Having the right cutting tool in your workshop is integral to completing any DIY or professional-grade project.
As such, while you’re choosing a cutting tool, you need to be extra careful to ensure that it’s perfect for the kind of projects that you’ll engage in. But the problem lies in the availability of a huge variety of such tools on the market. This makes users confused between those that are somewhat similar to each other.
Two such commonly confused cutting tools are circular saws and miter saws. Though both of these are highly efficient, they are different in many ways. And many users often tend to choose the wrong one for their jobs owing to insufficient knowledge regarding their features and applicability.
That’s why we’ve put together this guide to clear any such confusion once and for all. So, without further ado, let’s dive right in!
Miter Saw vs. Circular Saw
- Miter Saw vs. Circular Saw
- Differences Between Circular Saws And Miter Saws
- Additional Features To Look Out For
- Safety Tips To Adopt
To clearly understand the differences between these two cutting tools, you’ll first need to have a fair idea about each of them and an overview of their usage. That’s why we’ll begin by giving you a brief introduction to these two types.
This power tool comes with a circular and flat blade that rotates at top speed, enabling you to cut a variety of materials, including plastic, plywood, and metal. Its operation is also pretty straightforward, and you can get it in both cordless and corded variants.
Notably, some users refer to it as the mobile version of a table saw due to the structural similarities between the two.
Another significant advantage of going for this cutting tool is that it’s relatively cheaper than the other high-end power tools on the market. This is why you can find it in nearly all garages and workshops. If you’re a DIYer interested in woodworking or carpentry, you’ve surely come across the handheld version of a circular saw by now.
Specialized for making accurate miter cuts and crosscuts at the desired angle, miter saws also come with circular blades but are mounted on the arm powered by swivel action.
This lets you move the arm, and consequently, the saw to the left and the right to make different angles as per the need. The arm is, of course, locked in place after being positioned at the angle you require. You can use miter saws to cut doors or picture frames, crown moldings, cupboards or fences, window casing, and in many other applications as well.
Differences Between Circular Saws And Miter Saws
Kinds Of Cuts
Miter saws and circular saws are different cutting tools since their working mechanism enables them to make very different cuts.
Firstly, speaking of a circular saw, it’s an all-round tool as it can make a wide range of cuts. This makes it suitable for a variety of jobs. If you are experienced in working with different materials and have a certain extent of technical knowledge, you can use this saw to make almost any type of cut.
In fact, it can even be used to make bevel and miter cuts, for which you’ll normally use a miter saw.
On the other hand, a miter saw is a specialized tool for making angled cuts, as we mentioned earlier. This might make you wonder about the purpose of this type since circular saws can also be used to make miter cuts. But actually, the speed and accuracy of the miter cuts differ a lot, with miter saws giving rise to more accurate cuts at a greater speed.
In comparison, it is more difficult to get an accurate and straight cut using a circular saw. It will actually require a great deal of practice to get the cut right, and the chances of making an error are naturally much higher.
Let’s start with miter saws this time. In the case of these cutting tools, the blade drops from above the material you’re dealing with to make the cut.
Note that the blade comes down in a slow and controlled motion, with the workpiece held onto a fence to provide a precise angle for the cut. This angle is between the plane of the longest edge of your workpiece and that of the blade.
Furthermore, this saw has a miter index which lets you change the blade angle with the fence. While the majority of miter saws allow for precise one-degree changes in the miter index, some provide “stops” that let you set the miter index quickly to the commonly used angles.
Coming to circular saws, they use a toothed blade that spins around an arbor-like structure to cut materials of different kinds. Usually, the blades of the saw come in different designs based on the material to be cut. And to keep the workpiece level and steady while it is cut, there is a plate in the middle which surrounds each side of the saw.
Easy Of Use
Any saw, or for that matter, any kind of tool, should ideally be easy to operate. This is why it’s a crucial factor to consider while you’re trying to know the differences between circular saws and miter saws.
Notably, the miter saw is a step ahead of the circular saw in this regard as it allows much greater control during a cutting job while keeping your hands at a safe distance.
Miter saws also let you adjust the direction of the required angles according to your requirements, which is beyond the abilities of a circular saw. As such, you can use this exceptional feature to make a variety of useful fixtures. These include the interesting wooden arrows which are fixed on the wall to enable easier navigation at any place.
Apart from this, certain features common to both the types of saws include finger triggers to operate the blades and a slight kickback when the motor starts functioning.
Versatility is one of the most important features that both DIYers and professionals seek in a cutting tool. After all, a versatile cutting tool can manage almost all the cutting jobs that they might have to complete from time to time.
The circular saw outperforms the miter saw with regard to versatility since it is capable of making many different kinds of cuts, as we mentioned earlier. So, having this tool at your disposal is enough for the cutting work concerning any woodworking or carpentry job that you have at hand.
