Circular Saw vs. Miter Saw: Which is Better for You?

When working on projects, most people want a tool that will not only achieve their goal but do so with flying colors. They want to be able to use a product with full confidence in its capabilities and performance. With all this in mind, It can be hard to decide what will work best for your project and how different types of tools will affect the outcome.

Among the array of power tools available to you, saws are common ones used for a number of different types of work. In this article we will be comparing the circular saw vs miter saw to explain all the differences and what they actually mean.

What is a circular saw used for?

Circular saws have been an essential part in any workers tool kit for as long as many can remember. They are a go to for a variety of people looking to work on a wide range of projects. 

They provide uncomplicated movement and quick, easy use that provides the operator with a more natural workflow.

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SKILSAW SPT77WML-01...
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SKILSAW SPT77WML-01...
  • Lightest magnesium construction reduces user fatigue for less down time
  • Cut-Ready depth of cut system helps with quick, accurate depth measurements
  • 53° bevel allows users to complete a wider variety of cuts
  • 15 Amp of power gives users the power to rip through more lumber in less time
  • The anti-snag lower guard provides smooth operation for small cut-off pieces

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BLACK+DECKER 20V MAX...
460 Reviews
BLACK+DECKER 20V MAX...
  • High torque motor 5-1/2-Inch. fast cutting blade for a variety of cuts
  • Tool-free depth of cut allows for easy depth adjustments
  • Bevel adjustment with detents at 45 and 90 degrees
  • Compact design for ease of use
  • Works with the entire BLACK+DECKER 20V MAX System (Battery and charger sold separately)

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Makita XSS02Z 18V LXT...
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Makita XSS02Z 18V LXT...
  • Makita-built motor delivers 3, 700 RPM for faster cutting and ripping through wood
  • Heavy gauge, precision machined base for smooth, accurate cutting and added durability
  • 50° maximum bevel cutting capacity
  • Weighs only 7.3 lbs. With battery (battery not included) for reduced operator fatigue
  • 6-1/2" Blade delivers a 2-1/4" Cutting capacity for a wide range of cutting applications

4. Good choice

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WORX WORXSAW 4-1/2'...
1,076 Reviews
WORX WORXSAW 4-1/2"...
  • Cut 2x4's in a single pass with an easily maneuverable compact saw that weighs 50% less than a traditional 7-1/4" circular saw
  • Thin blade makes for less tool strain, resulting in full size circular saw cutting speed and performance.Blade Size 4.5 inches. No-Load Speed 3500/rpm
  • Easy-set depth gauge lever and 0-45-degree bevel settings for quick adjustments. The WORXSAW is substantial enough to cut through nominal 2 inch lumber, yet light enough for the DIY'er to easily and comfortably maneuver. Cut wood, metal, tile or plastic with ease
  • Left-sided blade design for great cut-line visibility; grip with integrated safety trigger for comfort, balance, and control
  • Box includes 4-1/2" WORXSAW, 24T Carbide-tipped Blade, Parallel Guide, Vacuum Adapter, Allen Key, and Manufacturer's 3-year warranty

A circular saw is a saw containing a round blade with​ toothed edges. The blade spins in a circular motion and is used to cut through various materials. The saw is usually electric and handheld for easy maneuverability. The user moves the saw itself to cut through the substance being worked with, whether metal or wood or other materials.

These saws are believed to have been patented in 1777 by Samuel Miller. The patent suggests that circular blades were already being used around this time but Samuel Miller received the patent for the saw itself which he did design. After being patented and created, the circular saw then went into widespread use at sawmills before trickling into the general public.

These saws have, of course, evolved over time to make what we now know as the modern day circular saw. They have changed with the times like many other aspects of our lives and continue to advance.

What is a miter saw used for?

Miter saws are considered the go to tool for more specialized tasks. They provide a unique way of working to help the user progress in their workload. They have their own set of benefits and drawbacks compared to other tools of this kind. 

