Chop Saw vs. Miter Saw: Which is Better for You?
As a woodworker, you need to invest enough time and resources to ensure that you get the right power tools in your workshop. Knowing that you need to get the best tools is one thing and choosing the right ones to buy is another.
While the two are some of the best performing and handiest power saws you do not always need to get both. But, picking between them can be a little confusing, and this is more so if you do not have enough experience with both.
The primary functions of the two power saws are almost the same, but there are also some significant differences between the two. Understanding these fundamental differences and capabilities of each is the only way to ensure that you choose the right one.
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Whether you are setting up your new workshop or just want to upgrade your cutting tools, it is vital to add a powerful power saw to your collection.
It is the need to add a reliable, robust and efficient power saw that drives many woodworkers to buy the chop saw.
Chop saws are the kind of saw that you would expect to find in industrial and commercial shops where it comes in handy when cutting large volumes of metal.
When looking at the chop saw (at a glance), it seems very similar to a miter saw. And this is because both power saws will have a round blade that is mounted on a hinged arm and with a stationary base for supporting the workpiece.
What makes the chop saw different from the miter saw is that the blade is always perpendicular to the base to cut 90-degree straight cuts. And although just like the miter saw it can still cut angles, it will not be as easy to control as a miter saw.
Chop saws are one of the best power tools that you can use when you want to cut large metal pieces because its massive power makes the cuts look almost effortless.
And although you can still use it for cutting large wood stock, its large blade performs best when cutting various kinds of metal.
This saw will best suited for home building and framing tasks thanks to its massive cutting capacity. But, these power saws are ordinarily fast, and only a professional should operate them as they can be quite dangerous.
Unlike the miter saw they are mostly for industrial application but there are many types that can still be handy around the workshop and for DIY projects.
- Mainly cut hard materials like metal. If your projects entail cutting different kinds of metal often, the chop saw is a must-have. The large blade on this saw will not only cut almost any metal but also do it more efficiently than the miter saw. Also, with the right blade, it will be handy for cutting large volumes of metal relatively fast.
- Easy lumber feed. The large commercial chop saws will come with a foot or knee switch which is a significant advantage as it leaves both your hands-free for feeding the material. If you combine this feature with the outstanding speed of the blade, you can always be sure of getting some fast cuts.
- Not easy to control when cutting angles. If you want to buy a versatile power saw that you could use to cut angles the chop saw might not be a good choice. The blade only moves up and down and will not swivel which means that its main purpose is just to make straight cuts. And although it is still possible to use it for 45-degree cuts it can e quite tedious to control.
- Can be dangerous. The large blade and massive power of the chop saw is a significant advantage, but this also makes it quite a high hazard tool that will require a lot of precaution. Also, feeding material with both hands can pose a significant risk.
Some projects in the workshop will require you not just to make cuts but to make them as neat as possible. When this is the case, the miter saw is always the saw to use.
Like the chop saw it comes with a round blade mounted on a hinged arm, but it swivels to make it possible to use the saw for angled cuts and various other kinds of cuts.
The blade on the miter saw can enter the wood not only at an angle but also when tilted to make it possible to cut bevels.
You can also use the miter saw to perform some duties of the chop saw (making straight cut) by locking the blade at 90 degrees. But, on the same note, it is also worth knowing that you can never use the chop saw as a miter saw.
When you want to do some finishing on your carpentry projects such as installing baseboard and molding the miter saw can be handy thanks to its ability to make bevel cuts,
This power saw will be helpful when you need to make some perfect and neat cuts on small board, framing and also when working with small piping.
And it is best for use by regular woodworkers for projects around the workshop and home improvement and renovations.
- Mainly for cutting wood, aluminum. The main application of the miter saw is to cut wood but it can also be useful in cutting small amounts of metals such as aluminum and steel hence making it quite versatile.
- Makes angled cuts. The most significant difference between the chop saw and miter saw is the latter’s ability to make angled cuts. The blade on the miter saw can swivel to produce the angled cuts.
- Cleaner cuts. Miter saws will not only make angled, compound and bevel cuts but they are also good when you want to do some clean and fine cutting of small materials. The nature and size of the blade on this saw makes it easy to get some smooth cuts.
