July 26, 2022

Miter Saw vs Chop Saw

Miter saws and chop saws are useful tools that can be used for various projects. Both saws can be used to make wood, metal, or plastic cuts. So, what is the difference between a miter saw and a chop saw? Miter saws are typically used for making precise, angled cuts. Miter saws can also be used to make crosscuts, but they are not as effective as chop saws for this purpose. On the other hand, chop saws are designed specifically for making crosscuts. Miter saws usually have a fence that can be adjusted to create different angles.

The term chop saw sometimes describes a miter saw. However, you are yet to know about the differences between the two. These are two distinct tools that serve different purposes and functions. This article gives you the pros and cons, differences, strengths, and weaknesses of a Miter Saw vs Chop Saw.

Overview of the Chop saw

A chop saw is a cross-cutting tool used in engineering and welding shops where high productivity is a priority. It cuts 90-degree angles, and it is big, whereas the miter saw cuts angled or bevelled cuts. It is more versatile than the chop saw as it rotates and pivots to the left and the right. A Chop saw is only for straight cuts in wood material, just like a circular saw, but they have different features that separate them. 

It makes precise cuts, while some chop saws are for bevel or angled cuts. A chop saw is fast and smooth. They are ideal for cabinetmakers. The blade size determines the thickness of the material that it can rip. The Chop saw uses a circular blade, which is used in industries as it cuts large volumes of heavy-duty material. Chop saws have metal cut-off wheels. 

They use the standard metal wheel, whereas high-end chop saws have multi-purpose cold cut blades. The saw gets hot after performing the task due to abrasive blades that produce sparks. However, a cold-cut saw does not leave the tool hot. 

They are aggressive tools that even cut through metal and perform better on metal when used with a professional. It rips through trusses, joists, rafters, and studs. The standard chop saw has a 14inch blade. Freehand chop saws are dangerous, and they need great caution. 

Pros

  • Ideal for straights cuts
  • Fast and smooth
  • Heavy duty
  • Standard metal wheel
  • Aggressive
  • Affordable 
  • Cuts thick material and thin-walled sections without snagging

Cons

  • Non-abrasive blades make sparks, and the tool hot
  • It does not work on bevelled angles

Overview of the Miter saw

A miter saw is a tool that allows you to make cuts at various angles. It is exceptional when cutting material like dimensional lumber for framing, decking, or flooring. It works from small square stock to boards a foot or wider. The saw blade is on the arm that makes pivots from both the right and left sides for angled cuts. 

The tool is for frames and window casings. It has three variations, including the dual compound and the sliding compound. The compound miter saw that pivots tilt in a single direction for bevel cuts, making compound cuts in one pass. The Dual compound miter saws tilt from both the left and right. 

a-professional-carpenter-works-with-a-circular-saw-miter-saw

Quicker bevels at multiple angles are what you get from the saw machine. The Sliding compound miter saws are versatile saws with a sliding feature. Move the blade forward and backward. The sliding feature increases the length of the cut, making it ideal for longer material. 

If you are looking for more cutting power, consider higher Amps. When using a miter saw, expect some flawless surfaces. There is a need for more positive stops to avoid time-consuming project set-up cuts. Saws with thumb-activated stops are ideal for quick adjustments. 

Choose wisely from different models when buying a miter saw. A smaller unit mounted on a workbench is easier to use, but you can have a bigger one that does not require transportation to and from work. You have multiple sizes of blades that suit the needs of different applications. Buy a blade compatible with your miter saw before you blame your miter saw for a technical fault. The extension cord has to be the right one for the miter saw. 

Pros

  • Ideal for trimming and angular cuts
  • Ideal for cross-cuts and bevels
  • Moving blade
  • Precise
  • Safe
  • More cutting power
  • Quick adjustments 

Cons

  • Fixed stock
  • Limited in variety

Favorite Features

Blades

Most chop saws use abrasive metal-cutting blades. These blades are affordable, and that does not compromise their efficiency. Abrasive blades are consistent but not precise. They are for cutting soft steels but are difficult in making more precise miter cuts since they deflect and flex during use.

Using a standard abrasive cutting disc on aluminum makes them trim up the edge of the wheel, and it will not work for a longer period. Chop saws for abrasive wheels are incompatible with slower-speed (RPM) saws that use carbide-tipped blades for cutting various metals. 

Toothed blades with carbide-tipped teeth are also available (Howstuffworks.com). These are for cutting soft metals such as aluminium and brass. An abrasive wheel should not be used for these materials, as the metal particles can clog the cutting surface.

These blades look similar to those used on miter saws, but the two are not interchangeable because that is dangerous. Chop saw blades have more teeth, and run at different speeds. Miter saws use carbide-tipped blades, making them an all-arounder for softwoods. However, blades with a higher tooth count will provide a smoother cut in hardwoods. 

With the correct blade, a miter saw cuts small pieces of aluminium, but not regularly because waste metal particles can get into the saw’s moving parts and cause permanent damage.

Depth of cut

Metal chop saws deal with cross-cutting short pieces of metal 4-inches or smaller. Cut larger pieces of metal. However, a sliding miter saw does the trick. With larger cross-cut lengths, be careful when using a tool like a miter saw to cut metal. A metal saw creates a safe situation when making longer cuts and securing the piece while cutting.

Blade size

When using a miter saw, the blade diameter determines the cutting depth. The larger the blade, the deeper the cut. There is a greater distance from the blade edge to the clamping nut in the centre. When the workpiece hits the clamping nut, it prevents the blade from going deeper. 

Fence system

The Chop saw quick-fence system does not include the use of wrenches. You are allowed to manipulate the material. You make angles of your choice between o and 45 degrees. A miter saw has a sliding, and flipping saw fence that supports longer material for precise cuts. You have two options when making bevel cuts or supporting your material (Woodsmithspirit.com). You either flip or slide the stock. The Dewalt sliding miter saw has a back fence design that cuts to 90 degrees and 45 degrees. It has an efficient dust collection system.

What could be better

Miter saw

  • More variety in miter saw models would do. 
  • The blade size could have been up.

Chop saw

  • Spark reduction.
  • It should make bevelled angles.

Similar Features

  • Both tools allow for cross-cutting of material.
  • The miter and the chop saw have a back fence to hold material fast while cutting. 
  • They use a circular saw blade with an exposed bottom cutting edge spins away from the user.
  • Both tools may offer clamping systems to keep the material steady for cuts.

Key Differences

  • Chop saws make straight cuts with a blade that does not bevel or miter, whereas the miter saw makes straight or bevelled cuts with a saw blade that miters.
  • Chop saws are for metal, whereas miter saws crosscut wood.
  • Chop saws use abrasive cutting wheels, whilst miter saws use carbide-tipped blades.
  • Chop saws have blade sizes up to 15-inches, while miter saws have up to 12-inches.
  • Chop saws are rugged and simple tools, whereas miter saws make precision cuts at many different angles.
  • Chop saws run more slowly than miter saws.
  • A miter saw is excellent for cutting angles, whereas a chop saw can only cut at a 90-degree angle.

The verdict

You need to understand the cutting speed, capacity, and type of material and cut to make an informed choice. For cutting metal, you need a carbide blade. Look for a metal-cutting saw blade that matches the speed of your saw for a safe and effective method of cutting metal on a miter saw. If you are a woodworker, consider miter saws. For a slim budget, consider a chop saw. Make an informed decision based on budget, function, and convenience. 

David D. Hughes
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