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  • Powerful 15 amp, 3, 800 RPM motor delivers extended power and durability
  • Exclusive back fence design cuts up to 2x16 dimensional lumber at 90° and 2x12 at 45°
  • Super efficient dust collection system captures over 75 percent of dust generated
  • Backed by DEWALT'S 3 year limited warranty
  • Maximum Cutting Thickness:6.75 inch

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Genesis GMS1015LC 15-Amp...
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  • Make bevel cuts up to 45 degrees left | perform compound Miter cuts with ease!
  • Use compound cutting for crown molding, shadow boxes, Picture frames, and more | the Genesis compound Miter saw is inexpensive and versatile!
  • Laser cutting guide for quicker alignment and improved accuracy | Know where the cut will be ahead of time with the integrated laser guide!
  • Electric brake stops the blade in seconds and Arbor lock for quick blade changes
  • Includes: 60T Carbide blade installed, hold down Clamp, dust bag, Two extension wings, blade wrench and two AAA batteries for laser

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Hitachi C10FCH2 15-Amp...
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Hitachi C10FCH2 15-Amp...
  • Hitachi's Laser Marker System for increased cutting accuracy
  • 15 Amp motor, powerful for the toughest cutting jobs
  • 0 52 Degree miter angle range, to the right and left for increased flexibility
  • 0 45 Degree bevel angle range, to the left with adjustable bevel stops for precision cuts
  • Horizontal handle with soft, vibration reducing Elastomer grip adds comfort and control. Powerful 1950W maximum output and 1520W power input motor
B01ESCU5WS

4. Good choice

Ryobi ZRP551 ONE Plus 18V...
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  • Heavy duty 18V motor for a variety of small cuts
  • Adjustable bevel from 0 - 45 degrees with adjustable positive stops at 0 and 45 degrees
  • Up to 2 x 4 cutting capacities, and 4-1/4 in. cross cut capacity
  • Built-in 9 ball detent stops at the most common miter cutting angles
  • Exactline adjustable laser alignment system accurately aligns cut line with blade

Good miter saws can be classified as circular saws but not nearly as many circular saws can be classified as miter saws. Miter saws generally have a round ​blade that turns in a circular fashion. These saws run on electric and are stationary in function. In order to cut on this kind of saw, you move the wood instead of the actual saw.

The history of the miter saw is a bit more tricky to trace and is definitively tied with that of the circular saws. People mostly agree that a good point of consideration for the modern day miter saw was the machine invented by Ed Niehaus which shares many similarities with the current ones still in use.

While the designs have changed a bit since the original designs, it still shares the same basic bones with the original concept and blue prints. The changes have been made to bring the old in with the new and create a saw perfect for our modern era while still keeping with the traditional aspects that made it so popular upon conception.

Differences between miter saws and circular saws

There are a number of differences between miter saws and circular saws. They have many differences in their uses, how they work, and the unique features they present.

  • A key difference between the two saws is that a circular saw is hand held while a miter saw is not. A miter saw stays positioned in the same place and you bring the wood or other material to it.
  • Miter saws are generally bulkier and more powerful than their circular saw counterparts because of this.
  • On the other hand, the circular saw can be moved to the location of your newest project. You can bring the circular saw over to the resources and then work on it wherever you desire. This provides more convenience to some who prefer this.
  • Circular saws are used to create cross cuts which are made in a straight line across the material and rip cuts which are made down the length of it. They are considered to be more of a general tool that is more well rounded. The cuts made by the circular saw can help with a few different types of projects the consumer might be working on.  
  • A miter saw is used to create cross and miter cuts. While the circular saw also makes cross cuts, the miter saw is said to do this more accurately.
  • Another difference is that the miter saw doesn’t move except in an up and down motion. The circular saw works differently in terms of the cutting it does. This makes many believe that the circular saw is the more versatile of the two because it provides a different cutting experience.
circular saw for beginners

Performance Criteria

Durability: Durability is a key feature in any piece of equipment but especially a saw if you want it to work harder for longer. Make sure the saw you buy is made out of reasonably priced but durable resources that will keep your saw in better condition for longer.

