Miter saws are incredibly powerful tools and can cut through many different materials. One question that does come up every so often is can a miter saw cut metal?
You may need to cut up some aluminum or other metals for your project, and you have a miter saw lying around, so can you just grab a sheet of metal, slide it into your miter saw, and start cutting?
Miter saws can cut metal, but not with the stock blades. The stock blades are designed to cut through wood, which is much softer than metal. To even think about cutting metal with a miter saw, the very least you need to do is change the blade to a metal cutting blade.
One more spanner in the works is that miter saws operate at very high RPMs which are suitable for cutting wood. Chop saws, which are designed to cut metal, operate at lower RPMs.
Can you cut metal with a miter saw?
The miter saw’s motor is very powerful and given that you have the right saw blade, you may be able to cut through some metals(not all). It also depends on how thick the piece of metal is.
As we mentioned above, the first and most important thing to do is to change the blade of your miter saw to something that can actually handle metals.
There are also some very important additional safety measures you need to take, which we’ll cover after talking about blades.
Which miter saw blades to use for cutting metal
Stock miter saw blades do a great job of cutting wood, which is what they are designed for.
However, if you try to use those blades to cut through metal, well, that’s a recipe for disaster.
Stock miter saw blades are designed to cut through wood at the RPMs that miter saw motors run at.
So before you raise your blade guard and even think about cutting metal with a miter saw, here are the blades you need to consider:
Aluminum Oxide Blades:
Aluminum oxide is very durable and heat resistant. Heat resistance is very important because the combination of high RPMs and metal generates a lot of friction. Aluminum Oxide is also used in abrasivse.
Diamond Blades have synthtetic diamonds on the edge. Diamond blades are certified to cut metals that have high proportions of iron in them. Don’t let the word diamond discourage you: synthetic diamonds have all the properties of real diamonds, but they’re made in a lab, so you can find them for quite cheap.
Carbide Blades are also very tough and are quite similar to diamond blades.
Generally speaking, if a blade is from a reputable manufacturer and the packaging says it is suitable for cutting metal, it should do the job.
Teeth per Inch or TPI
One more thing to remember about blades is TPI or teeth per inch. The more teeth a blade has, the more accurate the cuts will be. However, more teeth means the blade has to move at lower RPMS.
A good range for TPI to cut metal is between 8 to 24 depending on the thickness of the metal.
Some miter saw manufacturers go as far as to say the stock blade on the miter saw can cut through non-ferrous metal(meaning softer metals that don’t contain iron).
However, it’s better to not risk cutting metals using a blade designed for wood. You may be able to get away with a quick slice through aluminum or copper, though.
If you need to cut ferrous materials, YOU ABSOLUTELY MUST change the blade.
What if you forget to change the blade?
If you forget to change the blade, instead of cutting into the metal, the blade will end up rubbing against it very hard. This will result in a lot of friction and heat.
At best, you’ll see some sparks.
At worst, you’ll end up with a red-hot blade and/or metal that can start melting or dripping.
This is a serious safety hazard!
Bottom line: DO NOT forget to change the blade.
Should You Use A Miter Saw For Metal?
Considering that miter saws are not actually designed for metals and that there are serious safety considerations to take into account, you may wonder if it’s actually worth using a miter saw for metal at all.
The short answer is that a miter saw can make small cuts through metal if you have the right blade.
The long answer is that miter saws are not ideal for metals, so you should not use it as a permanent fixture for cutting metals in your shop.
Even when you do change the blade, constantly using it to cut metal will inevitably wear it down because metals are not supposed to be cut with such high RPMs.
You’ll find yourself spending a pretty penny on blade replacements!
Not only will you go through lots of blades, but you’ll also end up damaging the miter saw’s motor over the long run.
The bottom line?
Use a miter to saw to cut metals if it’s a one-off thing. But if you need to cut metals regularly, invest in a tool like a chop saw that is actually designed to cut metal.
Related: How to cut rebar
Safety tips for cutting metals with a miter saw
Because metal is much harder than wood, you need to take even more safety precautions when handling metals.
Essential safety tips
Before you put anything under tha blade, make sure that the work area is clean. Any additional debris can cause havoc because cutting metal will generate a lot more heat and friction than cutting wood.
It’s also essential to make sure there is no sawdust, wood, paper, or any flammable objects in the vicinty of the saw. Sparks will fly out when you start the cut, and you don’t want any spark to hit some sawdust and start a fire.
Also, work very slowly and steadily. Ease the blade down instead of pushing it hard. Pushing hard can result in a kickback.
Last but not least, make sure you wear essential safety gear. Wear thick gloves and cover your eyes.
Better ways to cut metal
Chop saws are specifically designed for metal. They can cut through metal for breakfast, lunch, and dinner.
Reciprocating saws are commonly used in demolition and are designed to cut through anything. However, they make very rough cuts, so they’re not idea for accuracy.
Circular saws are very versatile and can cut through metals using the right blade.
Angle grinders are also very powerful and with the right blade, they can even cut through stainless steel and cast iron.
Chop saws are the best choice for cutting metal, but they’re not cheap.
Consider the Makita LC1230 metal cutting saw:
- Carbide-tipped blade lasts 50x longer than abrasive wheels; cuts clean, accurate and virtually burr-free
- Quick release vise for secure material retention and fast, repeated cut-offs
- Lock-off button for user convenience
- Quick release support fence adjusts 0-45° for miter cutting
- Shaft lock for easy blade changes with just one wrench
Are Some Metals Easier to Cut Than Others?
Not all metals are the same: some metals are much easier to cut through than others. Thickness is a factor, but not so much as the overall hardness of the metal.
After all, if you can’t get through the first layer of the metal, you’re not going to get through the rest of the layers. Similarly, if you can cut through part of the metal, you should be able to cut through the rest.
Metals vary in hardness. Tin and aluminum are comparatively softer metals. Steel, cobalt, and iron are incredibly hard. Not only will these require a very tough blade, but it’s also better if you forgo the miter saw altogether and use a chop saw instead.
Non-ferrous metals are easy to cut:
Will Cutting Metal Damage My Miter Saw?
If you’re just going to make a couple of cuts here and there, your miter saw should not have any problems provided you are using the right kind of blade.
However, if you plan on cutting metal very often, then the blades will slowly wear down and your motors will also eventually bear a toll.
Another potential downside of cutting metal is if a small bit of metal were to fly out and get lodged in the innards of the saw somewhere, that could cause problems. Your motor can burn out trying to overcome the force of the metal.
Wood chippings are pulverized by the gears, but metal is a different story.
Cutting metal with a miter saw is not ideal for repeated use. You’ll need to invest in heavy-duty equipment designed specifically for cutting metals like a chop saw or even an angle grinder. While these tools are expensive, they’re worth the investment if you plan on cutting through metal often and want accurate cuts that will minimize your risk of injury when handling such sharp blades.