Miter Saw vs Circular Saw: Pros/Cons

miter saw vs. Circular Saw

The power saw is one of the tools that you will use most in the workshop. It is hard to think of any woodworking project that will not require you to make at least a few cuts. But the variety of powers saws that are available can make it hard to pick one for your projects.

One of the most common conversations among DIYers and woodworkers when it comes to buying the power saw is whether to go for a miter saw or a circular saw.

The two power saws are quite popular, and although you can have both, in most instances, you will only need one of them.

Also, each has some specific uses and advantages, but some of their applications will overlap. But, understanding what each saw is all about, its merits and demerits, and its uses should make it easy to pick between the two.

what's miter saw

The miter saw is a specialized power saw that is handy for cutting a variety of angles. And it features a 10 to 12-inch circular blade mounted on a swing arm that will swivel to the right or left to make the angled cuts.

Miter saws are quite handy in the workshop, and you can use them to make cuts for crown moldings, window casing, and picture and door frames. And although it is still not as versatile as the circular saw there are still numerous cuts that you can use it to make.

If you are looking for a power saw to make some accurate crosscuts, the miter saw will be your best option.

The accuracy of this saw is what makes it ideal for cutting tight-fitting joints or moldings, trims and anything else that requires a perfect fit.

Overall, you can use the miter saw to make straight cuts across the wood’s grain and miter cut which is one that is angled across the board’s width. You can also do bevel cuts and the compound cut which is just a combination of the miter and bevel cuts.

Although in most cases the miter saw is used to cut medium size boards, the chop saw which looks very similar to the miter saw also cuts metal.

Pros

  • Makes accurate cuts. Whether you want to make cross cuts, miters or bevels you can always trust the miter saw to provide some highly precise cuts. And you will also not need to use guides as you just have to adjust the angle of the saw to make the cuts correctly.
  • Cuts tight-fitting joints. If you want to cut some tight fitting joints for moldings including trims for doors or windows, baseboards, and crowns, the miter saw will be the best options for you if you want to ensure a perfect fit.
  • Saves time: A miter saw makes some wider cuts and so it can save you some significant amount of time on your projects since cutting large boards will not take long. Also, the automatic blade (mostly on the compound miter saw) is fast and will cut through the materials quickly.
  • Can cut bevel, cross cut easily. The miter saw might not be as versatile as the circular saw, but it is still very reliable when it comes to cutting bevels, compound cuts, and cross cuts. Most miter saws will make either of these cuts with ease.

Cons

  • Not versatile: The miter saws are not very versatile because you have to bring the material to the stationary saw. What this means is that it limits you when it comes to the cuts that you can make.
  • Expensive. Miter saws are quite expensive if you compare them to the circular saw. While you can get a circular saw at a price range of between $40 and $100 most miter saw will cost anywhere between $200 and $600.
  • Needs space in the workshop. Miter saws are stationary power tools, and so you will need to dedicate some significant amount of space in the workshop to them. And so it might not be convenient for woodworkers with small workshops.

Circular Saw

circular saw

The circular saw is one of the most versatile power saws that you can have in the workshop, and it is hard to think of any cut that it cannot make it. Although it also has some limitations and shortcomings, it is one of the first power tools that you should buy.

The circular blade gets its name from the distinctive circular toothed blade that rotates with exceptional speed to make some long straight cuts that go with the grain.

However, the versatility of this power saw also means that you can use it to make cross cuts or the kind that goes against the grain.

Although the circular saw is also very handy for cutting small boards, many woodworkers seem to prefer to use it for cutting plywood. With other saws like the miter saw it is almost impossible to cut plywood which is one of the materials that many woodworkers will use most in various projects.

Many projects will require you to use the circular saw but making cabinets and racks are perhaps the most common ones. And it will also be handy for everything from masonry work to roofing and some forms of plumbing.

Some of the cuts that you can make with this saw include the right angle bevels and rough bevel rips.

Pros

  • Versatile power saw.  The versatility of the circular saws makes them one of the handiest tools in the workshop as it not only makes various cuts but you can also use it to cut different materials including metal, pipes and sheet material. All you need to do is make sure that you have the right blade for each application.
  • Best for straight cuts. Besides from the few occasional curved cuts, most of the woodworking project will require you to make some straight cuts. And few other power saws are better than the circular saw at making long these cuts that go with the grain of the lumber.
  • Relatively cheap. A circular saw can make almost all the cuts that a miter saw does. But what makes it a good pick for a woodworker is that it is way much cheaper than the miter saw. And so it is always a great idea to buy it first before getting a miter saw.

