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This Milwaukee 12" Dual Bevel Compound MIter Saw is built tough yet capable of the delicate accuracy needed for cutting precision moldings and frames.
This saw placed 3rd in our annual Top Ten Tools of 2010!
Click image to enlarge

Milwaukee 12" Dual-Bevel Sliding Compound Miter Saw

Accuracy and capacity in a tough, user-friendly package

Text, photos and video by Tom Hintz

Posted - 5-12-2010

Sliding compound miter saws are enjoying considerable interest in woodworking today because of their increased capacity and small footprint, both of which fit today's active but space-challenged shops. The accuracy and features on the Milwaukee 12" Dual-Bevel Sliding Compound Miter Saw (#6955-20) have drawn lots of requests from NewWoodworker.com viewers for a review so here it is!

The Milwaukee 12" Dual-Bevel Sliding Compound Miter Saw looks very well made with a tight, clean fit and finish. If you are familiar with Milwaukee tools this quality will not be a big surprise. It is obvious that Milwaukee is keeping up with technology and have applied modern ideas to this 12" Dual-Bevel Sliding Compound Miter Saw. The range of user-friendly features and generous capacities make this a very capable tool in virtually any woodworking shop.

Power

Milwaukee laid the motor down along the upper arm, increasing clearance plus adding a simple but tough gear drive that increases torque at the blade.
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The Milwaukee 12" Dual-Bevel Sliding Compound Miter Saw is equipped with a 15.0 Amp, 3.3 Max HP direct drive motor to assure plenty of power to handle the tough cuts with the 12" blade. While this is a direct drive system, it uses a gear drive to turn the blade rather than mounting the blade directly onto the motor shaft. The Milwaukee 12" Dual-Bevel Sliding Compound Miter Saw uses the mechanical advantage of that gearing to develop even more power/torque at the blade than with conventional direct drives. This system also allowed Milwaukee to install the motor parallel to the upper arm to make it even more compact. That motor position dramatically reduces interference with the wood on deep cuts. This geared drive system also means that there is no belt to wear out or need adjustment.

The motor has Constant Power Technology built in to help keep the blade spinning at a constant speed (3200 RPM, No Load) when the cuts get tough. Milwaukee also includes soft start circuitry to eliminate that initial "kick" of the powerhead when the motor comes to life. The motor also has an electric "brake" that stops the blade quickly when the trigger is released.

Capacity and Range

The Milwaukee 12" Dual-Bevel Sliding Compound Miter Saw has a miter range of 55-degrees to the left and 60-degrees to the right. Plus it can make 48-degree bevel cuts to the right and left.

For quick setup the Milwaukee 12" Dual-Bevel Sliding Compound Miter Saw has detents at popular angles. Detents to the left include 0, 15, 22.5, 31.6, 45 and 55-degrees. To the right, 0, 15, 22.5, 31.6, 45 and 60-degree detents are available. Of course you can set any angle between the preset stops. Bevel stops at 0, 15, 22.5, 33.85, 45 and 48-degrees are provided to the left and right.

Between the 12"-diameter blade and a full 7-1/4" of slide travel the Milwaukee 12" Dual-Bevel Sliding Compound Miter Saw sports an impressive amount of cutting capacity. At 90-degrees and 0 bevel angle it can cut a piece 2" X 14" dimensional lumber. At the same settings it can cut a piece of crown molding (nested vertically) 5-5/8"-tall. At a 45-degree miter it can still cut a 2" X 10" dimensional lumber. Match that against some of the radial arm saws and you can see why modern woodworkers are looking more to these sliding compound miter saws.

Upper Arm Controls

The bevel angel control (left) is very simple but holds tight. That one paddle-style lever is all that is needed to change the bevel setting. The operating handle (right) is large, comfortable and easy to control. The light and motor switches are built in and simple to operate.
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While designing the Milwaukee 12" Dual-Bevel Sliding Compound Miter Saw they kept it as tool free as possible. With the exception of the included blade wrench, Milwaukee met their tool-free goal with an array of easy-to-use controls that make setting this saw up for use fast and easy.

A finger-operated knob controls the slide motion while a push-pull button lock or unlocks the vertical motion of the arm. The Milwaukee 12" Dual-Bevel Sliding Compound Miter Saw also has an adjustable depth stop. To engage the depth stop simply flip the stop plate into position and then set the desired depth.

