There are quite a few questions about the new Craftsman 21226 MiterMate miter saw that we set out to address with a full no-holds barred hands-on review. Is the MiterMate gimmicky? Overly complex? Awkward and clumsy? Or is it as innovative and functional as Craftsman advertises?
Keep reading for our full review of the MiterMate, or skip ahead to the summary for our conclusions and recommendations. You may also want to check out our recent introductory post of the saw for a detailed write-up of its features and specs.
MiterMate Initial Setup
After unpacking the Craftsman MiterMate, as with any new miter saw, our first step was to check the alignment of the fence and blade, and to make any necessary adjustments. To our pleasant surprise, the saw was square and true straight out of the box.
This is not to say that the saw was immediately ready to go, however. During our initial inspection of the saw, we noticed that the left V-fence locking tab was rather tight, while the right fence lock was very loose. This was fairly easy to correct by loosening/tightening the respective adjustment bolts at the underside of the saw.
It is reassuring to know that, should the fence locking tabs loosen up over time, readjustment would be quick and easy.
The main distinction of Craftsman’s MiterMate is its unique V-fence system, which was designed to be used to create perfectly matched miter joints. For such a perfect joint, one piece of molding is cut alongside the left fence, and another alongside the right fence. The two pieces are then installed with a perfect mirror-image miter joint where they meet.
After ensuring that the saw was properly squared up, we turned our attention to examine the MiterMate’s V-fence system. What we found was that both sides of the V-fence are independently adjustable, allowing for quick and easy setup and reconfiguration.
V-Fence Adjustment & the Angle Finder Tool
Each side of the V-fence featured two adjustments, one for their pivot angles, and the other for slide positions.
First, let’s take a look at the angle adjustments. Each side features a 0 to 45° range, with stops at 0°, 15°, 22.5°, 30°, 31.6°, and 45°. If you should need or want to cut miters at intermediate angles, you can disengage the detent lock at the rear of each fence.
This is an image of the adjustment controls at the rear of the two fence components. As you can see, this area is a bit cramped, and can pose a finger-pinch hazard if you’re not careful. The over-ride lever is used to disengage the detent mechanism to allow for intermediate angles, and the thumbwheel is used to lock and unlock the fence faces for slide adjustment.
Each V-fence face is constructed from textured aluminum, and can slide along a track to accommodate larger pieces of molding or lumber. Longer lengths of molding supported alongside one fence will then pass through between the opposite fence and the saw’s bevel adjustment, allowing you to place your cut exactly where you want it.
Angle Finder Tool
Included with the MiterMate is an angle finder tool which is intended to eliminate the need to manually measure and calculate the angles at which molding must be cut. Once the tool is used to measure the angle needed for a joint, it can transfer the angle setting to the saw for quick and easy setup.
The angle finder tool’s paddles pivot easily and smoothly, and are easily adjusted to measure both inside and outside corners. Once the tool is perfectly aligned with the two sides of an edge or corner, a thumb wheel allows the angle of the paddles to be locked in place.
Once the angle finder tool is set and locked in, it is placed into the center recess of the saw and slid forward. The angle of the MiterMate’s V-fence is then adjusted to match the angle finder’s paddles, and both fence faces are locked into place. Remove and stow the angle finder tool, and the saw is ready.
The handle of the angle finder is made of a very solid-feeling plastic, and its smooth-faced paddles are made from lightweight aluminum. We’re fairly judgmental about accessories that are essential to the operation of the tools they accompany, and this initially made us somewhat skeptical about the quality of the angle finder and its partial plastic construction. However, after handling the angle finder for a bit and seeing how sturdy it feels, we dismissed any concerns about it being prone to easy damage.
Ultimately, we feel that the angle finder tool can definitely reduce saw setup time for many users, and not only that, it should greatly reduce the number of mistakes and miss-cuts, leading to less waste.
Although the angle finder tool is designed to perfectly match and integrate with the V-fence system, its use is not necessary for the setup and operation of the saw. In other words, those who prefer to make miter cuts according to manual angle measurements and calculations could still use the MiterMate with its innovative V-fence to its full potential.
