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Circular Saw vs. Miter Saw – Which One Do You Need for Woodworking?

The circular saw vs. miter saw battle has been going on for years. And because high-quality power tools aren’t exactly cheap, investing in both circular and miter saws might not be a choice for some woodworkers. If you find yourself asking, “Do I need a miter saw or do I need a circular saw?” then this article should help you decide.

What is a miter saw?

A miter saw’s main function is to cut miters, thus its name. There are three different variations of this woodworking tool: the compound, dual compound, and sliding compound miter saws. The slight differences between these variations make for very different cuts.

A miter saw has lots of uses, but most woodworkers use this tool for the following purposes:

  • Cross cuts – These are cuts that go against the grain. A miter saw set at the default 0 degree ensures that you get a perfect right angle for your board.
  • Miter cuts – Depending on the model, miter saws can cut a board at an angle from 0 to 60 degrees. These cuts are usually made for frames.
  • Beveled cuts – The bevel cuts are made by tilting the blades left or right. Different from a miter cut that is a cut across a board’s width, a bevel cut is a cut across a board’s thickness.
  • Compound cuts – These cuts are simply a combination of miter and bevel cuts.

Most miter saws have blade sizes of 8 to 12 inches. If you work with wider boards, a sliding miter saw is a good investment.

What is a circular saw?

A circular saw (or a skill saw) is any woodworking tool that can cut or saw a board using a circular blade. It’s a tool you would want to master before you move on to more advanced tools like the miter saw.

A circular saw also has lots of different uses. You can use it for everything that most miter saws can do. Yet, there is one thing a circular saw can do that a miter saw cannot: rip cuts. Rip cuts are cuts that go with the grain. They’re basically the exact opposite of what cross cuts are.

The most common handheld circular saw blade is 7.25 to 7.5 inches. There are also blades that are as small as 3.5 inches and as big as 10.5 inches.

Should I buy a miter saw or circular saw?

Circular saw vs. miter saw should be an easy choice once you become fully aware of your woodworking needs. You may or you may not need both, so learning about their similarities and differences should help you make a better informed decision.

Cutting playwood and other boards is one of the most basic things any home improvement enthusiast should learn. You can easily undertake decking, siding and other home improvement projects when you master wood cutting. The miter saw and the circular saw are some of the best tools for the job, but how do they compare side by side?

Which is more mobile?

Miter saws are heavy table tools. They aren’t meant to be carried around. Circular saws, on the other hand, may be used as handheld tools. Should you choose to use a miter saw, you must be prepared to bring all your boards to the table. While a circular saw can be fixed to a workbench as well, it’s a more mobile, handheld tool. This is why there are circular saws that are especially-made for left-handed people.

Which is more versatile?

You can use a miter saw or circular saw for cross cuts, but you can’t rip a board with a miter saw. This is one reason why any starting woodworker should invest in a quality circular saw. A miter saw can have some limited uses in terms of shape and direction of the cuts, while you virtually have free rein on the direction of a circular saw cut. However, miter saws are best for straight, accurate cuts.

Another thing to consider is the types of materials you can cut. There are usually less types of materials a miter saw can cut.

Which is cheaper?

For many DIY enthusiasts, a circular saw is a great miter saw alternative because a circular saw is cheaper. Some of the most expensive sliding compound miter saws can easily set you back by around $1500. There are good single bevel miter saws that cost less than $200. You won’t have many choices for a miter saw if your budget is on the $100 mark. On the other hand, the most expensive circular saws are usually priced around $750. Some high-quality circular saws go for less than $200. There are good 7.5.-inch circular saws that could cost less than $100.

Which is easier to use?

When it comes to ease-of-use, miter saws take the cake. They may be bulkier and heavier, but they’re fixed on a station. Both your hand and your off-hand are farther away than they are with a circular saw. Making a straight, angled cut is a lot easier with a miter saw, because most miter saws come with a base to push the board onto. You can do it freehand with a circular saw, but you might need some level bars, clamps, or frames to get a really straight cut.

Which is safer to use?

Circular saws are popular because of their ease-of-use. Miter saws are known for their accuracy and stability. But neither of these tools are 100% accident-free. Correct and careful use can help reduce accident rates. Wearing proper workshop equipment may also reduce the frequency and the severity of accidents. Give these power tools the respect they deserve, and always work calmly and carefully around them.


So, would you need both? There are still lots of woodworkers who would debate over circular saw vs. miter saw. While they may have some similar functions, they also have differences. A woodworker should choose the woodworking tool that serves them better. If they had the money to spare, there isn’t a rule saying they can’t have both.

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