A paddle-type lever at the rear of the upper arm controls the bevel settings to the left or right. This paddle has three positions, full down which locks the bevel settings and full up frees the bevel actions completely. Lift the paddle to the half way position and the arm clicks into the next preset detent it encounters. To go to the next detent lift the paddle to move the arm again and click into the next detent. When at the desired bevel detent you just push the paddle down and the arm is locked in place. Arrow-style pointers and scales are located at the upper arm joint for both left and right bevel ranges.

The dual work lights (top) do a very good job of illuminating the cut area, greatly increasing accuracy as a result.
The slider carriage (bottom) is tough and if anything, over-built to insure accuracy and a long service life.
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A large, comfortably shaped handle makes operating the Milwaukee 12" Dual-Bevel Sliding Compound Miter Saw easy and precise. A pull trigger bar is built into the handle to be both convenient and to make accidental start-ups of the blade all but impossible.

The Milwaukee 12" Dual-Bevel Sliding Compound Miter Saw has a pair of worksite lights (one on either side of the arm) that illuminate the area around the blade for easy sighting of cut lines. The lights run off of the saws 110V system so there are no batteries to replace. A dust proof rocker switch in the operating handle turns the lights on and off as needed.

The Milwaukee 12" Dual-Bevel Sliding Compound Miter Saw has a fully automatic blade guard that works very smoothly. This is a well designed guard that offers plenty of protection and all you need to do is operate the saw correctly.

Slider Carriage

The Milwaukee 12" Dual-Bevel Sliding Compound Miter Saw features an ultra-smooth ball bearing slider system. Based around two precision ground 1-3/16"-diameter shafts this slider carriage moves very freely yet has the least amount of play I have seen in a miter saw. If you want more stability than this, you will have to weld the carriage in place.

The carriage is locked with a simple finger-operated knob that can be applied at any point in the slider travel. This is a simple but very accurate slider system that looks to be very durable as well.

Miter Controls

The Milwaukee 12" Dual-Bevel Sliding Compound Miter Saw features a round center table that pivots for setting miter angles. The miter arm has a twist knob at the operator end that is used to lock and unlock the table at the desired angle. The table can pivot from 55-degrees to the left and 60-degrees to the right. Between these limits are preset detents at 0, 15, 22.5, 31.6, 45-degrees, also to the left and right.

The miter controls (left) are easy to use, including the red fine-tuning ring that lets you dial in tiny changes accurately. The digital readout (right) gives you dead-on accuracy down to 0.1"!
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A trigger-type detent lever under the front of the table arm is pulled up halfway to move from detent to detent. Of course, you can lock the Milwaukee 12" Dual-Bevel Sliding Compound Miter Saw table down at any miter angle needed including any setting between the detents.

Pull the detent trigger all the way up and push the red dial on the front of the table arm forward to engage the detent override system that lets you dial in miter angles with 0.1-degree accuracy. This detent override system is especially handy when matching an existing or desired miter angle other than the detents provided.

To make full use of all this miter versatility the Milwaukee 12" Dual-Bevel Sliding Compound Miter Saw comes with a digital readout that gives you visual accuracy down to 0.1"! This digital readout removes any excuses you might have for not matching a known angle precisely. It also means you can dial in very precise miter angle changes when fitting molding around a corner. Like the work lights, the digital readout is powered by the Milwaukee 12" Dual-Bevel Sliding Compound Miter Saw internal wiring so there are no batteries to deal with. A traditional scale is included around the bottom of the pivoting table for quick setups.

Table Surface

The table surface (left) is smooth and offers plenty of support for most jobs. The center pivot table has an easy-to-read scale that is handy for setting the angle quickly, then fine-tuning with the digital readout. The wings give lots of vertical support for molding work. the left wing can be extended or like the right wing, removed entirely if that best suits the situation.
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The Milwaukee 12" Dual-Bevel Sliding Compound Miter Saw sports a spacious aluminum table surface and base that keeps it stable on any suitable surface in the shop or on the jobsite. For extra stability the base has holes for screwing it solidly to a surface. At 25"-wide the table itself offers substantial support. The pivot table arm adds another 15" of support immediately surrounding the blade front to back. Plastic strips along each side of the blade path can be adjusted in and out to act as a zero clearance insert to help control chipping along the cut and to add even more support.

