So you are thinking of purchasing an electric miter saw. What will you be using it for? Just a few pieces of framing, or, borders for a room, or maybe a doorway or two? If this is the case you might want to think of a manual saw and a miter box if you won’t be using it a lot.
A miter box is only called a box simply because it has 4 sides. It is actually more like a tray than a box. It functions as a jig that holds wood so you can make more accurate angled cuts that you need. It also has slots on all the sides and the grooves on the bottom so you can cut all the way through your wood easily.
To use the box properly, you will need a miter saw. This is actually a short fine toothed saw that has extra support on the blade. The manual boxes and the miter saw are excellent tools for fine cuts on moldings. The most used is a 45 degree angle to make corners.
Some boxes are even more detailed and allow other angled cuts as well. They also will support cutting a 90 degree or straight across angle. Sure, it is just straight across but if you mess up the first time there is no chance of a re cut and the piece fitting properly.
If you are doing strange shaped moldings like a half round you really need a clamping miter box to get an accurate cut. This is particularly true with crown moldings. Ad libing the clamps won’t work because they can move on you and really make an odd angle that will make the wood useless. And don’t buy an expensive box, if you are a frequent user it will need replacing in under a year from the pressure of the saw; especially of you use an electric saw as they are heavier than the hand saws.
Electric Miter Saws
The basic miter saw will adjust to make cuts at angles; the electric miter saw does not actually need a box because it is the saw that gets adjusted for the cuts. You will still need a good set of clamps to hold the wood in place to get a better cut in the wood.
The majority of the basic saws will have the most used cuts listed on their base and how to adjust for them. An electric saw could be better for you if you are into hobby building or cabinetry and will be using it frequently. Otherwise, stick with the hand saw and miter box.
You need to make sure you use proper hearing protection and safety goggles before you use either saw whether it be manual or electric; but for the manual saw you will not actually need the hearing protection.
Read any and all books that came with the saw before you even turn it on! That is the best way to use any equipment is to know how it is used properly so you don’t lose fingers or worse using it. A final word on these saws is shop around! They vary in price and functions and there is also a compound miter saw. This saw adjusts two ways instead of just for the initial angle.