Miter saw vs Circular saw: How do they differ and which is right for you?

Miter saw vs circular saw

Stocking your shop as your hobby grows is one of the fun aspects of woodworking. It can be hard to decide what tool will fit your needs when they appear similar at first glance.

Let’s look at the miter saw vs circular saw so that you can determine which one will serve your shop’s needs, saving you money and helping you enjoy your woodworking.

What is a circular saw?

This power tool is a hand-held device that spins a blade or disc on an arbor. An electric motor drives the movement, causing the blade or disc to cut through various materials. Today’s circular saws are powered through an outlet or from a battery pack.

What is a circular saw used for?

  • Rip cuts
  • Breaking down materials
  • Cutting stationary items

Cutting along the grain requires range, something that a circular saw provides that a miter saw can not. The saw can ride down the length of a board, cutting as it goes. You can make these cuts with or without a guide.

These hand-held power tools also excel at cutting large boards or paneling. That allows you to break items down into sizes that are easier to handle. It can also help to cut wood that is too heavy or bulky to bring to a table saw.

The small design and open access to the blade allows a circular saw to cut items that can not move. Fastened framing timber is just one example. Its portability is one feature that makes it the go-to choice for some woodworkers selecting between a circular saw vs miter saw.

Circular saw limitations

The best circular saws are slower at making repeated crosscuts. You will need to measure each cut beforehand and then align the blade. It is also important to remember that a circular saw is often more dangerous to use than a miter saw.

Bottom line

Using a circular saw requires a safety-first mentality. Once you are familiar with this tool, you will be able to use it for almost any type of cut. Use the money saved to invest in a quality saw blade.

Using a Circular Saw Safely - Beginners Woodworking #26

Circular saw at-a-glance

Why you might want to buy one:

  • Portability
  • cross and rip cutting
  • Lower Price tag

Why you might not:

  • Harder to setup for accurate cuts
  • More dangerous to use

The models worth having a look at


1. DeWalt DWE575SB 7.25-Inch Circular Saw

 

Sale
DEWALT 7-1/4-Inch Circular Saw with Electric Brake, 15-Amp...
  • Imported from: China
  • POWER TOOLS
  • Commercial Brand: DEWALT

OVERVIEW

The DWE575SB from DeWalt provides users with a 7.25-inch blade on housing that measures 16.25 x 10.13 x 10.5 inches.

You will notice that it is lightweight, a feature that makes it easier to control. At 8.8-pounds, it is noticeably lighter than the Makita.

This weight is achieved, in part, due to the materials used. They make it lighter, but the housing will also transfer more vibrations while cutting.

The 7.25-inch blade can cut to a depth of 2 9/16 inches. The extra 1/16 inch on this saw helps cut through many of the pre-fabricated materials used on woodworking projects.

You can adjust the bevel on this circular saw from 0 to 57-degrees, which is slightly more than the bevel on the Makita. There are positive stops set at 22.5 and 45-degrees, representing two of the popular angle setups for cuts in the shop or on the job site.

An electronic brake stops the blade quickly, speeding up your workflow while making the saw a bit safer to use.

DeWalt includes a carry bag with the purchase. It provides minimal protection during storage or transportation, however.

DeWalt’s standard 90-day money-back guarantee, one year of free service, and three-year warranty is better coverage than what Makita offers on its circular saw.

Pros

  • A smaller price tag
  • Higher bevel angle
  • Three-year warranty

Cons

  • More vibration transfer
  • Rule is harder to read

2. Makita 5007MG 7.25-Inch Circular Saw

 

Sale
Makita 5007Mg Magnesium 7-1/4-Inch Circular Saw
  • Magnesium components create a lightweight saw (10.6 pounds) that is well balanced and jobsite tough
  • Powerful 15.0 AMP motor delivers 5,800 RPM for proven performance and jobsite durability
  • Two built in L.E.D lights illuminate the line of cut for increased accuracy

OVERVIEW

The 5007MG by Makita measures 20.9 x 17.9 x 13.9 inches. It is larger than the DWE575SB, but it is not too bulky for a 7.25-inch circular saw.

This product weighs more than the DeWalt, coming in at 10.6 pounds. You would notice that extra weight over the workday, but it might not be an issue for casual users. The materials used to create the increased housing weight will help reduce overall vibration transfer, which makes it a more comfortable circular saw to use.

The 7.25-inch circular saw blade is rated to cut to a depth of 2.5-inches when adjusted to 90-degrees. That is 1/16-inch less than the DeWalt, but you will likely not miss it on your projects.

You can adjust the bevel on the 5007MG from 0 to 56-degrees. That is slightly less than the DWE575SB, but again, you should not notice for most projects that you create.

Makita includes the same positive stops that DeWalt has but also adds another at 56-degrees. Having a stop at the end of the range makes setting maximum bevel easy to do.

Makita includes a solid tool case with your purchase. That is ideal protection, especially if you need to carry your circular saw from place to place.

Pros

  • Purchase includes a hard case
  • Markings are easy to read
  • Less vibration transfer

Cons

  • It weighs more
  • Only covered by one-year warranty

What is a miter saw?

The miter saw is similar to a circular saw as they both cut by spinning a blade or disc around an arbor. However, this power tool connects to an arm that provides stability and precise alignment for a variety of cuts. This saw design can also be powered by an outlet or from a battery pack.

What is a miter saw used for?

