If you are thinking of doing some woodwork but don’t know where to start with what tool to get, this article is here to help you out. Whether you are picking it up as a new hobby or just for some home improvements, this article will give you a brief overview of the two most popular types of saws, being the miter saw and the circular saw, and which is best for you. Read on for a breakdown of each saw, what they are best suited for, and their respective pros and cons.
The Miter Saw – What Is It?
A miter saw is a powerful tool that is best suited for making precise and fixed cuts at specific angles and is fixed and attached to a lowering mechanism for stability. Think of the miter as a portable and smaller version of a saw machine.
Miter saws come in several variations and alterations, making one type of saw better suited to specific work or just down to preference. The standard miter is used mainly for creating straight crosscuts from a wide range of angles between 45 to 90 degrees.
Other notable versions are the compound-miter saw and the radial saw. The former allows the blade head to be tilted at additional angles, allowing it to create bevel cuts, while the latter attaches the saw head to a sliding rail that allows it to go back and forth, which is great for pull-down cuts.
The Circular Saw – What Is It?
Strictly speaking, the miter saw can be classified as a type of circular saw on account of its blade shape; however, the name also refers to a specific type of saw. The circular saw is a handheld saw that operates using a rotary motion to spin an abrasive or toothed blade disc for cutting a variety of materials from woods to metals. This quality of being handheld offers the user more freedom and range of movement while sawing.
It should be noted that within woodworking, while the term circular saw strictly refers to the handheld variants, table and chop saws are also regarded as circular saws. As you can see from this, circular saws also come in different types, with some better suited for a particular material or purpose. That said, the design of the actual saw is fairly constant.
Miter Saw vs Circular Saw – How Do They Compare?
The first place to start is the functionality of each saw type. The handheld nature of the circular saw allows you to move around freely and use the saw against the material you are working on. In contrast, the miter saw and its stationary frame offer more stability for two reasons:
- The ability to place the material into/onto the frame.
- The option of pushing or directing the material against the blade instead (where applicable). It is worth noting this distinction, depending on how comfortable you are with operating a power tool or your own cutting abilities, choosing free movement over precision and stability.
This brings us to the type of cutting of each saw. The miter is designed for accuracy due to its static and fixed structure, making it great for crosscuts, bevel cuts, and ensuring uniformity and straightness. It is ideal for cutting boards and planks.
In contrast, the circular saw requires a higher degree of confidence and skill when operating as you will be in charge of keeping the cut straight, but it will allow you to make deeper cuts. Because of this, the miter saw is very popular due to its ease of use, allowing even a novice to operate it efficiently without much assistance.
This does not mean that the miter saw is safe to use; it is only safer than the circular on the grounds that you do not need to control both the saw and the material. However, both are power tools and both require you to read and abide by their respective operating and safety instructions.
While the miter is easier and safer to use than a circular saw, it does not allow for as much freedom. The circular saw is by far the more versatile of the two when it comes to its range of motion, quickness, and ease of use.
As for pricing, you can expect the miter saw to be far more expensive than the average circular saw. This is primarily due to the larger physical size and additional components of the average miter saw in contrast to the smaller and more storable circular saws. On that note, the miter saw will be harder to store and will take up more space, making it not ideal if you already have storage issues at home.
- Easy to use, does not require lots of experience
- Safer to use than circular saws
- Capable of very precise and accurate cuts with little human correction
- Good range of motion and cutting angles
- Great for crosscuts and bevel cuts
- Far more expensive than the average circular saw
- Very large and requires a lot of storage space
- Is not able to offer the same range of motion or versatility as a circular saw
- Less portable than a circular saw
- Handheld makes it easier to move around and more versatile
- Is capable of making deeper cuts
- Allows for a greater range of motion than a miter saw
- Much cheaper than a miter saw
- Easier and simpler to store
- Harder to use and requires more concentration, better for more experienced woodworkers
- More dangerous than a miter saw due to having to control both the saw and cutting material
- Greater room for error and misuse.
So should you choose a miter saw or a circular saw? Ultimately the type of saw you get comes down to your level of experience and comfort handling sharp or power tools, your budget, and what you actually plan to use the tool for. Hopefully, this list was able to assist you in deciding which type is best for your needs.