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What Is A Chop Saw?

If you work in the construction industry or are a seasoned DIYer, you’ve likely seen a chop saw before. However, even experienced pros sometimes confuse chop saws with miter saws and some don’t even realize there’s a difference. What is a chop saw is a question we have to answer for every new craftsmen we train. Basically, a chop saw is a power tool used to make square cuts that are straight and precise. The chop saw has a round blade attached to an arm with a motor that swings up and down. That’s it. It’s a basic, work horse tool that can cut just about anything simply by bolting on the right kind of blade.

Many people confuse chop saws with miter saws, and for good reason. They’re exactly the same in just about every way except that miter saws are able to make angled cuts. In fact, that’s why they’re called miter saws. The technical term for an angled cut is a miter cut. Miter saws are slightly more versatile than a regular chop saw and are great for making fast and accurate angled cuts like when your doing trim work. Chop saws typically have a larger motor and a lot more power which comes in handy when cutting large pieces of wood, metal or piping.

Because of all the similarities, people often use the terms chop saw and miter saw interchangeably, but doing so is misleading. Although you could argue that all miter saws are a kind of chop saw, no one would argue that a chop saw is a kind of miter saw.

What Does A Chop Saw Do?

Chop saws have a round disc blade mounted to a hinged arm as well as a stationary base that supports the material your cutting. The controls are usually found at the end of the control arm, squeeze the trigger and the blade spins, release and it stops. Although some models have foot pedal controls which operate the saw so you can keep your hands free to better handle your material.

In general, a chop saw, which is used for cutting large, hard materials like metal, has a bigger motor and a larger blade than other types of saws such as a miter saw or skill saw do. Most saws are designed for cutting wood and have a finer blade meant for trimming angles, cutting small molding pieces, and making cleaner cuts for a finished product.

A chop saw usually has an abrasive disc that looks like a thin grinding wheel. This disc performs the cutting action. Most cutting with a chop saw is done with a disc blade. Although you can also use a standard saw blade with teeth to cut wood.

Milwaukee chop saw cutting metal pipe

What Is A Chop Saw Used For?

Chop saws are a powerful tool. They’re generally larger, with more horse power than a typical miter saw. And with the right blade they’ll slice through almost anything. Cutting pipe, rebar or steel? Wood that’s littered with nails? Large hunks of stone? A chop saw is your best choice. With all that power, however, comes added size and weight. They’re not typically used by homeowners or DIYers because they’re harder to lug around than a miter saw and you generally won’t need all that power for a small job.

Chop saws are great for large scale commercial or industrial work. If your cutting 1000 pieces of rebar a day for a huge commercial project, you need a chop saw. But if your a mason building the foundation for a new home then a rebar bender or an angle grinder will be more than enough.

Chop saws are a real work horse of a tool with lots of power. They’ll precisely cut dense material all day long without a problem. However if your doing interior trim work and don’t need all that power, use a miter saw. Chop saws are a tool designed for a specific purpose and that’s what you use them for. If your making lots of precise, straight cuts in large, dense materials and you want to cut them fast, use a chop saw.

Chop saws only do 90-degree angled cuts. You pull the blade down, it gives you a cross cut, and you’re done. That’s all it does. In fact, if your chop saw does angle cuts, then it’s a miter saw not a chop saw.

What Is A Chop Saw Blade?

Most chop saws uses an abrasive disc, not a blade with teeth, which enables them to quickly cut through just about anything. Although despite the raw power, you can still make a precise cut. The blades are round, like a circular saw or grinder wheel, and come in a variety of shapes and styles which includes blades with teeth, although that’s not the norm.

A chop saw can generate lots of sparks when cutting through metal or masonry. They won’t burn through your clothes or your skin, but they do create quite a show. Be careful not to use a chop saw near anything flammable.

Most chop saws use a 14″ disc for cutting but they’re are bigger and smaller blades available. Larger blades give them the cutting ability needed for big projects.

Because they’re so powerful with such a large blade and are limited to only 90 degree cuts, chop saws are generally used by professionals.

What Powers A Chop Saw?

They’re powered either by hydraulics or with an electrical cord.

Corded options are smaller and less powerful. These are great for a shop or home use when mounted to a work bench. However corded chop saws are used on jobs sites around the world each and every day.

Hydraulic saws are more powerful and are only really needed to cut especially large or dense materials.

Chop saws can cut large, thick pieces of wood, metal or masonry which is why they’re used in most professional shops and on large construction projects.

what is a chop saw?

What Is A Metal Chop Saw?

A metal chop saw is a specialized saw that’s designed to cut through metal. If you have lots of metal to cut, this is likely the best tool for the job. You’ll be able to make fast and clean cuts. Just remember that they all need to be straight angled cuts.

All you need to do is line the metal up with the abrasive blade, squeeze the handle and pull the blade down. Don’t force the blade. They’re more than capable of doing the work on their own. Let the tool do the work. And don’t forget your safety gear. Cutting metal makes a lot of sparks.

Chop saws can handle a variety of blade sizes and styles so make sure to buy the right blade for the job.

What Is A Wood Chop Saw?

A wood chop saw is the most common type you’ll find. They’re great for doing quick and effective 90 degree cuts. However, you’ll only be able to do straight cuts. Don’t forget that a chop saw is only able to move up and down. They’re great for framers that have to cut thousands of boards to length. But not so great for trim contractors since they can’t make angled cuts. If you need to make angled cuts then buy a miter saw.

