So you have decided it’s time to buy a new saw, but which one is right for you. The miter saw vs. circular saw debate is one that is unlikely to end anytime soon. And while manufacturers will have you believe that you need both, you really do not.
One is enough for your DIY needs, but which one? Both have their advantages and disadvantages. That being said, in this article I will try and settle the circular saw vs. miter saw debate by evaluating both saws and what they are good at.
This way, you will be able to make a more informed decision.
Miter vs. Circular Saw: The Difference
Circular saws are the more common of the two and trace their origins to the 1800s. By definition, a circular saw is a corded or cordless saw with a vertical spinning blade. On average, a circular saw’s blade measures 7 inches in diameter.
A miter saw, on the other hand, is used for precision and angled cutting. For example, miter saws are used to cut wood at a 45-degree angle. The blade on a miter saw goes up and down within reach of the arm it is mounted.
Unlike miter saws, circular saws can cut through virtually any surface. And this is why they are more common among Do-It-Yourselfers. But this is not necessarily a good thing as their versatility makes them dangerous.
Circular saws are known for having a kickback, and if you are not careful, you can saw your limbs off. Nonetheless, they are the best for making long cuts. For instance, if you want to saw a piece of plywood in half, you use a circular saw.
Where circular saws underperform is in making angled precision cuts. They are not designed for making beveled or angled cuts. But where circular saws underperform is where miter saws excel.
Miter saws are used to cut bevels and angles. And you will find them being used in the making of doors and picture frames. These types of saws are used to make the angled cuts on the trims of doors and picture frames.
Unfortunately, the miter saw’s greatest strength is also its greatest weakness. This saw is a specialized tool and is only good for making angled cuts. Therefore it lacks the versatility of its circular counterpart.
When it comes to portability, miter saws are not the most portable saws out there. Thus, you might have a difficult time moving this type of saw from one point to another.
Types of Circular Saws
Let us now look at the different types of circular saws and miter saws available. Starting with circular saws. There are three main types of circular saws, sidewinder, worm drive, Hypoid.
Arguably the most common type of circular saw out there; sidewinder saws have their motors on the side. This makes them more compact and powerful.
On average a sidewinder saw is capable of rotating at speeds of up to 6000 RPMs. In addition, these types of saws are also lightweight and are suited for overhead cutting. On top of this most sidewinder saws are cordless.
Thus they offer convenience, compactness, and power. This is the reason why they are so common today.
Worm Drive Saws
Unlike sidewinder saws, worm drive saws have their motors installed at the back. As such, they are usually longer and narrower. Two gears positioned at a 90 degrees angle transfer the cutting power to the blade.
Due to the positioning of the motor, worm drive saws have significantly reduced blade speed. Nonetheless, they do offer improved torque. And due to their narrow design, they are suited for cutting wide boards and for plunge cutting.
At first glance, hypoid saws look similar to worm drive saws. However, hypoid saws utilize a different transmission and gearbox. This type of saw uses what is called a hypoid gear, which is a type of bevel spiral gear.
These saws feature a sealed motor meaning there is no need for oiling. Also, they have better contact with surfaces. This type of saw is ideal for cutting long pieces of wood and especially damp or wet pieces of wood.
Types of Miter Saws
Just like circular saws, miter saws can be classified into three main types, standard, compound and sliding compound miter saws.
Standard miter saws
Standard miter saws are the most common and feature all the components you would expect from a miter saw. This means they feature a blade on an arm mounted to the base and are capable of making -45 and 45 degrees angled cuts.
Compared to other types of miter saws, these are lighter and easier to use. Additionally, they are available at relatively affordable prices. In essence, they offer good functionality at a reasonable price tag.
Compound miter saws
These types of saws are used to make complex compound cuts. So what is a compound cut? A compound cut is one that is both angled and beveled. With a compound miter saw you can adjust the angle of the blade and the arm.
The blades on these saws can also tilt from 0 to 45 degrees. This ability allows you to make angled, beveled and miter cuts. It is worth noting that not all compound miter saws can tilt left or right.
Compound miter saws are obviously more costly than a standard miter saw. However, the added cost is understandable given their functionality.
Sliding compound miter saws
As their name suggests, sliding compound miter saws have a sliding mechanism. Meaning that the blade is not fixed but rather mobile. The blade on this type of saw can move in and out as well as up and down.
They offer extra cutting capacity, which is why they will cost you more money. Nonetheless, not everyone will be in need of a sliding compound miter saw.
Table Saw vs Miter Saw vs Circular saw
While circular and miter saws are probably the most common types of saws out there they aren’t the only types. So it is worth comparing these two types with other types. In this regard, with table saws.
As the name suggests a table saw is a bench or table with a circular saw blade attached underneath that is driven by an electric motor. The blade protrudes upwards on the surface of the table, and you have to manually push wood through the saw blade.
Ideally, table saws are used for large construction project. Rarely will you find a table saw being used for small DIY projects. So when it comes to convenience and portability, you do not get that from a table saw.
On the other hand, a circular saw will do great in jobs that require a portable and compact tool. Miter saws are used for precision cutting. When it comes down to it, these saws are suited to different tasks.
One of the most basic rules of thumb is fixed wood for mobile tool and vice versa. This means if you are cutting large pieces of wood either a circular or a miter saw will be ideal.
On the flip side, since table saws are usually fixed, they do best with small movable pieces of wood. This is especially since you have to manually push the wood to the saw. If it’s too large, it can be difficult to handle.
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Advantages and Disadvantages Of Circular Saw
- Portable and easier to handle
- Can cut through almost any material anywhere
- Is ideal for making long cuts as well as rip cuts
- It is portable and can thus be used in a wide variety of projects
- Is dangerous to use due to its kickback
- It is not ideal for making angled cuts
Advantages and Disadvantages Of Miter Saw
- Perfect for making angled and beveled cuts
- It is quick, easy and precise for making angled cuts (use miter saw stands for more precise cuts)
- It is safe to use as it has almost no kickback
- Close to no chance of you cutting your limbs off while using one
- Can only be used to make angled and beveled cuts
- It lacks versatility as it can be used to cut anything
- They are quite expensive
When it comes down to it, the table saw vs. miter saw vs. circular saw debate will not end any time soon as different people prefer different saws. However, there is no denying that the circular saw is the most versatile of the three. Moreover, the circular saw is also more affordable. Meaning that circular saws edge out the other two types thanks to its versatility. All the same, the miter saw has a lot of uses due to it being ideal for making angled cuts. As such, it will depend on the specific project.