Lasers, with many industrial applications, are now commonly being offered for use with miter saws as a guide, to project a beam of light on the workpiece, showing exactly where the blade will make the cut before it actually makes contact.
The obvious benefits of a laser guide, assuming it to be accurate and visible (more on this in a minute), are the easy, fast, and precise alignment of stock, elimination of trial cuts, and an easier to see “line” for those with marginal eyesight. Some modernlaser systems do deliver on those features, with the exception of working in bright sunlight, which washes out the beam for all practical purposes. However, there is a wide range of accuracy and convenience among the systems offered, both on new saws and those sold in the aftermarket, with user opinions ranging from “thrilled” to “what a piece of useless junk.”
The more accurate and beneficial stationary laser guide systems are mounted on the miter saw body, sliding arm, or blade guard giving a stable mount, and provide a switch that lets the operator turn on the laser before the blade is in motion, to adjust the stock. These lasers are powered right from the saw.
Arbor lasers, provided by some manufacturers, and which also make up the bulk of the aftermarket offerings, are mounted on the saw’s arbor, taking the place of the outer blade washer. These are battery powered (button cells), triggered by the movement of the saw blade, and require the blade to be brought down almost to the point of touching the stock to be seen. It is at that point, with the blade in motion, that you need to adjust the stock for a correct cut. These systems are limited to a single laser line projected on one side of the blade.
The stationary (body, arm, guard) mounted lasers come in both single and double laser configurations. Some single lasers can be adjusted to lie on either side of the blade kerf for added operator flexibility, and the double laser straddles the kerf, giving the exact position of the kerf edges on both sides of the cut.
If the laser guide feature figures prominently in your miter saw purchase, don’t be discouraged by naysayers, but do be sure to carefully check out user reviews of the saws you’re considering, and take into account the information offered here, because accurate, convenient laser guides are available right now.