Hello and Welcome Back! If you have been following along then you know that I’m big on saying “build it yourself”. It’s a big thing of mine. Maybe that’s because I can’t actually afford what a want, but also because building things is so fun. I love having unique pieces that fit perfectly (both size and style-wise) into my space. So, in an effort to get people building more, I decided to start this little series – Tool Tuesday. This will be a very basic, beginner series. So, if you are an experienced woodworker, get out of here! Or better yet, stay and offer your opinion in the comments – I’d love to hear your thoughts and I’m sure the beginners would too. First up – Miter or Circular saw? Let’s take a look.
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So, the very basic lowdown is that I use the circular saw for big sheets of plywood and the miter saw is more for lumber. However, there a few more things to consider. The name alone should indicate that the miter saw will be the thing to purchase to make, well…miter cuts. If you are looking for a saw to do trim work, or even build furniture that is made with 2×4 or 2x6s, something like that then you want a miter saw. If you are looking to do things like hang drywall or build pieces that require plywood, you’ll want a circular saw.
Miter cuts are any cut that you will make at an angle. A straight cut is a 90° angle. Miter cuts are when you make an angled cut across the width of the board. Most Miter saws will also do bevel cuts, which is a cut across the thickness. Here is the side by side of a 30° miter vs. 30° bevel cut.
Now you can use most circular saw to do bevel and miter cuts, but I never have. To make a miter cut, you would have to have a compass to mark the angle, then you just carefully cut across the line.
My circular saw will also make bevel cuts, it’s just an easy turn of the base or “shoe”.
Here is a great article that further discusses miter vs. bevel cuts.
What to buy first, a Miter or Circular Saw?
Now, this will probably be the not so popular opinion, but I went for the miter saw first. I used my miter saw for years before ever touching a circular saw. Why? One simple reason…the miter saw is stationary but the circular saw you have to move. The miter saw is far less intimidating to me. It’s also way easier for a beginning builder to get straight cuts, therefore cutting down on the frustration.
The problem: You can only cut stuff up to a certain size.
One reason to consider a circular saw first is that it can do almost all the things a miter saw can do plus more. Also, they are considerably cheaper. If the movement part doesn’t scare you then get a good circular saw and start cutting with it. You’ll just have to practice getting your lines straight. There are a few things you can do to help (keep reading), but the main way to get a good straight line is practice. Even though a lot of circular saws will make miter cuts, it is way difficult to get a clean, straight line.
Here is one of the very first tables I made, all with my miter saw.
I needed my circular saw to build this vanity because it is all plywood.
Different Types of Miter Saws
If you do get a miter saw, I highly recommend getting a compound sliding saw in the biggest size you can afford. The bigger the saw, the bigger the pieces you will be able to cut. Once you get building, you will want to use bigger and bigger pieces and you’ll wish you had a bigger saw. Ask me how I know ;). Here are 3 different price point saws with good reviews.
I bought a Porter Cable one for around $150 about 4 years ago when I first started building. I can’t find it anymore online, or I would drop a link for you. It has been a fine saw, but it is not the most accurate. I have not had any problems with it other than, the laser being a bit off so I never use the laser. The Hitachi one is at a great pricepoint for beginning and got excellent reveiws.
Different Types of Circular Saws
Circular Saws are a bit cheaper than most miter saws and you can get a top of the line one for around $150.
I like my Ryobi Cordless saw. It’s easy and I love that it’s cordless. It works with the RYOBI ONE system, making it very convenient. However, sometimes you’ll need a little more power, the corded saws work well. I saw my contractor cut a piece of concrete backer-board with a circular saw, which I wish I would’ve known you could do before I scored and broke over 300 sq ft worth of back-breaking work. For something like that you’ll need a more powerful saw and a different type of blade. Here are the top 3 circular saws I could find at different price points, all with good reviews.
Things You’ll Need to Go With a Miter Saw
You don’t need much to go with a miter saw. If you buy a cheaper saw to start playing with, you’ll probably want to get a new fancy blade. A new blade can make all the difference for making a clean cut. I need a new blade now, this is what happens when your blade isn’t sharp.
These Diablo blades always come highly recommended and have great reviews. Make sure you choose the correct size and material for your projects.
Things You’ll Need to Go With a Circular Saw
First up, you’ll need a couple of sturdy sawhorses and clamps. The circular saw is hard enough to control on it’s own, but the last thing you want is your plywood moving around.
The other thing I like for my circular saw is my Kreg Rip-Cut. It makes it easier to get a straight cut. The fence acts like a guide and really does a good job getting your line straight. The only problem is it only extends out to 24″, so I couple of times I’ve still had to make cuts myself. Also, you can’t use it to make miter cuts.
So, what’s my vote for beginners – the miter or circular saw? The miter saw. What do you think?
Thanks for stopping by!
If you are still reading, I would love to know if this type of post is helpful. I plan on trying this out for the next few months, so I’d love the feedback.
Miter or Circular Saw? A Breakdown for Beginners
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