Miter saw and circular saw are two of the most common power tools used in carpentry. But they are very different tools, and they complement each other very well.
You must be wondering what exactly are these tools? What puts them apart? Can they be interchanged and still get the job done? That’s what we will go through here in the comparison between a miter saw vs. a circular saw.
Both the miter saw, and the circular saw are very useful, and at least one (if not both) is required in almost all woodworking projects.
They are pretty close in terms of work sectors but not close enough to be called “same.” If you own one and do not want to spend on the other, it’s fine for the most part. But you will eventually be needing the other one as well.
Before jumping into the comparison and essentially providing one hell of a mess of “knowledge,” I want to go through the tools first. Just to make the concept of the tools clearer, especially for those new to woodworking.
In this post we'll cover:
What Is A Miter Saw?
A miter saw is a big chunky electric saw that you see in almost every workshop or in the garage of hobbyists. The big saw with a big blade and a handle to pull the blade down, the one that makes a lot of noise, that’s a miter saw, that’s the one I am talking about.
They are chunky and heavy; thus, they are not portable. They are usually mounted on tables or saw bases. Almost always they are corded and run with direct electricity. Miter saw is a specialty tool and used for some specific purposes.
The main use of a miter saw is to make long, precise cuts very fast and very accurately. They can accommodate big blades of 8-inch up to 12-inch. You have to change the blade of the miter saw when it will wear out.
Since they are a stationary tool, they can seem very limited in usefulness—modern miter saws aid this problem by either adding additional features or supportive gadgets.
What Is A Circular Saw?
A circular saw is a small, portable electric saw. It is another very popular power tool that almost every professional and hobbyist owns. They appear very simplistic, even on the first look.
I’m talking about the saw that the worker holds in his hand, presses the trigger, and moves it across the board seemingly aimlessly, but still somehow manages to get a magnificent design.
A circular saw is relatively much smaller as well as lightweight. They usually have one or two handles to be held and guided on top of the piece. But some models incorporate a base.
Not the kind of base you are imagining. The saw, along with the base, is mobile as a whole. The base is just to keep the blade a little more stable on the piece while working.
Most of the circular saw is corded, but some odd ones use a battery. The idea is to increase the versatility of an already versatile tool and push the limit of limitations even further.
However, It’s not the best idea, in my opinion, since you are likely going to need to pause to charge the battery several times during a single project. The main use of a circular saw is to make lighter, or wacky cuts. Keep in mind; these saws are not the fastest nor the most accurate saw.
They usually incorporate blades of 3 and ⅜-inch to 16 inches diameter. They are handheld and can appear unstable. Some models come with a base that you attach with the saw and increase the accuracy dramatically.
Enough rambling. Let’s get to business.
Miter Saw Vs. Circular Saw
Hopefully, the idea of the tools is sharp and clear. Now it is time for the ‘one hell of a mess of “knowledge” that I promised. Now let’s jump into it.
A miter saw is much larger and heavier compared to a circular saw. Since it is meant to be stationary, it’s not a big deal.
A circular saw, on the other hand, is relatively smaller and fairly lightweight. The tool is supposed to be handheld and as mobile as possible.
Since the circular saw is mobile and handheld, it is much more versatile. Another big reason is that it can accommodate a wide variety of blades, that enables it to accomplish quite a range of cuts and grooves. You should have a good knowledge about how to change the blade of a circular saw to take the full advantage of the circular saw.
A miter saw is not all that versatile compared to a circular saw. The blade options, as well as functionality, are quite limited. But the tool is made for speed and precision in what it can do.
A miter saw is remarkably precise in making long cuts. With the aid of fences and gauges, you can make long and even repetitive cuts nearly effortlessly. A circular saw, on the other hand, is a little bit messy when compared to a miter saw. Now, don’t get me wrong; the tool itself is not inaccurate.
For the most part, it comes down to the skill and experience of the operator. Especially, while making dadoes or other types of fancy cuts.
A miter saw is fairly simple and easy to learn. One can learn to use the tool in about no time. But mastering the tool is where experience comes in. Overall, a miter saw has a lower skill-cap.
A circular saw, on the other hand, is a high skill-capped tool. It takes relatively longer to get used to the tool, and even longer to master. But when you do, you can make the tool to do so much that was once beyond imagination.
Materials To Use On
Material choice for a miter is comparatively limited. Because of the bigger teeth of the blade, the tool cuts fast. But that also limits the tool to work with tough materials such as hardwood and metals. Softer materials will be shredded.
The smaller and more friendly blade of a circular saw allows it to work on a wide variety of materials, such as hardboard, plywood, wood, tiles, and even metals.
Which one is for you?
There are a lot of factors to consider while determining the best saw for you. It depends on the type of work you are hoping to do in the future. If you are planning to work on things like frames, furniture, etc., where you’ll need to make individual pieces, a miter saw is the best bet for you.
However, in terms of grooving and designing, or other sensitive cuts, that are hardly repetitive or do not penetrate the piece, a circular saw will be the best option. And if you are planning to start a workshop or make it a hobby/profession, you will be needing both, trust me.
With all that said, I hope you got a better idea of the two tools, what they can and cannot do. It is almost unfair to compare the two side by side. They should be used in combination with each other, not replace each other.
The miter saw is best at making big and repetitive cuts, where the circular saw struggles, while a circular saw excels at making smaller and sensitive cuts, what a miter saw is almost incapable of doing.
I'm Joost Nusselder, the founder of Tools Doctor, content marketer, and dad. I love trying out new equipment, and together with my team I've been creating in-depth blog articles since 2016 to help loyal readers with tools & crafting tips.