Cons

  • Not ideal for curves and angles. If there is an area that the circular saw can let you down it is when you need to make curved cuts and angles. Technically, a circular saw can cut angles but will require you to set up a jig, measure the angle and hope that it is correct which means you will do extra and time-consuming work for a simple cut.  Also, the nature of the blade and the overall design of the saw make it hard to make some curved cuts.
  • Rough edge cuts. Tear-outs or splintery edges are one of the most significant shortcomings of the circular saw, and this is also because of the toothed nature of the blade. But, a fine tooth blade can make the cuts smoother.

The Bottom Line

miter saw vs. circular Saw - infographic

If you have to pick just one saw between the miter and circular saws the first and most important things is to understand what each is all about and its capabilities. You should then pick what suits most of your projects.

However, in most cases, the circular saw seems to be the best pick for both professional and beginner DIYers and woodworkers. And this is because of its versatility and the fact that it can cut various materials. Also, it can do almost everything that the miter saw can do.

For the woodworkers that are looking for a less intimidating and stationary saw the miter would be an excellent choice. The miter saw is also the best pick if most of your projects will involve making miters for cabinets and moldings.

Best Miter Saws

1. Hitachi C10FCG 10-Inch Single Bevel Compound Miter Saw

Hitachi C10FCG 15-Amp 10" Single Bevel Compound Miter Saw

Miter saws can be quite pricey, but the Hitachi C10FCG proves that you can still get one at an affordable price tag.  This cheap miter saw has all the basic features, and it runs on a powerful 15 amp motor that generates up to 5,000 RPM.

This power saw will offer a bevel range of between 0 and 45 degrees to ensure that you always get some clean and highly accurate bevel cuts. Also, it has a 0 to 52-degree miter angle to both the right and left that makes it a more flexible saw.

At a total weight of 24.2 pounds, this miter saw is lightweight enough for maneuverability and to make transportation easy. Also, it has a dust collector attachment that will help to keep the work area clean.

2. DeWalt DWS709 12-Inch Slide Compound Miter Saw

DEWALT DWS709 Slide Compound Miter Saw

For the woodworkers in need of a powerful miter saw that is handy for various cuts the DeWalt DWS709 is one of the best options in the market.

This miter saw features a high-quality and durable construction, and it has lots of fantastic features to make it a very handy saw in the workshop. And it also comes with a powerful 15 amp motor that will generate up to 3,800 RPM.

Some of the features that make this one of the best miter saws in the market include the adjustable stainless steel dent plate with 13 positive stops and the oversized bevel scale.

It miters 60 degrees to the right and 50 degrees to the left, and it also includes tall sliding fences and back fence design to increase the cutting capacity. The miter saw is still compact and lightweight despite the many impressive features and capabilities.

Best Circular Saws

1. DeWalt DWE575SB Lightweight Circular Saw

Dewalt DWE575SB 7-1/4" Lightweight Corded Circular Saw

The lightweight DeWalt DWE575SB circular saw is another excellent tool that every woodworker should have in the workshop as you can use it to make a variety of cuts.

Like most other power tools from DeWalt, it features a sturdy and durable construction and with lots of features to make it a very reliable saw. And they include the powerful 15 amp motor that delivers up to 5,200 RPM and the electric brake that is vital to ensure safe use.

You can use this DeWalt circular saw for a variety of applications that will range from framing walls to doing some exterior finishing. Also, it has an integrated blower to ensure that users maintain a clear line of sight for more accurate cuts.

This circular saw will also feature 57-degree bevel capacity with 45 and 22.5-degrees dents to make it ideal for diverse applications.

2. DeWalt DCS391B Cordless Circular Saw

DeWalt DCS391B 20-Volt MAX Li-Ion Circular Saw

Here is another powerful and reliable DeWalt circular saw that you could use for a variety of cuts in the workshop. It produces up to 5,250 RPM to ensure that you get both power and speed to make even the most demanding cuts with ease.

The circular saw features a magnesium shoe that provides job site durability to ensure that you always get accurate cuts. And there is also a comfortable rubber over-molded grip for optimal balance and control.

This cordless circular saw will also include 0 to 50-degree bevel capacity to make it possible to make some aggressive bevel cuts and it comes with a handy 6 1/2-inch carbide-tipped blade.