The miter saw is a very valuable tool to have in your workshop.
This power tool can make very quick work of all sorts of projects, from picture frames to crown moldings.
Miter saws also come with many options that allow them to be tailored for different tasks around the workshop or job site.
The most basic difference between models is whether they are single or double bevel.
Single bevel miter saws cut only on the front face of the stock, while double-bevel models cut on both sides.
There are several advantages and disadvantages attached to each type of saw, which we will attempt to clarify here.
What is A Bevel Cut Mean?
The bevel cut refers to the angle at which a piece of wood is cut.
The blade on a miter saw can make both a bevel and a miter cut, but they are not the same thing.
A bevel is an angled cut where one side of the board is longer than the other.
This will produce a wedge-like shape that creates an edge that slopes from high to low.
A miter cut produces two pieces of stock that have mirror opposite angles, often used in picture frames or boxes with angled lids so they open properly.
The sloping lines do not have to match up perfectly as seen in this picture.
Single Bevel Miter Saws
A single bevel miter saw is the type most commonly used by homeowners.
It is much easier to maintain than a double bevel model and can cut compound miters up to about 45 degrees.
This power tool cannot normally handle thicker stock, but small dual-bevel models are beginning to appear on the market that can handle 1″ thick wood for special uses.
There are also some smaller, low-powered single bevel models available that make this type of saw more accessible to homeowners with restricted budgets or limited workshop space.
If you do not already own a miter saw it’s best to budget for one of these simpler models now rather than later as they will likely be replaced with double bevel units for most applications.
Advantages of Single Bevel Saw
A single-bevel miter saw is better for angled crosscuts.
This is because the blade on a double-bevel tool will always cut at an angle equal to your miter setting.
While a single bevel model allows for cutting angles other than 45 degrees by adjusting the angle of the workpiece relative to that of the blade.
Another advantage of having only one bevel on your saw is that it may allow you to purchase specialized jigs or accessories targeted towards your needs.
Assuming they are compatible with your saw’s particular geometry.
For example, some users prefer aftermarket fence systems for certain types of cuts overusing the factory-supplied fence.
Because of this, they are willing to accept the limitations of a single bevel miter saw over its double-bevel brother.
Disadvantages of Single Bevel Saw
The biggest disadvantage with single bevel miter saws is also one of their advantages; they can not cut crown molding on both sides.
This means that if you want to cut crown around a corner or into an existing wall instead of across the face, where hinges would typically be placed, you will need additional pieces.
Luckily Bosch has accessory plates available for making these cuts using standard 10″ double-bevel miter saw blades (MS1500), allowing users of single-bevel models to be more versatile.
Why do you need a Single bevel miter saw?
The single bevel miter saw is best for angled cuts, especially compound angle crosscuts.
This type of tool is typically more affordable than the double-bevel models and is highly versatile in its ability to produce both standard miters and angled crosscuts.
It may also allow you to purchase additional accessories targeted towards your individual needs, like aftermarket fences or plates.
Double Bevel Miter Saws
A double-bevel model is almost always more expensive than single bevel saws of the same power but has several advantages over its single beveled cousin.
The ability to cut on both sides makes this type of saw far more flexible in its use. It can cut miters up to about 60 degrees in either direction.
Depending on the unit and can make longer cuts at full depth in crosscut mode with the stock up to about 2″ thick (depending on the model).
Double bevel saws are also capable of making straight cuts at any angle out to 45 degrees in either direction when used with a miter gauge or stacked dado head.
This can be a huge time saver for someone cutting crown molding on site, and the ability to make miter cuts of up to 60 degrees is great for matching existing complicated joinery.
The biggest issue with these models is that they require much more care in setup than single bevel saws.
Not only must the correct angles be maintained when locking them in place, but each side needs to have its alignment checked independently when changing from crosscut mode to miter mode.
If both sides are not perfectly aligned a compound cut can result in a finished product with one shoulder higher or lower than the other.
This type of problem is nearly impossible with single bevel saws as long as their blade remains parallel to their base plate while cutting.
Advantages of Double Bevel Saw
The first advantage to having a double bevel miter saw is that it can cut crown molding on both sides.
When doing this, the saw does not need to change its orientation at all.
This allows for constant visibility of your workpiece and more accurate cuts without the risk of downtime of flipping the wood over.
The double-bevel nature of these tools also allows you to make crosscuts on boards of any length or thickness without needing extra support or an adjustable workpiece holding jig.
An example of this would be when you are trying to fit crown molding into an entire house with odd angles everywhere.
Using a single bevel miter saw (and making only 45-degree miters) may require additional pieces of molding to be inserted into the corner joints.
Disadvantages of Double Bevel Saw
The main disadvantage associated with having a double-bevel is that these tools do not perform as well at miters or compound angles as their single-bevel counterparts.
This is because when you set your angle on one side of the blade, it will always cut at that same angle relative to the workpiece on the other side.
This means if you have a 90 degree crosscut to make, but are also trying to cut a 45 degree limit on either side of your workpiece, the blade will have to be cut as 45 degrees from two separate angles.
This can cause an issue if you do not have a tool with a large enough capacity for your material.
For example, let’s say you are cutting a 4-foot longboard and want to make a 90 degree crosscut first, followed by a 45-degree miter on either side of this first cut.
This means that each side of your workpiece must be at a different angle than the other because the blade will always see along with its unique geometry relative to your stock.
One side will always be perpendicular to the blade (90 degrees), while the other may only be 75 degrees depending on how much material is left after making your crosscut.
If there isn’t enough room to accommodate this, you risk binding the blade and losing control of your workpiece as it tries to fight itself out of such a confined space.
Why do you need a Double bevel miter saw?
A double bevel miter saw can cut both angles on each piece of stock because it has two independent swing arms instead of one opposite the blade.
While this allows for cutting compound miters without requiring additional pieces, there are some limitations when trying to cut long pieces.
The weight and geometry of the wood can cause it to deflect, increasing the likelihood that you will need additional pieces in order to complete your job.
Additionally, when cutting stock thicker than 2″, a double-bevel miter saw becomes useless because the angles cannot be changed independently on each arm.
Both types of miter saws will perform admirably as long as you understand which geometry they produce and how it may or may not meet the needs of your project.
I do not recommend trying to force a particular saw type into a situation where it would typically shine.
You will most likely end up disappointed with your purchase and wasting money on features that will never be used.
If you need help choosing the right tool for the job, don’t hesitate to contact us! We offer free consultations by phone or in-person and we’re always happy to help!