Circular saw or Miter saw -which one to choose?

Do you want to make a nice table that fits your couch, but can’t decide between a miter or a circular saw?

Both the circular saw and the miter saw are mainly used to cut wood or wood-like materials. The comparison should show you which of the circular saw or miter saw is best suited for you and your project.

As the name suggests, a circular saw is a saw that includes a blade that is shaped like a circle. On the other hand, a miter saw is a power tool (also known as a drop saw) that cuts on a large table and makes accurate, precise and sharp cuts.

Do not worry, read our comparative guide to find out all the differences between circular saw and miter saw and decide which one will be the best option for your task.

Some people think that one of them is better than the other, others that there is not much difference between them, and you can replace one saw with another.

Nevertheless, each of them has its own characteristics and it is better to use the saw for its intended purpose. So, let’s first briefly consider the advantages and disadvantages of both circular saw and miter saw.

Miter saw

What is a miter saw?

miter saw

Miter saw is a tool for precise, mainly transverse, cutting of a work piece. Most miter saws are small and portable.

Unlike stationary saws machines, you can pull it out and install it on a temporary base by placing a lowering mechanism (sometimes called a drip mechanism) over your work piece. The blade sizes most commonly used for miter saws range from 8 to 12 inches (20-30 cm).

The different models of miter saw

The manual miter saw

It is a tool easy to handle and suitable for carrying out small jobs. It allows cross cuts from 45 to 90 °.

The electric miter saw

It consists of a table and a motor driving the blade. This is mounted on an articulated arm which descends on the work piece. 

It allows effortless cutting of larger pieces of wood. But also to make straight and inclined cuts as well as transverse cuts from 0 to 180 °.

The radial miter saw

It is equipped with a sliding rail which allows the motor and the blade to move on the table. The guide device makes it possible to make grooves or cut precise angles.

What is a miter saw used for?

You can use it to create transverse cuts on the work piece in one quick motion. But more importantly, you can do it at your chosen angle. This is the best choice if you need to cut trims and moldings. 

Miter Saw Pros

A miter saw is useful when you need precise cross sections of your work pieces. This saw is also a great option for cutting at an angle. This is one of the main competitive advantages of this saw over other types of saws. Importantly, the miter saw is one of the safest.

Time saving

Do you want to save time in cutting materials and building your projects? For this, you should consider using a miter saw. This saves you time by making wider cuts. 

For example, cutting a large piece of wood will not take much time. Note that the automatic blade of the combined miter saw is also very robust and cuts materials quickly. 

So you can save a lot of time compared to using the sliding miter saw. Because the latter takes hours to cut a single board.

Different types of cuts

With a miter saw, you can make cross cuts with different angles. It is not necessary to bring another tool if you want to change the cut. 

The miter saw allows its users to make wide cuts, so that it is not necessary to make immense efforts during the work. This saw model does it all at the same time. 

Compared to other saws available, the miter saw offers a variety of cuts and this feature makes it better among other types of power tools

From cutting moldings to simple wooden frames, everything is possible with the help of this machine that all DIY enthusiasts must have.

Miter Saw Cons

Despite all the advantages, a miter saw is useless when you are going to cut bulky work pieces. While it is the best choice for cross sections, miter saw can be ineffective with long (over 15 centimetres) cuts. Miter saws are more a luxury than a necessity.

The carrying handle is not located in the center of gravity. That is, not at all where necessary. Carrying the saw is extremely inconvenient. 

When sawing (especially chipboard and similar boards) a lot of dust is made. Even when the vacuum cleaner is connected, somewhere 40% is removed, the rest is scattered.

A circular saw

circular saw

Also called a circular, this saw is equipped with a toothed or abrasive disk, which allows you to cut various materials with rotational movements, moving around the axis.

The different models of circular saws

The stationary saw

It is a saw whose blade is embedded in a table through a slot and it is the piece to be cut that is advanced to meet the tool. It allows for longitudinal and transverse straight cuts. But also oblique cuts up to 45 ° thanks to the possibility of adjusting the height and the inclination of the blade.

