Both a chop saw and a mitered one use circular blades and a drop-down mechanism where you cut from top to bottom. But the notable difference is that chop saws are larger and more powerful than miter ones, so they’re more suitable for commercial or industrial purposes where cutting large volumes of heavy-duty material is involved.
For most home improvement projects or ones around the house, a quality 10 or 12” miter saw would be more suitable than a chop saw.
Miter saws are superior to chop ones in terms of producing neat, finished cuts on smaller pieces of material. This includes molding, trim, or door, and picture frames.
Moreover, a miter saw would also suit general-purpose woodworking more than a chop one.
The Short Answer:
The most prominent difference between a miter saw and a chop saw is that the former can rotate and produce angled cuts called miters –and that’s where it gets its name from.
Chop saws, on the other hand, only cut straight, 90-degree angles.
Moreover, chop saws are usually more powerful and bigger in size, using a 14” blade minimally. Most often used with abrasive metal cut-off wheels, chop saws are tough machines that are capable of cutting through more or less anything.
Contrarily, miter saws are more of “finesse” machines. They’re a better choice for producing neat, perfect, finished cuts on smaller pieces of material such as molding, small piping, and framing.
Miter Saws In-depth
Like I’ve mentioned before, the biggest difference between a miter saw and a chop one is the miter’s ability to make angled cuts. This is undoubtedly a huge advantage for any type of woodworking, molding, or framing project.
In addition, if you want to get technical, a compound miter saw is capable of tilting the saw blade on its axis, enabling you to make bevel cuts. Consequently, you can use them to cut at two different angles, such as the case with installing crown molding.
Most miter saws are available in 10 or 12” options. For general purposes, you should go for the more affordable, standard (non-compound) 10” miter saw.
It’ll help you get through almost all DIY home-improvement projects and give you a great bang for your buck.
Chop Saws In-depth
As I’ve said, chop saws are aggressive and powerful. If you’re a fabricator or a welder that’ll be working with steel, or if you’re a contractor that’s building a house, you’ll require cutting trusses, joists, rafters, and studs. This is where a good chop saw should come in.
Almost all chop saws come standard with an abrasive metal cut-off wheel. However, some manufacturers offer multi-purpose cold-cut blades.
Abrasive blades leave a lot of sparks in their wake as well as leave the material piping hot after the cut is made. However, a cold-cut saw will cut through the same material with little to no sparks, and keep your material cool to the touch even after the cut is made.
Although most chop saws at standard hardware stores are 14”. However, you can find other foot-level industrial or commercial saws that are much bigger.
Moreover, gasoline-powered “freehand” chop saws can be transported, and are basically massive angle-grinders. That’s why you should be extremely cautious when dealing with a freehand chop saw.
If you’re not sure where to start looking, I’ll recommend a saw from each variant.
Miter Saw Pick
The DeWalt DWS780 can easily be considered one of the best choices for its quality, performance, and overall value.
Indeed, it’s a little expensive for an everyday handyman, but it’s worth every penny. It’s dependable, has premium construction that makes it durable if properly maintained, and will tackle any job you throw at it.
It comes with built-in LED lights to make your working area visible. It’s very accurate, requires little to no calibration out of the box, and lines up each cut with pinpoint precision.
Very rigid and durable. It doesn’t stutter at all when facing the toughest materials, so it gives you value for your money.
Its fence design allows you to make 90-degree cuts for up to 16” material and 45-degree cuts for up to 12” material.
Chop Saw Pick
The DeWalt D28715 is one of the best chop saws you’ll find on the market. With no-frills, no gimmicks, it’s a real workhorse.
At 5.5 HP and with a 14-inch abrasion cut-off wheel, the D28715 makes quick cuts to heavy-duty pieces of angle iron, steel tubing, or just about anything else you might want to cut.
Equipped with a quick-change blade system, unlike most saws that have an overly-complex system that needs specialized tools to change the blades. Not to mention, these tools usually end up being lost or misplaced.
This one has a no-wrench blade system that enables you to swap out abrasion wheels with no hassle at all.
Has a quick-lock vice system that secures the 14” cut-off wheel that spins at a 4,000 RPM speed in place thanks to the rock-solid clamp system.
Its quick fence and no-wrench system enable you to move your material with an ample degree of freedom to the desired angle (between 0 and 45 degrees).
To sum it up, most DIY jobs and around-the-house projects can easily be done using a reliable miter saw.
However, if you want to go big with commercial or industrial purposes in mind, it’s better if you chose a chop saw.