Chop Saw Vs Miter Saw – Know the Difference to Make an Informed Choice
It’s common for people, especially beginners to get confused between chop saw and miter saw. No surprise, as they do look awfully alike to the untrained eye.
Actually, some people use them interchangeably which isn’t a right choice as it can lead to unclean and inaccurate finish.
Despite their look, both these power tool have understandable differences. Knowing them helps you use the right one for the task.
If you are wondering about the differences, you can find them explained clearly in this article. Read the information thoroughly to get the answer for your question – which type of saw is suitable for your task.
Before going into it, let’s first understand what miter saw and chop saw are along with pros and cons.
Overview of Chop Saw
The chop saw is used to cut lengths of metal or wood into smaller pieces. It does not cut angles, curves, or bevels and doesn’t make rip cuts.
The cutting range is composed of a table along with fence at the back that supports material that is getting chopped and a clamp for holding it in place. So, the cutting area is a circular saw mounted on an adjustable stand which extends to a foot above the table’s middle and pivots up or down.
For making the cut, usually the user holds the handle at the top and clicks the trigger. The blade is then lowered into material. After the cut is complete, the saw turns back to its original position and the handle can be released.
|Powerful motor||Loud noise|
|Suitable for cutting variety of materials||Will throw sparks|
|Only 90-degree cuts||Doesn’t cut in angles|
|Quick and easy operation||Increased risk of injury|
Overview of Miter Saw
A miter saw is mostly similar to chop saw. However, the stand that holds the miter saw is capable of pivoting left and right, often up to 45 degrees.
Unlike chop saw, a miter saw table’s front is not rectangular, and it has angle gauge marked on it. Once you have selected the angle, the handle that rotates the saw can extend out from the table. The locking mechanism stops the saw moving after you select it.
The compound miter saw also has an additional feature: It can rotate over horizontal axis parallel with table and lock onto a specific angle. It lets you make the bevel cuts that are not 90 ° in the vertical plane. When it comes to particular compound miter saws can be mounted over a horizontal track that allows user to move saw forward and back to cut large wood pieces.
|Suitable for professionals and home owners||Not so powerful|
|Safe to use||Only for wood cutting|
|Cuts in different angles||Not for large or heavy-duty projects|
|Perfect for detailed work|
|Beveled or straight cuts|
|Cuts are not so smooth and clean|
Chop Saw Vs Miter Saw – Comparison Table
Below is a table for represents quick comparison of chop saw and miter saw. If you don’t have much time to analyze then this table helps you make a decision.
|Factor||Chop Saw||Miter Saw|
|Suitable For||Cutting metals (iron, steel, aluminum), tiles, concrete||wood|
|Type of Cutting Disk/Blade||Abrasive Disk||Stainless Steel with Carbide coated teeth|
|Lifespan of Disk/Blade||Less as the diameter reduces with every cut||Very long|
|Chances of Sparks||Definite as you work with metal and other tough materials||Very less|
|Guard||Large guard to protect from sparks and shrapnel||Small – medium sized guard|
|Precision||Not very precise. We often use it for making rough cuts in metal||Very precise|
|Blade speed and size||Fast and 12 to 15 inches||Fast and 6-1/4 to 12 inches|
|Used by||Metal and Construction jobs||Woodworking (furniture, carpentry)|
|Weight and Portability||Heavy and not easily portable||Medium to heavy weight but portable|
|Cost||Relatively less (100 to 200)||Slightly more (250 to 350)|
In-Depth Comparison of Chop Saw Vs Miter Saw
If you want to know the differences in more details, then below descriptions can help you. We have provided detail description of each factor for your reference. Read through the information to make a wise choice.
The two main components of both saws are a metal working base and a spinning blade mounted on a radial arm. But the similarities stop here.
A chop saw’s head is fixed. It can only move in one direction: up or down. This is why it can only make straight cuts. A miter saw’s head can be tilted to make bevel cuts. It could tilt either way depending on the model (that would be a dual compound wither saw).
A chop saw’s metal base is simple. The fence adjustment allows you to make angled cuts up to 45 degrees. It can also be used as a vice to secure the workpiece.
