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Updated November 2022
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Buying guide for Best chop saws

If you're looking for a high-quality chop saw, you'll find plenty of choices ranging from good entry-level machines to superb tools for the professional. There's one for just about every budget.

If you’re confused about what a chop saw actually is, or you’re trying to decide on the feature set that meets your needs, you’ve come to the right place.

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Although pure chop saws only cut in a straight line, many have an adjustable vise that enables you to make angled cuts, too.

Types of chop saws

Strictly speaking, a chop saw has a blade that cuts in the vertical plane – straight up and down – at 90° to the horizontal. The blade can’t be rotated left or right or angled horizontally. It mimics the chopping action of an axe, hence the name.

The term “chop saw” is often also used to describe miter saws in all their forms, including compound and sliding versions. Having said that any miter saw can also be a chop saw, we can make some general distinctions:

Miter saws

Usually a woodworking tool, miter saws are also capable of cutting plastics and nonferrous metals like aluminum and brass. If you're cutting wood most of the time, a few plastics, and the occasional aluminum trim, choose a miter saw.

Abrasive chop saws

These are specifically for cutting metal. Instead of a toothed blade, these saws have a narrow, abrasive disk usually made of aluminum oxide for cutting steel. Zirconium disks are used for tough alloys, and silicon carbide cuts glass and ceramics. These are very much the original style of chop saw – unable to be rotated and cutting vertically only – and primarily designed for cutting square, rectangular, or round tube, “I” section, or angle. Wear on the cutting wheel is excessive when cutting solid metal. If you frequently need to cut large sections of solid steel, a metal-cutting bandsaw is a better option.

Multi-purpose chop saws

Though these follow the pattern of a standard abrasive chop saw, the blade of these relatively recent additions to the chop saw world is toothed like that on a miter saw. Tungsten carbide tip (TCT) technology means these saws are capable of cutting a wide variety of materials. If you cut different materials, including small-section steel, choose a multi-purpose chop saw.

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Did you know?
Two saws with the same size blade don't necessarily have the same cutting capacities. It's important to check.

Chop saw features to consider

Power source and motor

Actual motor amps or horsepower rating aren't really an issue with chop saws. Every manufacturer provides adequate power. If the saw stalls, it's usually because the user is trying to cut through thicker material than the machine is capable of or trying to force it. If that happens, you can usually solve the problem by backing off and feeding the blade/wheel in more slowly.

  • Corded: Most chop saws are corded and usually have brush motors. They are relatively cheap and very reliable, but they’re also noisy and require periodic maintenance.

  • Cordless: A few cordless miter saws are available at a premium. Cordless models should have brushless motors to make efficient use of battery power. These are more expensive but much quieter and easier to maintain.

Cutting capacity

It's important to look at the cutting capacity rather than the blade or wheel diameter. Dimensions will vary depending on the saw action, as well as blade diameter.

  • Miter saw: An entry-level miter saw is designed to handle small-section lumber and might have 2 x 4 inches as a maximum. Some large sliding compound miter saws are able to cut through boards 8 inches wide or more.

  • Abrasive chop saw: Most abrasive chop saws are 14- or 15-inch models with similar capacities. These are capable of cutting a 4.5-inch square tube or 5-inch round pipe. Of course, the thickness of the tube or pipe wall will impact on how quickly it cuts.

  • Multi-purpose chop saws: These models might have comparatively large capacities in wood or nonferrous metals but much reduced abilities when cutting steel.

  • Commercial chop saws: Commercial monsters do exist, but they run off three-phase power and aren’t portable. Even with a 22-inch wheel, the maximum cut is only 7 inches.

Blades and wheels

You'll find a huge variety of blades, from those designed to cut melamine and plastics to those for wood, aluminum, ceramics, and steel.

It's important to choose the right size blade for your machine. An undersize blade might fit, but it will drastically change cutting capacities and might foul the machine, which is very dangerous. Oversize blades can cause similar – and potentially equally harmful – problems.

With abrasive wheels, width is also important, though some chop saws have a degree of flexibility. Always follow the manufacturer’s instructions precisely. An abrasive wheel wears comparatively more quickly and has a minimum working diameter. It's a good idea to have a spare wheel handy.


