Table saws and miter saws are exceedingly popular among craftsmen, and are both immensely valuable power tools to have in a functional workshop. They are both utilized to make a multitude customary cuts to assist with completing an array of intricate woodworking projects.
But, what's the difference between these two power tools? And do you need both saws in your arsenal to succeed as a successful woodworker?
Well, that's exactly what this in-depth article uncovers providing a comprehensive breakdown between a table saw vs miter saw. We go over their key differences and help you determine which saw is right for you and how you'd go about using them in the correct application.
Understanding how to use a miter saw and table saw effectively and efficiently will go a long way in terms of fast-tracking your progression as a woodworker.
So without further ado, lets get into it so you can create some sawdust and something cool with your new preferred power tool.
What is the Difference Between a Miter Saw and a Table Saw?
Table saws are predominantly used to carry out more sizable cuts, thus allowing you to perform rip cuts far more effectively than with any other saw.
With this ravenous powerhouse in your workshop, you'll be able to rip lengthy wooden boards with a table saw at a relatively quick pace, and most importantly, with sheer accuracy.
Miter saws on the other hand, whether they're a single bevel vs dual bevel miter saw are better utilized for cutting wooden materials at particular angles for specific applications. Think crown molding or picture frame cutting jobs.
Whether it's a straightforward cross-cut, miter cut, and or bevel cut, a miter saw can take on any angle with absolute ease.
Although miter saws are superb for cutting materials at different angles, they are extremely limited when it comes to cutting wide boards.
In any workshop, a miter saw might be considered more of a luxury than a necessity when compared to a table saw. But if you're looking for a saw to cut baseboard trim, a miter saw will do so to perfection.
That said, having both saws on-hand in your workshop will be a complete game-changer for any serious craftsman.
So, let's dive a little deeper and take a look at each saws defining characteristics, and what you would primarily use either of these wood butchering beasts for.
What is a Miter Saw Used for?
Miter saws excel with miter and bevel cuts. If you're in search of a power saw that can cut lumber into precise sections with absolute precision, a miter saw will be a valuable addition to your tool collection.
Miter saws are most frequently used to cut baseboard molding or crown molding as they cut both accurately and swiftly make the required angle cuts for such DIY jobs.
With a miter saw, the length of your cut can only be as long as the diameter of the blade. The reason is that the blade moves while the wood remains stationary. There is one exception. As noted, a standard miter saw can only make cuts as long as the diameter of the blade.
However, a sliding miter saw lets you make longer cuts. It can do so because you can pull it towards you in addition to pulling it down. The length of cuts it can make is still limited, but it offers more flexibility than a standard miter saw.
Miter saws come with different blade diameters, usually either 7.5 inches, 10 inches, or 12 inches.
Because the blade’s diameter limits how long cuts can be, a miter saw is more suitable for wood pieces with smaller widths. It is excellent for straight crosscuts of 2x4s and other small pieces of lumber.
As its name implies, a miter saw is also suitable for miters. To make a miter cut, you can adjust the miter adjustment at the front of the table. This adjustment will rotate the saw head to create angles up to 45 degrees.
Additionally, if you have a dual bevel miter saw, you can make bevel cuts in either direction by merely rotating the saw head. That said, most modern miter saws are compound and at least let you combine both the miter and bevel functions.
As you can see, a miter saw is relatively versatile. You can use it to cut up slender planks into even pieces. Thanks to its ability to make miters and bevels, a miter saw is also suitable for molding, creating picture frames, installing trim work, and crown molding.
How Does a Miter Saw Work?
A miter saw consists of a base and a circular blade attached to a swing arm. The saw has a protective guard that covers the blade. As the user lowers the swing arm to make a cut, the guard covering the blade retracts. The guard is there to protect your hand and redirect dust from the saw.
A trigger on the handle turns the blade on and off. Squeezing the trigger causes the blade to spin, and releasing the trigger stops the blade. The blade always spins towards the rear of the saw.
Another essential component of the miter saw is its fence. The fence runs perpendicular to the circular blade and ensures a clean, accurate cut. There is a split in the fence so that the blade can make cuts.
Here's the exact step-by-step process for making a basic cut with a miter saw:
- To make cuts with a miter saw, you must firmly hold the wood against the fence. You can use a clamp to prevent the wood from shifting.
- Then, press the trigger while pulling the swing arm down that is attached to the saw head and let the blade ramp up to full speed.