A fence is also included with the miter saw. It can be found on the back. To achieve precise angles, they also have a miter adjustment on the front. This regulation is more complicated, but it produces more accurate results when woodworking.
Speed and Power
When it comes to power and output, the chop saw and miter saws look very similar. Many users have reported that the saws are not the same in power or speed, but they feel different when used.
A chop saw is generally considered to be stronger. You will likely feel more in control when using a miter saw. This is likely to be due to the material you use. Hard metal is often a more difficult job than woodworking, and chop saws have to deal with it.
When it comes to power source, they both are electric saws. For miter saws, you have two options: corded or uncorded. But chop saws are available mostly in corded options. Though very few models are cordless, they are not so portable.
Size of the Tool (Dimensions Weight)
Compared to chop saws, miter saws are actually heavier in weight. Although their heads look the same, miter saws’ working bases are often larger because they have an extra regulation system. A miter saw is about 50 pounds in weight, and chop saws are 30 to 35 pounds.
Both are portable tools, regardless of whether they’re stationary or mobile tools. They are quite common to be seen on construction sites.
Let’s get to the blade talk. This is one of their main differences. It’s also closely related to their respective applications. The type of work that the saws are required to perform will determine the blade type.
Chop saws typically come with a 14–15-inch blade. Larger saws may require them to be 16 inches. Miter saws can be purchased in sizes 7 1/2, 10 and 12. Even though it is more popular, the latter model is quite popular. A 10-inch model is safe. There aren’t many jobs that need a 12-inch blade. The smaller 7 1/2-inch saw is not worth the cost. You can buy a larger model for about the same price.
A chop saw can be used for woodworking. In that case, it is advisable to use an abrasive knife. This would cause a lot of damage and could burn the cutting surface. Super abrasive blades are often used for concrete and asphalt. These blades last longer and produce less sparks, but they are more expensive.
Miter saws, on the other hand, are used primarily for woodworking and come in a box with a toothed knife. This type of wheel ensures precise and clean cuts. It may be necessary to purchase a high-speed blade made of steel, which can spin more quickly depending on the type of wood. You can use a miter saw on other materials if you have the right conditions. This will be discussed later.
Types of Cuts They Can Make
The cuts that chop saws and miter sees can make are different. Chop saws are limited to cutting straight lines, while miter-saws can cut at angles, making miter cuts.
Let’s begin with the chop saw. These are used mainly for crosscuts, which are straight cuts. They can be described as 90degree miter cuts.
The miter saw’s head can tilt, so you can make bevel cuts as well as miter cuts. They are very popular in woodworking because they offer a greater contact surface for joinery and are more pleasing to the eye. You can also make compound cuts with a compound miter saw. These are combinations of the two.
Ease of Operation
Chop saws have a fence adjustment which allows you to rotate your work piece and make miter cuts. Because the blade is fixed, you can’t make bevel cuts. It cannot move in a straight line.
Using a chop saw is much easier than using a miter saw. The fence is the only thing you need to adjust with chop saws. You might need multiple angles for complex cuts when using a miter saw. If you don’t, you won’t be able join your wood pieces later. Handling miter saws require more skill.
Most miter saws come with several safety features. Most important of all is the blade guard. This will protect the blade in any areas that aren’t being cut at the moment.
Chop saws are not the safest option but they’re stronger than other saws. Chop saws can produce large amounts of sparks that could pose a danger to your safety. These sparks are unlikely to cause skin burns, but you should be cautious about where the saw is being used and ensure that there aren’t any flammable objects in the area.
The price of a chop saw will vary from 100 to hundreds of dollars. Price will be affected by the size, brand quality and warranty as well as power. You may choose to buy a professional-grade saw depending on how frequently you intend to use it.
The miter saw will be priced the same as the chop saw. You can find less expensive models for around 100, but the price will rise to many hundreds of dollars. There are many options and features available for miter saws.
Pricing will go up when you consider features like laser lines or the ability to turn the saw to make difficult cuts. A miter saw that is high-quality and functional can be purchased at a reasonable price depending on your cutting requirements.
