Miter saws are pretty specialized tools that have one major purpose: to make angled cross cuts.
You might be wondering; how much difference can there really be between a 10″ and 12″ version of a miter saw?
Surprisingly, there are a few big things to consider. Let’s take a closer look at what makes them different to figure out which one is the right one for you.
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What’s the difference between a 10” and 12” miter saw?
While 12″ miter saws are more powerful and have a greater cutting capacity, 10″ saws have a greater variety of blades available and provide faster, smoother results. Cost is also a huge factor to consider with 12″ miter saws being much more expensive to buy and maintain.
What Is a Miter Saw?
Before we can really explore the difference between a 10″ and 12″ miter saw, let’s get into what exactly a miter saw does.
A miter saw is usually stationary. Larger miter saws are usually mounted to a designated stand or the top of a workbench but it is possible to move smaller ones around so that they’re closer to where you’re working. These are not to be confused with a chop saw.
Depending on the kind of blade you’re using, miter saws can cut through wood, plastic, and some metals. The material is usually held against a fence for better precision while the circular blade is brought down onto it in a single controlled, short motion. The blade is lifted, the material is repositioned, and the process starts all over again.
The blade angle can be changed in relation to the fence and can vary quite drastically. Some miter saws allow you to set very precise angles adjusting 1 degree at a time while others only allow for preset common cuts, like 15, 30, or 45 degrees.
You’ll notice that miter saws come in two variants: sliding and non sliding, which you can find more about from our guide here.
10″ vs 12″ Miter Saw
While a 10″ and 12″ miter saw basically function in the same way, there are some differences between them that you should consider if you’re looking to buy one. Obviously, a 12″ saw is larger than a 10″ but that has a lot more of an effect on performance than you might think.
The Argument for 10″ Miter Saws
One of the biggest perks to a 10″ miter saw is that they’re faster. Why? Science!
Because the blade has a smaller radius, the teeth rotate faster than on a larger blade of the same material. Faster spinning blades cut through material more quickly and leave behind smoother edges. Plus, a shorter 10″ blade is less likely to wobble which makes for a straighter, more precise cut. Basically, all other things being equal, you’ll get better results with a 10″ miter saw.
Cost is a bit of an issue to consider, too. If you have a 10″ and 12″ blade from the same manufacturer and made from the same material, the 10″ option will be significantly less expensive. In fact, it can be as little as half the price of the larger blade. But the savings don’t stop there. It actually costs less to sharpen a 10″ blade, too, so even maintenance fees will be less in the long run.
Of course, when it comes to blades, there’s a more to consider than just the price.
It’s actually much easier to find blades for a 10″ miter saw because they’re more common. For example, you can go to your local hardware store and find a large selection of blades that includes just about everything you’ll ever need. And here’s a nice bonus: if you have a table saw, chances are it also takes 10″ blades, too, so you can switch blades from one saw to the other.
That said, you’ll have to search much harder for the same 12″ blades and they’ll be much more expensive when you find them. Everything about a 10″ miter saw is less expensive: the initial purchase, adding new blades, sharpening old blades, and even the electricity used to power it.
One more thing, as for the saw itself, a 10″ saw takes up less space on your workstation and can be stored and transported more easily than a larger 12″ miter saw. If you are looking for something with a bit of portability, the smaller saw is the better choice. You’ll often find these on the battery powered miter saws.
The Argument against 10″ Miter Saws
Of course, there are some downsides, too.
10″ miter saws don’t have nearly the same cutting capacity as a 12″ version. If you plan to use any material thicker than 4x4s, this can become problematic.
One of the biggest things to ask yourself before deciding on a 10″ miter saw is what kind of projects you’re planning to work on. For trim work or something similar, a 10″ is a great choice but, for larger projects using thicker material, it might not be big enough.
The Argument for 12″ Miter Saws
If you do a lot of large cutting jobs, a 12″ miter saw is a better choice.
They tend to pack a little more power and, because they’re bigger saws in general, they can handle larger pieces of material. While a 10″ miter saw will struggle with anything larger than a 4×4, a 12″ cuts quickly and easily through a 4×6 in only one pass.
This increased power combined with slightly slower rotating blades also makes 12″ miter saws better at tackling hardwood and other hard-to-cut materials. Specifically, they’re great with plywood and laminate. They’re also built a bit tougher since they’re made to handle more difficult jobs and may last a bit longer than a 10″ miter saw.
The Argument against 12″ Miter Saws
When it comes to power tools, bigger and more powerful also means a higher price tag and you will definitely pay more for a 12″ miter saw than a 10″ one of the same quality. They also use more power to operate which could affect your electric bill.
Not only are blades more expensive, they’re also harder to find so you won’t have as many options to choose from. In fact, if you really need a specific blade, you’ll probably have to wait a few days for it to be shipped and it’s most likely going to be pretty expensive.
Generally, 12″ miter saws are more expensive to maintain and operate so, if money is a factor, this might not be the best choice.
Size is a factor, too. Most 12″ miter saws will need to be mounted to a stand or workbench (we have already rounded up the best miter saw stands). While it’s not really fair to say that 10″ miter saws are “portable”, it is possible to carry them to a different worktable to get them closer to your project. A 12″ saw is more difficult to move so you’ll more than likely have to bring the materials to it.
Which One is Better?
Generally, the only reason you should consider buying a 12″ miter saw is if you plan to take on some larger jobs at some point. If you ever think you’ll need the power and cutting capacity a 12″ saw delivers and you’re not worried about the cost, it’s a worthwhile investment.
That said, there are some 12″ models that allow you to use both 12″ and 10″ blades. This option gives you the best of both worlds. It has the power when you need it but gives you all the benefits of a 10″ saw when you don’t. This is a great compromise if you have a little more money to invest in the tool upfront but, again, unless you’re going to tackle a large job in the future, it still may not be necessary.
For the average woodworker, a 10″ miter saw is your best bet. No matter how you look at it, they save you money. They’re less expensive to purchase in the first place, the blades are cheaper to buy and sharpen (as well as being easier to come by), and they don’t use as much power to operate which can save you money on your utility bill.
If you want to learn more or need some help figuring out which miter saw is the right one for you, check out our in-depth miter saw reviews. We’ll tell you exactly what to look for when you shop and point you in the direction of some really great products.