Radial Arm Saw vs Miter Saw (Chop Saw)

Although similar in function, there are important differences between a radial arm saw and a miter saw. For those who engage in woodworking projects around the home, getting both types of saws may not be necessary depending on the type of projects that you are doing. However, it is important to understand the function of each saw and the differences, so you can make the best-informed decision about which one to choose.

Sliding Miter Saw vs. Radial Arm Saw Comparison

Miter Saw vs Radial Arm Saw
The main difference between a radial arm saw and a miter saw lies in the depth of cut, cut capacity, versatility, and safety. The radial arm saw can cut thick wood and wide boards and it can also do ripping. On the other hand, a miter saw works best for angled cuts and offers better accuracy and repeatability.

SCMS and RAS Comparison Chart

Miter Saw Radial Arm Saw
Types of Cuts Miter cuts, bevels, compound cuts, and crosscuts Crosscuts, miter cuts, bevels, and compound cuts.

You can also cut dado and rip-cuts

Working Principle You should bring the miter saw blade attached on a swing arm on to the stationary workpiece.

The sliding miter saw, also allows you to slide the rotating blade across the width of the piece.

The blade head moves along a straight arm across the fixed workpiece to do crosscut.

The wood is moved against the rotating blade for rip-cuts.

Pros Best for mitre and bevel cuts

Excellent accuracy and repeatability.

Relatively small and portable

Safe and easy to use

Highly versatile

Precision Cross cuts

Offers more cut capacity

Ripping is possible

Cons Limited to cross and angle cuts.

Thick wood and wide boards cannot be cut in a single pass.

Sliding compound miter saws can be expensive.

Can be dangerous for new users without proper training.

Angle and bevel cuts not accurate as miter saw.

Safety Relatively safe to operate with blade guard and fence offering protection. Excercise extreme caution.

Ripping on Radial arm saw can be dangerous if feed direction is wrong.

Advantages of Miter Saw?

The miter saw is a power saw that is specifically designed for doing accurate angle cuts. This power tool sits in one place but can be moved to different locations because of its relative lightweight. It has a circular saw blade that is attached to an arm that can be moved into different positions. The main use of the miter saw is to create precision cuts into the wood. Blade guards and a dust-collection system helps to minimize the danger and the mess from the sawdust it creates.

Sliding Compound Miter Saw
12-inch Sliding Miter Saw – Click to See Price

Miter saws come in three basic variations.

  • Compound: The blade can pivot right to left
  • Dual Compound: You can pivot and tilt the blade to different angles
  • Sliding: In addition to pivoting and tilting, you can slide the blade to different locations

Although the sliding miter saw is the most versatile, it can only make four types of basic cuts.

  • Bevels:
  • Compound
  • Crosscut
  • Miters

However, the four cuts the miter saw can make are versatile enough for many uses. The precision of the miter saw is such that it can cut through most pieces of wood with relative ease. Plus, you can customize the saw for additional uses. And, it is one of the safest motorized saws on the market.

The downside is that the miter saw when compared to a table saw or radial arm saw is not that powerful. So, if you need to cut thicker wood, then you should consider the radial arm saw.

Advantages of a Radial Arm Saw

This is a traditional motorized saw that was once far more popular but has fallen out of favor in some ways. On the surface, it has a similar appearance to a miter saw thanks to the circular blade and sliding arm. However, the build of the circular saw allows it to cut thicker pieces of wood and can be adjusted to a wide range of angles.
Radial Arm Saw

Because of its adjustability, you can make several types of cuts with the radial arm saw which include the following.

  • Bevels
  • Compound
  • Crosscuts
  • Dadoes
  • Miters
  • Rabbets
  • Ripping

The attributes of the radial arm saw start with its versatility in making a wide range of cuts. Plus, it is quite powerful and can cut thick pieces of wood with ease. Another positive feature is that it is relatively small which makes it simpler to attach to a station even when you have little room.

There are a couple of issues with the radial arm saw which may be why it is not as popular as the miter saw. First, it needs a station to be attached which makes it less portable. And, you need to take extra precautions when using the radial arm saw.

One issue is that when the blade starts to dull, it may kick out the wood at high speed. This can be dangerous if you are in the path of the flying wood. However, there are fences and locks that can minimize this threat.
Nevertheless if you compare a table saw and a radial arm saw, I strongly recommend you do the ripping on a table saw.

Key Differences

Higher Cutting Depth

The radial arm saw can cut thicker lumber compared to a miter saw. In fact, miter saws are not made for cutting thick wood at all. If you are working with thicker woods, then the radial arm saw is the superior choice.

More Choices of Cuts

The radial arm saw is far more versatile in terms of the types of cuts that can be made compared to a miter saw. With a miter saw, you only get four basic cuts. The radial arm saw can create far more types of cuts, some of which may be required for the work that you are performing.


This is where the miter saw shines as you can move it where you want with relative ease. The radial arm saw needs a station where it can be fixed. In other words, you can bring the miter saw to the work that needs to be done. While you must bring the work to the radial arm saw.

Lack of Precision

The radial arm saw is not quite as precise as the miter saw. For many types of cuts, this may not make too big a difference. But if you need the most precise cuts, then the miter saw is superior.

Choosing between the radial arm and miter saw depends on the types of cuts you want, the thickness of the wood, and the precision that you need for your work.