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Miter Saw vs Circular Saw: What’s the Difference and Which One to Get

Miter Saw vs Circular Saw: What’s the Difference and Which One to Get

When you’re starting a new woodworking project, different resources will often list their own preferred saws. Some might call for the miter saw, others may recommend the circular saw. Deciding which one between a miter saw vs circular saw is right for you goes beyond suggestions; it depends upon a variety of factors and starts with knowing what each saw is actually capable of.

In order to simplify your selection process, we’ve put together a comparison between the Miter Saw vs Circular Saw to see which one is better.

Let’s take a look at each option and what it can do for you.

Being two of the most popular power tools, you might be used to seeing them in a woodworker’s workshop. That said, you certainly don’t need both if you’re just starting out. Each tool has its own specific advantages and limitations which you should be aware of.

Main Differences Between Miter Saws vs Circular Saws

The Main Differences Between Miter Saws vs Circular Saws are:

  • Miter Saws can cut more precisely, whereas Circular Saws have a handheld nature that allows the user to cut in a variety of angles and cuts.
  • Miter Saws are quicker, whereas Circular Saws are generally less expensive.
  • Miter Saws tend to be safer to use, whereas Circular Saws are more prone to cuts and since it can cut any material it’s important to follow strict safety guidelines to avoid accidents.

What is a Miter Saw?

A miter saw is a power saw with a specialized purpose: It is used for chopping wood at specific angles. Much like a circular saw, it has a circular blade that is used for making quick, precise cuts. However, it is a stationary machine that comes with a workstation and a small fence.

The miter blade is available in 8 to 12-inch sizes and is mounted on an arm that can swivel right and left to make various angles. The arm locks in place to allow accurate cutting. Using a miter saw, you can make cuts for crown moldings, picture or door frames, window casings, fence or cupboards, etc.

The four different types of cuts Miter saw can do

1. Crosscuts

A cross-cut is the easiest one among the four cuts. This requires you to cut through the length of the board at a standard angle of 90 degrees.  If, for instance, you want to cut a 2 by 4 into two, a miter saw will help you to get an accurate cut.  You can equally achieve the same with other types of saws. So, cross cuts are not specific to only miter saws.

2. Miter cut

You get a miter cut by cutting an angle at board’s end.  You can find an example of a miter cut by looking at a trim on a door in your home. The angle where two trims run into each other is likely cut using a forty-five degree angled saw and fitted together.

Miter Saw vs Circular Saw

3. Bevel cut

A bevel cut equally cut the boards end into an angle. However, the angle made but a bevel cut passes across the thickness of the wood instead of through the width.  Shims and doorstops are examples of bevel cuts.

The common example of a bevel cut in a home is the meeting point between two baseboards on an elongated wall area. They are possibly beveled cover-up the meeting point. Not sure if you need Miter or a Bevel Cut? Read our full comparison here.

4. Compound cut

A compound cut combines a miter cut with a bevel cut.  You will find an example of a compound cut by looking at the angle of a crown molding in your home if you have one. The compound cut is likely used for those trims to ensure they fit together nicely in the corner.

By setting the depth of each cut, you can further customize your wood according to your preferences to make trims in addition to joints and moldings. It will help you get the perfect fit every time.

That said, there are some limitations.

The miter saw is ultimately a stationary saw with a structural built. Therefore, materials have to be brought to the blade, limiting you to four types of cuts only. Additionally, it does take up space depending on which blade diameter you’ve chosen to go with.

Lastly, due to its specified nature and additional controls, it is more costly than other options out there.

Features of A Miter Saw

  • A stationary motor-powered cutting tool.
  • Blade diameters range from 8 to 12 inches in diameter.
  • Ability to perform 4-types of cuts: Cross-cuts, miter cuts, bevel, and compound cuts.
  • The protective blade guard comes with each tool and additional fencing with the attached workstation for ease and safety.
  • A relatively clean work environment with an in-built saw dust collection mechanism.
  • Rotation and depth stop provides flexibility to the looks you can achieve.

