Miter Saw vs. Circular Saw: All The Differences You Need To Know

miter saw vs circular saw

When a person starts a new project related to woodworking, the first thought that usually pops up in their mind is what kind of saw they should use to ease their work. Some people might go for a miter saw; others might call for a circular saw. And sometimes, deciding between a miter saw and a circular saw becomes a task. The selection always depends upon factors like what each saw is capable of. 

In order to make your selection process easy, we have brought you all the information you need to know about the two kinds of saws. Here’s a complete comparison between a miter and a circular saw so that you can choose whichever works best for you.

Miter and circular saws are extremely popular power tools. Hence you must have seen both of them in a woodworker’s shops. That being said, you don’t certainly need both of them if you’re just a beginner. 

Significant Differences between a Miter Saw and a Circular Saw

Here are some of the major differences between the two popular kinds of saws 

  • Circular saws possess a handheld nature which allows the user to cut in many angles, whereas the miter saw can cut more accurately and precisely.
  • Miter saws are quicker. On the other hand, Circular saws are less expensive than miter saws.
  • Miter saws are safer to use, whereas Circular saws are more likely to give you cuts because they are sharped and can cut any material. So, make sure to follow the guidelines in order to avoid accidents.

What Is a Miter Saw?

A miter saw is basically a power saw which has a specialized purpose. It is used for chopping and cutting the wood at special angles. It has a circular blade whose purpose is to make precise and quick cuts. Although, it is a machine that comes along with a small fence and workstation.

The blade of the miter saw is available in 8-12 inch sizes, and it is seated on an arm that swivels left and right to make various angles. The arm gets locked into a place to allow precise cutting. With the help of a miter saw, you can make cuts for pictures, door frames, crown moldings, cupboards, fences, window casings, and much more.  

Different Types of Cuts a Miter Saw Can Make

  1. Cross-cuts: Among all the four types of cuts, a cross-cut is one of the easiest. It allows you to cut between the length of the board at an angle of 90 degrees. Miter saw helps in accurate cutting.
  1. Miter cut:  By cutting an angle at the board’s end, you get a miter cut. You can easily get an example of a miter cut by looking at a trim on your door.
  1. Bevel cut:  Bevel cut cuts the end of the board into an angle equally. A bevel cut passes through the wood’s thickness instead of across the width.
  1. Compound cut:  A compound cut tends to combine a bevel cut with a miter cut. In order to find an example of a compound cut, just look at the angle of a crown if you have any. The compound cut is used for those trims to make sure if they fit perfectly together in the corner. Along with setting the depth of cuts, you can also customize the wood according to your desire to make trims, moldings, and joints.

That said, there are also some limitations since the miter saw is a stationary saw having a structural built. Hence, the materials must be bought to the blade, which limits it to attempt only four types of cuts. Though it takes up space depending on what blade diameter you have selected to go with.

Pros & Cons of a Miter Saw

Let’s discuss some pros and cons of the miter saw so that it becomes easier to make a decision of whether to buy it or not.

Pros

  • Precise Cuts: The miter saw provides precise cross, bevel, and miter cuts. They are not like circular saws, and you don’t need any sort of guide to have an accurate measurement. All you will have to do is to adjust the saw according to the appropriate angle. 
  • Tight-Fitting Seams: Miter saws work perfectly when you want to cut tight-fitted junctures for moldings. These saws provide precise cuts for window or door trims. Likewise, a miter saw provides a person with accurate cuts through crowns and baseboards.
  • Simple and fast process:  With the help of a miter saw, you can achieve your desired results without having to measure the material. Tasks become a lot faster and easier with the usage of a miter saw.
  • Saves Time:  With a miter saw, you can make broader cuts that save you a lot of time. Besides, while using a compound miter saw with the help of an automated blade, the cutting process becomes speedy with the miter saw.
  • Easily Cut Cross And Bevel Cuts: Miter saws are structured for creating bevel and angled cuts. Miter saws work efficiently when one needs a compound, bevel, and a cross-cut. 
  • Safety: Miter saws are safer as compared to circular saws. Its blade only moves in downward and upward directions. So, as far as you follow the safety guidelines, you won’t have to worry about the saw cutting your fingers away.