On a side note, the process of achieving a straight rip-cut using this saw is slightly more lengthy than the other cuts. You’ll first have to get a straightedge cut from the edge of a hardboard sheet and then clamp it on the material to utilize it as a jig. Another alternative will be to get ready-made guide rails as that would assist you in making accurate straight cuts.
In comparison, the applicability of a miter saw is limited to only specialized jobs. That’s why it won’t be suitable for making long rip-cuts and cutting large plywood pieces.
Rather, those who are planning to build something that needs a great deal of trimming should invest in a miter saw as it will make such jobs easier, more accurate, and faster. These include projects such as making small tables, other furniture (for the finer trimming), photo frames, and decks with 2×6 or 2×4 wood pieces.
Portability And Storage
Portability is a major factor for DIYers who require working on a range of projects in different parts of the home. It’s also important for professionals who need to travel to different places for their work. As such, you’ll have to consider your needs in this regard before choosing the type to go for.
Circular saws are ahead of miter saws in this criteria as well since they are generally quite small and lightweight. As a result, you can move the former quite easily, especially if you own a cordless one, and can keep it in the car with equal ease.
But for moving a miter saw, you will need to put in more effort as it is much heavier than a circular saw. Speaking of easy storage, a miter saw will need a stand or a table to be stored efficiently. In contrast, a circular saw can be stored even in very limited spaces since it’s quite small and compact.
When you’ve set a particular budget for purchasing a cutting tool, considering its price is also essential. Generally, circular saws are priced much lower than miter saws, so you’ll be able to find several good-quality models within an affordable price range.
On the other hand, truly efficient miter saws cost significantly more. We’d suggest browsing through sites like eBay or craigslist as you might find some relatively affordable models there.
Prior Skills Required
For using a cutting tool, you should be aware of any prior skills required. After all, that would ensure you can handle the tool properly to achieve the desired results. But this may not be applicable in the case of all types of cutting tools.
For instance, using a miter saw doesn’t require any prior skill but just needs going through the guide coming with the model to understand its operation properly. The setup for this saw is also fixed, and there are multiple functions available such as that for setting up the different cutting angles. All these factors make the usage smooth and convenient.
But handling a circular saw will need more skill since it doesn’t come with such automatic functions as in a miter saw. So, you will need to understand some crucial requirements like the force that needs to be applied, its motion, and keeping the balance while you’re driving it in an angled manner.
Additional Features To Look Out For
Considering that each type of cutting tool is available in lots of variations, here are some additional factors you need to consider while choosing the ideal model.
It’s the blades of a cutting tool that ultimately do the job, so it’s a must to take into account the several aspects associated with the blade. Be it the diameter or the type of the blade; these aspects can create much difference in the variety of cuts that can be made using the tool.
You must keep in mind the project you’re working on and the cutting needs for the same to choose a suitable saw. Generally, a saw with a blade diameter of 6-10 inches is ideal for use in home DIY projects. But if you’re working on a more heavy-duty project, it’s better to go for a larger diameter.
Both the saws that we’re dealing with are motorized tools, so the power that they use determines their cutting ability through different materials and their working efficiency. So, the higher the power of a tool, the more cutting jobs you will be able to complete. For instance, a high-power saw will be able to cut through quite a few stacks of lumber easily.
But the quantity might not always be a huge concern for a small home project. In that case, you should look for a tool with a reasonable power capacity to match your requirements.
Irrespective of whether you’re going for a second-hand or a first-hand cutting tool, you should always choose a reliable option. After all, the saw that you’ll buy will be a long-term investment, and you should be sure that the tool is manufactured by a reputable brand in the first place.
If you haven’t dealt with cutting tools in the past, you may not be acquainted with the brands on the market and various aspects associated with them.
In that case, it’s best to inquire about the replacement, warranty, and return policies offered by the brand and check the customer reviews for its products.
To make an efficient choice, you can even discuss these factors with a local woodworker near your place. They’ll surely be able to throw light on the brands that can be trusted and offer beneficial policies to ensure maximum customer satisfaction.
Safety considerations are crucial when you’re dealing with cutting tools. Hence, it’s mandatory to check the safety provisions offered in any saw. Note that such safety features will vary based on the model you’re dealing with. There may also be some additional attachments for ensuring further safety of the users.
You would always want the cutting jobs to be as accurate as possible to ensure the ultimate result meets your expectations. This is why accuracy is indispensable to cutting tools and should always be considered while choosing a suitable saw. However, the extent of accuracy required will vary based on whether a project is light or heavy-duty.
While some miter saws have laser guides or LEDs to enable improved accuracy, circular saws require additional tools for measurement to increase precision.
