The Best Ways to Use a Chop Saw (Miter saw)

This write-up is here to explain some of the best practices for using a chop saw, sometimes called a miter saw. Before we go into the topic of discussion, it is important to remind you that this write-up covers only the basics to enhance your understanding and knowledge. However, we will not be able to contain all the instructions and safety tips that you need to know. This is not meant to replace the user manual of your chop saw, but you can learn a lot about useful chop saw skills.

If you have any questions, feel free to ask us in the comments below. We will be glad to assist you!

Chop saw

How does a chop saw differ from a Miter saw?

From time to time, we do refer to both miter saws and chop saws. Often, the two are used interchangeable, making you wonder if they are the same or if differences exist between them at all.

A chop saw is very similar to a miter saw that the two can be said to be the same thing. However, they are not the same type of tool. Here is how they differ:

A chop saw is a platform upon which a power saw is mounted. It can be used to cut wood and other materials but it only moves vertically, cutting items at a right angle. The miter saw, on other hand, is a type of chop saw that can be used to cut wood and other materials. It is capable of moving vertically and horizontally, making the creation of angled cuts possible.

One example of a miter saw is a compound miter saw which, like a chop saw, cuts vertically but it can also cut at mitered and beveled angles to make more dynamic cuts. This angled cuts are what make it a miter saw rather than a chop saw, which can only be used to cut vertically.

Another type of a miter saw is a sliding compound miter saw, which can cut wider work pieces thanks to the ability of the blade to move forward and backward.

Therefore, if you are cutting with a miter saw, you should not bother yourself about whether the directions require a miter saw or a chop saw. If you require angled cuts when you are working with a chop saw, you have to get a handsaw and miter box and work with a little more effort.

When to cut with a chop saw versus a miter saw 

Chop saws are suitable for cutting lumber, decking, aluminum, molding and other non-ferrous metals as long as the dimension (that is the width and depth) is in line with the saw’s size restrictions. You can use a circular saw to cut any material that is too wide for your chop saw.

When angled and bevel cuts are required, a miter saw comes handy. Miter saws also have similar dimension restrictions as chop saws, so you will have to use a table saw or circular saw to cut thick or large pieces.

Chop Saw safety tips


  • When working with a power tool, safety is a top priority. If you are doing it by yourself, it is important that you understand the rules guiding usage and the reasons for the rules. This knowledge will help you to protect yourself and make smart decisions.The blade is a part that you should handle with a high level of diligence. Given the speed at which it is spinning, if anything comes in contact with the blade it can cause a great damage. This means you need to pay attention to things such as the length of your sleeves. If the sleeves of your shirt are long, take time to roll them up before you begin work.You should not wear loose clothing that can get caught by the blade. It is recommendable that you wear fitted clothing. Dangling necklaces, lose bracelets or any other jewelry that is not firmly set in place should not be worn.  If you have long hair, you have to tie it or pin it back to prevent it from getting in front. It can be dangerous to keep long hairs unpinned or untied because it can get caught by the blade. Men should not wear a tie while operating a chop saw.
  • A saw blade does not pose much risk when it is spinning at full speed, because you have full control of it at this point. But it is at the highest risk when the blade is beginning to spin or slow down. When a saw blade is spinning at half speed, it will not be able to cut wood effectively, but it can wound you. Besides this, wood can be caught and thrown out by the blade. Given this, it is advisable that you put on protective eye wear.
  • Power saws generate a huge amount of noise which can affect your hearing. So, put on earplugs or earmuffs in order to protect your ears.
  • In order to be in control of your saw blade when you are starting the saw, do no keep the blade against the wood until the blade is spinning at full speed. When you finish cutting, release the power and leave the blade to halt fully before removing it from the wood.
  • If you are doing any maintenance work or repair work on your saw, it is advisable that you unplug it or remove the battery. You should also do the same when the power tool is not in use.
  • If you are making a cut with your miter saw, your hands should be away from the blade’s path. You should be at least 6 inches away from the blade. In some models of saws, this distance is marked with a line.

Measuring and cutting

  • When you want to cut any material, mark the line on the material using a pencil and a measuring tape. Line up the item to be cut with the miter saw. You should take into consider the kerf (or width of the blade). Note that the blade’s teeth are bent in alternating directions. Given this knowledge, you will be able to align the blade with your mark excellently.Lasers are included in some models of saw to help users make accurate cuts. But in some models, only one laser line is made available. If that is the case with your saw blade, you should be aware that it is meant for a certain side of the blade. So, you have to find out which side of the blade it is made for so that you will be able to get a perfect cut.

Changing blades 

If the blades of your saw become dull, they will not able to make a finer cut. Some of the signs of a dull or ineffective blade are that it cannot cut another type of material, such as aluminum or composite decking, and that it cannot make as smooth of cuts as before. Other times the kerf of your cuts might become wider or uneven.

In these circumstances, you should consider following your chop saw’s instructions and replacing the blade. Make sure that you unplug it from the power source before you remove or adjust the blades!

5 thoughts on “The Best Ways to Use a Chop Saw (Miter saw)

  1. Oohhh, that explains it. Now I won’t sound as stupid talking to my dad lol
    So wait though, do people still use chop saws if they’re less versatile than miter saws? It seems like it’d be a waste of money to have only one real dimension.

  2. “A saw blade does not pose much risk when it is spinning at full speed, because you have full control of it at this point. But it is at the highest risk when the blade is beginning to spin or slow down.”
    I get where you’re coming from, but just to be clear, it’s not as if it isn’t dangerous at full speed, it’s just that it’s easier to get careless when the blade is slowing down. It’s the same with an idling chain saw (I speak from personal experience).

    Rule of thumb: Just assume a saw is going to kill you.

  3. How often should I change out my blade if I use it on a regular basis, like for professional purposes? Does it make a difference what kind of wood you use whether you need to switch it out more often?

  4. This was really helpful, thanks. Can you use newer blades on older chop saws? I have a chop saw from like the 1980s, works great but the blade is done for. Thanks.


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