Pros

Precise cuts

The miter saw produces precise miter, cross, and bevel cuts. Unlike the circular saw you don’t require any guide to get an accurate measurement. All you need to do is to adjust the saw to the appropriate angle.

Tight-fitting seams

Miter saw works great when you want to cut a few tight fitted junctures for moldings. It can equally provide an accurate cut for door or window trims. Similarly, a miter saw provides accurate cuts through baseboards and crowns.

Fast and simple process

You can achieve the result you want with a miter saw without having to gauge and measure the material. Whether you want to create any of the four types of cuts or you want to install trims in your house or create picture frames, the task would be a lot easier and faster with the use of a miter saw.

Saves time

You can make broader cuts with a miter saw. This way you save a lot of time because the miter saw makes cutting big boards a lot simpler.  Besides, with the automated blade especially while using the compound miter saw, cutting with a miter saw is speedy. It helps you to slice through the workpiece very fast.

Easily cut bevel and cross cuts

It is particularly structured for creating angled and beveled cuts. Although the miter saw is less versatile than the miter saw, it works efficiently when you need to provide bevel, compound, and crosscuts. Many types of miter saw would easily produce any of these cuts.

Safety

Unlike the circular saw which is prone to cuts a miter saw is safer. The blade only moves in an upward and downward direction within the range of the arm where is set up.

You rarely get kickback with this saw and in so far as you put on your safety goggles, your greatest worry would not be the saw mistakenly cutting away your fingers. If that happens, you can release the blade which would eject it away from your hands and the blade rotation would stop.

Cons

Less versatile

Miter saws are not as versatile as the circular saw, owing to the fact that they are immobile. You basically carry the material that you want to cut to the place where it is mounted. This minimizes the numbers of different types of cuts you can achieve with a miter saw.

The key benefits of a miter saw, the ability to create all the four types of cut with ease equally come with a disadvantage. It basically does these types of cuts and no more than that. So, it just cuts what it is designed for and produces no further types of cuts outside that what it is meant for.

A lot of tools would do more than what they are designed for but the situation is different from a miter saw. You cannot split boards with a miter saw. It can’t also tear through large pieces of wood. All it can let you do is create straight-line cuts.

Classier and more costly

Miter saws are costly compared to circular saws. Because a miter saw can cut the four different types of cut, it is termed a special tool and the cost means you are paying extra for its handy cuts.

Miter saw is not a regular tool found in most workshops and garages A miter saw can cost three times the price of a circular saw and more.

Occupies space

Because miter saws are immobile, you have to dedicate some workshop space for them. If you’re running a small woodwork workshop it may not be handy as it would use up a significant amount of space.

Their stationery design requires you to take the wood you want to cut to them. There are a few tabletop models that are transferable. However, they are not handhelds tools that you can take from one room to the other.

Miter Saw: Our Top 5 picks

1. DeWalt DWS780 12 inch Double Bevel Sliding Compound Miter Saw

DeWalt DWS780

The DeWalt DWS780 is a typical model of miter saw with all the features of a miter saw. It comes in a 12-inch blade, double bevel functionality, and gliding capacity which improves its versatility up to an optimal cut range of 13 inches.

This is one of the best miters saw you can find in the market. It is a bit costly though. However, if you want a cheaper model, you can get the Dewalt miter saw model with one bevel feature.

2. Makita LS1016L 10” Dual bevel Sliding Miter Saw w/ Laser Guide

Makita LS1016L

This Makita double bevel miter saw is a very attractive piece that is sure to capture your admiration.  Despite the unique appeal that comes with this miter saw, it equally comes in with a better design and performance.

Although it is a bit on the high side, it comes with more than sufficient. It is one of the best Miter saws. If you want a bigger version of the saw, you can equally get a similar model but with a 12-inch measurement.

