Miter Saw vs. Circular Saw: What Are They Used for + Key Differences

If you buy something through our posts, we may get a small commission. Read more here.

Choosing between a miter saw vs circular saw can be arduous and requires a lot of thought-processing. Our team highly recommends knowing the difference between both power tools and comparing their uses before purchasing one. 

Hence, this article will take you on the purview of both saws to help you decide which is the best machine for your woodworking projects. 

Miter Saw or Circular Saw?

Features Circular Saw Miter Saw
Cross-cuts Possible, but not accurate. Best choice
Rip Cuts Recommended with a guide rail No
Dados and Rabbets Yes Can be done with sliding miter saw
Cuts plywood Yes No
Versatility Can make a variety of cuts Specialized for cross-cuts
Ease of Use Need for training No learning curve
Accuracy Average Accurate
Portability Easy to move  Table or workbench is recommended
Price Affordable and Cheap Expensive depending on Brand

Differences between a Miter Saw and a Circular Saw

What is a Miter Saw?

A miter saw is mainly designed to yield more specific and quality cuts, such as an angled cut. Coined as chop saws, for how it works, this works with their blade sitting atop the piece to move its way through the wood. 

Genesis GMS1015LC miter saw

This stationary machine infamous for chopping wood has an array of blades, from 8-12 inches, and is one of the common choices for DIY projects like door frames and cabinet making. 

What are the Different Types of Miter Saws?

1. Compound

Like table saws, this is commonly used for creating crown molding projects such as picture frames and is one of the most powerful miter saws. If you’re opting for angled cuts in two planes, then this saw is what will fit your needs the best. 

2. Sliding Miter Saws

These are advisable for woodworking professionals due to their movability and efficiency in performing miter cuts. It is ideal for cutting wide pieces as you can rotate the saw table seamlessly.

(Also see: Sliding Miter Saw vs. Non-Sliding Miter Saw)

Milwaukee Sliding Compound Miter Saw

3. Single Bevel Miter

This will requireyou to turn your workpiece every now and then to achieve desired cuts for both sides. Hence, what a lot of users love most about single bevel miters is their affordability and versatility, especially for homeowners. 

4. Double Bevel Miter

This is more reliable in creating precise and accurate cuts because it has a rotating saw head which you can move around to the other to make the same cut. 

Miter Saw Blade Sizes

The size of your miter blade will depend on the board size you will cut. According to our tests, an occasional DIY-er will sit well with a smaller blade; however, it goes different with heavy-cutting jobs. 

On average, a ten-inch blade can suffice various jobs, and this is the most common blade size. 

miter saw razor blade

Features of a Miter Saw

Types of Cuts You Can Do with a Miter Saw

1. Crosscuts

These are the most typical form of cut in the woodworking industry. It’s simple and can be easily made using any power or hand saw. Thus the main reason a lot would prefer this when making cross cuts is their accuracy and precision. This cut can also be made with a two-man crosscut saw. However, it’s also one of the weakest cuts because there’s less wood-to-wood contact. 

2. Miter Cut

The ends that meet at a 45-degree angle are examples of what a miter cut is. It is usually a cut made to make a work look attractive, but it is not that strengthful. This cut is also used for making, window trimmings and wooden boxes. 

miter cut

3. Bevel Cut

Cutting beveled cuts is troublesome when using common hand tools, which is why miter saws are the perfect tools to craft cuts like such. Flip the wood piece and cut at a negative angle, so you’re cutting from the bottom.

4. Compound

A compound cut is more complex than the first two because they combine miter and bevel cuts. Woodworkers use this type of cut when making cradles and serving trays.

Advantages of Using a Miter Saw

Precision

The best thing about Miter saws is their ability to produce precise cuts, crosscuts, and bevel cuts. Unlike most saws that require guides for accurate measurements, the only thing you’ll have to adjust is the saws at the desired angle. 

Accuracy

No matter how fine or seamless your wood finishes are, joining the pieces together will be a nightmare if it’s not an accurate cut. With miter saws, you won’t have to worry about accuracy, as one of the core strengths of this machine is getting the same cuts repeatedly. 