- Once the blade is spinning at full speed, make contact with the wood. Pull down so that the blade passes entirely through the wood.
- Release the trigger and wait until the blade comes to a complete stop before returning the arm to its resting position.
Note that a miter saw does not offer support on either side of the wood. If you are working with a long piece, you might want to use a miter saw with table for support.
What is a Table Saw Used for?
Although both power tools use a circular blade, a table saw is quite different from a miter saw.
For one, its blade protrudes out of the table where it rests. A guard covers the blade, and a riving knife reduces the chance of kickback. The insert plate near the blade provides a cleaner cut and prevents pieces from getting stuck. The saw has a dust port that you can connect to a bag to keep your workshop clean.
When cutting, the table saw blade remains stationary while the user guides the wood. This method provides you with control. With the crank, you can adjust the height of the blade for greater precision. It also allows you to cut woods of different thicknesses.
With a table saw, supporting the piece you're cutting is a must. If you are making rip cuts, use a rip fence. If you are making crosscuts, insert a miter gauge into the miter slide.
You can adjust the angle of the miter gauge if you need to make accurate angled cuts with a table saw. Using a table saw with miter gauges also lets you perform bevel cuts, although it has a somewhat limited capacity for doing so.
That said, a table saw is best for making straight cuts on large pieces of wood. It can make angled and beveled cuts, but these kinds of cuts are more accurate with a miter.
Table saw users also find that specialty cuts require more time to set up and knowledge to perform correctly. If you don't know what you're doing, angled cuts with table saws can be dangerous.
What Can a Miter Saw Do that a Table Saw Can't?
So when comparing these two saws, what does a miter saw do that a table saw can't? Well, when considering whether to choose a miter saw vs table saw, you should think about what each can offer. So, what can a miter saw do that a table saw can't?
For one, miter saws are much more compact. They are perfect for your workshop as they won't take up a lot of room. And, miter saws are portable! They are small and light enough to transport. You can take them with you on job sites, set them up on a work table, or work them on the bed of your truck.
A miter saw also has a leg up thanks to all the different kinds of cuts it can make. It can quickly make crosscuts, miters, bevels, and more. That said, it is limited in terms of the size of lumber you can cut depending on the size of your miter saw.
A table saw can make many of the same kinds of cuts as a miter saw. However, making specialty cuts with a table saw takes longer, can be tricky, and isn't accurate. If you're planning on cutting 4x4 posts in a single pass, you're going need a miter saw, not a table saw.
Table saws are advantageous because they let you cut large pieces of wood such as MDF sheets. They are also capable of making long 45-degree cuts, which isn't possible with a miter saw.
Should I Buy a Miter Saw or Table Saw?
If you are new to woodworking, a miter saw is your best bet. They are perfect for creating accurate cuts, angles, and bevels. They tend to be less of an investment and won't take up much room in your workshop.
And, because miter saws are portable, you can use it for projects outside your workshop.
Table saws are better for more advanced woodworkers. They provide lots of flexibility as you can use them to cut large pieces of wood. As long as you know what you're doing, you can use a table saw to create angles and bevels.
Table saws are well worth the investment and will become a staple in your workshop. If you're looking to get a better understanding of what table saw to buy, I'd recommend bypassing the high-priced cabinet table saws, and first buy a portable or benchtop table saw.
While cabinet table saws are incredible saws that have no limitations, they are very expensive and might not provide the best bang-for-your-buck as a beginner.
Once you decide between a miter saw and a table saw, you have to pick which model you want! There are tons of miter saws and table saws on the market. Below, we briefly review our top recommendation for each:
What is the Best Table Saw?
The SKILSAW SPT99-12 10" Worm Drive Table Saw is honestly unmatched in terms of build quality in the table saw department.
Unlike most table saws, the SKILSAW SPT99-12 is very portable, yet at the same time, it can make every cut you'd expect a table saw to make. The added bonus is that you can take it with you to job sites and set it up on a table or truck bed.
Despite being light and portable, this saw is highly durable. Its all-metal construction allows it to withstand wear and tear on job sites. The saw is on the pricier side but is well worth the investment as it will last you for years to come.
Another thing we like about this table saw is its power. It has plenty of torque to cut through thick, tough materials. It has a 25-inch rip capacity and a 2.625-inch depth of cut. With its patented Dual-Field Motor that prevents burnouts, the table saw can withstand long periods of use.