Bosch GCM12SD 12-Inch Miter Saw | Zoro.com

The Bosch 10-Inch Dual-Bevel Glide Miter Saw is a powerful saw for stationary use wood projects. It is a compact saw with a unique design. It provides smooth and even cuts. This is a sturdy, heavy saw designed for experienced workers.

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4. Miter Hitachi C10FCG 10-Inch Single Bevel Compound Saw

Miter Hitachi C10FCG

Miter saws are reputed for their high pricing. However, this Hitachi C10FCG miter saw comes at a cost-effective price. Notwithstanding its cheap cost, this miter saw offers all the standard features of a miter saw and operates with a very potent 15-Amp motor that produces as much as 5,000 RPM.

With this power saw, you get roughly 0 to 45 bevel degree range and this helps you to always obtain very clean and precise bevel cuts. It also comes with a miter angle range of zero to fifty-two degrees on the right-hand side and on the left-hand side to give the saw a bit more flexibility.

Weighing 24.2 pounds, the Hitachi C10FCG is moderately lightweight and this makes it easy to manipulate and transport. Besides, it comes with a dust collector add-on which tidies up the worksite.

DEWALT DWS709 Miter Saw | HardwareWorld

Heavy-duty 15 amps motor. Stainless steel miter detent plate with 14 positive stops.

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What is a Circular Saw?

The circular saw is one of those versatile tools you’d likely find in every woodworker’s shop at one point of time.

A saw is a handheld tool with a motorized blade within. The toothed blade rotates to essentially make long straight cuts which can be with the grain of the board or against it. These two features are what adds to the circular saw’s versatility.

Another attribute of the saw is its variations within its blade variations. Typically, its blade sizes can range from 3 3/8 to 16 inches; however, it a lower and greater cutting depth depending on your project requirements. In addition to which, you can also use other blades, such as a dado blade, within the tool itself.

The saw is also fitted with a metal or plastic plate which adds stability, safety, and accuracy to your cuts. There are additional guides for angles and blade width available to provide more precision.

What is a Circular Saw

Type of cuts you can make with a circular saw:

  • Cross Cuts – Simply measure out and mark the line you wish to cut to cut across the grain of the wood.
  • Miter, Bevel, and Compound – Set a miter angle on the tool and lock into place before making a cut.
  • Rip Cuts – Similar to cross cuts, however, it helps to cut across the Planck’s length.; thereby extending what you can do with your boards.
  • Dado & Rabbet – Aside from using specialized blades, you can also additionally make dados and rabbets by approximately cutting linear lines and hollowing out the center for some quick no-change cutting.
  • Plunge Cuts – These cuts are made by placing the blade above a plank and lowering it down.

There is a bit of a learning curve when it comes to the circular saw. Being handheld, your ability to make quality cuts is dependent on you and the environment in which the cuts are being made.

Clamps and fencing are often recommended for stability. While others use Styrofoam underneath the boards, it is also recommended to use a metal plate which is generally safer than its plastic variety. Additional sanders may have to be used with a circular saw to ensure a clean edge.

As the miter saw, the blade comes with a guard which retracts on its own. If you have to make plunge cuts, the guard can be lifted manually.

Features of A Circular Saw

  • A handled power tool with a motor to power through various materials, including wood, plastic, brick, metal, or stone.
  • The blade comes in various sizes 3 3/8 inch to 16 inches providing quite a variable cutting depth.
  • Capable of making various blade adjustments to perform a versatile list of cuts.
  • It comes with a plastic or metal plate with a blade safety guard.
  • Various angles and stops are available to provide efficiency and quick precision.

Pros

Versatility

The circular saw is very versatile and this makes it one of the most convenient workshop tools. It can be used to make different types of cuts and can cut through virtually any material like metal, pipes, tiles, stonework, plastic, and sheets of plywood material.

You can equally take it to work in any location including the attic and your job site. As long as you have a suitable blade for each project you want to undertake, you are good to go.