Wood chop saws are incredibly effective and easy to use. However, you still need to follow safety precautions and use safety equipment. Accidents can still happen with the most basic tools. And even though these saws seem basic, they’re very powerful and can easily kick a piece of wood at you or twist your hand into the blade if your not careful.

What Is An Abrasive Chop Saw?

These types of saws are different from traditional saws in that the blade is more like a grinder. They’re used to cut away at materials like asphalt, concrete, tile flooring, or other masonry products by grinding them down. Although they work in exactly the same way that a typical chop saw does in that they’re only able to move up and down, the difference is with the blade. They’re extremely effective at cutting masonry products because that’s what the blade is designed to do.

What Is Another Name For A Chop Saw?

Technically speaking, there isn’t one. A chop saw is a chop saw. However people commonly refer to them as a miter saw. It’s an easy mistake to make because they look so similar. However once you examine a chop saw and a miter saw up close, you’ll see that they’re very different tools.

While they both have a base to rest material on. A round blade. A motor and a control arm. Chop saws only cut up and down. That’s it. They make simple, 90 degree angled straight cuts. Miter saws can swivel, allowing them to make miter cuts.

Most of the time if your on a residential job site the saw your looking at will be a miter saw. Even though the workers generally call it a chop saw, it isn’t. Chop saws are usually found in shops or on larger scale commercial projects.

What Is A Compound Chop Saw?

What is a compound chop saw? There is no such thing. These types of saws are actually called compound miter saws. The compound movement of the saw is what makes it a miter saw. Chop saws only move up and down without any angled or compound movements. So if you see a saw that does anything but go up and down, it’s not a chop saw. And if you see one advertised as a compound chop saw it’s been mislabeled because it’s actually a miter saw.

Pros & Cons Of Chop Saws

Sometimes a big pro can also be considered an equally big con. Power. While they can cut through just about anything, they’re generally far more powerful than a home workshop or small business needs. Chop saws are a specialized tool that are perfect for construction or fabrication work in a commercial setting. But for regular use the added danger of all that power is a liability. It’s much easier to kick out a board or get your hand twisted into the blade as you add more and more power to the saw.

And then there’s the function. A chop saw is so limited your almost always better off using a miter saw. All chop saws do is make an up and down straight cut. Generally on a residential construction site you’ll need to make some angled cuts.

Chop saws tend to be bigger because more power needs a larger motor.

If you want a larger blade for cutting some big material then chop saws have what you need. However they’re a lot more expensive. Standard cutting blades will always be cheaper than specialized commercial ones.

What Is A Chop Saw Used For?

Chop saws are perfect for large scale, repetitive jobs. We use them for trimming lumber on all of our job sites. A large home could have thousands of pieces of lumber that all need to be cut to a specific length. Chop saws are perfect for this and are much faster than using a circular saw. Miter saws would work too, but the larger, more powerful chop saw does it faster.

We also like that there’s no way to mess up the cut. It only does 90 degree straight cuts so we know the angle will always be right. With a miter saw, even accidentally setting the blade a 1/2 degree off would ruin the cut. You could potentially lose thousands of dollars in time and materials if you don’t catch the mistake fast enough.

We also use chop saws when building all of our foundations. They’re perfect for cutting lengths of rebar. A grinder or rebar bender works too but not nearly as fast as a chop saw. And the cut ends aren’t as clean.

Chop saws are also great at cutting lengths of pipe. Of course you can cut pipe easy enough with just about any saw. But a chop saw makes every cut perfect and that’s what we want on our job sites.

What Are Cold Cut Chop Saw Blades?

As we’ve already discussed, chop saws are powerful tools. If you’re a professional that needs to quickly cut lots of large or hard material at a right angle, then a chop saw would be the right choice.

Almost all chop saws come packaged with an abrasive cut off wheel tough enough to cut through just about anything. Some manufacturers offer a multi-purpose ‘cold-cut’ blade. Abrasive blades produce tons of sparks which heat up the metal making it red hot and dangerous to touch with bare skin. However a cold cut saw blade will cut metal with little to no sparks which leaves the metal cool and safe to touch.

Even though cold cut blades don’t cut as well as a standard abrasive blade, they’re more than enough for most materials.


Although both miter saws and chop saws cut in basically the same way, the term “miter saw” is specifically used in woodworking while the term “chop saw” is used more on construction sites or in production shops. Chop saws are ideal for home building and framing work because they have more cutting capacity and power than miter saws do. They’re perfect for cutting large pieces of material at 90 degree angles.

Generally speaking, chop saws are only used by professionals. They’re just so big and powerful that a typical person won’t have much use for one. And they can’t do compound, angled cuts. Trim contractors won’t really need a saw that doesn’t cut on an angle. That said, if you have a thousand boards to trim or have to cut thick rebar, a chop saw is your best bet.

Whether you’ll be working with wood, metal or any type of hard or large material, find the saw that works best for what you need.

Chop saws are all about brute force and are a large construction tool. Are you building a house from the ground up? You’ll want a chop saw. When it’s time for the finishing touches, bring in a good carpenter with a miter saw.

If you have any questions or comments about chop saws you can always e-mail us any time.

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