A chop saw is a common power tool to find in workshops and on construction yards the whole world over. But what is a chop saw? Is it different from a miter saw? If you’re a new DIY-er, you know what a saw is, but what are all of these different types of saws on the shelf at Home Depot?
It’s important to have the right tool for the job, and that goes doubly for saws. Once you cut, you can’t go back. And a chop saw is the perfect tool for making straight, square cuts every time. A chop saw is a heavy power tool that spins a circular saw blade at dangerously fast speeds (so make sure to always wear your safety gear). You lie a length of wood on the saw’s support table, push the saw into place, and cut. A chop saw has a similar appearance to other saws but serves its own very specific function.
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What is a Chop Saw Used For?
Chop saws are primarily used for crosscutting boards in straight sections. This is handy for making perfectly square cuts and flush corners. The two primary methods for woodcutting are cross-cutting and rip cutting. Lumber is milled such that the wood grain runs along with each board longways. A cross-cut is a cut that runs perpendicular to the wood grain, while a rip cut runs parallel to it.
Chop saws are not built for rip cutting. For that, you’ll want a traditional circular saw. Instead, to cut your boards into shorter squared-off sections, you’ll use a chop saw.
Types of Chop Saws
There are four different styles of chop saws that you should know because each variety is built for a specialized purpose. They all feature a rotating blade that swings down into the lumber as you saw. They also all feature moveable platform surfaces so you can cut horizontally at different angles. Now, let’s check out the differences:
The Standard Chop Saw
These are the simplest chop saws you’ll find at the hardware store. They quite literally chop straight down, and only straight down. However, while the blade itself doesn’t swing around, the support table still moves around.
The Compound Chop Saw
A compound chop saw can do everything that a standard one can. However, these blades can be tilted off to one side, allowing you to cut two different planes with the same saw.
The Dual-Compound Chop Saw
These are “another step up” from the compound chop saw. They can still stand straight up or tilt, except now you can tilt your blade in either direction. As a result, you can more easily bevel the lumber without having to turn it over on the saw.
The Sliding-Compound Chop Saw
Sliding-compound saws have a wider range of motion than other styles. Both the blade itself and the machinery are able to move in both directions while cutting, letting you cut larger and wider sections of wood in a single go.
Which Chop Saw is Best for My Job?
Good question! While standard chop saws aren’t the most common choice anymore, they’re still perfect for simpler jobs like the basic home renovation or small workshop projects. The primary advantage is that they’re more affordable and come with less moving parts. As a result, they’re less prone to breaking down and require less overall maintenance.
However, if you’re looking to tackle larger projects like building a wooden porch, a barn, or even a home, then you’ll need the more robust and diverse features of a sliding-compound chop saw. These units can be prohibitively expensive for the hobbyist, which is why we recommend starting with a standard chop saw if you have more basic needs.
Make sure that you get the right saw for the job. While chop saws seem similar to other types of saws, they fill a specific role all on their own.