Rip cutting and long cutting

A circular saw is great for rip cutting and long cutting.  It is your perfect choice of saw if you want to cut through the length of a longboard. You can equally use a circular saw to cut a sheet of plywood material into two.

best circular saw

Great for straight cuts

Apart from the limited numbers of curved cuts, you’ll make, the majority of the woodwork project needs you to do a few straight cuts.

Comparatively, cost-effective

You can make all types of cuts that a miter saw does with a circular saw. Besides, the range of cuts it can make, it sells cheaper than the miter saw. So, a circular

saw ought to be your first choice of the saw before you go for a miter saw.

Cons

Less perfect for making curved and angular cuts

Although you can use a circular saw for different types of cut including curved and angle cut, you’ll discover that it doesn’t produce perfect curves or angles. It commonly produces sloppy angles sloppy.

If you want to get a perfect angle or curve with the circular saw, you need to primarily connect a jig, gauge the angle and mark it before you cut requiring you to do additional work and use up more time.

Similarly, the type of blade that comes with a circular saw and its overall structure makes it unsuitable for making certain types of curved cuts.

Cuts with Jagged edges

A circular saw can result in tear-outs. It equally produces fragmented edges. The main cause of this is its toothed blade. A circular saw will make the wrong choice if you already have a lot of trimming tasks. What you need to get a smoother cut in this type of situation is to use a saw with a fine-tooth blade.

A Circular Saw is Risky

The fact that a circular saw can cut through any type of material makes it risky. They are predisposed to cuts and if you aren’t careful with the saw, you can slice through a limb.

Circular Saws: Our Top 5 picks

All our recommendations below feature durable and top-quality multi-purpose circular saws from popular companies.

1. Hitachi C7ST 7 ¼ inch Corded Circular Saw (Discontinued)

Hitachi C7ST

The Hitachi C7ST is a corded circular saw that performs even better than the DeWalt. It features all essential specs of the industry including the 15 amp motor, a single piece of the metallic shoe and 6,000 RPM.

This is a great power saw from a well-reputed brand. Hitachi offers the best manufacturer’s warranty among other producers of power tools. While Dewalt gives three years warranty, Hitachi offers five years warranty.

DEWALT DWE575SB Circular Saw | HardwareWorld

Lightweight and compact 8.8-Pound. 57-Degree beveling capacity with positive stops at 45-Degree and 22.5-Degree. With integrated Dust blower.

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4. DeWalt DCS391B Cordless Circular Saw

DeWalt DCS391B

This is another forceful and reliable DeWalt circular saw which has a multifunctional capacity. It delivers roughly 5,250 RPM which offers you sufficient power and speed required to make it easy to achieve the most difficult cuts with ease.

The DeWalt DCS391B circular saw comes with a magnesium shoe which makes your job platform more durable and helps to improve the correctness of your cuts. To give you a better balance while you cut the machine equally comes with a comfortable rubber handle.

The machine also comes with zero to fifty-degree bevel capacity which helps you to achieve some forceful bevel cuts. Besides, you equally get a convenient 6 1/2-inch blade with a carbide tip from this DeWalt DCS391B cordless circular saw.

DEWALT DCS391B Max Circular Saw | HardwareWorld

High strength and lightweight magnesium shoe provides jobsite durability for long-term cut accuracy. Optimized rubber over-molded comfort grip delivers optimal balance and control; Power Tool Type: Cordless.

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5. Porter-Cable PC15TCS 15-amp 7 ¼” Corded Circular Saw

Porter-Cable PC15TCS

This Porter cable corded circular saw offers good value but it doesn’t perform as much as other circular saws on the list. However, this is expected, given its low price point. It comes with a distinctive kerf cut line indicator, which arranges the blade well using the shoe indicator’s feature.

If you are looking for an affordable circular saw that would provide you with good quality cuts this should be your go-to tool.

