saw arrived, the miter adjustments were still perfect. The bevel needed some work though. Makita’s LS1216L sliding miter saw has 3 points of bevel calibration – 0 degrees, 45 degrees left, and 45 degrees right. With the onboard tool in hand, I carefully adjusted each point until it reached my level of satisfaction (that would be precision level OCD if you’re keeping score). It took a little longer than other saws to get exact, but the results were absolutely worth the effort.
Reviewer’s Note: It’s possible to over-tighten the screws on the miter and bevel angle indicators. It’s also possible that I may have made that mistake. Let’s just say I’m thankful for epoxy.
The build quality and major components of this 12″ miter saw are solid. Where I take some exception is that all the adjustment levers and knobs are plastic. It’s not the cheap, brittle stuff, but I have some long-term concerns about the bevel stop override lever and fence adjustment knobs.
The included stand takes some a little getting used to. It’s a three-position stand starting at ground level. Level 2 brings you up slightly, but still well below what would be comfortable at a standing position. The third position is your full working height. I had a little trouble getting the system to lock into place at this level, but it became easier with each use.
The extensions first slide out then pivot to create a stable platform. Two adjustments are made from the pivot point. The first brings the lower piece down to ground level accounting for any uneven surfaces. The second brings the extension support up to match the level of the saw. Since you can adjust the height, a variety of saws can work with this stand.
Putting the Makita 12″ Sliding Compound Miter Saw to Good Use
So just about every 12″ miter saw is going to come packed with a 15 amp motor and the Makita LS1216L is no exception. However, when you look at no-load speed, Makita is at 3200 RPM whereas other brands run in the 4000 RPM neighborhood. While it may not look great on paper, I cut through 2 x 10 and 4 x 4 pressure-treated pine with absolutely no problem. I’m talking hot knife through butter kind of smooth and powerful.
This can be attributed to a couple of features. First, Makita packs the best stock blades I’ve used with their saws. You can buy higher-priced and more specialized 12-inch thin kerf miter saw blades, but you’re at least starting out strong. The Makita 12″ Dual Slide Compound Miter Saw also has a direct drive motor utilizing Makita’s electronic speed control to optimize power to maintain blade speed. The result is a cutting experience that is very confident.
As a bonus, direct-drive motors don’t lose speed like belt-driven motors that begin to loosen over time.
Most miter saws should be able to make a perfect 90-degree cross-cut once calibrated. Mitered cuts should also be no problem. Trouble tends to hit when beveled cuts are made—and the issue tends to be magnified on heavier 12″ saws. Typical flex in the blade and/or rails can create a belly in beveled and compound cuts the shallower your angle is from 90 degrees. Many Pros expect this to be the case on their 45-degree bevel cuts and simply accept it.
I tested a variety of miter, bevel, and compound cuts trying to find the chink in Makita’s armor. They all passed the visual test, but I used a straight edge to see where sunlight would expose flaws. There weren’t any. Makita’s use of a 4 rail design presents two separate rail systems, each half the length that a two-rail system would be. By keeping those rails shorter, the flex often found on a miter saw is defeated by simple rigidity.
Making Accurate Bevel Cuts
One point of difficulty I found on this model was with the bevel adjustments. By default, you can bevel left to 45 degrees with no obstacle. To engage the stops at 22.5 and 33.9 degrees, you need to pull the bevel stop lever forward. If you’re hoping to stop at 33.9, you need to leave the bevel stop lever in its override position until you move past 22.5.
To bevel right, you first need to pull the saw left, press and hold the right bevel button, and then move the saw to the right until you reach your desired right bevel angle. If you need an angle other than what is found on your bevel stops, reach around the back to engage the bevel lock. All in all, the bevel system works and it is very accurate, but I found it to be a bit over-engineered.
Also in the realm of accuracy is Makita’s laser. The use of a laser has been a fantastic innovation, but their realistic use has been hit or miss. With the Makita LS1216L, you can choose either left of blade or right of blade for your laser designation. I found both to be dead on.
Cut capacity is another bright spot for the Makita 12″ Dual Slide Miter Saw. You get a full 15″ of crosscut capacity at 90 degrees with 3-5/8″ thick material. Crown molding specialists will also be excited about the 6-1/2″ vertical cut capability, leaving room for 8″ nested crown material.
To help maximize the vertical cut capacity, a crown molding stop can be found on the top rails. Although it’s constructed from plastic, it’s also very simple to use and intuitive. Simply flip the switch to slide it in position and lock both rails in place.
Makita 12″ Sliding Compound Miter Saw Specifications
- Model: Makita LS1216LX4 12″ Miter Saw with Stand
- Motor: 15 amp direct drive
- Blade Diameter: 12″
- No Load Speed: 3200 RPM
- Cross Cut Capacity @ 90 Degrees: 3-5/8″ x 15″
- Cross Cut Capacity @ 45 Degrees: 3-5/8″ x 10-1/2″
- Crown Molding Capacity: 8″
- Weight: 58.6 pounds
- Price: $819.99 (LS1216LX4), $589.99 (LS1216L Miter Saw only)
If you could choose only one word to describe the Makita 12″ Sliding Compound Miter Saw it would have to be “accuracy”. Take the time to properly calibrate this saw, and I’d challenge you to find another in its class that will deliver more accurate results.
Makita’s direct-drive motor, 6 linear bearing dual rail system, and outstanding 60-tooth 12″ blade deliver a smooth cutting experience that you’ll be hard-pressed to rival.
There’s no question this is a professional-level miter saw. Every level of miter saw user will benefit from having this in his or her arsenal, though it’s likely the Pros that will invest the $819 to bring it home. Finish and trim carpenters that demand accuracy will also fall in love with the capabilities inherent in this tool.