So, Which One to Choose – Chop Saw or Miter Saw
After reading my guide, we hope you have a better understanding of the differences between a miter and a chop saw.
Each saw has a purpose. For example, a chop saw is a great tool to make 90deg cuts in metal or other materials like tile and stone. For angled cuts in wood, however, miter saws are more suitable. So, the right choice entirely depends on your requirements or project tasks.
Some Frequently Asked Questions
You can’t make compound and bevel cuts with a chop saw. These angle cuts are reserved for miter saws. These cuts can be made with other types, such as Band saws. You can also use a miter saw as a chop saw: the head must be at a 90-degree angle.
If you have the ability to mount an abrasive knife on it, this is possible. A toothed blade could have a higher tooth count. However, I wouldn’t improvise. If possible, use the right tool for the job.
Yes, you can cut soft metals such as aluminum with a miter saw. It is not recommended for cutting tougher metals such as steel. It is possible to mount an abrasive knife on your miter saw. However, this would create sparks that could ignite plastic blade guards. Stick to wood and other soft materials. Use the right tools to cut metals.
All power tools have some risk. However, chop saws can be more dangerous than other tools. The miter saw is smaller and easier to use.
Professional contractors will love a chop saw. This saw is extremely powerful and can cut large, thick pieces of wood and metal. This is an indispensable tool for professionals and people who are involved in large projects that need such powerful tools.
The miter saw is a handy tool that DIY workers should have. These saws are versatile enough to be used for both professional and amateur projects. This saw can fulfill most of the requirements of amateur carpenters.
A miter saw and chop saw might look similar at first glance. They both use a circular blade to cut.
It’s easy to see why people think they can use a miter saw as a cutting tool. They are, however, quite different, as you can see in this comprehensive guide.
The chop saw is designed to cut through most metals, stone, and the miter saw is a great choice for wood projects. The project will determine which chop saw or miter saw is best for you.
So, which one did you choose? Did the information in this article has helped you make the choice? If you still have questions to clarify, we recommend writing to us in the comment section below.
Free Portable Miter Saw Stand Plans
Chris Baylor is a woodworking expert and writer with over a decade of hands-on commercial carpentry experience. He has studied under master carpenters and also designs wooden tools and furniture, sharing tutorials on websites including Woodworkers Workshop and Homemade Tools.
The compound miter saw, occasionally referred to as a chop saw, is the tool of choice when woodworking projects call for compound angles and precise crosscuts. When working with a compound miter saw in a woodshop, there is typically a long table to the left and right of the miter saw to keep the stock in line with and level with the table of the miter saw.
However, when away from the woodshop, the best way to use a compound miter saw is with a portable miter saw stand. Just as there are many models of miter saws, there are numerous versions of compound miter saw stands commercially available. Even so, each model has some drawbacks. Sometimes, they are too difficult to set up or don’t have proper supports for long pieces of stock. Many models are quite expensive, as well.
After researching the numerous choices of miter stands available, we decided to build one. We used pressure-treated stock for nearly the entire piece (except the table holding the saw) for longevity. In our case, nearly all of the stock for the stand was left over from previous projects.
When all was said and done, we had a very strong 12-foot-long stand that could be easily disassembled into six easily-transportable pieces and set back up in seconds.
Build the Table Support Boxes
To begin building our miter saw stand plans, we need to make the support structure beneath the saw table. The saw sits on a piece of melamine-covered particleboard, which in turn, is attached to two box-like structures made from pressure-treated wood.
Using your miter saw (with some temporary stock supports), cut four lengths of pressure-treated 2×6 at 31 inches long for the sides. Cut four more at 10-1/4 inches for the ends and two at 7-1/4 inches for center supports.
As shown earlier, butt one of the end pieces to the end of one of the side pieces and attach using some 2-1/2-inch deck screws. Connect the opposite side piece to the other side of the end piece. Then, attach the other end in the same manner. Finally, place one of the center pieces exactly in the middle between the sides and connect with deck screws.
Repeat with the remaining pieces to create a second box structure.
