Miter saws and circular saws are both two of the most used power tools out there and while some people have a need for both, that isn’t the case for everyone. Each of these tools has its own advantages and specific uses, but that doesn’t mean that both are needed in a woodworking shop or garage. Today, we will be looking at the differences between miter saws and circular saws. We’ll look at situations where one is preferable over the other and what each is best used for.
Table of Contents
What to Know About the Miter Saw
A miter saw is a type of specialized power saw that is excellent for use cutting all sorts of different angles. It usually features a 10- or 12-inch blade that is mounted on a swing arm. The arm can swivel to the left or the right to make precise angled cuts. Having a miter saw in the workshop is handy and they can be used to make cuts for door frames, window casings, picture frames, crown molding, and more. It is not as versatile as the circular saw, but it still offers the option to make many different cuts.
If what you want is a powerful saw that is capable of making accurate crosscuts, you really can’t beat what a miter saw brings to the table. It’s highly accurate, which is why it’s popular when cutting moldings, trims, and tight-fitting joints. When a perfect fit is mandatory, you can’t beat the miter saw for that purpose.
A miter saw can be used to make straight cuts across the grain of wood, or you can make a miter cut, which is one angled across the width of the board you are working with. Miter saws are also capable of offering compound cuts and bevel cuts. While the miter saw is most often used to cut small and medium sized board, the chop saw, which is similar to a miter saw, can also cut through metal.
The Advantages of Choosing a Miter Saw
One of the advantages of choosing a miter saw is that it can make precise cuts whether you want to make miters, bevels, or cross cuts. The saw is exceptional at offering precise cuts and that’s one of the main reasons people choose to use it. It also has the advantage of not needing guides. The angle of the saw itself can be adjusted so every cut comes out perfectly.
Something else that a miter saw is excellent at is cutting tight-fitting joints. If you often need to cut baseboard, crown molding, or trim for windows or doors, this is the best option for that purpose. While you can do this on other power tools, you can’t ensure the same perfect fit that you get with a high-quality miter saw.
Miter saws also save a lot of time in some situations. These saws are designed to make wider cuts, which means you can save a large amount of time when doing projects that involve cutting large boards. Those who choose a compound miter saw, which is a common option, also have the advantage of an automatic blade that cuts through materials quickly and easily.
The circular saw is without a doubt more versatile than the miter saw, but the miter saw wins out when it comes to reliable cross cuts, compound cuts, and bevel cuts. Almost any miter saw can handle these sorts of cuts quickly and easily to save you time and effort.
Disadvantages of Choosing the Miter Saw
As with anything, where there are advantages there are also disadvantages. This is the case with the miter saw, just as much as it is with the circular saw. One of the biggest disadvantages of choosing a miter saw is that it is not nearly as versatile as a circular saw. The person doing the work is required to move the material to the saw, which is stationary. This leads to a limit when it comes to the number of cuts you are able to make.
Another thing that might be a con for those considering a miter saw is that they tend to be more expensive. When you compare them to a circular saw, you might spend double or more on the miter saw than you would on a decent circular saw. You can get a basic circular saw for around $50 while it’s closer to $200 for a quality miter saw.
Miter saws are also stationary power tools, as we mentioned before, which means you need a decent amount of space in your workshop or garage to house them. If you have a smaller space, the miter saw might not be the best option since it will take up space that could be used for something else.
Everything You Need to Know About the Circular Saw
One of the most versatile saws to have in your workshop is the circular saw. Pretty much any cut you want to make, a circular saw can handle for you. While it does have some shortcomings, it is one of the best power tools to have available in your workshop. The reason the saw is called a circular saw is because of the toothed circular blade which rotates at extreme speeds to offer long straight cuts that go with the grain of wood. However, that’s not all a circular saw offers. It can also make cross cuts or cuts against the grain as well.
While the circular saw does a great job of cutting smaller boards, most people use it largely for cutting large sheets of plywood. This gives the saw an advantage over saws like the miter saw which cannot easily cut plywood. Since plywood is used in all sorts of projects, a circular saw really excels here.
There are all sorts of projects that need a circular saw but the most common include making racks and cabinets. However, this saw is also ideal for everything from roofing to masonry work and even some types of plumbing. Some of the cuts you can get from a circular saw include rough bevel rips and right-angle bevel cuts.
Positive Aspects of the Circular Saw
The circular saw is the most versatile power saw you can have in your workshop. These saws can make all sorts of cuts and also can cut through many types of materials including sheets, metal, and pipes. The only thing that you need to do is ensure you have the right blade on the saw for each project and material you work with.
When you need to make lots of straight cuts, the circular saw is also the best option. This is important since most woodworking projects have the need for straight cuts. There are few power saws that can make these cuts in the same way as a circular saw, and even fewer that can handle long cuts that go against the grain of the wood.
A circular saw is capable of handling most of the same cuts that a miter saw does, and it is much less expensive. This is a huge perk for anyone who has a smaller budget or wants to get as much bang for their buck as is possible. Buying a circular saw before a miter saw is typically the choice for most woodworkers out there.
Disadvantages of Choosing a Circular Saw
One of the issues with a circular saw is that it can make rough edge cuts. Splintery edges and tear-outs for not uncommon. The reason for this lies in the toothed blade used with the saw. If you choose a fine-tooth blade, this can offer you cuts that are smoother than you would otherwise get with a larger-toothed blade.
Another problem with the circular saw is seen when you need to make angled cuts or curves. While a circular saw is capable of cutting angles, there is a lot more work involved than with the miter saw. You need to set up a jig, measure the angle, and hope that it comes out correctly. Some curved cuts are especially difficult for the circular saw just based on its design.
Choosing the Right Saw for Your Needs
When you’re considering whether to purchase a miter saw or a circular saw, the first thing you want to think about is what capabilities you will need most often. The two saws have some distinct differences and knowing what you will be using it for can immediately push you in the direction of one over the other.
Most people who need to choose one over the other end up going with the circular saw. That’s because it is versatile and capable of cutting many types of materials. It can do most things the miter saw can do and it can do so for a lower price. However, the miter saw is often a less intimidating option and may be the ideal choice if most of your work involves making miter cuts for molding and cabinets.