DEWALT FLEXVOLT 120V MAX Sliding Compound Miter Saw Kit

Easy to use

It does not need gauging or extensive seminars to master. Even an occasional DIYer can find their way across this machine. 

Safer operation

A miter saw is safer even for beginners than other power saws. It rarely produces kickback, and the blades only work within the range of the arm where it is set up.

Faster process with broader cuts

Broad cuts are easier to make with miter saws, and you can save a lot of time because the process is simpler. It’s also speedy, especially when using a compound miter saw with more automated blades. 

Perfect for angled cuts and cross cuts

Since miter saws are mainly made for angle cuts, it’s the best tool to use when creating bevel, compound, and crosscuts. 

Ryobi Cordless Miter Saw

Disadvantages of Using a Miter Saw

Limited functionality

It has fewer functions than a circular saw. It does a great job with the proposed cuts it was supposed to make, but beyond that, miter saws aren’t functional for other cuts. 

Bulkier and not portable

With a miter saw, you will be forced to create a separate space because it’s not as handy as a circular saw and will take up space in your storage.

More expensive price

Since a miter saw is a special tool, it costs more than a circular saw.

FAQs on Miter Saws

Should I get a miter saw stand?

To maximize the efficiency of your miter saws, procuring or making your own miter saw stand is advisable.  It equips you with speedier project makings and improved accuracy as well. 

Is it worth it to buy cheap miter saws?

There are a lot of budget-friendly miter saws available online and in hardware stores but expect the longevity to be brief compared to high-priced ones.

What is a Circular Saw?

A circular saw is a handheld tool that comes in both corded circular versions, and cordless models like the DeWalt Circular Saw [1]. It has a flat circular blade, often seen as smaller table saws. They make a good starter saw for workers who move from job site to job site, brought about by their portability, but are cheaper than table saws. 

circular saw on working table

What are the Different Types of Circular Saws?

1. Standard Size

A standard circular saw is the most common type and is best for various cutting tasks. It ranges from 7 ¼” to 10″ diameter blades.

2. Track Saws

This deliver better finishes and can even replace a table saw for most projects. It’s a specialized saw under a dedicated system to produce more accurate straight cuts.

3. Miniature Circular Saw

A miniature or compact type is best for occasional users and as a lightweight alternative when cutting boards at an air level. However, since it’s small, it has limited capability and can cut wood of 2×4 at most. 

Circular Saw Blade Sizes

Circular saw blades have an array of tooth blade counts, from 24 to 120. Your saw speed will depend on the tooth count. 

The lower the tooth count, the faster, especially for rough cuts, but if you want to opt for a cleaner with fewer splinters, then a blade with a higher tooth count is ideal. 

DEWALT 7-¼-Inch Circular Saw (DWE575SB) Blade

Features of a Circular Saw

Types of Cuts You Can Do with a Circular Saw

1. Rip Cut

Fit your power saw with an edge guide to keep it on track before rip cuts. Using this type of saw to make rip cuts is easier for most because they move the saw in the wood piece, giving them full control rather than moving the piece of wood and keeping the saw intact.

2. Cross Cut

Circular saws are the common go-to for crosscuts because they make clean cuts, like a table saw, with 40-80 tooth blades in place. 

circular saw cross cut

3. Plunge Cut

To make plunge cuts with a circular saw, raise your blade guard tip, and get your blade at full speed before plunging it onto the wood. 

4. Dado and Rabbet

For a dado and rabbet cut, you’ll need a couple of materials apart from a circular saw, such as a hammer, chisel, and clamps. Put a masking tape on the wood piece, and draw the guideline. Align the blade on the marks, and punch the blade until the desired height of the dado cut. 

5. Miter, Compound, and Bevel Cut

Circular saws are more portable when making miter, beveled, or compound cuts but it’s difficult to cut straight. 