This saw is perfect for cutting large pieces as you can quite easily extend the table size by purchasing an extension or DIY'ing and create your own.
As long as you use the proper cutting techniques and get some practice in, you can use this table saw to make a wide range of cuts, including angled cuts.
- A heavy-duty worm drive table saw engineered to absolute perfection by the legendary SKILSAW®
- Equipped with a powerful Dual-Field™ motor that can operate under excessive load for extended periods.
- With a 30-½ inch rip capacity, and 3-⅝ in. depth of cut, you'll be able to tear through darn anything with precision.
- Super lightweight yet heavy-duty steel design that weighs only 14 lbs. is very mobile with its 16-inch rubber wheels.
What is the Best Miter Saw?
The DEWALT DWS 779 Sliding Compound Miter Saw is the king of miter saws in 2020. While its 12-inch blade make the saw slightly bulkier to store, it does offer way more versatility than a 7.5-inch or 10-inch miter saw.
Because it is a sliding saw, it can cut pieces slightly wider than 12 inches. In terms of thickness, it can cut wood up to 6.75 inches thick. Every crosscut, angle cut, and bevel cut is accurate thanks to its exclusive back fence design.
We also like this saw from DEWALT because of its efficient dust collection system. It captures over 75% of the dust that the saw generates!
When considering the the DeWalt DWS780 compared to the SKILSAW SPT99-12, the latter is really better for beginners looking to make basic cuts. The fact that it's portable enough to move around will allow you to make a variety of cuts easily.
- Incredibly powerful 15 amp belt-driven motor that generates up to 3800 RPM.
- Superbly crafted stainless steel detent plate with 10 positive stops for increased accuracy.
- Extended sliding fence supports up to 7-1/2" which is beneficial for large projects like; crown molding.
- Includes a high-quality DeWalt 12-inch blade so you're good-to-go right out of the box.
- Swiftly miter right at up to 60° and at 50° to the right, with the push of a button.
Can a Table Saw Cut Angles?
When a woodworker wants to make an angled cut, they usually reach for a circular saw or miter saw. However, a table saw can also make angled cuts.
To cut angles with a table saw, you will have to use the miter gauge. Table saws have built-in miter slides and usually come with a miter gauge. Once you insert the miter gauge into the slider, adjust the gauge to the angle of the cut you want to make.
As with a miter saw, table saws also have options for creating bevels.
Remember that angled cuts with table saws aren't as accurate as they are with a miter saw or circular saw than with a table saw.
Although, one way you can improve accuracy is by purchasing a separate miter gauge. High-end ones are expensive but tend to be much more accurate than the gauge that came with your table saw.
While there's not much of a debate between woodworkers when it comes to a table saw vs circular saw in regards to which tool is better for angled cuts, the discussion ends when what tool is considered the better all-rounder to have in your workshop.
Is a Miter Saw Really Worth it?
In comparing miter saw vs table saw, many people think they should jump right to a table saw. They believe that because it lets you cut pieces of any size, it's the best option.
However, a table saw comes with its fair share of burdens. You need knowledge and patience to make specialty cuts. You have to have enough space in your workshop for it. And it can be much more dangerous to use.
So, even though a miter saw can only make cuts so long, it is well worth the buy. It quickly makes angled cuts, making it perfect for picture frames, trim work, and crown molding.
Hell, with the right blade attached, you can even cut metal with a miter saw. Although, I'd still recommend using a chop saw for cutting metal, even though they can cut non-ferrous metals with a few upgrades.
Best of all, miter saws have a lower risk of kickback and don't require advanced knowledge to make angled cuts. Miter saws are a safer choice for beginners.
In Conclusion: Miter Saw vs Table Saw
If you are a beginner, we recommend a miter saw. It is super safe to use and lets you make straight, angled, and beveled cuts with ease.
More advanced woodworkers will probably prefer a table saw. Table saws can cut large pieces, and as long as you have the knowledge, you can also make angled and beveled cuts.
Whatever saw you choose to become the centerpiece of your workshop, always take the necessary safety precautions.
Although you could make a variety of cuts, including miter cuts without a miter saw or table saw, using either or on a regular basis will allow you to build woodworking projects at scale.
If you strive to make use of all the saw's failsafe features, you'll be on your way to completing a successful woodworking project with perfect, precise lines. Best of luck!