Attach the Saw Table
With the two under-structures completed, we’ll now attach the saw table to the assembly. On a shop table, position the two box assemblies parallel to one another (along the long sides) with a scrap piece of 2×6 in between acting as a spacer. Be sure that the two boxes are aligned evenly.
Position a 24×36-inch piece of 3/4-inch-thick melamine-coated particleboard onto the assembly and center it evenly on all four sides (there should be about a 1-inch reveal on all four sides). Attach to the sub-structure assembly with 1-5/8-inch deck screws. Remove the spacer and set the assembly aside for a while.
Begin the Leg Assemblies
With the saw table complete, we’ll turn our attention to building the two leg assemblies to support the stand. This step is a bit tricky, so work carefully and double-check your measurements before beginning any cut. The top cut of each of the four legs needs to be cut.
Using your miter saw, cut four pieces of 2×4 (treated) to 40 inches in length. Then, adjust your compound miter saw for a 20-degree miter (to the left) with about a 7-degree (angled to the left) bevel. Set stock support directly in front of the miter saw.
Using your combination square, align one 2×4 on edge perpendicular to the miter saw’s fence. Hold the piece securely with your hands well away from the blade, remove the combination square and cut the compound miter on the leg (as shown above). It would be advisable to secure the piece of stock with a clamp, as the turning of the blade may try to slide the piece as it is being cut. Cut two of the four legs in this manner.
To cut the bottom of the leg, measure 32 inches from the long point and make a mark. Position the stock against the fence, on edge with the longest point on the top-back spot. Adjust the bevel to 15-degrees left and cross-cut the leg at the mark. This should allow the bottom of the leg to sit flat on the ground when the assembly is in place. Repeat with the other leg.
Next, rotate the miter to 20-degrees right and the bevel to 7-degrees right. Cut the tops of the other two legs in the same manner (positioned perpendicular to the fence). Then adjust the bevel to 15-degrees right and cut the bottoms of the two legs at the same length as the first two legs.
Tip: Cutting the legs to 32 inches in length will put the cutting surface of the miter saw at about 34 inches off of the ground. Adjust the leg length accordingly for a higher cutting surface.
Attach a Cross Brace
Take one each out of the two different sets of legs you cut in the last step and align the top cuts together so that the legs are splayed out (twenty degrees in each direction). Position a scrap of stock in between the two top cuts and clamp the pieces together as shown in the picture on this page.
Measure down 2 inches from the top and make a pencil line across the two legs perpendicular to the spacer that separates the two legs. This will mark the top edge of the cross brace for this side of the leg assembly. Measure the length of this line across the two legs.
Set your miter saw to zero-degree bevel but 20-degree miter and cut a piece of 2×4 stock with the measurement from across the two legs as the short-point-to-short-point measurement on this block. You should end up with a trapezoidal-shaped piece of stock.
Attach this piece at the mark shown using some long deck screws.
Flip the assembly over and repeat the entire procedure, adding another short cross-brace at the same height on the opposite side of the leg assembly. Remove the spacer after the second cross-brace is attached.
Repeat the entire procedure with the other two legs.
Attach a Stabilizing Brace
With the cross-braces attached on each side of the tops of the leg assemblies, we’ll next add a stabilizing brace to the bottom of the leg assembly. The height of this brace is not as important as merely making certain that it is securely attached and at the same height on each leg.
From the long point on the bottom of one leg, measure up approximately 10–12 inches on the corner of the leg and make a mark. This mark denotes where the top of the stabilizing brace will be attached. Repeat at the same spot on the opposite leg.
Measure the distance between the two marks. As in the previous step, this will be the short-point-to-short-point on a trapezoidal-cut piece of stock.
With the miter saw set to 20-degrees miter (zero-degree bevel), cut one end of the stabilizing brace. Flip the unit over, measure the short-to-short distance and cut the opposite side. Attach to the leg assembly using deck screws.
Tip: The short-to-short distance should be the same on the second stabilizing brace as it was on the first. If they are different, you might experience a bit of wobble when the stand is in use.