  • Crosscuts
  • Cutting bevels
  • Compound cuts

Crosscuts are perhaps the only type of cut that amateurs and pros alike associate with the use of the miter saw. The ability to quickly cut the end of a board cleanly and at the correct angle is critical in many shops or home projects.

In construction, and with shops making several of the same items, the repeatability saves time and money.

In addition to regular crosscuts and angled cuts on the face of lumber, today’s best miter saws also allow users to make beveled cuts along a board’s edge. Bevel cuts help to soften the edge of your timber and can create an aesthetic look.

Most quality miter saw will allow you to make compound cuts on the end of your timber. A compound cut combines an angle along the face of a board with a bevel along its edge. The compound cut would be difficult and time-consuming to layout on a table saw or with a saw guide.

Miter saw limitations

Woodworkers might find the reach of a miter saw limiting. It can only cut boards as wide as the arm’s reach provides. That makes it nearly useless for most rip cutting.

Bottom line

Using a miter saw is easy once you are used to its features. Let the fence and material stop work for you. A benefit to using the miter saw is the time it will save you, especially if you are making repeated cuts.

Miter saw at-a-glance

Why you might want to buy one:

  • Accuracy
  • Fast setup and use
  • Repeatable cuts

Why you might not:

  • Limited to crosscutting
  • More expensive

Models worth looking at


1. DeWalt DWS779 12-Inch Miter Saw

 

Sale
DEWALT Sliding Compound Miter Saw, 12-Inch (DWS779)
  • Your purchase includes: 1 CDEWALT DWS779 sliding compound cord miter saw, 12-inch, carbide blade, 1 blade wrench
  • Tool dimensions: 17” H x 24.75” L. Tool weight: 56 pounds; Maximum cutting thickness: 6.75 inch
  • Other specifications: 15 Amps, 12” blade diameter, 5/8” or 1” Arbor size. 3800 RPM motor. Type of milter saw: Slide

OVERVIEW

DeWalt’s DWS779 is a 12-inch sliding compound design. The larger blade will cut more deeply than the Metabo’s saw blade.

A double bevel design is an upgrade over a single bevel saw. That will allow you to make faster cuts without having to flip your lumber around. Construction workers may find this more important than smaller workshops, though.

The DWS779 comes in at just under 25 inches in length. That is longer than the Metabo, but the DeWalt is shorter and thinner on the bench. A more short and narrow profile might be a consideration if you have limited storage space.

This miter saw is almost double the weight of the C10FCGS, totaling 56 pounds. That could prove harder to move on your own with the bulk of the tool. DeWalt has included handles on both sides, however, that make carrying this miter saw easier.

A 15 amp electric motor generates up to 3,800 RPMs on the 12-inch blade under no-load conditions. That is less than other designs but should prove adequate for a 12-inch circular saw blade in the hobbyist’s shop.

DeWalt’s blade size on the DWS779 can cut through 2 x 14 boards when set at 90-degrees and 2 x 10 lumber when the blade is 45-degrees. These depths would be impossible with a 10-inch saw blade on those boards.

You will pay a lot more for the DeWalt DWS779. It does come with a 90-day money-back guarantee and one year of free service, but the three-year warranty is shorter than Metabo’s coverage.

Pros

  • A larger blade
  • Greater bevel angles
  • Carry handles

Cons

  • A higher price point
  • Shorter warranty length

2. Metabo HPT C10FCGS 10-Inch Miter Saw

 

Sale
Metabo HPT C10FCGS Compound Miter Saw, 10-Inch, Single...
  • 10" Compound Miter Saw
  • Same tools. New name. Hitachi power tools has renamed to Metabo HPT
  • Miter angle range: 0°-52°, to the right and left for increased flexibility

OVERVIEW

Over the years, Hitachi built a reputation for quality power tools, and the Metabo HPT name represents this brand now on the North American market. The C10FCGS is a 10-inch compound miter saw that lacks the sliding capacity of the DeWalt.

Small blades, and width capacity, is countered by Hitachi’s budget-friendly price tag. That will make it appealing to novice woodworkers and those who have little money to spend on their power tools.

Metabo’s miter saw cuts to the left up to 45-degrees. It does not offer the double bevel cutting that DeWalt’s miter saw does, but most novice and intermediate woodworkers will not mind. The lack of a double bevel feature will add time on the job site, though.

It is only 18.5-inches long, being shorter due to a lack of carrying handles. This miter saw is taller and has a wider footprint than the DWS779. You will need a bit more clearance for this miter saw when it is not in use.

The C10FCGS weighs only 24.5 pounds. It is lightweight for a miter saw, making it easier to carry from place to place. That is important for small shops that store tools between operating sessions.

A 15 amp electric motor also powers this miter saw. It is worth noting that the Metabo can reach up to 5,000 RPMs under no-load conditions. That extra speed is easy to achieve with a smaller blade and can be advantageous for some cuts and materials.

Pros

  • A smaller price tag
  • It weighs far less
  • Five-year warranty

Cons

  • A smaller blade
  • Less bevel angle

The Final Cut

Deciding between a miter saw vs circular saw comes down to the cuts that you need to make.

Both products use a saw and similar housing. The difference with a miter saw is the extra arm as well, as the table with a fence that is lacking on the hand-held circular saw.

Construction workers and hobbyists needing to make lots of crosscuts will appreciate the ease and speed that a miter saw provides them.

However, many woodworking shops will benefit from the versatility that a circular saw provides, including rip cuts and crosscuts on wood paneling or stationery pieces

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