The portable saw

The portable saw is a tool which can be suitable for the straight cutting of grooves, rebates, grooves or solid wood. It is the saw which is brought to the object to be cut unlike circular saws. 

It allows relatively precise cuts to be made thanks to its blade fixed to the axis of the motor with a guide. The portable saw allows you to cut soft wood like hard wood with cutting angles up to 45 °.

The plunge saw

It is a particular portable saw which makes it possible to cut a part in the middle. Its blade is indeed hidden in its casing and you have to press the handle to make a cut.

 It has a guide rail and allows precise cuts to be made in full panel. Its use is very safe and the depth can be adjusted with an adjustable stop.

What is a circular saw used for?

A circular saw is commonly used in various woodworking projects. However, cutting tasks are highly dependent on the type of blade that is mounted on the circular saw. This saw can be issued both under the left, and under the right hand.

During operation, the circular relies heavily on that part of the structure in which the engine is located.

The circular saw allows cutting in a straight line with speed and precision. It is the ideal tool for long cuts in thick materials. 

Circular saws are mainly used for cutting wood, but are also suitable for other materials – in some cases thanks to a special blade. 

The most commonly cut circular saw materials are chipboard, plywood, beams, floorboards and structural panels.

Circular saw Pros

Circular saws are very compact in size, making them easy to move. Usually, you transfer the circular saw to the workpiece, and conversely, in the case of miter saws, you take the material to where the saw is already installed. These saws are capable of making long longitudinal cuts.

The circular saw is a very useful tool for most carpentry jobs. If you want to do DIY, build a piece of furniture, the circular saw is the essential tool. 

It allows you to cut wood and its derivatives, but also PVC and metal with surgical precision. 

Thanks to its blade made up of long teeth, it can be used to make a notch, to cut the wooden panel with a good depth. In fact, most of the models have functions that guide you in your cuts. 

It is a very practical tool which allows you not only to cut any type of wood in a linear fashion, but also to make rounded cuts. Its solidity and robustness are no longer to be demonstrated.

The circular saw facilitates all your movements and especially if it is cordless. Simple to carry and light, you can use it everywhere. 

It also has the advantage of being efficient and has an adjustable sole. 

It is the easiest DIY material to use for your various works. In addition, safety devices are installed on this type of saw to prevent injuries to users during its handling. 

Cheaper, it has a multitude of advantages and is often within reach of all budgets. Thanks to its guide rail, it allows its user to make good straight cuts. 

You don’t have to be a specialist to be able to use it. In addition, it is a device that you can use for several years if it benefits from regular maintenance.

The circular saw is the ideal tool for doing small renovations in your home. Inexpensive, it has good value for money. 

Circular saw Cons

This type of saw is much more difficult to use than a miter saw. A circular saw requires more skills, and more experience is required to use it. From a safety point of view, a miter saw is a better choice than a circular saw.

The downside is that some models are quite heavy and you have to be tough to use them. For cordless circular saws, the battery discharges fairly quickly. 

Several will then have to be provided if electricity is not available at the workplace. For the corded models, they are quite bulky and therefore difficult to carry around.

The disadvantages of the circular saw

Quite heavy for some models, their weight varies from 4.5 kg to over 20 kg.Well allowing the saw to cut the materials gently without abrupt otherwise it will risk deviating from its trajectory and destroy all your work and your wooden planks, which will cause a loss of material and a loss of money because you will have to buy some to replace the lost material.

If you use a cordless saw with a battery know that it discharges quickly sometimes, and that it will be necessary to have at least two or three in case where you work, there is no electricity.

For people who use saws wired, their problem is that they are very bulky, and can even cause you to trip if you let the cable drag everywhere,difficult to carry around in places without power, so it is not practical in the wild.

Miter Saw vs Circular Saw

circular saw vs miter saw

Price

When we talk about price and availability, a big difference is immediately visible. Miter saws are more expensive than circular saws. In fact, circular saws are relatively cheap (available for less than 70 $) compared to miter saws (cost in the range of 180 to 360 $).

