Chop Saw vs Miter Saw – Pick the Right Tool

chop saw versus miter saw compare and contrast the differences

For beginners to woodworking and power tools, the choice between a chop saw and miter saw can feel a bit confusing. This is mainly because both these power tools look largely similar to the untrained eye. But there are significant differences in their capabilities and applications. Let's take an in-depth look at the similarities and dissimilarities between the chop saw and miter saw.

Why do they look so similar?

These two saws look almost identical at your first glance. That is because they share several key structural similarities. These include:

  • A rounded blade that is vertically mounted
  • The blade rotates at high speeds
  • The blade is mounted on a hinged arm
  • The arm is connected to a stationary base
  • The cutting material is placed on the base
  • The cut is made by pushing the blade downwards

So it is easy to see why both these saws look so alike. They are both based on a common design platform. Both saws are also called drop saws, because of the way the blade drops down onto the workpiece.

What Is a Chop Saw?

The chop saw is the less complex out of the two saws. It is named so because it can only have the blade going up and down, like in a chopping action. This kind of saw has a single vertical cutting angle at ninety degrees. The hinged arm can only bend to bring the blade down to the workpiece on the platform. There is only one variant of the chop saw, though you can find them in different sizes.

Common Uses

A chop is a limited but powerful cutting tool. It is best used to cut hard materials like concrete and metal sheets. For this purpose, chop saws tend to have larger motors and durable blades or discs. You will often find these saws equipped with massive 14" blades. With an abrasive metal cutting disc, these saws are some of the most potent cutting machines out there.

These saws can also be used for cutting large pieces of wood. You will most often find them in construction sites where they have to cut anything from concrete to steel, and wooden rafters, trusses, and joints. Industrial chop saws can cut through hardened steel and often have massive blades larger than 14".

Smaller models are useful for DIY enthusiasts who need a workhorse saw that can be used to cut down to size many pieces of wood. These are also useful if you are into metalworking and need to cut sheet metal for your projects often.

The Dewalt D28715 is the perfect example of a reliable chop saw for home DIY users.

steel pipe being cut by a dewalt saw

When you don't need one

This type of saw is not ideal for common woodworking projects. In this regard, it is a no-contest win for the miter saw. A chop saw is often too big and has a very limited cutting action. You will not be able to get the fine angled cuts that are often required for woodworking with these saws. They would go to waste in any location where you don't have to cut large pieces of wood or other hard materials repeatedly.

What Is A Miter Saw?

A miter saw has a more complex design than a chop saw. It is a more versatile tool that can also cut at vertical 90-degree angles, but the swing arm/shaft of the miter saw can also swivel, which means that the blade can make angled cuts in the workpiece. The term "miter" (mitre in UK English) refers to a joint made by bringing two pieces of wood that have been cut at an angle other than 90 degrees (bevel cuts). You will usually find these miter joints in the corners of door and window frames. The saw got this name because it is capable of making the beveled or miter cuts.

angle cutting wood with hitachi miter saw

There are different types of miter saws, with a simple miter saw, a compound miter saw, and compound sliding miter saw being the options.

Standard Miter Saw: the swing arm of the blade is fixed, while the platform or table can rotate. The blade can pivot to make angled cuts.

Compound Miter Saw: Along with the platform or table, the swing arm holding the blade can also rotate and pivot. Using these two motions, the blade can make compound cuts, hence the name Compound Miter Saw.

Sliding Compound Miter Saw: Has all the functions of a compound miter saw, along with the ability of the blade arm to slide back and forth as well, for more advanced cuts.

Miter saws tend to be smaller than chop saws. The motors also have less power, as these saws are almost exclusively used for woodworking projects. It is not uncommon to find miter saws with 10" or 12" blades as the maximum size.

What are the uses of a Miter Saw?

A miter saw is a fantastic tool for home building related woodworking, as well as other activities like furniture making, and fine woodworking projects. Finish carpentry projects, especially those involving crown molding and baseboards, require a miter saw to save time. Though it is a very versatile tool in its own right, you can further improve the performance of your miter saw using these tips

angle cut with bosch gcm12sd miter saw

When Should You Not Use A Miter Saw?

Though miter saws can perform the same vertical cuts like a chop saw, using it for that kind of work alone would be a great waste. Miter saws are more expensive and are basically overqualified for making simple vertical cuts in wood. If you want a saw for basic DIY home improvement, a miter saw may be a bit of an overkill, especially the more advanced compound and sliding compound versions.

The Major Differences Between The Two Saws

Type Of Cut

The central aspect of the debate between these two saws is the type and quality of cut you can get with each saw. You can only get a vertical 90 degree cut with a chop saw. But with a miter saw you can get several advanced cuts. These range from beveled cuts, to compound cuts, and more precise compound beveled cuts using a sliding saw.

The Swing Arm/Axis

The swing arm that holds the blade in a chop saw is only able to make one kind of movement: up and down. In contrast, the most advanced miter saws have at least three different types of movement involving the blade: it can swivel, tilt, and slide forward and backward.

The Table/Platform

The Chop Saw usually has a stable stationary platform for the placement of the workpiece. It has only one function: to securely hold the piece in position for the cut. The miter saw tables are more advanced. They can rotate, allowing you to make multiple cuts on the workpiece at different locations, without having to move the workpiece.

Size & Power

Chop Saws are larger and more powerful, and capable of cutting heavier and denser materials like metal and concrete. Miter saws tend to be smaller and have less power on tap. They are used almost exclusively for woodworking.

Chop Saw Review Highlight: Evolution Power Tools EvoSaw 380 15"

Best Chop Saw - EVOSAW380

The EvoSaw 380 is a dry metal cutting saw available in a 15" blade configuration. This powerful saw is designed to cut through steel and has a dry cut design. Unlike an abrasive saw, which creates a lot of sparks and heat, the dry cut saw blade has a cooler cut and does not require any coolant. As a result, the cut metal will have a surface finish that is smoother and easier to work with.

This is an industrial grade chop saw from Evolution Power Tools. You can cut anything from steel plates to tubes, round pipes, angle irons, cladding, and scaffolding, just to name a few. The dry cut blade also has several other advantages. It lasts longer, with a longevity that is almost 20 times that of lower quality abrasive blades. That also means that you can cut costs that you would have incurred in replacing blades.

Talking about blade replacements, Evolution Power Tools has a whole range of those, specced out for different types of steel pieces. You can find blades designed for anything from mild steel to thin and stainless steel, and even wood.

evolution power tools logo

The cast base is made from industrial quality aluminum and is very stable. The 1800 W 15 Amp motor is capable of making a clean and consistent cut. It has a swivel vice that allows you to make cuts at angles between 0 and 45 degrees. Another great feature is the base of this saw is a handy collection tray: it makes disposal of waste metals chips hassle free with a pull-out design. The saw even has a laser guide for improved accuracy.


Dry cut saw generates less heat and sparks
Powerful motor
Can cut ½" steel 
Capable of making swivel cuts
Laser guide 
Long lasting blades


Not very versatile
Blade quality needs improvements
Clamps at base don't work perfectly


Though there are some similarities in design and appearance, chop saws, and miter saws are poles apart when it comes to functionality, uses, and application. You cannot cannot really compare the two in a contest. Both these power tools play in vastly different playing fields. They both have their unique niches in commercial as well as hobbyist areas. Hope this article covered everything you wanted to learn about this saw debate. Here is an interesting link for some additional saw ideas and tips.  

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