Safety Tips To Adopt
Getting the most precise cuts at a faster speed for all your projects is, of course, the priority, but ensuring your own safety is no less important. That’s why you must understand and diligently follow certain safety precautions and tips prior to using power tools like circular saws and miter saws.
So, in this section, we’ve compiled all such essential safety precautions and tips for using these two cutting tools.
A. Circular Saw
Performing A Saw Check
Before you start the work, it’s a must to check each and every part of the saw to ensure it’s working in the right manner.
First of all, you should check its retracting lower guard as that will make sure proper retraction as well as recovery. The lower guard is an essential safety feature built into a circular saw. As such, if you spot any defect in the lower guard, you should first get it corrected before using the tool.
On a side note, you should always ensure that the saw is not plugged into the socket while you’re checking it. And if it’s a cordless circular saw, remove the battery before checking it. This way, the saw will never be switched on accidentally while the checking is on.
Using Safe Depth Settings
Setting the depth of cut food matching the thickness of the workpiece is another thing you need to be careful about.
While adjusting the depth, take care to ensure that too much of the blade is not exposed below the workpiece. In effect, the lowermost tooth of the blade must not extend by more than ⅛ inches beneath the workpiece. When the depth of cut is set in this manner, you can always get a safe and precise cut.
Hold It Properly
Holding the circular saw properly is essential for operating it in the right manner and also ensures your hands are always safe while you’re using it. Note that circular saws are available in both right-handed and left-handed variants based on how you must hold them.
So, if you’re a right-handed person, you should always go for a right-handed circular saw. You must hold the main handle of such a saw with the right hand and the knob or auxiliary handle with the left hand. Keep in mind that both hands must not cross each other while you’re using the saw.
But if you opt for a left-handed circular saw, your hands will always cross each other, which is not the ideal case and is also not very safe. Your hands might be sprained accidentally while you’re using the tool. Likewise, left-handed users should always go for left-handed circular saws.
Use A Sharp Blade Only
While you’re cutting any material using a circular saw, you’ll have to direct the tool through the cut and not force it through the material. If you sense that too much effort is needed to make cuts using the saw, or it has to be forced through the material, then you’re applying dull blades in all probability.
Using dull blades will make your cuts imperfect and will require much more effort to make each cut. So, make sure that the blades that you’re using can cut through the material easily.
B. Miter Saw
Use Safety Clamps
Using a safety clamp is crucial while you’re applying a miter saw for your cutting jobs. These clamps secure the wood or any other material while cutting, thereby preventing it from slipping accidentally. So, you can carry out your cutting jobs pretty smoothly without such concerns.
The clamps ultimately ensure the cuts are even, smooth, and highly accurate.
Use Blade Guards
The blade is the part of the miter saw that you should handle with the utmost care, as any negligence might cause fatal injuries. That’s why it’s always better to use safety attachments such as blade guards. A blade guard covers the outer edge of a saw blade and lifts up when the blade touches the material.
Notably, blade guards are available in opaque and transparent varieties. Going for the latter variety is better as it would allow you to see the spot where the blade hits, which is regarded as a beneficial feature by most professionals.
The dust that’s accumulated while using a miter saw must be disposed of to prevent it from flying up the ears, mouth, or eyes suddenly. It might also trigger a fire hazard if you don’t remove it from the saw. So, having a dust collection system in a miter saw is really essential.
In case your miter saw comes with a dust bag, you must learn the process of attaching a shop vac to the saw to enable an effective system of dust collection. Apart from providing protection against flying debris, an extraction system also contributes to extending the service life of a miter saw.
Don’t Forget To Depress The Lockout Trigger
A lockout trigger is actually a safety switch on the handle that you must depress to allow the saw blade to spin. Using such a safety feature ensures the saw is never turned on accidentally. So, the saw blade will be turned on only if you press the switch and depress the lock trigger at the same time.
Though standard miter saws don’t come with extension cords, you will need to use one if you’re working with the saw in different parts of a room. You should note here that it’s essential to check whether the extension cord you’re planning to use can handle the amperage of the miter saw.
Don’t you find it much easier to distinguish between a miter saw and a circular saw now? So, pick the ideal one for your projects and get the ball rolling! But if you still have any queries in this regard, feel free to reach out to us in the comments section below.
Before we bring down the curtains, here’s the last point we’d like to share with you. The applicability of circular saws and miter saws is different, as evident from the points we’ve discussed in the article.
While the former can handle more common types of cuts, such as crosscuts and miter cuts, the latter is useful for more skilled and angular cuts. So, neither of the two can be labeled as being superior or inferior to the other.
With this, we’ll call it a day. We’ll come up with some more interesting content soon, so stay tuned!