If you’re into carpentry, fabrication, or renovation projects, you know how essential a power saw can be. You can use power saws for cutting wood, or other materials, in different angles and widths, and there are many types of saws that you can choose from. One of these is a chop saw, which is a versatile tool used for cutting wood. The features and function of chop saws and other power saws also mean that there is a danger element when using them. To protect yourself from injury, safety precautions and safe operation of these tools should be at the forefront of your thought when using them. First, let’s have a look at the various features you can find, the types of chop saws available, and some chop saw safety rules you’ll need to consider.
If you aren’t sure about which saw you should be using, let’s compare chop saws against some of the most common power saws so that you have a better understanding of the difference between them. Let’s dive in then.
What Is Another Name for a Chop Saw?
A chop saw is more commonly known as a miter saw or miter box. In some parts of the world, you’ll also hear the term “drop saw” because you have to lower the blade towards the piece of wood or other material you want to cut. “Miter” refers to the crosscuts made by the abrasive blade of the chop saw.
What Does A Chop Saw Look Like?
A chop saw features a stationary table or frame with a hinged arm fixed upon it. A circular blade with an abrasive surface is attached to this arm and the motor with it. It features a handle that you can hold to move the blade towards the piece of wood, and the high speed of the spinning blade allows you to make squared and angled cuts.
The chop saw’s appearance and features can also vary according to the one you buy, and this depends on your budget.
Chop Saw Features
There are four different types of chop saws that you can choose from when it comes to the features you need. The common thing in all of them is that they consist of spinning blades and a hinged arm that you can move down towards the wood. Plus, you can also find a swiveling action in them to help you cut at various angles.
Standard Chop Saws
These chop saws are designed to cut only downwards, thus limiting the plane in which you can cut wood. Although most of the basic features are there, you can’t move the arm horizontally.
Compound Chop Saws
In this type of chop saw, you have the option of tilting the blade only in one direction from its original position, so you can cut material in two planes.
Dual-Compound Chop Saws
Dual-compound chop saws are similar to compound chop saws, with the difference being that you can move the blade either left or right. This feature provides you more versatility in terms of angles and allows you to make bevel cuts without having to move the wood.
Sliding-Compound Chop Saws
This type of chop saw encompasses all of the features you find in the above, including the standard chop saw. However, it provides you with more utility by allowing you to move the blade back and forth, as well as left and right. So, you can cut large pieces of wood easily with these.
Types of Chop Saws
Now that you’ve read about the various features you can find in a chop saw, let’s check out different types of chop saws that you can find in the market.
Chop Saw with A Laser
Many chop saws in the market come with laser beams attached to them. They help show you the blade’s path across the material, thus helping you achieve a cleaner and more accurate cut. However, not all chop saws have this feature, and you’ll have to increase your budget to find one with a laser beam.
There’s still a margin of error even when you use a laser beam to mark the material because the laser isn’t attached to the blade or its arm. So, there’s always a slight inaccuracy. Also, lasers can be difficult to see properly in bright light, which can render them ineffective.
Cordless Chop Saw
As the name suggests, a cordless chop saw doesn’t have a power cord with it, which means a battery pack powers it. This feature provides you with more accessibility and portability and makes it easy to use where you don’t have access to a power outlet.
However, a cordless chop saw may not provide you with the same speed and power that a corded chop saw would. Plus, you always have the risk of the battery running out while you’re using it since there is no battery indicator on these saws.
Chop Saw and Table Saw in One
This pairing of tools is a rare occurrence, and you might have to build it on your own, but you can combine a chop saw and table saw into one. Simply put, you can build a workbench on which you can mount both the table saw and chop saw. A table saw has a fixed circular blade without any movement, and you guide the material towards it.
Having both the chop saw and table saw in one place will allow you to work on larger pieces of wood and also complete longer or more detailed projects on time.
Chop Saw and Stand
Although a chop saw doesn’t need a stand to function properly, it adds a level of stability and convenience to your work environment. A stand elevates the chop saw, meaning you don’t have to bend over too much or put pressure on your back. Therefore, your productivity and accuracy are also enhanced.
