Before we get started keep in mind that we’re covering a few of the basics to better improve your understanding and knowledge. This is, by no means, a complete set of instructions and safety, nor is it a replacement for reading your owner’s manual or using common sense. Any further questions you have after reading this will be welcomed by a sales associate at Dunn Lumber.

The Difference Between a Chop Saw and a Miter Saw:

On Dunn DIY you will hear us talk a lot about miter saws and chop saws. Often they seem interchangeable, and you may wonder if there’s a difference and what it is.

A chop saw and a miter saw are very similar. In fact, a miter saw is a chop saw. But a chop saw isn’t a miter saw. Allow me to explain:

  • A chop saw is a platform mounted power saw. It moves on a vertical axis to cut wood and various other materials at a 90° angle.
  • A miter saw is a type of chop saw that moves not only on a vertical axis, but also on a horizontal axis, allowing for angled cuts.
  • A compound miter saw is, not surprisingly, a type of miter saw. It cuts on the vertical axis (like a chop saw), pivots on the horizontal axis (like a miter), and also tilts the blade to allow for easy bevel cuts.
  • A sliding compound miter saw allows the blade to move forward and back providing the ability to cut wider work pieces.

So if you’re working with a miter saw, you don’t have to worry about whether the directions call for a chop saw or a miter saw. If you’re working with a chop saw and angled cuts are needed you can always get out a handsaw and miter box and put in a little elbow grease to make it happen.

how to use a chop saw

using a chop saw

When to Use a Chop Saw:

Chop saws can be used for cutting lumber, moulding, decking, aluminum and other non-ferrous metals, provided the width and depth cooperate with the size restrictions of the saw. Material too wide for your chop saw can be cut with a circular saw. Miter saws can also be used for cutting mouldings and the like that require angle and bevel cuts.

when to use a chop saw

when should you use a chop saw

Basic Chop Saw Safety:

Safety is very important when you’re using power tools. Understanding, not only the rules of use but also, the “why” behind them goes a long way to protecting yourself and making smart decisions when you’re DIYing

Not surprisingly, the blade on your tool is the part you have to be highly aware of. Because of the speed at which it is moving, anything getting caught in it can be dangerous. If you’re wearing long sleeves, take a minute to roll them up before you start working. Wear fitted clothing that won’t hang down and risk getting caught in the blade. Any jewelry that isn’t firmly set in place (i. e. a dangling necklace, or a loose bracelet) should be removed. Long hair can be a danger if you’re not careful, so go ahead and tie or pin it back to keep it out of your face and away from that blade.

A saw blade is most in your control when it’s standing still or when it’s running at full speed, some of the highest risk is when the blade is in the process of starting up or slowing down. At half speed the blade isn’t powerful enough to cut through wood, but it is likely more powerful than you and is likely to buck or to catch up wood and throw it. Always make sure to wear safety glasses to protect your eyes. Power saws can be extremely loud and are potentially damaging to your hearing, so protect your ears with earmuffs or earplugs. To keep the saw blade as much in your control as possible, start the blade moving away from the wood and don’t make contact until the blade has reached full speed. As you finish your cut, release the power and allow the blade to come to a complete stop before raising it back out of the wood.

Always unplug your saw when not in use or when performing maintenance.

While cutting with a miter saw, keep the hands out of the blade path and clear of the blade by at least 6 inches. Most saws have a line to mark this distance.

chop saw safety

Measuring and Cutting:

Using a pencil and tape measure mark the line on your material where you want to cut. Line up the material with the saw blade. Take into account the width, or kerf, of the blade. The teeth of the blade are bent in alternating directions; being aware of this will help you line up the blade with your mark perfectly. Some saws have lasers to help you, but if there’s only one laser line know that is only for one side of the blade and you need to know which side in order to get an accurate cut.

Because of saw kerf it’s important to measure, mark, and cut as you go opposed to making all the measurements and marks before cutting. This will keep all of your cuts accurate.

Changing Blades:

Change blades when they become dull, when cutting a different kind of material (i.e. composite decking or aluminum), or when needing a finer cut. Always unplug the saw before adjusting or removing blades.

changing blades to chop saw