Notch the Beam
With the two leg assemblies completed, we’ll turn our attention to the beam, the main support on the project. This beam will need to be notched twice for each leg assembly, as the notches and cross braces will connect providing considerable lateral support for the stand.
To begin, measure in 30-inches from each end of the 12-foot-long pressure-treated 2×6. Using your combination square, mark a 75-degree angle leaning toward the center (105-degrees from the opposite side of the angle, as shown in the plans). Make a cross-mark 2-1/2 inches up the line. At this spot, mark a 1-1/2-inch long line perpendicular to the angle. From the end of this line, make a line at a 75-degree angle (parallel to the first line) back down to the bottom of the beam. Repeat on the opposite end of the beam.
Next, position one of the leg assemblies on the floor in the approximate angle that the unit will be used (with the bottoms of the legs flat on the floor). Measure the distance between the high points of the two cross braces on the top of the leg assembly (the distance should be around 5 inches).
Make a mark at this distance from the first mark you made in this step (30 inches from the end) and mark out a second notch on this end of the beam exactly as you made the first on this end. Repeat the procedure on the opposite side (being certain to measure the distance between the cross braces).
Now, use a cross-cut hand saw and cut the parallel lines of the four notches (eight cuts in all). Use a sharp chisel and ease out the ends of the notches. Take your time to make sure you cut the notches cleanly.
Position the Legs on the Beam
With the leg assemblies completed and the beam notched, it’s time to put the stand together. Slide each leg assembly onto the beam and into the notches as shown in the picture on this page. The cross-braces of each leg assembly should fit snugly (but not too snugly) into each pair of notches on the beam. It may be useful to wiggle the leg assembly a bit as you’re sliding the legs onto (or off of) the beam. With both legs connected to the beam, flip the unit over onto its legs. The leg-and-beam assembly should be sturdy and have no wobble. You should be able to easily lean onto the beam or push it in any direction and it should be stable (provided that the cross-braces on the leg assemblies are properly seated in each of the notches).
Bolt the Saw to the Table
Once the beam and leg assemblies have been connected and are stable, we’ll turn our attention back to the saw table and attach the compound miter saw to the saw table.
To begin this step, grab the saw table that you set aside earlier and position it onto the beam. The two box structures under the tabletop should fit snugly (but not too snugly) across the beam, much like a saddle on a horse. The table should be stable on the beam but might have a very slight wobble (which should not affect the accuracy of the saw).
With the saw table on the stand, place your compound miter saw onto the table. Position the saw so that the fence is parallel to the far side of the beam (as you look at it). Positioning it in this location will allow any stock to be cut to be placed directly over the beam when being cut.
Center the saw on the table and mark the bolt hole locations. (Most compound miter saws have 1/2-inch-diameter bolt holes, so if your unit requires larger or smaller diameter bolts, be sure to adjust accordingly.) Remove the saw and drill the four holes using a 1/2-inch paddle bit.
Place the saw back on the table and align the bolt holes with the holes in the table. Place a large flat washer between the saw base and the table. Then slip a bolt through each hole in the saw, through the washer and the saw table. On the underside of the table, slip a large flat washer followed by a lock washer and a nut onto each bolt. Tighten the bolts to lock the saw onto the table. Do not over-tighten the bolts, as you don’t want to damage the melamine tabletop.
Tip: Unless you’re of above-average size and strength (or are partial to hernias), it is probably a good idea to have someone help you when you remove the saw table from the beam or put it on next time. The saw table with the saw attached can be quite heavy.
Build the Stock Supports
In the final step of these plans, we’ll build a pair of stock supports to hold the stock at the proper height when it is being cut.
This can happen with a miter saw-WATCH OUT!
To begin, cut two lengths of treated 2×4 to 16 inches in length and two more at 12 inches. Set these pieces aside for the moment.
Measure the height from the top of the melamine table to the base of the miter saw’s table. On most saws, this height should be somewhere between 3 and 4 inches. Add the thickness of the melamine tabletop to this distance and you’ll have the final height needed for each stock support.
