Chop saws and miter saws look the same. Both belong to the circular blade saws family. Besides having round cutting surfaces, both chop saws and miter saws have a stationary base and a hinged arm.
Due to these similarities, it is easy to think that these two tools work the same way. Well, they are two different types of saws that serve different purposes.
If you are looking forward to investing in the right tool for your workshop, the chop saw vs miter saw debate is one of the most confusing topics.
You will be faced with the dilemma of whether you should by a chop saw or a miter saw. Let’s go through the features and capabilities of the two and see which tool will be the best for you.
What is a Miter Saw?
A miter saw is a power saw with a circular blade that is used to make straight, downward cuts. The miter saw is very similar to the circular saw in that they both use circular blades to chop their way through the material.
One of the main distinguishing characteristics of a miter saw is that its axis or shaft swivels, enabling you to cut at a wide array of angles. When you want to make beveled or mitered cuts, a really good miter saw is the right tool for the job.
Although both saws look very similar, there are distinct differences, including the fact that you can use a miter saw in the same way as a chop saw but not the other way around.
What is a Chop Saw?
Just like a miter saw, a chop saw is a power saw with a circular blade that is used to make straight, downward cuts. A chop saw can not rotate to cut at angles – it can only cut material at a downward angle.
The blade of a chop saw is afixed along a vertical axis. This allows it to cut very accurately. You put your material under the blade, turn the saw on, and lower the chop saw through the cut with your hand.
A chop saw allows you to make 90-degree crosscuts by pulling down the abrasive disc in a plunging action. These are highly versatile for a wide range of jobs including cutting window trims or 2x4s, however they are most often used to cut metal.
Chop Saw vs Miter Saw: Which Saw Do You Need?
Chop Saw Overview
A chop saw is a stationary saw with a large blade. To operate a chop saw, you will pull down a handle, and the blade will come into contact with the material you are cutting. Chop saws are used to cut a variety of materials, and they do it quickly and efficiently. A chop saw is loud; it is sturdy and will throw sparks while you are using it.
Types of Cuts
A chop saw is a tough guy. You can put metal, a board with a bunch of nails in it, almost anything you want under the blade of a chop saw, and it will rip through it. A chop saw can cut one angle, a 90-degree angle. Chop saws are good for making excellent and quick straight cuts. If you want to do something more detailed or at an angle, a chop saw is not the best choice.
The blade on a chop saw is considered to be an abrasive wheel. Since this abrasive wheel cuts a bit differently than some other blades, you will notice that the material you cut is scorching when you are finished. This is an excellent thing to remember from a safety standpoint. Blades on a chop saw are usually about 14 inches.
A chop saw is not the safest saw you are going to find, for starters, because it’s quite a bit stronger than other saws. Chop saws produce a large number of sparks, and if you are not careful, that can be a safety hazard. Although these sparks will likely not burn your skin, you need to be careful where you are using the saw and that there are no flammable objects within the vicinity.
A chop saw is going to vary in price from around $100 to several hundreds of dollars. The size, brand quality, warranty, and power are all going to factor into the price. Depending on how often you plan to use this saw, you may want to get something that is considered a more professional grade.
Miter Saw Overview
A miter saw is a stationary saw used to make straight and angled cuts in wood. A miter saw is a very simple and safe saw. You can use it when doing projects like flooring, molding, or even decking. Miter saws are capable of cutting through wood of varying thicknesses.
Types of Cuts
A miter saw is used only for wood. If you try and cut anything other than wood with a miter saw you would likely ruin your saw. A miter saw is excellent for cutting angles, where a chop saw can only cut at a 90-degree angle a miter saw can cut many different angles. This makes the miter saw a great option if you are working on something like molding or a picture frame.
Blades on a miter saw will usually come in a 10 or 12-inch size. The miter saw blade is very manageable in size, and it does not throw any sparks when cutting material.
Miter saws generally come packed with several different safety features. The most important is likely the blade guard. This will keep the blade covered in all areas that are not cutting at that moment.
A miter saw is going to be priced very similarly to the chop saw. You can get cheaper models around $100; pricing will go up to several hundreds of dollars. Miter saws come with a lot of different features and options. When you add in things like laser lines and the ability to adjust and turn the saw for obscure cuts, the pricing is bound to get more expensive. Based on your cutting needs, you can get a high functioning quality miter saw for a fair price.
FINAL THOUGHTS AND OTHER CONSIDERATIONS
We can’t possibly hit every conceivable topic related to the chop saw vs miter saw question. Once you understand the various issues: cutting speed, capacity, and the type of material and cut, you should be better equipped to make an informed choice.
We can’t emphasize enough the need to pay close attention to blade speed. When it comes to picking up a carbide blade for cutting metal, RPM/speed matters. Don’t put a low-speed metal blade on a high-speed miter saw in an attempt to convert your tool. Rather, look for a metal-cutting blade that matches the speed of your saw. That provides a safe, effective method of cutting metal on a miter saw or similar tool.
The same goes for chop saws. Some saws come designed for use with slower-speed steel blades while standard chop saws have the higher RPMs needed for abrasive cutting wheels. Match the blade to the saw!
For even more recommendations, check out our best miter saw article as well as our article on the best cordless circular saws. Both contain tools designed to cut both metal and wood.