In this article, we will be covering the differences and all the details regarding Miter saw and Circular saw including origin, types of cuts, followed by pros and cons.
In 1964, Ed Niehaus,a Rockwell engineer, had come up with a plan to merge a circular saw with a miter box by placing the saw on a hinged arm. Then he developed a technique in which the workpiece is held/clamped in a position which is then crosscut or mitered almost instantly, by using the circular power saw. This design of his got hit and when Rockwell did not succeed in patenting it, every other power tool manufacturing company took this advantage and began to produce their individual type of miter saw.
Now after 50 years, these power tools are here in trend. The miter saws are precise in cutting and user-friendly to be workable to any woodshop.
Four Types of Miter Cuts
- Crosscut is the simplest of all the four cuts. In this type, you cut a wooden board by length at a standard 90° angle. For instance, if you want to slice a 2×4 board into half, then you can easily do that by cross cutting it with the miter saw.
Note: This type of cut can be achieved by any other type of saw as well.
- Miter cuts are made perpendicularly or at zero degree angle to the board's end. For example, the trims made around the doors or windows, where the two trimmed pieces meet which are probably sliced at an angle of 45° each and then joined together.
- Bevel cuts are also made at the board's end at any desired angle. But, the angle of cut is determined by the thickness (height) of the board and not by its length. The door-stoppers made of wood are an ideal instance of bevel cuts. The long pieces of baseboards used along the edge of the long area of walls and joined at the corner, where two bevel edges of those baseboards meet, is yet another good instance. These beveled edges get joined in a way such that it hides the joint lying between.
- Compound cut, as the name suggests, combines both bevel and miter cuts. Check out the crown moldings used along the edges of the ceiling or down the walls of your house. At the corners, you will notice that the trims between the moldings include both miter and bevel cuts. These trims are cut in a way such that they camouflage the corner joints.
Now let's check out the pros and cons of a miter saw which make it different from a circular power saw.
- Precision Cuts
A miter saw is fit for making four types of cuts; namely: bevel cuts, mitering, compound cuts, and crosscuts. Crosscuts are made at 90° to the wood grain, the miter cuts are both perpendicular and 0° to the grain, bevel cuts can be made at any desired angle to the height instead of length of the wood, and compound cuts include both beveled and mitered cuts together. A miter saw does all these types of cuts within a snap.
- Ease of Use
The cutting precision of a miter saw is more than a circular saw, plus the former type is easy to use compared to the latter. A circular saw requires maintaining a straight line of cut for which you must hold the saw blade just right and steady. Aded to that, you have to take care of some safety features while cutting with a circular saw. A miter saw, on the other hand, makes cutting convenient, with minimal chances of injury.
- Not Portable
A miter saw is not portable. It stays exactly where it is installed in a workshop. This instance is more like bandsaw to a jigsaw.
- Not as Versatile as a Circular Saw
Miter saws are not so dynamic as a circular saw. Plus, they are costlier than the circular saws.
There are myths surrounding the invention of a circular saw. While some state that the tool was invented in Holland, England, or Germany, the most reasonable of all these stories is of Tabitha Babbitt, a member of the religious sect of American Shaker, who existed in the early years of the 19th century.
As per the legends, Babbitt found that the 2-men saws, which were then used by her villagers, had only half efficiency as those saws supported only one directional cutting. Adopting inspiration from her concept of spinning wheel, she made a connection to the blade of the circular saw to a foot pedal. This allowed the saw blade to spin constantly without requiring to reset it, everytime. Later, Babbitt's designing concept was owned and implemented by the power tool manufacturing companies for extensive production of such saws.
- Contemporary Circular Saws
No wonder that many people had almost the same idea of building a circular saw. Another good thing is that the design of the saw nowadays is not much different from Babbitt's design, that she drew about 200 years ago.
The contemporary circular saws are handheld, portable, and powered either by a rechargeable battery or an extension cable. This power saw can perform straight cuts along any length of any material. The saw blades are generally pointed with an industrial diamond, with 7 and ¼ inches of regulation depth and number of teeth ranging from 20 to 80.
Five Types of Circular Saw Cuts
Circular saw is capable of making all the four cuts that a miter saw does. Plus, it can do rip cuts. Many pro-grade sawyers prefer using a table saw or track saw for ripping with precision. However, if you are a professional who is always on the move, then carrying the track or table saw is not practically possible. This is when the need for a circular saw steps in.
Note: Unlike the miter saws, a circular saw makes straight cuts along a fair length of a board of wood. But, it is humanly a bit difficult to maintain a steady hold onto the saw to keep the line of cut straight, unless you have hands-on experience. So, it is better to invest some bucks in rail guides or fences to make your circular saw cut flawless.
Unlike a hard-to-move miter saw, a circular saw is easily portable. Almost every circular saw model weighs less than eight pounds. Even the corded circular saws are also easy to carry around to the job site. Just make sure your job location has a proper power outlet to plug-in the saw cord.
As discussed under Miter Saws, a circular saw is more versatile as it can manage both the rip cuts and all the four types of miter saw cuts. All that you need to have is a set of good quality saws blades that have a workable range of tooth sizes and tooth counts. Then the crosscuts and rips cuts become way easier. With a metal foot pedal, making bevel cuts with the saw is a cakewalk. Some high-end blades can even slice materials other than wood, such as plastic or hard fiber, metal sheet, etc.
- Low Price
Almost every circular saw is uniformly cost effective. Just compare a laptop with a desktop PC, or a piano keyboard to a grand piano, a circular saw is that much affordable if compared with a miter saw.
- Straight Lines Only
A circular saw can only make straight line cuts. The saw is designed with a broad and flat cutting base. So, unless you are a skilled professional in this regard, curved cutting with precision might be a great deal for you. This type of power saw is not effective at stopping, typically when it is required to make sharp angular cuts.
Note: The thinner the material to be cut, the better is the curve made.
- Lacking Precision
Circular saw cuts are comparatively rougher and less precise. The wood edges tend to be ragged, typically while crosscutting it. Lastly, continuous kickback feature makes the wood cutting with a circular saw less safe.
Quick Comparison Chart of Miter Saw Vs Circular Saw
Typically for crosscutting requirements; not for the beginners
Best for the beginners; suitable woodworking tool to start with
Perfect for making sharp angular cuts
Perfect for making deep cuts
Limited blade size ranging from 10 inches to 12 inches
Varied saw blades are available
Safe to handle during use
Has risks of accidental cuts and injuries
Can not cut through hard material surfaces
Can easily cut through tougher materials
Well, be it Ed Niehaus or Tabitha Babbitt, whenever any future inventor like them will come up with something more workable and budget-friendly, then we will be the one to buy it first. However, as of now, there is no clear winner between a miter saw and a circular saw.
It generally depends on the type of work you daily deal with. If your maximum projects require doing rip cuts, then a circular saw is the one you should go for. For crosscuts, we recommend buying a miter saw. For increased versatility, it is better to purchase a circular saw prior to buying a miter saw. You can also keep both in your tool inventory; it basically depends on your type of projects and your workability to handle both the saw types.