Should I buy a miter saw vs table saw? Have you asked yourself this question recently? If so, it’s probably because you want to take your woodworking hobby up a notch or two. And you’ve decided to invest in a power saw for your home workshop. But you’ve got a dilemma — which type of saw — miter or table saw — is best for your job?
Investing in power saws for a home workshop is an excellent idea. A table or miter saw can eliminate much of the backbreaking work it takes to cut lumber with a hand saw. But not only that. Using a power saw means you can cut with more precision and accuracy. You can say “goodbye” to wavy, poorly cut edges and say “hello” to clean, crisp, well-fitting pieces of timber.
This article explains the key differences between a miter saw and a table saw. At the end of the article, you should have a better idea of which type of saw best fits your woodworking needs.
Miter Saw vs Table Saw — Overview
The main difference between a miter saw and table saw is the positioning of the circular saw blade. A miter saw has a rotating blade attached to a swing arm that you lower to make angled cuts on the work-piece. A table saw has the cutting blade protruding out through a slit in a flat surface.
What is a Miter Saw?
A miter saw is a power saw with a circular blade designed to cut wood at angles. The rotating saw is mounted on a pivot arm that you adjust to specific angles. The feature of a miter saw allows you to make more precise miter cuts.
The beauty of using a miter saw is that the cutting blade is adjustable. You can move the blade to the left or right and tilt it from top to bottom. A miter saw allows you to make two types of cuts — straight cross cuts and angled compound cuts.
One of the immediate things you notice about a miter saw is that it’s portable and sits on a workbench. Of course, in a workshop, you can attach a miter saw to the workbench to make it a permanent addition. But suppose you want to work outdoors or at a job site. In that case, a miter saw is portable enough to take with you.
Types of miter saws
- Standard miter saw: A moderately priced option ideal for simple miter cuts at a 45-degree or 90-degree angle.
- Compound miter saw: Ideal if you must make bevel cuts and compound cuts at complex angles. It gives you more versatility than a standard miter saw.
- Sliding compound miter saw: The best option if you require making compound cuts and want to work with larger pieces of wood.
What is a Table Saw?
A table saw has a circular cutting blade built into the table. The saw protrudes through a slit in the table’s surface and is driven by a belt attached to a motor. You generally use a table saw for making rip cuts. However, you can also use it for bevel cuts, crosscutting, and making grooves.
Table saw blades can also be adjusted to change the cutting height. There are also fences and grooves on the table surface for attachments to perform various cuts. For example, you can attach a miter gauge to make angled cuts.
However, the advantage of using a table saw is when making long cuts in large work pieces. For example, a table saw makes cutting large sheets of plywood or a long piece of timber easy. All you need to do is gently push the work piece into the spinning blade to slice through it.
A table saw is an essential tool for any workshop, whether it be a professional one or not. It is used for general cutting purposes — especially when working with large pieces of lumber. The table provides the support necessary for cutting, whereas the saw blades efficiently slice through the wood.
Some table saws are portable, making them great for taking to the job site or working outdoors. However, they aren’t as portable as a miter saw. Here are a few types of tables saws to choose from.
Types of table saws:
- Benchtop table saw: Perfect for a small workshop where space is limited. You can rip through medium-sized boards.
- Portable table saw: The best option if you have large projects and require moving the saw between job sites. Ideal for DIY and small construction projects.
- Jobsite table saw: Suitable for professional, heavy-duty carpentry and construction. The integrated stand and wheels make it portable and relatively robust.
- Contractor table saw: This table saw is typically suitable for professional-grade woodworking or large-scale home improvements.
- Cabinet table saw: The most powerful and expensive type of table saw. However, it has a large rip capacity and is extremely accurate. Suitable for any size of woodworking project.
The Main Differences Between a Miter Saw vs Table Saw
There are four factors differentiating a miter saw and a table saw. These are accuracy, portability, versatility, and the size of timber your can cut. This means that each type of saw has its own uses. So, knowing the difference between the two types of saws can help you choose the best one.
Portability of the Two Saws
Portability is one of the primary differences between a miter saw and a table saw. Although some table saws have wheels to move them around, they are typically considered stationary saws. Typically, table saws have a cast iron or steel surface and a large motor, sometimes enclosed in a cabinet.
Most miter saws weigh around 50 or 60 lbs. and are easy to load in the back of a truck.
Making precise crosscuts and miter cuts is one of the reasons joiners or carpenters use a miter saw. The base of the saw has specific angles you can set and secure. Also, the wood is firmly held against the fences. Because the wood is not in motion — only the blade — the cut is cleaner and crisper.
In addition, you can precisely set the angles you require.
One of the issues with the precision of a table saw is that the cut edges tend to rough and jagged. While this isn’t an issue with some types of cabinet making or joinery, it’s not ideal for precision woodwork.
Versatility is one of the advantages of a table saw. First, it is the ideal type of saw for cutting large pieces of wood — something a miter saw struggles with. However, it’s good to note that a table saw can make any cut you can make with a miter saw. All you need to do is purchase the right accessories to make complex cuts with a table saw.
Length of cut
Another difference between a table saw and a miter saw is the types of cuts you can make. Because of its design, a miter saw isn’t ideal for long rip cuts. The blade of a miter saw cuts across the grain, and you bring it down to cut the work piece rather than running it horizontally along the wood.