Features & Accessories, and Conclusions
Other Features & Accessories
Rear Dust Collection Bag
After only a few cuts, there was sawdust everywhere. The dust bag did collect much of the dust, but as you can see, there was still a light coating spread around the rear of the saw. To be honest, though, this is what we expected.
Molding Hold-Down Clamp & Extendable Supports
The hold-down clamp included with the MiterMate, works by holding a workpiece against either the right or left fence. There’s not much more to say about the clamp, other than it does what it needs to do without difficulty.
Another useful feature are the extendable support arms built into the two ends of the V-fence sides. However, they’re more of a convenience – most users will want to use rollers or something similar to support very long workpieces.
10″ 40-tooth Carbide Blade
Included with the MiterMate is a standard general purpose 10″ 40-tooth carbide saw blade. We had no difficulties with the blade, and it made very clean and smooth cuts. While this blade works well and should last quite some time if used properly, it won’t perform as well as (costlier) 3rd party woodworking blades.
Craftsman Laser Trac
Ah, built-in lasers. We love well aligned and accurate built-in lasers, and absolutely loathe those that are slapped on tools without care just so that “LASER” can be printed in the tools’ marketing materials.
Craftsman implemented a Laser Trac guide in the MiterMate, and we found that it does save some time when setting up a workpiece to be cut. The laser’s accuracy isn’t worth writing home about, but at the same time it’s decent enough that you won’t hear us complaining too much about it either.
Miter Saw Stand Mounting Points
In his comment to our first post of the MiterMate, ToolGuyd reader wantedabiggergarage mentioned a concern regarding how the MiterMate mounts to a miter saw stand given its pivoting V-fence. If you take a close look at the bottom of the Mitermate, you will see that there are three mounting points – two in the rear and one in the front.
This mounting pattern is similar to that several of Craftsman’s other 10″ miter saws, so it should be compatible with Craftsman’s universal miter saw stands and tool stands. It should also be compatible with other brands’ universal miter saw stands, but we were not able to confirm this in time for the review.
HOWEVER, mounting the MiterMate to a miter saw stand would have limited benefit when making miter cuts on long workpieces. 90° cuts would be okay since a workpiece would be fully supported by the stand, but once the V-fence was adjusted to any other angle, the workpiece would swing out and away from most miter saw stands’ supports.
Instead of a miter saw stand, a benchtop tool stand or portable workstand could be used in conjunction with one or two roller stands for full saw and workpiece support. In this case, the pattern of mounting holes is a little less crucial.
Edit: In his comment, Ben Johnson shared an observation that cuts placed in the middle of long pieces of trim would require substantially more space around the saw than with a traditional miter saw. Whereas with a traditional miter saw one only has to be concerned with horizontal clearance, the MiterMate may require front and back clearance as well. There are ways to easily compensate for this, but it is still something to be aware of.
Summary & Conclusions
Overall, we feel that the Craftsman MiterMate is great for cutting crown molding, baseboard molding, and other such materials typically cut on a miter saw. The saw feels very solidly constructed, and all movements were smooth and fluid. We found the V-fence to be easy to use and adjust, and it only took a few cuts before we were comfortably familiar with it.
At the rear of the fences, there is the potential for a pinch hazard, or at the very least awkward maneuvering when the fence slide adjustments are brought too close to nearby fasteners. This is not a major issue or concern, but just something to keep in mind.
Potential buyers should also keep in mind that, because of its innovative V-fence design, the MiterMate may not work well with universal miter saw stands.
Craftsman and the Sears Blue Tool Crew claim that the MiterMate will save time, reduce miss-cuts, and make miter saw setup simpler and easier. The MiterMate does satisfy these claims, but not only that, it blew our expectations right out of the water! We walked into the review open minded yet prudently skeptical, and at its conclusion we are satisfied and convinced.
While the MiterMate’s $250 price tag could be a little softer on the wallet, it’s still fairly reasonable. If you decide to wait around for a good sale, you should be able to knock the price down a bit.
Quite frankly, we’re incredibly impressed with the MiterMate, and expect that others will share this sentiment. As for the cocnern about workpiece support, the simplest solution would be to use a portable “tool stand” with two roller stands.