PORTER-CABLE PC15TCS Circular Saw | Ace Hardware

The new Porter Cable PC15TCSMK 7-1/4″ 15 amp heavy-duty circular saw packs in plenty of quality features and performance at a pretty fair price that both DIY and pro users will appreciate. Things like a long 10 ft cord, hard molded carry case, and a powerful 15 amp motor are just some of the goodies that are included.

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Miter Saw vs Circular Saw: What to Look Out For

Given that there are plenty of variations available in each category, making an educated choice for your home renovations will depend on the following:

Power

Being motorized tools, the power they use up determines their efficiency and ability to cut through lumber. You’d be able to cut through more stacks with a higher power tool.

That said, the quantity might not be a huge concern if you’re starting a home project. Look for a saw with a capacity that a reasonable power gauge for your requirements.

Blades

From the blade type to diameters, it can make a difference in the range of cuts you can make. Typically, a saw of a blade diameter from 6 to 10 inches is recommended for home use. You can take a look at the project you have in mind to make a choice, or buy a basic device to purchase blades as you’ll need them.

Safety features

Each model will come with its own set of safety features along-with additional attachment which may be supported. Being informed about the precautions you need to take should help you safeguard your saw and self from harm.

Precision

Many miter saws come with LED or laser guides to improve accuracy; while circular saws will require additional measurement tools to increase its precision. Additionally, consider clamps and other stability boards, depending on your needs.

Brand

Whether you buy first-hand or second, always go for a trusted option. These tools are costly investments and making sure you’re making the correct choice starts by choosing a reputable brand.

If you’re starting out, you might want to inquire about a brand’s return, replacement, and warranty policies. For additional information, ask around your local woodworkers which brands and models they prefer to use.

Circular vs Miter Saw: Ease of use

The miter saw is much easier to use than the circular saw. With the miter saw, you can easily keep your arms away from the saw and at a safer distance. You can easily control what you cut with a miter saw but not so with a circular saw.

It is much more tasking to cut angle with a circular saw than with the miter saw. To cut angle with a miter saw the only thing you need to do is adjust the angle setting on the machine and you’re good to go.

The two machines experience a bit of kickback when they speed up. This is when the saw suddenly jerks as the machine circulates faster. The two machines equally come with a finger-trigger technology which you can use to set the blade in motion and to halt the movement.

You use your index finger to activate the circular blade while at the same time pressing the tab nearest to your thumb. To activate the miter saw trigger, you pull with your hand while holding the handle and at the same time depressing it to fire up the machine.

The circular saw is more transferable than the miter saw. However, you can readily pack up your miter saw into your work van or car but the circular saw is much smaller and can easily it into your duffle bag because of the little size.

In so far as you are well clad in your safety kits, the two machines are easy to use. Don’t forget to protect your eyes and ears and ensure a steady and firm grip while you cut.  Similar to most machines and workshop tools, you will find the tools much easier to use with a little more practice.

circular vs miter saw easy of use

Miter Saw vs Circular Saw: Which One Should You Get?

When it comes down to it, you wouldn’t really be making the wrong choice with either option. Our recommendation has to go with the more flexible option, i.e., the circular saw.

While you might need to practice and perform additional measurements, the circular saw can ultimately perform all the cuts a miter saw can—with additional flexibility. You have more variation within its power, precision, cutting depth and cut types so its an easy winner.

Additionally, you’ll be able to cut through different materials ranging from stone, wood, and metal through the right kind of blade and configuration. Aside from performing everything a miter saw can, it is quite handy in quickly processing small boards or plywood used in various projects. Ripping and making dados, in addition, will cover you in nearly every kind of cut you’d need.

If you need to chop through a larger quantity of wood, the circular saw provides a larger cutting depth depending on the blade diameter you choose. As a general rule of thumb, the higher the diameter, the more wood you can cut at a time.

That said, you’ll need to securely clamp down the piece before performing any operations and ensure a smooth surface below.