Depth Adjustment: Depth Adjustment is something many feel is one of the most important features included in a saw. It allows for the operator to adjust for the correct depth of the cut.

Portability: Another key feature to keep in mind is portability. How portable your saw is can determine how it will work and what you can use it on. A handheld saw may be better for smaller projects or ones not able to be done on a table for a stationary saw. A stationary saw, though, is often seen as a more powerful option and one that will provide more accurate cuts than a handheld one.

Miter saw vs circular saw. Types 

There are a number of different features each saw has that make it unique. These differences make the saw what it is and set it apart from its competitors.

Rubber Grip vs. Plastic Grip: The grip is something that is vital in terms of control. It affects your ability to guide the saw and how it feels when you do. A plastic grip wears better than others of different materials and is seen as maintaining a more stable temperature during use. However, a rubber grip is seen as easier to hold onto and less slippery.

One Degree Marking vs. Five Degree Markings: Degree markings are always important when considering the capabilities of your saw. Five degree markings are seen as better for bigger projects given their wider range. One degree markings are seen as better for smaller projects and to get a more accurate cut.

Advantages of chop saw vs miter saw

Each type of saw has their own set of advantages to them. These saws function differently from each in a way that sets them apart from the other so that they provide the customer with a unique experience.

They vary in a number of ways from their counterparts but all provide benefits to the user. For example, a miter saw is seen as more accurate and specialized while a circular saw is seen as more versatile and adaptable than similar kinds of saws.

Miter saw or circular saw. Safety Precautions

Safety precautions are important to keep in mind when operating any kind of machinery and saws are no different. Around 40,000 people end up in the hospital every year with serious injuries due to the mishandling of saws.

  • Wear safety goggles at all times when operating a saw. This is a heavily stressed one by any professionals with experience operating saws. The glasses will protect your eyes, one of the most vulnerable areas of the body, from harm.
  • Place yourself away from the working blade to prevent anything from flying at you like dust or wood chips. It also keeps you away from the blade so you’re less likely to misplace your hand.
  • Keep your feet firmly planted on the ground. This will prevent you from taking a topple that could lead to a serious accident. Falling is hazardous in a lot of situations but be especially careful when operating a powerful blade.
  • Steer clear of wearing loose clothing or accessories that can hang loosely on you. The material could get caught in the blade and lead to serious injury. If you have long sleeves on consider rolling them up and remove any jewelry before starting.
  • Do not put your hand anywhere near the blade. Things like the safety guard are there for a reason. Mind your limbs when working with heavy machinery. You should always be watchful of how you’re working around something like a saw.
  • For optimally clean and healthy workplaces, a dust collector would come in handy to avoid debris accumulate

Care and Maintenance

Care and Maintenance are things you should always practice with your saw to prolong its lifespan and ensure it works for years to come. There are a number of things you should be doing to make sure your saw is kept in good condition.

  • Keep your saw out of excessive moisture. This will prevent any rusting damage. Rusting damage can cause many issues with your saw so it is best to be avoided.
  • Be sure to not overheat your saw. Overheating is something that can easily cause damage to your much beloved piece of equipment
  • Clean the blades regularly to avoid performance loss. You probably want your saw to maintain a good working condition for as long as possible. If that’s the case then make sure to clean out all the excess materials from past sawing, with proper safety precautions in mind when doing so.

Tips for making the most of the saw

Making the most of your saw is something everyone wants in order to get their money’s worth for their product. Here are a few quick tips for doing so:

  • Clean the workspace around the saw. Keeping the workspace clean will allow you to easily maneuver the saw and any wood you want to feed through it.
  • Make sure you’re using the right blade type. The wrong blade type can affect the ability of the saw to do its job and function properly. You may even think there’s something wrong with your saw when in fact it’s just a case of using the wrong blade.
  • Set the blade height correctly. A blade too low to the cutting surface can cause overheating and a number of safety concerns. Be sure to check this before use of your saw.

