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Chop Saw vs Miter Saw: Which One To Choose?

chop-saw-vs-miter-saw

Some people will say that a chop saw and a miter saw are the same. Although they have a lot of similarities, these saws are not the same. A chop saw and a miter saw have their strengths and weaknesses and depending on your task at hand, one of these two saws will be the correct choice for the job. We will break down the difference between the miter saw and the chop saw and help you decide which one you should choose.

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. 

Blades

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 cut-off saw

Safety

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. 

Price

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.

Chop Saw Pros
  • Quick and clean 90-degree cuts
  • Powerful
  • Cuts a variety of material
Chop Saw Cons
  • Will throw sparks
  • Very loud
  • Doesn’t cut angles

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. 

miter saw
A miter saw. Credit: Mark Hunter, Flickr

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. 

four types of miter saw cuts

Blades

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.  

Safety

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. 

Price

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. 

Miter Saw Pros
  • Ability to cut angles
  • Safer to use than a chop saw
  • Suitable for detailed work
  • Good for homeowners and professionals
Miter Saw Cons
  • Not the most powerful saw
  • Will struggle to cut anything other than wood

Which Saw is Right for Your Needs?

a miter sawNow that you know the difference between the chop saw and the miter saw, you will have to figure out which is going to work best for your needs. Here are the most important determining factors when choosing between a chop saw or a miter saw. 

What Are You Cutting?

If you are doing metal cuts day in and day out, cutting up old pallets, or demolishing a house, a miter saw is not going to last long. If you are trying to make a birdhouse or a picture frame out of wood, the miter saw will be the better choice. 

Skill Level

If you still can’t decide if you want a miter saw or chop saw, consider your experience with power equipment. If you are brand new to power equipment and want to try your hand at some simple furniture making or a little molding, you should look at the miter saw. 

The safety factor alone with the number of sparks and the size of the blade on the chop saw is enough to discourage the typical homeowner. Although chop saws can be used at the homeowner level they are considered to be more of a professional saw. 

Our Favorite Chop Saw
Makita LW1401 Cut-Off Saw, 14"
Our Favorite Miter Saw
DEWALT Sliding Compound Miter Saw, 12-Inch...
Makita LW1401 Cut-Off Saw, 14"
DEWALT Sliding Compound Miter Saw, 12-Inch...
-
115 Customer Reviews
-
Our Favorite Chop Saw
Makita LW1401 Cut-Off Saw, 14"
Makita LW1401 Cut-Off Saw, 14"
115 Customer Reviews
Our Favorite Miter Saw
DEWALT Sliding Compound Miter Saw, 12-Inch...
DEWALT Sliding Compound Miter Saw, 12-Inch...
-
-

Conclusion

The chop saw is all about brute force and power and is a construction tool. Are you building a house from the ground up? You’ll want a chop saw. When it’s time to put on the finishing touches, bring in carpenter with a miter saw to trim out the doors and windows – it’s a finesse tool. And just as all apples are fruit, but not all fruit are apples, all miter saws are chop saws, but not all chop saws are miter saws. The next time someone tries to tell you they have a chop saw that does angles, you can congratulate them on having a miter saw.


Header image credit: jbolles, Flickrr

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