Pros and Cons of a Miter Saw
When choosing between a miter saw and a table saw, one isn’t better than the other. This is because each saw has its specific use in joinery and carpentry. Therefore, it’s helpful to know the pros and cons of a miter saw to decide which one is the right saw for you.
Miter saw: Pros
- Precision tool for trimming and making angular cuts
- It’s possible to lock in the angle for repeated accurate crosscuts
- The blade moves, rather than the work piece, making cuts cleaner
- Lightweight and portable
- Cheaper to buy than a table saw
- It’s relatively safe to use
Miter saw: Cons
- Limited cutting capacity
- General cuts can take longer to make
- Not suitable for cutting wide materials
- Not ideal is you primarily rip long pieces of timber
Pros and Cons of a Table Saw
The pros and cons of a table saw depend on the type of woodworking jobs you have. In some respects, the table saw has significant advantages compared to a miter saw. But will it suit your needs? Here are some pros and cons to think about.
Table saw: Pros
- Ideal for making straight, long, precise cuts
- With the right accessories, you can make bevel, miter, and groove cuts
- The large surface supports large pieces of wood
- Suitable for most workshops
- Some portable table saws are ideal if you move between job sites
Table saw: Cons
- Large and bulky
- Challenging to make precise cuts
- The work piece and blade move, causing cuts to be more ragged
- Prone to accidents
- Table saws are expensive and are a significant investment
How to Use a Miter Saw
A miter saw is best if you must cut precise miters and bevels. For example, a miter saw is perfect for furniture railings, frames, edgings, moldings, and picture frames. Therefore, using a miter saw is best when working with any type of timber where precise, angled cuts are crucial.
Conclusion — if you have complex woodworking projects, then it’s wise to invest in a good-quality miter saw.
How to Use a Table Saw
A table saw is best if you need a regular circular saw for general-purpose cuts. For example, you can use the table saw to cut long wood pieces. Also, you can efficiently deal with large timber sheets like ply-board and MDF. Using the table saw means you can quickly cut through large quantities of wood, saving time and improving accuracy.
It’s good to remember that you can use a table saw for making any type of cut. Therefore, it is relatively versatile. The decision comes down to the volume of work you have.
Conclusion — a table saw is better for cutting large amounts of wood. You also have the option to cut bevels and miters if necessary.
Essential Facts to Consider When Buying a Miter Saw vs Table Saw
Despite knowing the pros and cons of a miter saw and a table saw, it can still be challenging to choose between them. So, let’s “cut to the chase” and learn the essential factors to consider when buying a table or miter saw.
Size of wood: What types of cuts will you typically require the power saw for? If it’s mostly angled cuts, then choose the miter saw. However, a table saw is the best option if you need to slice through wide, long pieces of lumber.
Space: How much space do you have in a workshop? Suppose space is limited or you do woodworking in a garage or outbuilding. In that case, a miter saw will be easier to use. On the other hand, a table saw takes up considerable space. So, you’ll need to determine how much room you have available.
Experience: Are you just getting started with your woodworking hobby? If so, buying a miter saw is the best choice. It is cheaper than a table saw and easier to use. However, a table saw will be a great asset if you are expanding your hobby or going professional.
Miter Saw vs Table Saw — FAQs
Can I use a miter saw like a table saw?
No, a miter saw and a table saw have different purposes. Basically, a miter saw is only for making short-angle cuts up to the width of the blade. However, you cannot use a miter saw like a table saw for cutting sheets of plywood or ripping boards into narrower boards.
Therefore, miter saws are not a good substitute, or cheaper alternative to a table saw.
Do I need a table saw if I have a miter saw?
The answer depends on what type of lumber you cut. A miter saw won’t handle many of the jobs a table saw can tackle. Therefore, you will need to buy a table saw if you must rip through large sheets of timber. Of course, you could buy a handheld circular saw as a cheaper alternative to the table saw.
Which saw is best for DIY projects?
A miter saw is the best type to buy for most DIY projects. For example, you can use the precision circular saw to cut miters and bevels on moldings, large crown moldings, baseboards, furniture, window frames, and edging.
What can I use instead of a table saw?
But suppose you decide a table saw is too expensive for your home workshop. What type of saw can you use instead? The obvious alternative to a table saw is a circular saw. This affordable power saw is ideal for ripping long boards.
Another type of saw you can use on large pieces of lumber is a jigsaw. While cutting in a perfectly straight line is more challenging, a small handheld jigsaw is a versatile tool and valuable for rip cuts.
Conclusion — Which is Best: A Miter Saw vs Table Saw
You should have a good idea of whether a miter saw or table saw is best for your home workshop. The decision typically rests on your reasons for purchasing a power tool for cutting wood.
A miter saw is the best option for small DIY projects where precision is essential. Apart from being extremely accurate, it is easy to use for making various angled cuts. Miter saws also have a friendly price point, making them affordable for most DIY hobbyists.
If you work with large volumes of wood and need to rip long timber and wide boards, consider your options for buying a table saw. This robust, sturdy piece of kit gives you an excellent work surface in your workshop. Additionally, you will be able to make a variety of cuts — everything that you can do with a miter saw.
I’m Thomas Steven with more than 12 years of experience in woodworking. It has always been my passion to become a successful woodworker. I have completed hundreds of successful projects. This blog is a way of sharing my woodworking experiences and what tools get the best results. I write about woodworking while being an associate with Amazon and I earn a little commission from every qualifying purchase.