It is quite probable that you have walked down the power tool aisle at your local big box store and seen them both displayed side by side. Chop saws and miter saws look similar, and at first glance, they appear to operate the same way. So, what is the difference between chop saw vs miter saw? More importantly, which of these power tools is right for you?
What are chop saws?
These powered devices are designed to make straight cuts into heavy materials such as metals, but can also be used to cut lighter metal and wood as well. It is most often seen with a circular blade that is at least 14 inches. Unlike similar cutting tools, such as a miter saw, the blade is usually an abrasive disk with no teeth. This allows the blade to cut through materials at a high rate of speed.
Besides the larger blade size and configuration, chop saws are known for their power. This feature allows this power tool to work through materials of higher volume and density as well as at a greater speed than other tools of similar design.
Who needs one of these?
This device is most often found in commercial construction and industrial manufacturing settings, where its power and speed are required. When comparing chop saw vs miter saw, this piece of equipment offers most DIY and hobbyists more power than they need, with less versatility as it cuts only 90-degree angles. Some models are designed to be operated by foot switches, allowing material to be controlled and fed with both hands for production line efficiency.
This makes it a perfect tool for a professional setting, where fast cutting of large quantities of materials is cost effective for production. Unless a homeowner or woodworker is doing a large project, such as an add-on to their home, this is not required. It should also be pointed out that they can be a bit more tricky to control and are considered less-safe than other cutting power tools.
What are miter saws?
This powered cutting device is used for cutting wood and lighter metals such as aluminum. It can be found at construction sites, small shops, and the homes of woodworkers. Its blades are sold mostly in the 10 or 12-inch sizes, with smaller models available as well. These devices are equipped with blades that have teeth in various configurations. Blade designs are sold that cut through light metals and as wood blades for cross and rip cutting.
While they might not have the power or size of their bigger cousins, miter saws make up for this through their ability to cut angles. They can be set to cut at 90-degrees, but its stand out feature is the ability to set it at pre-set angles that are most common (such as 45-degrees) or with open settings that allow you to set the exact angle that you want.
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Who needs one of these?
For most home projects and weekend woodworking, these saws make the ideal cutting tool. That doesn't mean that construction workers wouldn't find benefits from having one at the job site, however, as angled cuts are required there as well. Many industrial manufacturing settings could find the cutting capacity and lower powers less-favorable to their needs.
Wood is usually placed along a fence that supports it through the cut, and some models allow the cutter to slide as well as move in a downward motion. Also, these tools not only make angled cuts by rotating the saw, some models tilt which allow you to make bevel cuts.
When comparing chop saw vs miter saw, remember that the miter saw is easier to control. This makes it safer to use by non-professionals doing small projects and home improvements.
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Can't one substitute for the other?
In short, yes and no. A chop saw can cut at an angle if the material is offered at the degree desired. This would require some type of jig set-up that takes time away from cutting. It also poses a safety hazard as these types of cuts are not what it was designed for. Also, it would be hard pressed to make more complex cuts like those offered by a compound miter saw.
Conversely, a miter saw can be set to cut 90-degree angles all day long. It can even handle light metals, such as aluminum. However, it won't be able to cut into heavier metals and it won't do it as quickly. Attempting to set one up to do the job of another really defeats the purpose of the tool in question and may limit its potential that you paid for at the store.
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Which one should you get?
That decision is completely up to you but it should be based on what you need it for. If you are a fan of powered tools you might be compelled to own both types of saws. Also, construction workers could be served well at the job site by both. That would allow you to cut metals and wood at a quick pace (time is money) while providing you with the ability to make more complex cuts with wood that carpenters may face in more difficult tasks, such as specialty staircases.
If you are a business owner with a production shop or facility, it would be wise to look into the chop saws. This tool will cover cutting needs while allowing you and other employees to work metals and wood at higher speeds. This tool could speed up your facilities manufacturing process. If you are a homeowner looking to do simple home improvements or aid with woodworking projects, a miter saws would be the tool of choice for you. Its power and blade size is more than ample for most chores you would need it for, and the versatility of cuts it provides far outshine the need for speed.