What is a Chop Saw and What is it Used For?

If you’re into woodworking, chances are you’ve heard of a chop saw. A chop saw is a power saw designed to cut wood, metal, or plastic into various shapes and sizes. It is an invaluable tool that can help you make angled cuts with ease, and is perfect for any project requiring precise cuts.

In this post, we answer all your questions about what a chop saw is and what it is used for. It goes over the different types of chop saws available and the various features they have to offer. We also provide helpful tips on how to use a chop saw safely and effectively. But first, let’s review some basic information about what a chop saw is and how it works.

What is a Chop Saw?

construction worker cutting materials with a chop saw 

A chop saw is a stationary power saw with a circular blade. It has a spinning blade on an arm and is connected to a motor which turns the blade quickly and accurately. The combination of the spinning blade and the powerful motor allow for efficient and accurate cutting of materials such as wood, plastic, metal, and other materials used in construction projects. It is typically mounted on an adjustable base, allowing it to make various angles when cutting materials. It is capable of making rip cuts, cross cuts, miter cuts, bevels and other special cuts, and can handle both thick and thin materials.

Types of Chop Saws

There are several different types of chop saws available on the market today, each with its own unique design and function. The most common types are:

Circular Chop Saw

A circular chop saw typically has a circular blade attached to a fixed arbor or arm that spins rapidly when powered on. The arm moves up and down to make cuts. This type of saw is best suited for making cross cuts or rips in thick pieces of wood or metal.

Miter Chop Saw

A miter chop saw usually has an extended arm that swivels in two directions with a miter base attached to it. You can easily adjust it to make angled cuts.

With this chop saw, you can make miter cuts at various angles by tilting the blade in any desired direction. It is useful for cutting materials used in trimming projects like crown molding or door frames.

Compound Miter Chop Saw

A compound miter chop saw offers more flexibility than its counterparts by adding an additional axis to the miter chop saw. You can use it to make angled cuts as well as bevel cuts in the material.

It is useful for intricate cuts like those required for window casing or cabinet trimming projects.

What is a Chop Saw Used For?

sparks fly as a chop saw cuts through metal rods 

A chop saw is known for its easy operation and precise cutting ability, making it ideal for a wide range of applications. Common types of cuts made with a chop saw include crosscuts, rips, miters, and bevels.


A cross cut involves slicing through material at 90° along its length. They are commonly done using a rip fence attached to the workpiece and pushed against the blade for accuracy and consistency in each stroke.


A rip cut involves slicing through material at any angle up to 90 degrees along its width. They are usually made using a rip fence attached to the workpiece and pushed against the blade for accuracy and consistency in each stroke.


A miter cut involves carving out an angled slice from one end of the workpiece to create an angled edge. They are typically used for trim work or decorative applications like crown molding or frame corners on doors or windows.


A bevel cut involves slicing off material at an angle other than 90 degrees along both its length and width at once. It creates an angled edge that can be used for decorative applications like cornice boards or corner trim around windows or doors.

How to Operate a Chop Saw

woodworker preparing to cut a wooden board with chop saw 

When working with a chop saw, there are several steps you will need to take to ensure safe and efficient operation.

Safety Precautions

Before operating the saw, it is important to follow all safety guidelines in your manufacturer’s manual. Make sure all power cords are properly connected, the blade guard is securely fastened, and the blade is correctly installed. Wear gloves, protective eyewear, and a dust mask to protect yourself from the sawdust.

Setting Up the Saw

Before starting to use the saw, create a stable workspace that won’t move or shake while you are cutting. Adjust all parts as necessary for operation. Begin by properly positioning your material according to where and how you want it cut. Now tighten the fence clamp securely on either side of the material. After taking all necessary safety precautions, turn on the power switch and adjust the speed and angle of the blade as needed.

Cutting Materials

When cutting with a chop saw, use firm pressure on both hands for steady control. For cutting, gently lower the spinning blade onto your material. Make sure to keep your hands clear away from the blade and allow it to naturally finish its full rotation before stopping it after each cut. Keep an even grip on the material and don’t force it against the spinning blades.

Making Special Cuts

When performing special cuts such as miters or bevels, start by adjusting the miter gauge according to your desired angle. Now make passes along each side of the workpiece toward its center until they meet at the corner.

If you are making bevel cuts, adjust both miter gauge and bevel gauge before making consecutive slicing strokes on each side of your material. Keep going until they meet at their anticipated corner point.

Safety Considerations When Using a Chop Saw

Woman wearing protective gear while using a chop saw

To ensure a safe and successful use of the chop saw, it is important to understand the basics of operating the tool and to take the necessary safety precautions.

Using the Right Tool:

Ensure that your work piece is appropriate for use with a chop saw. Make sure that material being worked on fits correctly within size constraints provided by the manufacturer. Also choose blades according to size requirements needed for particular projects.

Goggles and Mask:

Always wear protective eyewear and a dust mask when operating this type of power tool. They help protect you from potential debris that may be kicked up during use.

Strong Grip:

The importance of having a strong grip during operation cannot be overstated. Maintain tight control over your workpiece when cutting with a chop saw. For increased stability, ensure that both your hands remain in contact with the material during operation.

Clean Cuts:

Make sure that you take clean cuts with each pass. This will help avoid any potentially dangerous kickback which can occur if too much pressure is used or when uneven cuts take place. Using a blade size that corresponds to the thickness of the material helps guarantee cleanest results possible.

Chop Saw Buying Guide

closeup of a chop saw blade 

When selecting a chop saw for purchase, there are several factors you should consider. We discuss the most important ones below:

Power Rating 

As a general rule, the higher the power rating (in amps), the more powerful the saw will be. A higher power chop saw might cut faster, but may also generate higher energy costs if you plan on using your chop saw frequently or for extended periods of time. Keep this in mind and choose a model that offers a good combination of power and cost-effectiveness.

Blade Size 

Most standard circular-blade chop saws come equipped with 7.25 inches blades. However, some specialty blades are available in other sizes too. Make sure to check the thickness of the material you are planning to work on to determine which size blade is the best for your use.


If you want a greater control over your cuts, look for models that allow both the height and angle adjustment of the blade. With an adjustable chop saw, you won’t have to waste time in switching out blades between different tasks or projects.

Safety Features 

Since safety features vary between different models, research each product carefully before making your purchase decision. Look for models with electric brakes and electric guards, and a machine with heavy-duty construction to ensure years of reliable use.


Chop saws are incredibly versatile tools capable of performing complicated cuts in various materials quickly and accurately. From precision cuts in wood pieces for furniture creation all the way down to framing metals or trimming plastics, they are perfect for both professional workshops and home DIY projects alike!

A proper selection criteria will help you get the best chop saw for your woodworking needs. While understanding the safety precautions and having knowledge of suitable adjustments will help you put it to best use.