Chop Saw vs Miter Saw – a world of difference

Chop Saw vs Miter Saw – How different are they?

Many beginners often mistake the miter saw for a chop saw or vice versa. Both power tools look very much alike but each have their own distinct features. In this article, we’ll be looking at the core differences between the chop saw and the miter saw. 

Chop Saw vs Miter Saw – similarities & differences

The similarities

While both power tools look very similar, they have entirely different functions. Both the miter and the chop saw have a stationary base with a circular blade attached to a hinged arm that moves downwards to cut the desired piece of wood or metal. However, that’s about the extent of the similarities. 

The differences

The chop saw doesn’t actually come with a blade, it uses an abrasive wheel that mostly is larger than that of a miter saw. The wheel size is usually around 14-inches or higher, while the blade size of a miter saw mostly ranges from 7 to 12-inches. (mention tooth size etc)

Another huge difference is cutting capacity. Due to a more powerful motor, and larger wheel size the chop saw has a higher capacity. They are ideal for cutting larger materials like metal or wood at 90 degrees. 

The third difference is cutting variety. While the hinged wheel of the chop saw is only capable of performing 90-degree crosscuts, the miter saw is capable of a whole lot more. A miter saw is capable of angled cuts (or miters) due to a pivotable blade. The blade is capable of moving up to 50 degrees (sometimes more) in both the left and right direction. 

Another cut the compound miter saw is capable of is the bevel cut. This is a cut through the thickness of the width of the workpiece and is used for creating corner joints. To achieve this cut, you need to tilt the blade of your miter saw. 

The last cut is the compound cut, this cut is done by combining a miter and a bevel cut at once. To achieve this cut you need to both tilt and pivot your blade. 

Quick Summary of the differences:

  • Chop saws have a larger “wheel” and a higher cutting capacity
  • Miter saws can rotate/tilt away from 90 degrees, allowing for a larger variety of cuts

The chop saw

Chop saw vs miter saw

The chop saw, often called the cut-off saw or abrasive saw is designed for home building and framing. It has a large cutting capacity and is most often used to cut hard material such as metal, tile, and concrete. 

Most chop saws come with a regular abrasive disc or wheel but recently cold cut saws (or dry-cut saws) are becoming more and more popular. These look exactly the same as a chop saw but come with a resharpenable high-speed steel or tungsten carbide tipped blade.

These have a couple of advantages over the regular abrasive saw, they are much faster in cutting aluminum, wood, and metal piping. They also produce far fewer sparks making it a lot safer. The biggest advantage I would say is that the material you’re cutting remains cool, hence the naming. 

Pros

  • Great for cutting hard materials such as metal
  • Powerful motor

Cons

  • More dangerous than a miter saw

The miter saw

miter saw vs chop saw

The miter saw is a nifty tool for most carpentry and woodworking projects. Great for working with smaller pieces and the large variety of cuts makes it a great tool for finishing. However, if you’re going to be cutting metal or other materials – you’re going to need a chop saw. 

The miter saw comes in 3 different variants, the compound miter saw, the dual-bevel compound miter saw and the sliding compound miter saw. One and two are very similar with one key difference, the dual-bevel is capable of tilting the blade in both the left and right direction whereas the regular compound miter saw only bevels in the left direction. This can be very helpful to increase productivity and accuracy as you don’t need to physically flip your workpieces over. 

The sliding compound miter saw comes with a blade attached to rails which allows you to cut wider pieces, this is great for if you’re doing bigger projects like replacing a deck. 

Pros

  • Best for woodworking, carpentry
  • Safer to use than a chop saw
  • Miter, bevel and compound cuts

Cons

  • Not suited for non-wood materials

Which is best for wood, the chop saw or the miter saw?

While you the chop saw is capable of handling wider pieces, it doesn’t allow you to do any types of angled cuts. If you’re going to be working with baseboards or molding or any other type of trim carpentry, you’re going to need the more versatile miter saw. 

Which is best for metal, the chop saw or the miter saw?

The answer is easy, you’ll want a chop saw. The more powerful motor and the larger abrasive wheel makes it a far better choice for cutting metal or other non-wood materials. These saws are also equipped better to withstand the metal shavings from entering the motor and ruining your saw. 

If you do still want to use a miter saw to cut metal, you’ll have to look into compatible blades as the stock blades aren’t meant for this type of material. 

Safety

The regular chop saw with the abrasive wheel produces many sparks and therefore should only be operated by professionals. The miter saw, is far safer to operate and more beginner-friendly. 

Whether you get a chop saw or a miter saw, make sure you read the manual before using the machine, even if you have used it before. 

Conclusion

Hopefully, you’ve now learned the key differences between the chop saw and the miter saw. To sum up, the chop saw is a great powerful tool with a high cutting capacity that is perfect for cutting metal and other tougher materials in at 90-degrees. The miter saw, on the other hand, is better for woodworking and carpentry projects, specifically smaller trim and finishing work. 

If you plan on doing a variety of different home building things with your saw and will be using a lot of metal, a chop saw is the way to go. If you’re going to be using the saw for more woodworking related jobs you’re going to want the more versatile miter saw. 

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