Miter Saw vs Chop Saw - What's The Difference?

Chop Saw

Miter Saw vs Chop Saw

Just what is the difference between a miter saw and a chop saw? This is an age-old question and to be honest, in appearance they look alike. They both have a stationary base and a hinged arm that supports the round blade.

I’ve heard a miter saw called a chop saw, a chop saw called a miter saw, and have heard the term miter chop saw used. Now it’s confusing, right? I will try my best to explain the differences as I see them and hopefully clear up some confusion.

Feature Comparison

FeautresMiter SawChop Saw
Table or Ground UseXX
Heavy Duty For Metal CutsX
Throws SparksX
Best For Wood CuttingX
Safer To UseX
Makes the Most Accurate CutsX
Cuts Board With NailsX

What is a Chop Saw?

It can best be described as a rugged power tool that is used in cutting different types of metal and the base sits on a table or the ground when in use.  The arm of the saw is connected to the blade and cuts perpendicular to the material in a chopping motion. It can have an abrasive blade that grinds through the metal, or it can be a cold cut saw that cuts through the metal at a faster rate of speed.

Some chop saws can cut angles, but it is not an easy task and it’s not something that is done very often. You will find that different brands of chop saws will cut the metal with precision, while others will leave residue on the metal and it will have to be filed or grinded smooth before use.

Chop Saw Wood

Can a chop saw cut wood? Yes, it can but it’s not the most desirable tool for wood cutting. If you need to cut a board that has nails in it, the chop saw will sale through the wood with ease, but that scenario doesn’t happen that often.

Chop saw blades are usually 14 inches, bigger than a miter saw blade and the kind you buy depends on the metal you will be cutting. The saw runs around 3800 rpm so it’s nothing to fool around with unless you use good safety practices. The abrasive blades will create sparks so make sure your safety gear includes, goggles, ear plugs and dust/vapor mask.

Chop Saws are mostly found on large construction sites where there is always a need to cut different pieces of metal and they are a work horse! They are mainly used when there is a large quantity of work to be done. On average, a weekend carpenter wouldn’t need to own a chop saw but if you really want one, they aren’t that expensive.

What is a Miter Saw?

Miter Saw Man

The miter saw is well known for its ability to make precise angle cuts on different sizes of wood and are a necessary tool for doing finishing work in home construction. They have a wide base that sits on a table or stand, have a perpendicular blade attached to an arm that is lowered to make the cut. You can see why some may call this a chop saw, it uses the same basic movements, pull the blade down to meet the material to be cut!

Not only can the miter saw make angle cuts, but you can also make right or left beveled cuts by changing the angle and position of the head of the saw. You will be able to cut crown moldings, make picture frames, and create perfect corners on any project. The widest board you will be able to cut would be around 12 inches. You can flip a board that is wider, but the chances of an uneven cut are greater.

To read best selling miter saw reviews click here.

The miter saw can be sliding, which means the head of the saw has the ability to slide on rails so it can cut a wider board than a non-sliding saw where the head is stationary and moves up and down only, no sliding from front to back.

A Bevel cut is an angle cut made on the edge of a board. Most simple miter saws will cut bevels to either the right or left plus your 90 and 45-degree cuts and they are called a single bevel miter saw. If your saws head will tilt to the right and left for an angle cut it’s called a double bevel miter saw.

Conclusions: Miter Saw vs Chop Saw

Although the chop saw and miter saw look so much alike, they each have their place in construction work. The real construction tool is the mighty chop saw that will cut through all kinds of metal, hard plastic and aluminum with a large 14” blade. When it’s time to do that delicate finish wood working, break out the miter saw, and your life becomes easier.

Both the chop saw, and the miter saw are mobile, it’s easy to take both saws were your work area will be if it’s not at home. There are portable tables that you can purchase to set either of these saw on at a job site, but most contractors use them on the ground level, it’s easier to cut boards on the ground than trying to balance them on a small table.

Chop Saw 3

Most DIYers won’t need a chop saw for just wood projects, the miter saw can cut any angles on wood that you will ever be required to use. It was created to cut wood and cut it with precision cuts and angles, you really don’t need a chop saw.  If you are looking for a top selling miter saws for diyers check out my review here on the Dewalt DWS 779 miter saw.

Hope this article helps clear up the differences between a chop saw and a miter saw for you and you can now purchase the saw that you will use the most and do the best job for what you plan on creating and building. Have fun out there and work safe!

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