Most chop saws are relatively portable, but the ones we looked at varied from under 20 pounds to over 40. If you're carrying it around a lot, you might want to take that into consideration.

A good wide base gives the necessary stability. Also look at how well it folds up. Some can be very compact.

Handles, clamps, and controls

It's likely that you'll be working with gloves on. If the saw’s controls and clamps are nice and chunky, you won't have to keep taking off a glove to make adjustments or operate the saw. An additional benefit is that this means you usually have a robust machine.

Quick-set vises, usually found on abrasive wheel and multi-purpose chop saws, are useful if you have lots of repetitive cuts to make. You can clamp material securely much more quickly, so you can work rapidly and safely.

Chop saw prices

There are always cheap chop saws available, but the accuracy or durability can be disappointing. Metal-cutting chop saws, in particular, need a solid structure to withstand the workload expected of them.

Miter saws

Good, medium-capacity, woodcutting miter saws start at around $80, so there's really no need to buy a poor-quality saw. At the other end of the scale, pro-standard double-bevel sliding compound models can reach $800, but that buys you a remarkable piece of machinery.

Abrasive and multi-purpose chop saws

These start at around $100, and while they can exceed $700, you'll find several reliable, high-performance machines in the $150 to $250 range.


  • Always wear face protection. When cutting wood, always wear goggles and a dust mask. When cutting steel, use a full-face mask to protect yourself from flying sparks.

  • Always wear gloves when cutting steel. Steel gets very hot when being cut.

  • Always use clamps to secure the workpiece when cutting.

  • Always make sure guards are working properly and in place. Don't be tempted to fix a guard in the up position so you can see the work better.

  • Always think about what you're doing. Check things twice. If a chop saw can cut through wood and metal with ease, what will it do to your fingers?

  • Never slow the blade by running it into a piece of scrap. Let the blade come to rest at its own speed.

  • Never work with a damaged blade. The blade or wheel should make a clear note while cutting. If it doesn't, it could be loose or damaged. Replace it immediately.
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Multi-purpose blades can be great all-rounders, but if you're cutting a lot of plastics or composites, you'll get a faster, cleaner cut if you buy a blade specifically made for each material.


Q. What's the difference between a chop saw, a circular saw, and a table saw?

A. While all three are based on a rapidly rotating blade, portability and the type of material each is best suited for are what differentiate them.

  • Chop saw: On a chop saw, the blade has a rise-and-fall action. You clamp the workpiece on the saw's base and “chop” down through it. It’s great for small- to medium-section lumber or metal, but it can't be used on sheet material.

  • Circular saw: A circular saw is extremely portable. You hold it in your hand, take it to the work, and slice through the material. This is a very versatile tool, great for sheet material, but it has limited depth of cut. This is an indispensable jobsite saw, but it isn’t easy to be accurate with one.

  • Table saw: A table saw is a circular blade set into a table, which can be large enough to support whole 8’ x 4’ sheets of material. Often thought of as a cabinetmaker's saw, it provides a sturdy platform for accurate cutting of sheet and section lumber. High-quality portable versions exist, but you do sacrifice some capacity.

Q. How can a chop saw with a maximum cut of 3.75” claim to saw through 2” x 4” lumber?

A. The confusion comes from the actual size of dimensioned (smooth-finished) lumber. When the tree is first sawed in a lumber yard, the piece measures 2" x 4". However, before it reaches the store, it's planed to give it a smooth, ready-to-use finish, and this reduces the dimensions, so 2” x 4” (called the “nominal” size) actually measures 1.5” x 3.5”. Similar reductions happen with all dimensioned lumber. You can find charts of nominal versus actual sizes online.

Q. Can I buy a metal-cutting blade for a woodworking miter saw?

A. You can, but it might not be the best solution. Aluminum and brass are fairly soft metals, and blades are available specifically for cutting nonferrous metals. However, steel is very hard. Although you can probably find diamond-impregnated blades to fit a standard miter saw, cutting steel requires much more force and can generate tremendous heat. There's a real risk of damaging your saw. We recommend either a multi-purpose chop saw or one with an abrasive wheel.

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