Home » Difference Between a Chop Saw and a Miter Saw

Difference Between a Chop Saw and a Miter Saw

What is the Difference Between a Chop Saw and a Mitre Saw?

Ah, chop saws and miter saws. Or, as they are called in technical terms, really fast spinny cutty things. When used correctly, these tools can save a laborer tens, if not hundreds, of man-hours.

Carpenter cutting wooden plank with circular saw

The basic principle of both chop saws and miter saws is to lower a spinning, circular blade down through a material to cut it. This material is very often wood. Using this method, rather than a traditional hand saw, can save incredible amounts of time for the average laborer.

Chop saws are most frequently used in industrial settings, or in any place that goes through large quantities of material (as previously mentioned, usually wood) that needs to be cut to length. For example, when you buy planks of wood from a store, there is a high likelihood that these pieces of wood will have been cut to length using a chop saw. They usually have bigger blades than miter saws and are designed to produce more power.

A miter saw is generally less powerful than a chop saw but capable of making more precise cuts. A miter is defined as “a joint made between two pieces of wood or other material at an angle of 90°, such that the line of junction bisects this angle.” A miter saw, therefore, can be adjusted to cut the material at different angles. As mentioned in the definition of “miter,” this is particularly useful when you are cutting pieces of material to join at an angle, such as trim or frames.
As opposed to this, chop saws will only cut straight down, perpendicular to the material you are cutting.

A crude definition might be to call the chop saw the brawn of your operation, and the miter saw the brains. Chop saws will cut just about anything you need them to – miter saws will keep your cuts more precise and angled to however you need them to be, but trade-off the amount of brute force they can apply.

Chop Saws

industrial tool in wood and metal factory, compound mitre saw with sharp, circular blade

If we take the definition we made just now in this article, then chop saws are the brawn out of the two different models available. If you are working with extremely heavy-duty materials, such as steel or rafters, then a chop saw is almost certainly the way to go. The most important things to you in these situations will be simply the capability of cutting through these materials.

You’ll usually find chop saws coming with blades of a diameter of 14 inches, but occasionally you’ll find ones with absolutely huge blades.

Chop saw blades can come in 1 of 2 formats: abrasive or cold-cut. Abrasive blades are the standard type for chop saws, and pretty much every chop saw you look at will probably come with one of these. These can cause an awful lot of sparks and leave the material you are cutting extremely hot to the touch after you have finished. Cold-cut blades, instead of this, cause virtually no sparks and do not heat the material up as much.
It should be noted that a “cold saw” is technically its own category, separate from chop saws, although they work based on virtually the same principles.

This difference comes from the method of cutting. Abrasive wheels are essentially a very thin grinding wheel. By definition, this causes a lot of friction. This manifests itself as heat in both the blade and the material. Cold cut blades have sharp teeth around the edge. A flow of coolant draws the heat away from the blade and the material. This stores it in the chips being cut away instead.

Mitre Saws

industrial worker using a compound mitre saw with circular blade for cutting metal and plastic

There are two standard options available for purchasing miter saws: 10-inch models and 12-inch models. This size refers to the diameter of the blade, again. If you are planning on using your miter saw for small home tasks and DIY projects, it’s probably not necessary to splash out more of your hard-earned money on the more expensive 12-inch model. The 10-inch saws will almost certainly be sufficient for most tasks. Of course, this may be different for you. If the projects you are working on require a bit more oomph, a 12-inch miter saw may be a better decision for you.

You can also purchase compound miter saws. These saws are capable of tilting along the axis of the saw blade. This can be very useful on occasion, but for basic jobs that you might be doing at home (for example, cutting trim to size), it is unlikely to be necessary. Again, this statement may not apply to you. If you need a saw that can cut angles along two axes, then a compound miter saw may be for you. But for most of you, a simple miter saw is likely to be sufficient, rather than a compound model.


So, there is a simple difference between chop saws and miter saws. You may decide that one or the other is more useful for the jobs you are working on.
We hope this article answered your question!

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