Blades

For miter saws, there are many more blade sizes. The miter saw blade can range from 7 inches for a shallow end saw to 13 inches for a large.On the other hand, circular saws are equipped on average with 7¼ inch blades

Type of cutting

The advantage of a miter saw is that it is very accurate when cutting bevels and cross cuts. These saws are good when you want to cut moldings, planks or baseboards.

Compared to miter saw, the circular saw offers no less versatility, because it allows you to cut at different angles. It is also possible to tilt the disc relative to the sawed surface.

Keep in mind that the depth of cut is reduced by one and a half times. Each circular saw is completed with a parallel emphasis which helps to cut identical levels or to remove “excess” width.

Materials

Circular saws can cut various types of wood and metal.

The only thing you should consider is disk size. You can cut any non-ferrous metals, including copper, aluminum and brass. You can also cut sheets of ferrous metals, including thin, square or round pipes, or corners of small size.

However, if you want to cut some serious (more than 32 mm thick) metal, you will need abrasive blades.

Abrasive discs are thin, so they can cut quickly, but not very long. Toothed blades with cermet blades are more efficient, and for this reason, the miter saw is better suited for cutting metals.

Portability

Most circular saws are lightweight and portable. You can carry the circular saw without any problems and even cram it into a sports bag, while the miter saw is larger in size.

You can load the miter saw into your car or truck, but it does not provide the convenience in terms of mobility that a circular saw can offer.

Precision

Both saws provide high precision cutting. It all depends on your specific tasks, in which one tool may be better than another.

The miter saw is immediately ready to easily cut at an angle, while for a circular saw you will need to install a parallel stop or clamping device. Only then can you set the exact angles.

Versatility

Of course, circular saws are much more versatile than miter saws. This is one of the main reasons why circulars saws are more popular than miter saws.

Ability to use.

When cutting at different angles with a circular saw, you must be a skilled craftsman. You need to perform additional steps to set the indentation and set the desired angles when working with a circular saw.

In turn, miter saws come with a degree scale indicated directly on the stove. As a result, handling a circular saw requires more skill and experience than a miter saw.

Ease of use

One of the biggest advantages of using a miter saw is its ease of use. There are many power tools available on the market and used for different purposes. 

The miter saw is among the power tools that are popular for their easy operating properties. 

Even a person who has never used the miter saw can use it to cut any material. You don’t have to be a DIY expert to be able to build a small shed for your pet or other projects requiring the use of a miter saw. 

You can do it yourself without any outside help. Just read the instructions in the user manual and follow them precisely.

After one or two attempts, you will be able to use a miter saw with precision.

Safety

Safety should be your top priority, especially if you are new to lumber. Due to the fact that with the help of a miter saw you have to bring materials to the blade, the main thing is to keep your hands at a safe distance.

In the case of a circular saw, you bring the disk to the workpiece, therefore more control is required, both for the saw itself and for lumber.

Cleaning and maintenance

Both saws are very easy to clean. The miter saw is stationary and you do not need to move it for cleaning or maintenance.

However, due to its large size, a miter saw requires more time and effort than a circular saw.

However, the circular saw is easy to clean due to its small size and mobility.

Storage

The circular saw is more compact, so it can be stored anywhere without freeing up large space, while the miter saws are large and therefore require more storage space.

Which saw to buy first

Again, this is a matter of your experience and preference.

There are no such tasks that the miter saw can cope with and the circular can not cope with, and vice versa.

Choose to your liking. However, if your budget is limited, then choose a circular saw.

A miter saw can do one thing, cut narrow pieces of wood. Cannot tear or cut plywood. Cannot cut a piece of wood. 

Plus, you can even build a wall of bookcases and a kitchen full of closets with a circular saw, so if you’ve ever been stuck buying only one of the two, you need to buy the circular saw. 

Miter saw or circular saw? According to the models mentioned above, you only have to adapt your choice according to your needs in terms of cutting and the wood to be wood worked.