Therefore, if you’re looking to perform only a range of tasks quickly and with little setup, the miter saw might be a better option. For general home use, you’d be able to get through most projects while saving time. However, this option will cost generally more than a circular saw.

For general purpose use, we do recommend using the circular saw as your tool of choice when it comes to woodworking. It’s fast, efficient, and gets the job done.

Frequently Asked Questions

Here are a few of the most commonly asked questions about miter saws and circular saws:

How Can I Achieve Sharper Cuts With My Circular Saw?

You’ll want to start by clamping your wood piece in place on a straight surface or build short fencing against the width of your board to hold it in place. Measure and mark out the cut to be made and make sure the blade kerf is aligned with it in order to make a guided cut.

Why Do My Edges Rip When Cutting?

If you’re experiencing troubles with your boards splinting at the edges, it is recommended to cut your board on a piece of Styrofoam for a smooth cut.

Can I Change the Blades of My Circular Saw?

Depending on your model, you’ll be able to use a variety of different blades; however, they might need additional tools. Browse through your manual to understand the kind of blades which can be used within your circular saw.

Are There Left-Handed Options Available?

Typically, circular saws are made for right-handed operations. Some companies do provide the handheld saw for left-handed individuals or those who prefer the alternate angle.

What Blade Options Are Available?

The blade options of a miter saw are restricted to changes in diameter, i.e., from 8-12 inches, and additional dado or rabbet blades cannot be used within the saw.

Can Miter Saws Cut Through Metal?

Extra precaution will need to be taken. However, miter saws can generally cut through metal. For specific instructions, refer to your model’s manual.

Is Maintenance of a Miter Saw Difficult?

The saw generally comes with a dust-collection system which should help make clean-up easier. Your manual should have specific instructions on how to store, maintain, and use the saw for ensuring the longevity of the tool.

Can Miter Saws Be Extended?

For larger wood stock, it is advised to use clamps, additional fencing or attachable wood piece under the workstation in other to achieve stability. However, I always try to make cuts easier for yourself and remember to maintain safety.

Saw Safety Tips

Using either option, you’ll need to be considerate of a few safety precautions which are as follows:

  1. Set-up Using Instruction Manual – Any packed saw will come disassembled within a box and should be handled with care. Constructing the machine should be done in accordance with the saw’s manual and tested according to its instructions. It also comes with additional usage advice and precautions you should go through. Not to mention, in case of any replacements or issues, refer to the manual as needed.
  2. Always Wear The Proper Gear – Before turning the saw on, ensure you’re wearing appropriate clothing which won’t get snagged in the blade — using goggles and a face dust mask to protect yourself further. It is recommended to wear long sleeves and gloves to safeguard your body from any splinters or cuts. Lastly, noise-canceling headphones should be worn when cutting, as well.
  3. Check Your Blades Before Each Use – Your blades should be clean and attached safely before you turn the motors on. It is also advised to ensure the location of each lock to avoid any mishaps: the sharper the blade, the more efficient the cut. If your blade tooth is damaged during use, be sure to replace it at once.
  4. Set the Depth of Blade When the Saw is Unplugged – All set-up should be made prior to use, and the motors should be turned off for any adjustments you make.
  5. Keep Cords Away from Work Area – To avoid accidental cutting of any wire, make sure your cords are plugged away from your cutting area.
  6. Use proper alignment – Aside from using guides, do not try to use circular saws which are made for the opposite hand, i.e., left-handed individuals should choose a saw which caters to their hand usage for their comfort and safety.
  7. Never try to twist or curve angles – Any angles you want to make should be set using the stops and levers provided within the saw and should not be manually tilted. For making curves, use specialized equipment.
  8. Store accordingly – Depending on the instructions of your specific model, ensure you’re following the appropriate storage and maintenance procedures for your saw. Cover your saw or store in a cool, dry place in order to maximize its usage and quick set-up.

Recommended

We hope that you found our Miter Saw vs. Circular Saw comparison helpful. You may also be interested in the following woodworking related posts:

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