When looking into doing DIY crafts with wood, one of the most vital power tools you’ll need for custom jobs is a mechanized saw. You want to make sure the circular blade allows you to make precise angled cuts, a rip cut, a straight cut, or any other accurate cuts that are necessary for whichever workpiece you’re undertaking. Miter saw vs. circular saw: which is best for your needs?
Unfortunately, there’s no singular type of saw that you can just go for. There are two types that most people will recommend: a stationary miter saw, and a handheld circular saw.
Both of these saws are extremely effective for woodworking, but the way you use them and the jobs they’re good at are extremely different. Whether you need a miter saw or a handheld circular saw depends on what types of projects you need it for.
Purchasing the wrong one could be a financial disaster, as your miter saw or handheld circular saw just gathers dust over time.
If you’re especially new to using power tools for DIY projects, you’ll want to know what each type of saw can do, and whether a miter saw is better than a handheld circular saw, and vice versa.
What’s the Differences Between a Miter Saw and a Circular Saw?
Broadly speaking, it’s quite easy to tell a miter saw and a circular saw apart. A miter saw, like the Dewalt 12-Inch Miter Saw With Single Bevel and Compound, is significantly larger, usually featuring a base to set on a table in order to lower the saw through a stable piece of wood. A circular saw, like the Dewalt 7-1/4 Inch Circular Saw with Electric Brake, functions quite differently, as it’s a small handheld device without a built-in surface that you push across wood over an open space.
You might find that these functionally do the same things at their core, but the way you use them will lead to better uses in different instances. You might not want a miter saw for something a circular saw would do better, and a miter saw blade is often going to be superior with cutting wood in forms that a circular saw blade has difficulty with.
Even though you’d expect circular saws to have better control, they can have trouble when it comes to cutting multiple angles. Expert crafters will be able to use circular saws for a smooth, rounded, and precise cut, but most users of these devices will find that circular saws are better for quick cuts across full pieces of wood, rather than stopping midway through to make an angled cut.
Thanks to the base holding things in place, a miter saw is much better when it comes to angle cuts, as you can quickly rotate the wood while deactivating and raising the saw. For most users, the circular saw will be sufficient, since angle cuts are generally not used in many beginner-friendly DIY crafts, but that’s not to say miter saws are useless. Plus, many more proficient crafters may appreciate something more heavy-duty.
There’s a fairly large amount of overlap that can come with circular saws versus miter saws. They simply approach the wood in different ways, meaning that you just need to adjust the steps of your project differently based on how you’ll be cutting it. However, there are still a few DIY projects and crafts that circular and miter saws are better for.
This mainly has to do with the shape, as miter saws are much better at making multiple, even angle cuts. This means they’re great for general wood shaping for tables and chairs, but also for projects that need fine cuts like planters and picture frames.
However, circular saws are much easier to use on quick projects that only need a little bit of cutting like serving trays and bookends, as well as some fancier circular objects like plant hangers and tables, if you feel comfortable with making rounded edges.
Broadly speaking, these two different styles of saw are quite similar in terms of the potential danger if used improperly. However, it should be mentioned that there are many unique safety risks you might have with a loose circular saw, as circular saws can be more dangerous when used improperly or on unstable surfaces.
This is where miter saws are more effective, as being stationary and being attached to a workbench allows you to have much more control. They also have much more control since you’re lowering the saw onto your material, rather than moving the saw over the material. If you’re nervous about a power tool with this much strength, miter saws are definitely easier to cut with comfortably.
The biggest difference between each saw that’ll matter to most DIY crafters is going to be the cost of each saw type since both of these machines are fairly significant investments. Miter saws are substantially more expensive due to their size, stability, and additional safety features, with premium miter saws costing upward of $200.
Circular saws are significantly less expensive, although they can still be significant investments at price ranges of around $120 or more. Since there’s a lot of overlap, much of which saw you get may need to be determined by how much you plan to use it, and this can be the biggest deciding factor between these two devices.
Which Is Better?
Generally speaking, neither saw is better, but many DIY crafters will likely tell you there’s nothing wrong with getting a circular saw if you’re newer and have a lower budget. You’ll get a great amount of additional performance out of a miter saw, and it’s definitely worth the money if you want finer angle cuts and easier sawing, but you won’t likely experience the benefits unless you use it quite frequently.
So long as your saw fits your needs and budget, you’ve likely chosen the right saw for you, and there’s nothing wrong with picking up a different kind of saw later down the line if you’d rather try something different.