Next, subtract this distance from the width of two 2x4s (which should be 7 inches). To verify, place the edge of one of the 16-inch pieces against the edge of one of the 12-inch pieces and measure the combined width.
Subtract the height needed for each stock support from the width of the two 2x4s and divide this result in half. This is the depth that you’ll need to make on some half-lap joints to create the stock supports. In the case of our miter saw stand, we needed to make the depth of the half-lap joints at 1-9/32 inch. While we could have used a table saw to make these joints, we chose to use a circular saw instead.
On the edge of the 16-inch piece of stock, make a mark at 7-1/4 inches and another at 8-3/4 inches. This will be the edges of the half-lap joint. Make similar marks at 5-1/4 inches and 6-3/4 inches on the edge of the 12-inch piece. Cut the half-lap joints at the determined depth using one of the methods described in our article on half-lap joints.
Repeat with the other pair and secure the half-lap joints using wood glue.
Next, cut eight 9-inch pieces with a 45-degree angle. Attach these to the 12-inch pieces as shown using deck screws.
Finally, slip the supports onto the beam where desired. The four angled pieces should hold the stock supports in place.
High Speed Chop Saw
Heavy wall tubing with plated and reinforced framework to stand up to continuous high speed cycling.
Self aligning bearings with oversized shafts.
Built with 50 years of sawmill experience
1,200 RPM motor for direct drive with high torque at the blade (No hidden chain drive to repair).
Balanced ladder with gravity hold-downs requires no additional controls or time to cycle clamps.
1.9 to 3 second round trip cycles with 15,000 SFM rim speeds.
Cushioned cylinders with oversized rods.
Built-in flow controls on bulkhead fittings.
Complete packages with controls and hydraulic power units available for single or multiple saw systems.
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Miter Saw Basics: What Is It and When To Use It
A miter saw is a perfect tool for precision work, such as interior trim. Here’s an overview of the pros and cons of this popular saw.
A miter saw is a staple tool in a finish carpenter’s workshop, and popular with DIYers of all skill levels. If you’ve considered adding a miter saw to your power tool collection but aren’t sure where to start, read on for some background and what to consider when making a purchase.
What Is a Miter Saw?
A miter saw is essentially a hinge-mounted circular saw blade that can be swung down into the material to be cut. Because the hinge is fixed in place, the blade always drops down in a controlled motion, creating clean, consistent cuts.
This works great for cutting flat ends, but a miter saw can also rotate left and/or right to cut at an angle. This versatility makes a miter saw a great choice for fine woodworking.
Miter saws are often good tools for teaching new DIYers about woodworking. A guard covers the saw blade, and the material to be cut sits on the miter saw table and presses into the saw’s back fence (i.e. a vertical metal wall).
Testing Miter Saw Blades #Shorts
Newcomers to woodworking often find this setup and the simple operation of a miter saw less intimidating than the open blade of a bandsaw or table saw. And DIYers with hand strength issues often find a miter saw easier to work with than a circular saw.
This isn’t to say that a miter saw doesn’t pose any danger. Power tools (especially saws) should always be treated with respect.
Like most power tools, you can certainly do the work of a miter saw by hand with a miter box and hand saw, or by substituting a different saw. A circular saw can make the same cuts as a miter saw, but it’s much more difficult to match the precision and speed.
Types of Miter Saws
Miter saws are described by their blade size and type of cuts they can make, as well as whether they are corded or cordless.
All miter saws can cut a miter angle, meaning that the blade can swing to either side. The simplest type of miter saw can cut a miter to the right and (usually) to the left.
Compound miter saw
A compound miter saw not only swivels left or right, but also tilts at an angle to create a beveled cut. Some compound miter saws allow a tilt in either direction, while some limit the bevel to one side. Those that allow bevels in both directions are often called “dual compound” or “dual bevel.”
Sliding miter saw
One of the main limitations of a miter saw is its cut width. A sliding miter saw uses rails to allow the blade to glide a short distance when cutting, adding valuable inches to the cutting width. (Check the manufacturer’s description for the exact width.) Many small-blade miter saws add rails to allow the lighter, more portable body to make cuts on wider trim.