- Low hazard saw. Many woodworkers consider the miter saw as a low-hazard power saw and this is because the material is held against the fence in a stationary position and only the saw head will move. When using the chop saw you have to feed the workpiece to the saw. And kickbacks are also less likely when using this saw.
- Not ideal for cutting metal. A miter saw can help you cut a few pieces of metals such as aluminum for your personal project but it is not an appropriate power saw when cutting large amounts of metal.
The Bottom Line
For a seasoned woodworker or any professional that has enough experience with both miter and chop saws, the choice should not be hard because you already know what you need.
The decision is not always easy for regular and beginner woodworkers and DIYers. While the best idea is to have both since they are ideal for different situations, it is not possible most of the times.
If you plan to go into woodworking and are looking for a reliable tool to use in the workshop to make both straight and angled cuts the miter saw is a good choice.
The miter saw is also the right pick if you think that you will need to make bevel and compound cuts and when you need something precise and consistent. And it is the power saw to go to when you want to get into some fine woodworking and improve your finish works.
For those that are into home building the chop saw is the better option. The powerful motor and large blade make it a handy tool in home building as it can cut into almost any materials from wood to metal and do it with some impressive speeds.
Best Chop Saws
#1. Porter-Cable PCE700 15 Amps Chop Saw
Porter-Cable PCE700 is a handy chop saw that runs on a 15-Amp motor that delivers up to 3,800 RPM, and it also has some replaceable brushes to increase its lifespan.
Cutting and removing material is also easy when using this chop saw as it also features a quick-release materials clump. And the cutting fence has some miter adjustment to make it possible to make up to 45-degree angle cuts.
It is one of the most stable chop saws that you can get despite its rather compact size thanks to the heavy-duty steel base.
This handy power saw includes a spark deflector that will provide safety and also keeps the line of sight clear as you make the cuts to increase accuracy and precision. And the saw also has a spindle lock that will make blade change easy and quick
#2. DeWalt D28715 14-Inch Quick-Change Chop Saw
The plastic and metals construction helps to make the DeWalt D28715 chop saw both lightweight and durable. And so even before you use it you can be sure that it is a reliable power saw that you will have in the workshop for many years.
It also runs on a 15-Amp motor that provides a maximum horsepower of 5.5 and more overload capacity than what you get from most similar ones on the market.
You will never need a wrench when changing the blade on this chop saw thanks to the quick-change system that also makes it quick and easy.
The fence on this saw is also adjustable and uses a patented Quick-Fence design that lets you adjust without using any tools for fast and accurate angled cuts that are up to 45 degrees.
Other things that make this an outstanding chop saw will include the quick-lock vise that provides fast clamping on different size materials. And it also has an ergonomically designed handle for comfortable and easy control.
Best Miter Saws
#1. Hitachi C10FCG Single Bevel Compound Miter Saw
For woodworkers that are on the market for a cheap miter saw with all the basic features, the Hitachi C10FCG is one of the best options.
It has a 0 to 52-degree miter angle range to both the right and left to increase its cutting flexibility and 0 to 45-degree bevel range (to the left) for accurate bevel cutting.
This miter saw runs on a 15-Amp motor that will provide all the power that you need for the most demanding cutting jobs. And to make it an even more convenient saw it also has a large table that offers better support for your workpiece and a vice to hold it in place.
Hitachi C10FCG is also a lightweight miter saw that weighs only 24.2 pounds and this improves maneuverability and also makes it easy to transport.
This miter saw will also include a dust collector attachment to minimize the airborne wood dust particles
#2. DeWalt DWS709 Slide Compound Miter Saw
DeWalt makes some robust, reliable and highly efficient power saws. And if you are shopping for a miter saw their DWS709 is an excellent pick.
This powerful slide compound miter saw uses a 15-Amp motor that will generate up to 3,800 RPM. And it has an adjustable miter detent plate with 13 positive stops to make it more versatile.
The DeWalt DWS709 has a high-quality construction to ensure that it serves you for a long time and all the features that you want in a compound miter saw.
Some of these features include an exclusive back fence and tall sliding fence to give the power saw more cutting capacity.
The saw will miter 50 degrees to the left and 60 degrees to the right to give it more cutting capacity. And there is also an over-size bevel scale on the DWS709 for accurate and easy bevel angle adjustments.