Chop Saws vs. Miter Saws: What’s The Difference?

Choosing the right saw for your woodworking projects can be confusing.

We’ve all been there, haven’t we? You’re ready to buy a new power tool, but you don’t know which one is best for your needs. And then you end up buying two tools because neither of them is exactly what you wanted in the first place. It’s frustrating and expensive. 

Check out this blog post that compares miter saws vs chop saws so that next time you go shopping for a power tool, it will be easier to make an informed decision.

Difference Between Chops Saws vs Miter Saws

The difference between a chop saw and a miter saw is that a chop saw cuts 90-degree angles and is larger while a miter saw is smaller, cuts beveled angles. Chop saws are larger than miter saws and get used for their sheer brute force while a miter saw operates in a similar way to a chop saw, so you would think the two are interchangeable when it comes to tasks. A chop saw motor typically generates over 5 horsepower, whereas a miter saw manages 2.5 horsepower.

What Is a Miter Saw?

A miter saw is a powerful, portable, compact tool. The name comes from its ability to make crosscuts (cuts across the grain of the wood) and beveled cuts (cut at an angle). It’s better for cabinetwork or any project that requires accuracy. You can use it to cut molding around windows and doors as well as baseboard, crown molding, panel molding, picture frame pieces, and shelves.

What Is a Miter Saw Used For?

The most common reason people decide to purchase a miter saw is for basic cutting tasks like cutting 2 x 4 boards down to size or making decorative moldings for cabinets. But because it features accessories such as guide poles and various blades, there are many other jobs a miter saw can perform.

Miter Saw Pros

  • Portable, compact
  • Cuts across the grain
  • Cuts angles
  • Accurate
  • Many accessories that expand miter saw’s capabilities

Miter Saw Cons

  • Avoids large, thick or heavy woods
  • Slower speed
  • Less power than a chop saw

Summary of Miter Saw Pros and Cons

A miter saw is one of the most versatile tools you can have. It can cut across the grain, make angled cuts and it is fairly accurate. Keep in mind that its capabilities are limited to cutting smaller pieces because of its size and motor power. The great thing about using a miter saw for any project is the many accessories available such as guide poles and various blades. These accessories allow you to do tasks such as ripping boards (cutting them lengthwise), kerfing (cutting thin strips from wide boards), dadoing (placing grooves on your workpiece), and making moldings. Additionally, the parts of a miter saw are easily replaceable and customizable to suit your needs.

What is a Chop Saw?

A chop saw is a type of circular saw that features a lower blade guard and a wider base. The top handle can be easily rotated to provide extra stability when cutting large pieces of wood. It has a lower blade guard because it’s designed for quickly making large cuts in thick or heavy pieces. It doesn’t have the same versatility as a miter saw, but its sheer power makes it ideal for larger projects such as flooring installation, notching joists, and framework.

What Is a Chop Saw Used For?

Chop Saws are used mainly for framing walls and floors (rough carpentry) and any sort of precise crosscutting is not recommended. If you need to make precise cuts, with either an accurate miter saw or table saw.

The most common reason people decide to purchase a chop saw is for framing walls and floors. But because it features accessories such as guide poles and various blades, there are many other jobs a chop saw can perform.

Chop Saw Pros

  • High powered.
  • Heavy-duty frame/stability bar.
  • Great at making large cuts in thick pieces of wood, but also good for accurate crosscutting if you set the blade depth correctly.

Chop Saw Cons

  • Not portable – this is not a hand-held tool. It’s very heavy and cumbersome to move around, so keep that in mind before purchasing one.
  • This type of saw must be mounted to a workbench or used with sawhorses if you plan on working outside.
  • Slower speed.

Summary of Miter Saw Pros and Cons

A chop saw is a great tool for notching joists and frameworks, but it has limitations when it comes to making precise cuts (angles). It’s high powered but its heavy-duty frame/stability bar also makes it difficult to move around. Keep in mind that this is not a hand-held tool. You must mount it on a workbench or use sawhorses if you plan on working outside.

If you’re planning on using your chop saw frequently, make sure you purchase one with an anti-vibration feature; this will help minimize the strain placed on your arms while cutting. Chop saws are great at quickly making large cuts in thick pieces of wood, but you can also make accurate crosscuts if you set the blade depth correctly.

Can a Chop Saw Cut Angles?

If you own a chop saw, it should be able to make angled cuts. However, because of its design and lack of an adjustable miter feature, this is not ideal for projects that require precise angles. If you need accurate angles, use a miter or table saw instead.

Cutting Materials

Which saw is better for cutting certain materials? Let’s find out.

Wood

  • Miter Saw: A miter saw is perfect if you want to cut small pieces of wood. You can fasten a clamp or workbench to the bottom of your saw to secure your material as you’re working on it.
  • Chop Saw: If you’re planning on making larger cuts in thick pieces of wood, then a chop saw would be the better choice.

Metal

  • Miter Saw: If you ever need to cut metal, a miter saw is definitely the better choice. Aluminum and steel are softer metals that can easily be cut using a miter saw without dulling your blade in the process.
  • Chop Saw: Cutting through harder metals such as iron or steel requires a high-powered chop saw with a blade designed for cutting harder metals.

Concrete

  • Miter Saw: As long as you don’t cut right on the concrete, a miter saw should be able to make nice clean cuts. Just set the depth accordingly and use a circular saw blade designed for cutting through different types of materials.
  • Chop Saw: If you need to cut all the way through a piece of concrete, then a chop saw is your best option.

Masonry

  • Miter Saw: A miter saw can make large cuts through masonry but it will take a long time and you risk causing excessive vibration to the blade while cutting.
  • Chop Saw: A chop saw is your best option when it comes to cutting through masonry. Its high-powered, heavy-duty frame/stability bar makes it possible for this tool to cut through brick, stone, and other hard masonry materials.

Composites

  • Miter Saw: A miter saw is perfect when cutting through composites. As long as you set your blade depth correctly, you can easily cut composites such as plywood and fiberglass without dulling the blade or creating a lot of vibration.
  • Chop Saw: If you’re cutting through hard composites such as metal/wood composites, then a chop saw is best. It can handle these hard materials without any issues.

Plastic

  • Miter Saw: Easily powerful enough to cut through plastic.
  • Chop Saw: Can handle plastics, but a miter saw is the better choice.

Bottom Line: Chop or Miter Saw?

A chop saw is best when cutting through thick pieces of wood, masonry materials, or metal. A miter saw will cut through all the same materials but it isn’t designed for tough jobs so it’s not recommended to use one if you have access to a chop saw.