Compound sliding miter saw
As you’d expect, a compound sliding miter saw features beveled cuts and sliding rails. These tend to be the heaviest and most expensive miter saws, but they are also the most versatile.
Miter saws have a set size, described by the diameter of the blade they can accept. This means that a 10-inch miter saw has a blade 10 inches in diameter.
The most common miter saw sizes are 10-inch and 12-inch. Most 10-inch miter saws can cut up to six-inch boards at a right angle and four-inch boards at 45 degrees. Twelve-inch miter saws can cut eight-inch boards a right angle and six-inch boards at 45 degrees. (Note that those are dimensional lumber measurements, so the actual cutting size will be slightly smaller.)
Other popular sizes include 7-1/4- and 14-inches for those who work with narrow trim or larger materials, respectively. Most DIYers opt for a 10-inch saw because it offers a great balance of price, portability and cutting versatility.
Corded or cordless
Traditionally, miter saws are corded, but improved cordless technology means you can run a miter saw without any cord at all. There are a small number of gas-powered saws, but we won’t cover those here.
Pros and Cons of Miter Saws
- Precise crosscuts: Miter saws allow the angle to be locked in, and often have stops set at common angles.
- Fast, easily repeatable cuts: Once a miter saw is set up, it can make repeated, identical cuts.
- Less intimidating for new users: The stability and protected blade make it a good introduction saw for inexperienced DIYers.
- accessible for those with limited mobility: Miter saws allow accurate cross-cuts without needing to control the weight of a circular saw or to stretch across a table saw.
Miter saws are a good choice for precision work such as interior trim or picture frame-making. A miter saw’s controlled movements and range of motion also makes it easier for DIYers with limited hand strength.
- Limit on material width: You’ll need a different tool to cut wide materials.
- Heavy and bulky: Although the actual cutting process requires little force, miter saws are far heavier to move around a shop than a circular saw.
- Can take up floor space: The miter table isn’t wide enough to support longer boards. You’ll have to set up temporary supports on either side or build a permanent saw station, which can take up valuable floor space in a small shop.
Miter saws are not a good choice if you primarily rip long pieces of lumber or cross-cut wide material. They provide an excellent work station, but are not nearly as portable as a circular saw. Many DIYers who own a miter saw also invest in a table saw for ripping wood to length.
Buying a Miter Saw
Ready to find the best miter saw for you? Here are some factors to consider:
- Style: Compound miter saws allow more flexibility and cuts. Sliding miter saws can tackle wider material but cost more.c
- Power source: Cordless saws are convenient, but if you aren’t sure you need that flexibility, you’re probably better off with a corded model.
- Build: Some saws have a miter table and frame that are heavier or lighter than other saws.
- Dust extraction: Miter saws can generate a lot of sawdust. Check the size of the dust port to see if it’s compatible with your shop vacuum or dust extraction system.
- Price: Plan on spending 200 to 400 for your miter saw, depending on the size, power source, style and build. Models that cost more than 600 are generally targeted to pros requiring high-end performance or maximum portability. Most DIY users can find a great saw for 400 or less.
Ohio-based freelance writer and author Dan Stout is a former residential remodeler, commercial site supervisor and maintenance manager. He’s worked on nearly all aspects of building and DIY including project planning and permitting, plumbing, basic electric, drywall, carpentry, tiling, painting and more. He also publishes noir fantasy thrillers, including The Carter Series, from Penguin imprint DAW Books.
Miter Saw vs Table Saw. Which Should I Use?
Table saws and miter saws are both important tools in any workshop. Each one excels at different tasks, although the table saw can make almost any cut the miter saw can.
Both saws have many uses, and there are variations of each tool. Let’s have a look at each, so you can decide which one is right for you!
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Main Differences Between a Miter Saw and a Table Saw
Before we go on to more specifics, let’s look at an overview of the main differences between the table saw and the miter saw.
- Good for breaking down sheet goods like plywood
- Both portable and stationary versions
Now that you have a quick overview, let’s break each of these tools down in more depth!
What is a Miter Saw?