Advantages of Using a Circular Saw

1. Versatile Tool

Circular saws are one of the few versatile power tools a woodworker can own and can do a job as a table saw. It is also recommended for cutting plywood sheets, plastic, tiles, and even stonework, making it a user favorite.

person operating a circular saw

2. Good for cutting through longboards

This tool is great for long and rips cutting because it can cut through any length as it’s portable and usually cordless. This power tool is not limited to length size because it’s not fixed like other saws. 

3. Excellent for Straight Cutting

Circular saws make a great choice to cut straight, much more precisely, the number of angular cuts they can do.

4. Less Expensive

Of all the power saws, circular saws are relatively one of the cheapest in line.

Disadvantages of Using a Circular Saw

1. Sharper edges

The circular saw’s toothed blade results in sharper edges; if you are up to a dozen trimming tasks, this may not be the best choice. 

sharpening circular saw blades

2. Not ideal for angled and curved cuts

Unfortunately, a circular saw is not the perfect tool for curved or angle cuts, primarily because it’s handheld and the manual control often leads to sloppy angles and cuts. 

3. Requires more caution during use

Circular saws can cut any material, and while this is promising, it’s also the primary reason why it’s less safe, and users should observe extra precautions.

FAQs on Circular Saws

What are the things to avoid when using a circular saw?

The most common hazard of using circular saws similar to table saws is projected particles, which often result from forcing the saw during cutting. 

How do I get sharper cuts with a circular saw?

Clamp the wood piece on a flat surface, to hold it in place. Plot the marks on where to cut, and secure the blade kerf before making a guide cut. 

Miter Saw or Circular Saw: Other Things to Consider

Here are other notable factors to be mindful of when comparing a miter saw vs a circular saw:

Portability and Storage

Circular saws are more portable, smaller, and handier. A miter saw is not that troublesome to carry around but is less movable than a circular saw. 

cutting granite tile with circular saw

Ease of Use

Since a miter saw is less mobile and table-locked, they’re safer to use than circular saws. 

Price

On average, a miter saw can cost as much as three times the price of a circular saw. 

Miter Saw or Circular Saw: Which Tool Do You Need?

When to Choose a Miter Saw

If you’re the type of woodworker who’s into specialty wood pieces like frames, trays, and furniture that require miter cuts, then a miter saw is the best choice for your cutting needs. 

Miter cuts are recommended for any trim work, and you get faster ROI if you’re onto building these kinds of projects.

Metabo HPT C10FCGS Miter Saw

When to Choose a Circular Saw

A circular saw is the perfect starter tool for general households, provided you do maintenance. The versatility of this saw makes it a great investment for casual users or professional woodworkers. 

It makes various cuts and surpasses the specialized cuts a miter saw can make. Any woodworking project will require a circular saw which is why it’s very handy to own such. 

What to Look for When Buying a Miter Saw or Circular Saw

Brand

Choosing a reputable brand saves you a lot of money and prompts you with a wise saw investment. 

Blades

Depending on what project you’re making, the choice of the blade will vary, so if you want to end up with the best wood piece, find the perfect blade with the right tooth count for your cutting needs. 

circular saw blade

Precision

Expensive miter saws are commonly accompanied by laser or LED guides for improved accuracy; circular saws will prompt you to invest in more tools for better precision. 

Power

Higher-power tools will give you more efficiency in cutting your desired piece, whether wood, plastic, or metal. Gauge the power requirement you need and look for a saw that fits within the radius. 

Safety

Before starting your power saw, you should master the safety precautions, so you don’t get into unnecessary accidents. Every machine has its own set of safety features plotted to safeguard users from any possible harm. 

Conclusion

Regular woodworkers are advised to procure and invest in saws of all kinds, whether miter, circular, or table saws. But if you’re looking for an occasional power tool, choosing a circular saw vs. a miter saw is ideal and practical. 

Robert Johnson is a woodworker who takes joy in sharing his passion for creating to the rest of the world. His brainchild, Sawinery, allowed him to do so as well as connect with other craftsmen and women. He has since built an enviable workshop for himself and an equally impressive online accomplishment: an extensive resource site serving old timers and novices alike.
Robert Johnson

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.