Chop Saw and Bench
Like a stand, a bench also adds value and convenience to your chop saw, and it also provides you with a larger working space. This way, you can easily position larger pieces of wood on the bench for cutting, and you don’t have to worry about precision.
Industrial Chop Saw
This type of chop saw is much larger than the chop saws you might’ve seen, and they have a larger motor that delivers higher RPM. You can use them for a wide range of purposes, such as glass and window cutting, lumber and woodcutting, etc. You can also use them to cut other materials such as metals, plastic, and many others.
Wood Chop Saw
Although there isn’t much of a distinction between chop saws that can cut different materials, the major difference is in the type of blade, which helps you cut through the material. A wood chop saw blade is often made of carbon steel or high-speed steel and has a blade with 40 to 80 teeth.
Metal Chop Saw
When it comes to cutting metals, you’ll need a different type of blade. For this purpose, you can use carbide-tipped blades, diamond blades, or abrasive discs. However, make sure that your chop saw has enough RPM to properly cut through any metal. Otherwise, it can result in rough edges or even cause your tool to malfunction.
Abrasive Chop Saw
You can use abrasive chop saws for hard-to-cut and tough materials, such as most metals, tiles, concrete, and many others. They specially come with a thinner abrasive disc with uneven edges that help cut through these materials cleanly.
Chop Saw Vs. Band Saw
A band saw features a long and toothed blade instead of a circular one, and it’s installed vertically between two or more wheels. Band saws are great for long cuts, scroll cuts, and easy cutting of thicker pieces of wood. The main difference between them is that the band saw’s blades last much longer, thus being more cost-effective. In terms of portability, the chop saw is more suitable.
Chop Saw Vs. Table Saw
Since we’ve mentioned table saws in the previous section, so you have an idea about how they work. The basic difference between the two is that with chop saws, you guide the blade towards the material, whereas with table saws, you guide the material towards the blade. The former allows you more maneuverability, as you’re in more control over the blade.
Chop Saw Vs. Circular Saw
Circular saws are handheld power saws with a similar blade to chop saws, and you have to guide it to wood in a similar fashion to them. However, you need to have a steady hand and more control over the power saw. Otherwise, there are greater chances of error. However, circular saws are more affordable and portable.
Chop Saw Vs. Miter Saw
You must be surprised by this since we’ve been told that miter saw is just another name for chop saw. However, there are certain differences between the two. Chop saws are much larger and more powerful than miter saws, whereas miter saws provide more versatility. Miter saws allow you to perform angled, beveled, and compound cuts and rotate them left and right.
What Is The Safest Power Saw?
If you think about it, the safety of a power saw largely depends on your handling and use of it because a small slip can cause serious injury or even a fatal accident. Among the power saws we’ve mentioned above, table saws are considered the most dangerous, followed by circular saws. We can safely conclude that chop saws and miter saws are generally safer, mainly because the blade is mounted to a hinged arm, and you’re in control with the help of a handle.
Chop Saw Safety Rules
As is the case with every power saw out there, you should always follow certain safety rules and regulations to ensure a safe and proper operation of chop saws. Some of these tips are:
- Never turn the saw on when the blade is touching the surface or any material.
- Make sure to wear all safety gear, such as goggles, face shields, masks, cut-resistant work gloves.
- Ensure that there are no scraps on the blade when you turn it on.
- Allow the blade to reach its full RPM before you start cutting any material.
- Choose the appropriate blade for every material.
While all power saws come in handy for various applications, a chop saw is one of the safest and most versatile options out there. You can use them for nearly any and every woodworking, fabrication, or renovation project that you undertake.
When it comes to choosing a chop saw, make sure to examine all of its features to have an idea of its usefulness. Otherwise, you may end up with a power saw that doesn’t do the job it’s intended for, and you’ll have to spend money on another chop saw.
Nick Klamecki is a certified Fire and Workplace Safety expert with 15 years experience in product research and testing. He has a degree in Economics from U.C. Davis, is an active outdoorsman and spent years ensuring the safety of special needs children. Nick researches and tests workplace, industrial and safety products and provides advice on their safe use.