Given our [short yet thorough] experience with the Craftsman MiterMate, we feel comfortable in recommending it to DIYers and homeowners looking for a quality miter saw to use primarily for cutting molding and trim pieces, and especially those uncomfortable with manual angle measurements and calculations.
Craftsman MiterMate Miter Saw, via Sears
Photo Credits and Acknowledgements:
Douglas R. Sampsel, Brian S. Sampsel
Brian S. Sampsel (ToolGuyd special contributor) had the role of lead reviewer, and Stuart (ToolGuyd admin/editor) assisted with the write-up.
The Craftsman MiterMate sample featured in this review was provided by Craftsman, and will soon be returned to them. We thank them for giving us the opportunity to check out the new MiterMate firsthand.
Did you try any outside corners? I’m curious how that angle finder worked for that. For inside corners I’m still waiting on a saw that will cut copes for me “auto-magically”.
If I understand the operation of this saw, the fences move and not the blades. The biggest problem I see with this is that you either need more room behind the saw than conventional miter saws or you need to cut a piece close to where you want it with a 90 degree cut and then finish cutting the angle. Or am I missing something?
In other words, if you’re trying to cut a 4′ mitered section out of a 8′ piece of trim it’s going to stick out the back of the saw quite a ways, unless you first cut it at an 90 then go back and cut the angle.
you are exactly right, its the biggest annoyance I have using this thing. I also bought the craftsman miter saw stand which is kind of useless with the miter-mate on account of the moving fence.
uthscsaedu, thanks! We both tried hard to cover all of the angles.
Jeff, I’ll see if we can give that a try. If you take another look at the angle finder tool’s paddles, you should notice how the paddle support arms would move forward as the paddles’ angle reaches and then surpasses 180°.
Ben, you’re absolutely correct, and bring up a good point. As far as we can tell, there are three ways to accommodate cuts within very long pieces of trim.
First, as you mentioned, the user can make a 90° cut and then finish the miter with a second cut. The second option, which you also mentioned, is to ensure that there is a lot of room around the miter saw.
Thirdly, if there is only 8′ of horizontal clearance and no front and back clearance, the saw can be rotated between cuts such that the trim is always supported in the direction. Rotating the entire saw (or stand it’s attached to) should take no more effort than adjusting the motor-blade assembly of a traditional miter saw.
I wouldn’t exactly consider this a problem, but it has the potential to be a slight inconvenience for some. An edit has been made to the post to reflect your observation.
Thanks for answering the questions I had asked. It appears, that you will have to add a section of plywood, underneath it, for many of the stands as they have two separate brackets, that make the tools removable from the stand.
Also, for anyone getting one of these for molding work, I strongly recommend, buying an 80 tooth blade, and keeping the 40 for general construction projects.
If you must attach the MiterMate to a universal miter saw stand, you may want to try mounting it horizontally such that one mounting bar supports the front of the saw, and the second mounting bar supports the saw about its two rear mounting points.
“We both tried hard to cover all of the angles.”
LOL I get it
what about recessing a locking turntable into a portable workbench?
Great review, thanks. Just picked this saw up the other day on sale for $99 (CDN) can get it for $89 with an easy to get $10 coupon for signing up to sears webmail promotion. Great deal, almost bought 2, and needed one since the neighbour finally took his back 🙂
I’m an avid DIY’er and DIY home improvment all the time. Although I haven’t used this saw much yet (since I just got it) I have tried it out. Out of the box it is solid and true, and the lazer is right where the blade hits. The guides are easy to adjust, and it’s not flimsey construction. It’s not dewalt quality, but it’s light years better than CT’s Mastercrap.
Pleased so far, and it has 2 years warrenty, and at $99 it’s kind of a no brainer if you’re an average home project guy in the market for a decent 10″ mitre saw.
I’m just going to build a turn table stand for it to handle the angles issue. 🙂
I’ve been trying to work with this saw for a few years now so I don’t have to buy a new one, and it’s time to get a new one. Trying to cut greater than 45 angles is short of impossible and the 10-step process to change angles is ridiculous. Going to get a standard miter saw.