Fence Wings

The Milwaukee 12" Dual-Bevel Sliding Compound Miter Saw has left and right fence wings that substantially increase the vertical support for cutting large stock. With the wings in place the vertical support goes to 5-1/8". The wings also offer a place to clamp stock when needed.

An oddity is that only the left fence wing can be slid outwards. A patent issue prevents Milwaukee from making the right side wing slide-out adjustable. The reality is that we very seldom use the right side wing anyway so this is a minor issue if it is one at all for most users. Both wings can be removed to increase blade clearance when necessary.

Dust Control

A nicely designed shroud collects most of the dust that other saws in this class throw all over the shop. This is a well thought-out effective dust device.
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Miter saws have been notorious from day one for lousy dust collection. The Milwaukee 12" Dual-Bevel Sliding Compound Miter Saw is equipped with a close-fitting shroud built into the upper arm. This shroud follows the blade regardless of vertical or horizontal position. Between the shape of the shroud and it always staying close to the blade it caches a surprising amount of the dust that actually flows into the port and then on to bag at the rear of the saw.

It isn't hard to imagine adding a dust collector port close to the Milwaukee 12" Dual-Bevel Sliding Compound Miter Saw dust chute to maximize its efficiency in a semi-permanent installation. It may not be perfect but this dust system is closer to that illusive miter saw goal than most I have seen.

In the Shop

The Milwaukee 12" Dual-Bevel Sliding Compound Miter Saw arrived fully assembled. All I had to do before use was remove the packaging and give it a quick checking over. I am in the habit of checking all alignments on new tools and did that here. The Milwaukee 12" Dual-Bevel Sliding Compound Miter Saw came from the factory ready to go with dead-on alignments. The manual does tell you how to make the alignments if need be and later as time goes by.

Video Tour

All of the controls work as expected make the learning curve for using this machine very gentle. I found the printed scale around the miter table to be easy to read and as I would find through use, very precise. Using the printed scale to quickly align the table and then go to the digital to refine the setting is very fast and as accurate as I can measure. If this system is off, it certainly is not by much!

The Milwaukee 12" Dual-Bevel Sliding Compound Miter Saw lacks laser alignment but I do not see that as a deficiency. Other miter saws I have reviewed had laser sighting systems and the majority of the email I received on them indicates the end users are at best luke warm on these gadgets. Even the better (more costly) lasers can be difficult to see in bright sunlight and may need periodic attention to maintain their alignment. I suspect that most contractor types along with serious woodworkers will line the blade up with their layout lines as we have done in the world before lasers. Many admit to doing this manual alignment even after using the laser, just to be sure.

The Milwaukee 12" Dual-Bevel Sliding Compound Miter Saw certainly is not lacking power. Keep a good blade on it like the 12"-diameter, 60-tooth ATB (alternate tooth bevel) one supplied from the factory and this saws makes clean precise cuts through even hardwoods with ease. I also tried soft pine and got very clean cuts there also.

Throughout the evaluation the Milwaukee 12" Dual-Bevel Sliding Compound Miter Saw refused to do anything wrong or unexpected. The headlights at first struck me as fluff but really do work well. Their positioning on either side of the blade lights up the entire work area very well and make seeing layout lines very easy and that makes you more accurate.

Conclusions

The Milwaukee 12" Dual-Bevel Sliding Compound Miter Saw is a well-made and thoughtfully designed saw that will benefit pros on the jobsite or woodworkers in the home shop. The large cut capacity make this machine a good candidate for the smaller shops that do not have room for a radial arm saw. For many projects the Milwaukee 12" Dual-Bevel Sliding Compound Miter Saw could take the place of a table saw.

With a street price of $649.00 (5-10-2010, $1260.00 list price) the Milwaukee 12" Dual-Bevel Sliding Compound Miter Saw is a good value for the pro and costs about half of a decent table saw for the home woodworker. Whatever your range of needs, the Milwaukee 12" Dual-Bevel Sliding Compound Miter Saw deserves full consideration if you need this kind of machine and want it to last a very long time. The Milwaukee 12" Dual-Bevel Sliding Compound Miter Saw certainly lives up to the Milwaukee Tool motto, "Nothing But Heavy Duty.

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