The miter saw is also known as a chop saw. This name comes from the chopping action of the saw blade as it cuts through boards. The miter saw powers a spinning blade on a hinged arm. The blade is pulled down through the board.
The miter saw is a better choice for a beginner. They’re much safer and easier to use for a wide variety of projects. You can find a more in-depth tutorial on how to use a miter saw here.
A miter saw can be portable, or you can build a miter saw table to mount it in a more permanent location. I made my own miter saw station that also houses a router table, planer stand and benchtop sander!
Let’s talk about the different types of miter saws.
Single-Bevel vs Double-Bevel Miter Saw
The first consideration you’ll have to make is whether you want a single or double bevel miter saw.
A single beveled miter saw means that the saw can only tilt in a single direction. Miter saws move up and down, but they can also tilt side to side to make angled cuts. With a single beveled miter saw, you will only be able to cut a bevel in one direction, meaning you’ll need to flip the entire board if you want to cut in the other direction.
Double-beveled miter saws, on the other hand, can tilt in either direction, making a bevel cut on the right or the left side of the board. For those who are doing a lot of trim work, where there will be multiple angles and bevels, a double-beveled miter saw can be nice.
A compound miter saw is one that can make basic miter cuts but can also make compound miter cuts – cuts that are both beveled and mitered. These cuts are sometimes required for crown molding, or intricate framing, where multiple angles are required. Basic miter saws don’t have this capability.
Sliding vs Non-sliding Miter Saws
Next, you need to decide whether you want a sliding or non-sliding miter saw. A sliding miter saw allows you to cut wider boards. Non-sliding miter saws only cut straight down instead of pulling forward.
There are two different mechanisms for sliding miter saws. The most common type moves back and forth on two metal bars behind the saw. The second type has an articulating arm that doesn’t take up as much room.
When Should You Use a Miter Saw?
The sky is the limit as far as projects when it comes to miter saws. Depending on the size of the miter saw, you can cut pretty wide boards. However, the main limitation is that it’s not designed to cut down large sheet goods. For those projects, you’ll need a circular saw, table saw or track saw.
Use a miter saw any time you need to make an angled cut. Also, the miter saw is a great tool for cutting multiple narrow boards to the same length with the help of a stop block.
Also, the miter saw will not make curved or s-shaped cuts – for that, you’ll need a jig saw or Band saw.
What is a Table Saw?
A table saw is a workshop power tool that has a circular blade mounted inside a flat table top. The wood is pushed through the blade, preferably with a push stick or block like this one.
You can also make cross cuts by using the miter gauge or a cross cut sled. The miter gauge can also be used for making angled cuts.
Table saws come in two main types: portable jobsite saws, and stationary cabinet saws. The portable table saw can be carried to job sites (usually mounted on a stand). The cabinet table saw stays in the workshop, and is typically more powerful and more precise.
However, with a little ingenuity, you can make a quality portable table saw work like a cabinet table saw! Check out how I made a table saw stand for my portable table saw.
When Should You Use a Table Saw?
A table saw can tackle almost any cutting task. But here are a few instances where it truly excels:
- Break down large sheets. A table saw is typically used to cut down large sheet goods like MDF, OSB or plywood.
- To trim a board to a clean edge. Many times, you can’t trust the factory edge on a board to be straight. The table saw allows you to get a clean and true cut.
- Cross cuts and rip cuts. Use the rip fence to make long rip cuts along the length of a board and the crosscut fence to safely make cuts across the width of a board.
- Dados, grooves and rabbets. These cuts only go partway through the board, typically to house a drawer bottom or cabinet back panel.
- Specialty cuts. There are some cuts that just can’t be made on other power tools safely. In some instances, you’ll need to build or buy a special jig created for a specific task. For example, I made a spline jig for cutting grooves in the corners of boxes for my table saw.
Which tool should you buy first?
I always recommend that beginners buy a miter saw first. It’s less expensive, and less intimidating to use than a table saw. For sheet goods, you can get by with a circular saw or track saw for quite a while before you need to splurge on a table saw.
Want to learn the difference between other types of tools? Check these out!