Miter Saw vs Circular Saw: Which is Best and When to Use Each

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When it comes to your woodworking projects, you have plenty of saw options. One of your choices may be between a miter saw and a circular saw. These saws each have their own set of benefits and uses that may make them a good selection for your workshop.

We compared the miter saw vs the circular saw to determine which one would provide you more capabilities and be a good overall saw to invest in. Read on to see which one we decided was the best saw.

What is a Miter Saw?

​A miter saw ​is a tabletop style saw that is used to cut a variety of angles by dialing in the degree of the cut. These saws have a circular blade you must manually pull down into the surface of your cutting material. With the adjustment handle​, you are able to select varying angles so you can make crisscross cuts very accurately.

Because a miter saw moves both horizontally and vertically, it can cut both right and left angles, giving you plenty of flexibility in cutting, with the added option of choosing between a 10″ vs 12″ miter saw. ​It is clean and precise based on your ability to dial in the degree angle of cut.

​A high quality miter saw will be a versatile addition to your tool shed and serve you well on a variety of projects in the future.

Miter Saw Applications

Miter saws are typically used in home projects that require angled cuts. Molding and trim work are good applications for a miter saw. You can also use a miter saw to cut the angles you need for a wood floor.

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Using a miter saw allows you to fit the two wood corners together perfectly as you are able to cut them to the exact dimensions you need.

The type of material that you typically cut with a miter saw is narrower as the table fences only allow for a certain width of material to be placed on the tabletop.

You would be unable to rip wood or cut large pieces of plywood. But, if you are doing a woodworking piece that required angular cuts, the miter saw is a good option.

miter saw for woodworking miter saw vs circular saw

What is a Circular Saw?

​A circular saw is a handheld saw that also has a circular blade. These saws use the blade to chip away at the material they are cutting by the spinning of the blade.

You need to physically move the circular saw across the surface you are cutting. These saws can make straight cuts or cross-cuts as necessary as long as they are guided by you.

These electrically-powered saws are typically operated by clamping your cutting material down and following a guide or mark you have made on the surface. You must hold the saw continually as you cut and use your hands to move it straight ahead.

The cut of a circular saw is only as precise as the line you direct it on. Because these saws rely heavily on your steady hand to guide it while cutting, the exactness of your cut can be off by a small margin or large margin if you are not careful.

​Circular Saw Applications

​A circular saw can be used in a variety of applications. They are good tools for remote work on a job site as they can be corded or uncorded much like a jigsaw and powered by electricity, gasoline, or even hydraulics.

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You can cut materials such as wood, plastic, and masonry with the right blade attached. And, the blade is easy to interchange and sharpen.

You will see a circular saw used on a construction site as well as in carpentry applications. For a woodworker, they offer the capability to cut wood pieces down to size with some degree of accuracy. They can also be used at low speeds to cut galvanized metal and steel.

​Miter Saw vs Circular Saw

​When we are looking at a miter saw vs a circular saw, we see many similarities and differences between the two saws. Both saws have circular blades that spin as they cut. They both can make straight and cross-cut but in varying lengths.

The similarities of a miter saw and circular saw end there. The most distinguishing factors between a miter saw and a circular saw are in the precision of the cut.

A miter saw makes fine, exact cuts while a circular saw relies on your hand to guide it, which doesn’t always provide the most accurate cut.

You’ll also notice that a circular saw has to be held as you cut while a miter saw rests on a table top and only requires you to pull it down to cut. You do control the downward pull of a miter saw to move through the wood piece like you would push a circular saw through the length of a surface as you cut with your hand.

Because you have to continually hold a circular saw as you cut, unlike a miter saw, it is more labor intensive to use. Miter saws require very little exertion from the operator to make several cuts in a day.

A circular saw can wear you out and create exhaustion from the weight of holding the power tool after several hours.

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Another difference between a miter saw and a circular saw is in its ability to cross-cut. To get a cross-cut with a miter saw you need to adjust the degree of cut.

cordless circular saw is much more efficient in its ability to cut cross-cuts as you don’t have to adjust the saw to do so. You simply move the saw in the direction you want it to cut. Although, this doesn’t produce as precise an angle cut as a miter saw can provide.

circular saw for woodworking projects miter saw vs circular saw

Selecting the Right Saw

​When we compared the miter saw vs the circular saw, we saw key advantages with the miter saw. With its ability to cut with precise accuracy in a variety of angle dimensions, it offers more versatility than a circular saw.

We like the variety of applications it can be used in and prefer it to a circular saw for molding and trim work. For this reason, we think the miter saw is the better saw to add to your workshop.

An expert at home repair, remodel, and DIY projects for nearly 40 years. His first experience came in completely restoring an antique home. Completely redone from the inside out, and restored to its original form, the home is a featured design by renowned Southern California Architect Cliff May, considered to be the father of the California Ranch Home. Now Dennis spends his time on fine woodworking projects and tool comparisons.