Is miter saw same as chop saw? This is a common question. And to add to the confusion many people even experts call miter saw a chop saw.
While they work on a similar principle, they are two different kinds of power saws and their uses are different.
Most amateurs would probably struggle to differentiate a miter saw from a chop saw if they were placed side by side. This is completely understandable; after all, both kinds of saws look very similar. However, it is essential that you understand the differences between the two kinds of saws, as they both fulfill vastly different roles within a workshop. If you are unsure of the difference, there is no need to worry, I am here to help.
In this article, I will detail exactly what a miter saw is and what a chop saw is. I will also go into what jobs each saw is best suited for and who should buy each kind of saw.
What is a miter saw?
A miter saw is a power saw that enables you to cut miter, crosscuts and bevel cuts. It is a precision power tool that delivers high accuracy and repeatability.
Ever heard of a “miter cut”? They are pretty standard cuts that pretty much every woodworker, plumber, and carpenter is familiar with. A miter cut is simply any angle other than 90-degree cut that occurs along the width of a piece of wood. The 90-degree cut across the length is called crosscut. To put it in simpler terms, when you cut at an angle, you are making a miter cut as opposed to a straight, 90-degree cut. Miter cuts are essential for complex projects that require pieces to be fitted together.
A miter saw looks like your standard saw, with a guard (usually made of plastic) and a handle. Miter saws are used in woodworking, cutting crown molding etc.
What is a chop saw?
If a miter saw is meant for precise and compound angle cuts, then a chop saw is the exact opposite. A chop saw can only make straight, 90-degree cuts. It is not meant to be very precise, instead, it is meant for cutting particularly difficult pieces of material.
If you are not familiar with the name “chop saw” you may be familiar with other names for this kind of saw, which includes “abrasive saws” and “cut-off saws.” The purpose of these saws is to make sure that the user can cut through even the toughest of materials through sheer cutting power. In terms of appearance, they look similar to miter saws in that they have a guard and a handle. The main difference between the two lies the blade and angle of their blade. Miter saws may have the blade angled differently, whereas chop saws will always have the blade angled at 90-degrees as that is the only kind of cut they can make.
Difference between Miter Saw and Chop Saw
Following are some of the key differences between a miter saw and a cut-off saw.
Miter Saw vs Chop Saw Comparison table.
|Miter Saw||Chop Saw (Cut-off Saw)|
|Cutting Tool||Toothed circular saw blade||Abrasive wheels|
|Cuts||Crosscuts, miter cut, bevel and compound cuts||Crosscuts only|
|Usage||Woodworking, crown molding, trimming||Metalworking, construction, home improvement.|
|Size||Smaller. 8”, 10” and 12”||Bigger. Starts from 12”|
|Materials||Cuts wood, MDF, plywood, plastic and softer metals like aluminum.||Can cut tougher metals (ferrous and non-ferrous) including steel.|
|Ease of Use||Compound cuts may require complex settings||Simple. Only 90-degree crosscuts.|
|Safety||Relatively safe with the blade guard in place.||Moderate. Beware of abrasive wheel breakage.|
Woodworking or Metal Working
Miter saws and chop saws power saws with vastly different usages. A miter saw is meant essentially to cut through wood. In theory, one could use them to cut through other materials. But generally, it is recommended that they only be used for cutting wood, plywood and other softer materials like plastic. On the other hand, a chop saw can cut through a wide variety of materials. For example, it can easily cut through ferrous and non-ferrous metals, tile, and even concrete. But in general chop saw is used for metal cutting.
Miter saw is mainly used for woodworking, crown molding and trimming work.
Chop saw is used in metalworking for cutting different metal bars and rods to size.
Type of Blade Used
This difference in what the two saws can cut through is due to the different kinds of blades each uses. A chop saw uses a blade with very abrasive materials. If you were to look at the blade of a chop saw, you would see that it looks very similar to a grinder. That is by design and it is a big part of the reason why a chop saw can slice through just about anything thrown at it.
