Miter Saw - laser vs shadow line?

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Staff member
Dec 5, 2003
Westlake, OH, USA.
I need a new miter saw. My 1994 DeWalt 12" compound version is still going strong but I use that mostly for heavy lumber and I need something to dedicate for trim.

Looking at corded saws, mostly the Makita LS1219L and the DeWalt DWS780. I prefer the Makita because of the front slide rail and not needing a lot of space behind the saw. Seems like a superior design. However, in their corded saws Makita only offers the laser and I believe the shadow line is a better option from what I've read.

So, can I hear opinions on shadow line vs. laser? Is shadow line the deal maker?.

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Hi Jeff,

I have a Bosch saw that came with no laser or light. I added an aftermarket laser because it didn't require any modifications. I used it initially, but have since pretty much stopped (after the battery died). I considered adding a shadow line light, but haven't figured out any kind of mounting system yet.

Although I haven't used one yet, I think the shadow line would be my preference -- no adjustment or tweaking needed when changing blades.

I wish mine had a front slide rail, but my Bosch is likely going to outlive me - so....


PS I've had both DeWalt and Makita tools and both have performed very well.
I've got a smaller Makita and the laser is handy but for real accuracy I put a false fence piece on and test cur so I know EXACTLY where the cut edge will fall . The front rail would be a great idea but only got this one 2 years ago and to be honest I didn't really need it but ….

You know how it is when you've tried a tool for a specific job and it makes it so easy you want one 😳😊

Never used a shadow line so sorry can't help but the Makita is well built
Jeff I look at those saw differently than you. Yes the laser and now the shadow line thing is great and the Shadow from reviews seems to be the best. I never used one. I have used a laser and do not like it because the laser beam is too wide for precision. That is why the shadow thing probably wins. The biggest thing I look for in those saws is the pull down handle. The one on the Dewalt is comfortable. I have an older Delta and it has a standard trigger type handle that runs perpendicular as where the Dewalt is horizontal. My delta tires your hand and arm because you are doing so many different things in one motion when pulling down on a handle. Dewalts 12" get all the top spots on the review lists. The biggest cons are the cheap plastic parts breaking. It would still be my choice. You have to consider too it does not bevel the same distance both ways if that means anything. It usually plays when doing molding work.
Jeff; I have a laser attachment that replaces the shoulder washer on the outside edge of the saw blade. It works well, comes on when the saw blade starts spinning and stops when the saw does. I got it many moons ago, not sure if I could even identify the maker.

I have a slider saw, so just mark the middle of piece to cut and then "tap" the blade on piece until it lines up with the mark; cut.
I have the HF Hercules sliding miter I swear is DeWalt's half sibling. They are incredibly similar.

No laser. When I had a laser in the past, I didn't trust it and dropped the blade to fine where I wanted the kerf. I don't miss it with the Hercules which was $150 less than the DeWalt.
Thanks for the opinions!

I typically align the blade to the line before the cut and that has worked well for me. I've never felt the need for a laser or a shadow line, but both worth investigation I suppose. Makita does have the shadow line on their battery saws, and I am on the Makita battery platform, but I can't justify that for a saw that is within sight of an outlet 100% of the time.
Have never used a laser, but the shadow line on my Dewalt slider is pretty accurate on construction lumber. The lower i drop the blade to check, the finer the shadow gets.
If you're really going to set up for trim, an alternative might be an old Dewalt MBF radial arm saw. Takes up to a 9" blade with a 5/8" arbor, so could be set up with a high quality 7 1/4" or 8" to get a baby's butt smooth cut. If i had the room, i'd add one along side my GWI--but i really need to add on to the shop to do that!! Heck, i need to add on to the shop as it is...even if i don't add a machine!!
I've had both the laser and shadow line. Current set up is a ridgid 12" slider with the shadow line. I've found it's more accurate

I'm hoping to upgrade sometime soon to a more space saving model. Either the makita or Bosch.
Maybe we can talk each other into getting one. 👍 I have cut on one and there is no vibration and the cuts are as smooth as a baby's bottom. I have done alot of trim work and still have more to do as I am going through entire house and remodeling so molding cutting is high on my list. My old non sliding miter saw is a work out and then I usually have to sneak up on cuts using a trimmer like this. These are great but just one more tool.
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