FAQs

Q: What is a Circular Saw

A: a circular saw is a round bladed saw with toothed edges. It is usually handheld and is moved to be able to cut through different materials

Q: What is a Miter Saw

A: Miter saws are saws sometimes classed as circular saws but not always. They run on electric and are usually stationary meaning the operator has t bring the materials for cutting to it.

Q: How Do Circular Saws Work

A: Circular saws, both miter and others, operate with a round blade that spins in a circular motion to cut through different substances. They have been a common tool in many people’s arsenal for years.

Q: How to Replace a Circular Saw Blade

A: Replacing the saw belt can seem like a daunting task but it doesn’t have to be. Here we will provide a step by step guide on how to:

  • Unplug the saw from the power source, the source typically being via an outlet. This will ensure your safety when completing this task and provide ease of mind that nothing will happen during the process.
  • Put pressure on the locking mechanism and rotate the blade until it engages.
  • Remove the arbor nut with a wrench in the direction the blade is facing. Then take off or move the blade guard to remove the blade. This allows for you to input the new one.
  • Insert the new blade and make sure it’s in the same direction as the original, the teeth of the blade being an indication. This is important to maintain the same performance of cutting as before.
  • Do these steps in reverse to reassemble your saw so you can use it again. Make sure to reassemble all the pieces and place the blade guard back in the right place as it helps to protect you.

Q: How To Adjust The Depth Of Your Saw

A: Every saw is designed differently but generally all you have to do to adjust the depth is turn a knob or lever to the desired depth you’d like to cut. Once it is set all you have to do is retighten it and start working.

Q: Handheld or Stationary Saw

A: It really depends on the operators preferences and the kinds of jobs they will be doing. A handheld saw is better for small jobs or ones where the saw needs to be moved to the item you will be working with. Stationary saws are seen more powerful and provide a stabler option.

Q: Are Power Saws Dangerous?

A: Saws are a serious piece of equipment to be using so you should always be careful when operating one. Keep all the necessary safety precautions in mind when using it and approach the machine with appropriate caution. Place the saw out of reach of children to avoid any unpleasant accidents.

Q: Power Saw vs. Manual Hand Saw

A: Manual ha​nd saws and powers saws vary in a number of important ways.

A power saw, for example, runs on electric while a hand saw requires the users labor to operate. Power saws are seen as the easier to use option in terms of energy exerted compared to that of a hand saw. They are also considered much faster than their human powered counterparts.

Hand saws, on the other hand, are viewed as safer to use since there is no powering factor except you so it is easier to stop them on command should a slip occur. This is why many choose them if they are wary of the power saws. Hand saws are also shown to be easier to transport and start your project than power saws. But long term most prefer power saws given their easier use.

Deciding what kind of saw is best for you can be a major challenge for anyone. There are so many options out there for the average consumer and it can seem hard to weigh the pros and cons to decide what will work and what won’t for your circumstances.

Doing your research to receive the kind of tool you want can seem like a formidable task for anyone. But we hope this guide made your choice a little easier and increased your understanding of how each saw operates and functions.

Whatever you choose to use for your project, miter saw or circular saw, you now have the knowledge available to you that will allow you to make a more informed decision. It will give you more peace of mind about the next purchase for your toolbox and a better understanding of the differences in a miter saw vs. circular saw.

Resources and Further Reading

  1. “Circular Saw Features: Breakdown of Important Things You Need to Know.” Woodwork Boss
  2. “The History of the Circular Saw | York Saw & Knife Co, Inc.” York Saw and Knife
  3. Springer, Michael. “Features to Look for on a Circular Saw.” Pro Tool Reviews
  4. Club, Fix-It. “Circular Saw.” HowStuffWorks, 
  5. “What Is a Circular Saw? | Definition of Circular Saw.” Kitchen Cabinet Kings Glossary.
  6. NCL fact sheet on saw safety NCL staff
  7. 6 Tips for Circular Saw Blade Maintenance, woodworking network
  8. Choosing the right table saw blades, Woodcraft by Jessica Loyer
  9. Circular Saw Tips and Techniques, Familyhandyman

Last update on 2019-08-24 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API

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