On the other hand, a miter saw uses a smaller, more precise blade. They are mostly circular steel blades with teeth. There is also carbide tipped blades that can last longer than regular steel blades.
Miter Saw Blade vs Chop Saw Blades Comparison.
You can learn more about miter saw blades here.
Miter saw cuts with a toothed circular saw blade.
Chop saw is equipped with abrasive blades or parting-off wheel.
Type of Industry
Another major difference that needs to be mentioned is the type of industry in which these saws are used. Chop saws are very much professional grade tools. The only people who really use them are professionals with the requisite training and knowledge. This is a very important thing to remember.
While chop saws can be bought and used at home, generally only professionals or really dedicated DIYers will find a consistent use for them. For those who may only occasionally do home renovation or building projects, they will find that they rarely end up using their chop saw.
On the other hand, miter saws are a bit more complicated to use than your average circular saw or table saw, but over time they are fairly simple to use once a person has some practice.
Ease of Use
Chop saws are fairly easy to use. The only thing you must remember is to clamp the workpiece properly at the correct length and slowly bring the abrasive blade on to the work.
In case of a miter saw, things can get complex if you are cutting compound angles. While a power saw like double bevel sliding compound miter saw can be a highly versatile machine tool, it requires proper understanding of the angle settings to produce the desired result.
When to use a miter saw
Any construction and woodworking project could likely be helped by a miter saw. So, if you are going to be building chairs, tables, frames, flooring, etc., then you should invest in a miter saw. It will make your job a lot simpler and a lot more efficient. However, miter saws are not an absolutely essential tool for woodworking. But they are very nice to have around, especially if you already have a good table saw lying around specifically because they help with these complicated jobs.
Woodworkers, DIY enthusiasts, home improvements jobs that require trim jobs would benefit from a miter saw.
When to use a chop saw
Certain jobs require simple brute force cutting and that is where chop saws become essential. If you need a variety of tough materials to be cut, then a chop saw is your best bet. They can also be used to cut metal sheets. Likewise, do you need to cut a lot of metal bars and rods to be cut quickly? If so, then a chop saw is really your only option.
Hence, a chop saw a nice addition to any metalworking shops and construction projects.
Who should buy what?
Really both of these saws are the types of the tools that should be bought only when you know that an upcoming project or job is going to require them. Something like a regular table saw or a handheld circular saw is great to keep around in case you need it in a pinch. However, if you know for certain that upcoming projects are going to require a miter saw or a chop saw, then you should invest in buying one or the other. Always make sure to consult someone before starting a project, they may be able to help point you in the right direction with regards to what kind of saw you may need
In my experience, most people will get more use out of a miter saw; however, it depends on your individual needs. If you know that, in the future, you may have to cut through tough materials like steel, then investing in a chop saw and learning how to use it is not a bad idea.
As a general guideline, the miter saw is for woodworking, crown molding and trimming work, whereas chop saw or a cut-off saw is for metalworking and construction.
Chop Saw vs Miter Saw Questions
Below I will answer some of the frequently asked questions related to miter saw vs chop comparison.
What is the difference between a chop saw and cut-off saw?
They are the same power tools. In addition to that, the other names that chop saws are frequently known include abrasive saw and parting-off saw.
Can I use a Chop saw to cut wood or plastic?
Now, chop saws can, of course, be used to cut wood, but I would say that if the job is only going to require cutting wood, then you should go for a miter saw or regular table saw and not a chop saw. There are two reasons for this.
First, chop is a much more powerful tool that can be used to cut hard materials like steel. Hence, you really do not need a cut-off saw to slice wood or plastic. Secondly and more importantly, if you use the abrasive wheels to cut softer materials like wood, it will get “loaded”. This will reduce the cutting ability of the abrasive particles and result in excessive heat generation or in the worst case the wheel can break.