We can't tell you how many times we've heard the term "cut saw" used to describe a miter saw. It's not a big deal, but we always try to keep our readers (and those new to it) aware of the differences. It helps to get terminology right – especially when you're communicating with other professionals. When looking at a chop saw versus a miter saw, we can quickly see that these are two very different tools.
Not only do they serve different purposes (metal cutting vs. wood), but they also serve very different functions. This article describes the various advantages and disadvantages of these tools as well as the differences, advantages and disadvantages. If you are more interested in the types of miter saws (combination saws, slide saws, etc.), we also have related articles.
Editor's note: Check out our best miter saws article for our top recommendations.
Key Differences Between Miter Saw and Miter Saw
Probably the best way to tell the difference between a chop saw and a miter saw is to simply cover the key differences. But first, let's talk about how these two saws are similar.
These two tools are mainly used for cross-cutting of materials. Both miter and chop saws have a backguard that quickly secures material while cutting. These tools also all use a circular saw blade with an exposed bottom cutting edge that rotates away from the user.
When using both tools, users are required to keep their hands a minimum distance from the cutting blade for safety reasons. Currently, both tools may offer clamping systems to help stabilize the cut material.
Now, let's look at some key differences.
Miter saw function (as opposed to miter saw)
- Straight cuts with non-beveled or chamfered blades
- Designed to cut metal (steel, aluminum, etc.)
- Typically abrasive cut-off wheels are used
- Blade sizes up to 15" (12–15" typical)
- Often includes clamps to hold the material
- Can be high speed (abrasive) or "cold cut"
Characteristics of Miter Saws (as opposed to Miter Saws)
- Use a blade that is also mitered for straight or mitered cuts
- Primarily designed for crosscutting timber (decoration, framing timber, etc.)
- Use Carbide Inserts
- Blade sizes up to 12" (7-1/4 to 12" typical)
- May include bench clamps for securing material
If you plan to cut a large amount of metal at an angle, you may face a tougher decision. When comparing chop saws for metal vs miter saws, we tend to gravitate toward anything that helps us "cold cut" with carbide blades. Which brings us to the topic of hybrid metal and wood cutting miter saws.
Some companies, such as Evolution Power Tools, offer saws designed for cutting metal and wood. These tools use blades (or have multiple blade options) that handle both materials well. They typically run at much lower RPM than the typical 3500+ RPM chop saw.
A typical hybrid saw is more similar to a compound sliding miter saw than a chop saw. The "hybrid" feature has more to do with slower blade speeds and blades.
A hybrid saw often functions similarly to a cold cut saw in that it uses a slower blade speed. The slower blade speed means it can use carbide-tipped metal-cutting blades and doesn't require a grinding wheel like a high-speed saw.
Miter Saw vs Miter Saw vs Hybrid Saw Comparison
We've also put the above (and more) into a table for easy viewing:
|saw||miter saw||hybrid saw|
|possible cut types||Crosscut (90°)||Straight, Bevel, Miter, Composite||Straight, Bevel, Miter, Composite|
|Square material capacity||up to 4-3/4 inches||about 4 inches||about 4 inches|
|Round material capacity||up to 5-1/8 inches||not applicable||up to 4 inches|
|Rectangular capacity|| 4 x 7-5/8 inches
2-3/4" x 9-1/8"
|up to 2 x 12 inches||up to 2 x 12 inches|
|Blade size||12–15 inches||7-1/4 to 12 inches||10–12 inches|
|Blade type||abrasive, diamond||carbide||carbide|
|material that can be cut||steel||wood||steel, aluminum, wood|
|weight||Heavy||light to heavy||light to heavy|
Saw Blades and Miter Saw Blades – Abrasive and Carbide Steel
Most gang saws use abrasive metal cutting blades. There are many reasons. Mainly, however, these blades are inexpensive and get the job done. Abrasive blades make consistent but imprecise cuts on most mild steels. They are really difficult to make more precise miter cuts because they inherently deflect and bend during use.
Also don't use standard abrasive cutting discs on aluminum. Soft aluminum will stick to the rim of the wheel very quickly, rendering it useless in a very short time.
Miter saws designed for abrasive wheels are not compatible with low speed (RPM) saws that use carbide blades to cut various metals. You can find some steel blades designed for high-speed saws. An example is the Milwaukee Steelhead diamond cutting blade. It uses exposed synthetic diamond grit along the cutting edge. We also don't recommend using a blade like this on aluminum. For this, we would choose a slow speed saw with a carbide blade.
On those saws that cut metal with slower RPMs, you can find a variety of carbide cutting blades. These are similar to traditional wood blades, but they are optimized to cut steel more safely. Some also give preference to softer metals like aluminum.
Chopping and Sliding Miter Saws
We already addressed miter cuts when we discussed the miter saw vs. miter saw decision. One thing that remains to be addressed has to do with capacity or depth of cut. Most metal chop saws handle crosscut short pieces of metal that are 4 inches or smaller.
If, for some reason, you need to cut larger pieces of metal, you might think that a sliding miter saw could provide the solution. While technically correct, a better solution may be a handheld metal cutting saw, such as the Milwaukee Cordless Metal Cutting Saw.
For larger crosscut lengths, be very careful when cutting metal with a tool such as a miter saw. A dedicated metal saw creates a safer environment when making longer cuts and gives you a better chance of securing the workpiece while cutting.
Final Thoughts and Other Considerations
It's impossible for us to touch on every conceivable topic related to chop saws and miter saws. Once you understand the various issues: cutting speed, capacity, and material and cut type, you should be better able to make an informed choice.
The need to keep an eye on blade speed cannot be overemphasized. RPM/speed is important when choosing a carbide blade for cutting metal. Don't put a low speed metal blade on a high speed miter saw in an attempt to convert your tool. Instead, look for a metal-cutting blade that matches the speed of your saw. This provides a safe, efficient method of cutting metal on a miter saw or similar tool.
The same goes for gang saws. Some saws are designed for slower speed steel blades, while standard chop saws have the higher RPMs required for abrasive cutting wheels. Match the blade to the saw!
For more recommendations, check out our best miter saws article and our article on the best cordless circular saws. Both contain tools designed to cut metal and wood.