Cons

  • Less versatile: Miter saws are not really versatile; they are immobile. Basically, you’ll have to carry the material you want to cut to a place where it’s mounted. This reduces the number of types of different cuts you can get with a miter saw. The major benefit of a miter saw is its ability to create all four types of cuts easily but nothing more than that. It does what it is designed to do and cannot produce any more types of cuts other than what it is meant for. There are a lot of tools that perform more activities other than what they are designed for.
  • Costly and classy: As compare to circular saws, miter saws are classier. Since a miter saw can attempt all four kinds of cuts, it is considered a special tool. Hence, it is more expensive and costs high. A miter saw is special, and it is not easily found in most garages and workshops. It costs triple the price of a circular saw.
  • Occupies space: Miter saws are immobile, which is why you will have to make some space for them. If you run a small workshop, it might not be handy because it utilizes a proper amount of space. Their unvarying design requires you to grab the wood you want to cut. There are some transferable tabletop models. In short, they are not handy tools that you carry from one room to another. 

What Is a Circular Saw?

A circular saw is a tool that is quite versatile. You can easily find these in every woodworker’s workshop. A saw is a tool that has a motorized blade within and is handheld. The blade rotates to make long straight cuts which can be against the board or with the grain. These two features add versatility to the circular saw. Another one of its attributions is its blade variations. Typically the sizes of its blade range from 3 3/8 to 16 inches.

The saw is also fitted with a plastic or a metal plate with adds more safety, accuracy, and stability. Additionally, there are guides available in order to provide precision for blades and angles width.

Types of Cuts Circular Saws Can Make 

Following are the five types of cuts that a circular saw can make 

  • Cross-cuts: In order to make a cross-cut, just measure out and simply mark the line you want to cut over the grain of the wood.
  • Bevel, Miter, and Compound: Set the miter angle on a tool and then lock it into place before making a cut.
  • Rip cuts: Rips cuts are somewhat like cross-cuts, it helps us to cut through the length of the plank.
  • Dado and rabbet: Apart from using the specialized blades, you can additionally make rabbets and dados by roughly cutting linear lines, and for some no changing quick cutting, you can hollow out the center. 
  • Plunge Cuts: plunge cuts are done by placing the blade on a plank and then lowering it down.

There is a learning curve in the circular saw. The ability to make precise cuts depends on the environment in which you are making the cuts and on you. Fencing and clamps are usually recommended for stability purposes. There are some people who use styrofoam beneath the boards. The usage of a metal plate is also suggested, which is safer than the plastic variety.

Features of a Circular Saw

All the main features of a circular saw are listed below

  • A circular saw is a handled power tool that has a motor to power across various materials, including plastic, wood, stone, metal, and brick.
  • The blade of the circular saw comes in sizes 3 3/8 – 16 inches. It provides users with a variable cutting depth.
  • A circular saw is capable of making several blade adjustments to attempt versatile cuts.
  • It comes with a metal or a plastic plate with a safety guard or blade.
  • Several stops and angles are available to provide quick precision and efficiency. 

Pros & Cons of Circular Saws

Here’s a long list of all the pros and cons of the miter saw:

Pros

  • Versatility:  Circular saw is quite versatile, which makes it one of the most used and convincing tools used in workshops. It is used to make various types of cuts and can easily cut across any material like pipes, metal, tiles, plastic, stonework, and sheets of plywood material. You can take it to work at any kind of location as long as you possess a suitable blasé for each of the projects that you want to undertake.
  • Long Cutting And Rip Cutting: A circular saw has proved to be great for long cutting and rip cutting. It is a perfect type of saw for you if you want to cut across the length of a longboard. You can also use a circular saw to cut the sheet of plywood material. 
  • Best For Straight Cuts: Straight cuts are one of an essential kind of cuts which you can easily do with the help of a circular saw.
  • Cost-Effective: With a circular saw, you can make all the kinds of cuts that a miter saw can do. Besides the number of cuts it can make, it is relatively cheaper than a miter saw.

Cons

  • Less Perfect For Making Angular And Curved Cuts:  Though you can use a Circular Saw for various types of cuts, including angle and curved cuts, with time, you’ll come to know that it does not make perfect angles or curves. It usually makes sloppy angles and curves.
  • Cuts with Jagged Edges: A circular saw often results in tear-outs. It produces fractured edges. And the primary cause of this is the toothed blade it has. A circular saw will be a wrong choice if you do a lot of trimming tasks. 
  • RISKY: The very fact that a Circular saw can cut any kind of material makes it a bit risky, especially for people who are just beginners
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