Chop Saw vs. Miter Saw – Which One Do You Need?

Have you ever discovered the difference between a chop saw vs. miter saw? Mistaking one for the other is a fairly common thing. After all, they have similarities and they have the same basic function. However, they do have huge differences that you need to understand if you are to purchase the most appropriate tool for your needs. Moreover, choosing the wrong tool will not only cost you money, but it may put your safety at risk, too. So let’s examine chop saw and miter saw in terms of their features, applications, and more.

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Difference Between Chop Saw vs. Miter Saw

Both a chop saw and miter saw can use a drop down or a circular blade in cutting. Also, both of them looks the same- a round blade on a hinged arm with a stationary base. However, they are they have more differences than similarities.

Chop Saw

What is a chop saw

A chop saw, from its name, is a powerful and aggressive machine that’s used for chopping hard materials like tile, metal, and concrete. You can use it when you need to cut joists, studs, rafters, trusses. This is done by an abrasive disc which looks like a grinding wheel.

Features

A chop saw has a big motor and a large blade, which are specifically designed for cutting wood. Its blade is fine. Thus, it’s perfect for cutting molding pieces, trimming angles, and making clean cuts on any finished wood materials. Its abrasive disc looks like a thin grinding wheel. This cutting wheel and the motor is mounted on the rotating arm which is connected to the base plate. It does not have regular cutting edges.

In other words, its usual features are:

  • Big motor
  • Large blade
  • Thin abrasive disc
  • Rotating arm
  • Fixed base plate

Applications

A chop saw is commonly used in home building, production shops, and framing works because of its big cutting capacity. It can cut large pieces of wood or metal. Its blade is perpendicular to a table, so it can only cut at 90 degrees in a straight downward action. It is quite stationary. You can’t spin the blade, so it may be hard to use if you are working on a woodworking project.

Man operating a chop saw

Operate a chop saw

Still, it’s undeniable that a chop saw has a lot of power and it can secure any material to the base more strongly. That’s why is often used in cutting heavy-duty materials.

Pros

  • Large and powerful
  • Sends more torque to its blade
  • Can secure material well

Cons

  • Can’t cut angles
  • Lacks accuracy

Miter Saw

What is a miter saw

The miter saw can make miter cuts in any materials at a 90-degree angle. It does this by pulling the circular saw blade on the workpiece in a controlled motion. When used, the workpiece usually has to be held against a fence as it provides the perfect angle between the blade’s plane and the workpiece’s edge.

Features

Like the chop saw, the typical miter saw has a round blade hinged to an arm and attached to a base. However, it also has a laser guide that you can use to position the cut on your workpiece precisely. It also has a blade guard for covering the blade’s teeth and a dust bag for keeping the workpiece from dust. A safety clamp is used to keep small workpieces in place when you are cutting it already. A miter index can be adjusted to change the blade’s angle. Lastly, there’s the miter table which usually spans up to 24 inches.

In summary, here are the features of a miter saw:

  • Round blade
  • Stationary base
  • Laser guide
  • Blade guard
  • Safety clamp
  • Miter Index
  • Miter table

Applications

A miter saw can cut through wood and plastic material like a chop saw. However, unlike the latter, it can its shaft or axis can swivel and you can spin it up to 90 degrees. Depending on your choice of miter saw, you can use it for bevel cuts, crown molding cuts, or making long cross cuts. It can make accurate and quick crosscut. If your project requires fine woodwork finish like framing, molding, or trimming, then miter saw is perfect for you.

Worker cutting steel tube with a miter saw

Cut steel tube with a miter saw

The miter saw is a low-hazard tool since it can hold a workpiece against a fence securely. There’s also lesser chances for kickbacks so you can keep your hands away from the blade.

Pros

  • More versatile in making angular cuts
  • Can secure workpiece securely
  • Less chances for kickbacks

Cons

  • Modest when it comes to power delivery

Verdict

A miter saw can be used as a chop saw; however, a chop saw can’t be used as a miter saw since the chop saw can’t make any angled cuts. If you want a tool that’s versatile, then we recommend that you buy a miter saw. It can help you save more money because you will not have to buy other tools which the miter saw can do.

On the other hand, if you’re making something bigger than a mere woodworking project and you need to cut rigid materials, buy a chop saw.

Conclusion

The most important thing you have to remember is the chop saw is powerful but can only cut in one direction. Miter saw is more versatile, though less powerful. It is highly recommended for those who want to have more control over how they cut their workpiece.

Of course, before you buy your own miter saw, it’s best that you follow these tips first:

  1. Determine what kinds of materials you usually have to cut
  2. Look at all your options and study their specs
  3. Consider your budget

Is this guide helpful? Let us know if you’ve bought the right miter saw for your needs in the comment section below.

Reference

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Ethan Johnson
 

I’m Ethan Johnson. I’m a mechanical engineer, and I’m passionate about Home Improvement. I hope my skills and experience can help you remodel your home by turning simple, inexpensive, and innovative ideas into easy tasks that you can DIY! So no need to go too far, just read on and you’ll be ready to get the ball rolling.

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