Table saw or miter saw, which is better for my job? Table Saw vs Miter Saw; Which saw should I get first and which one for the beginner? Do I need miter saw if I already own a table saw?
Allow me to answer all these questions and more.
It can be tempting, especially with expensive power tools like power saws or other kinds of tools that can cost hundreds of dollars, to just buy one tool and use it for every job. This is the wrong approach to take and it can lead to subpar work. Having the right tool for the job is absolutely essential for producing quality work. So, it is important for both hobbyists and experts to understand exactly what each specialty power tool is good for and why they need it.
In this article, we will look at the difference between a table saw and a miter saw. When should you use one and when should you use the other? Who should get a table saw and who should get a miter saw? I will answer all these questions and more.
Miter Saw vs Table Saw – Pros and Cons
Before I explain the difference between the table saw vs miter saw, here is a quick comparison between the two.
Very precise and high repeatability
|Feature||Table Saw||Miter Saw|
|Versatility||Multi-purpose saw for all types of cuts||Specialty tool for trimming and angular cuts|
|Types of cuts||Ripping, crosscuts, angular cuts||Crosscuts, miter, bevel and compound cuts|
|Working Principle||Fixed blade position- Moving Stock||Moving blade – Fixed stock|
|Suitable for||Rip plywood, build cabinets and furniture||Framing, trim work, base or crown molding,|
|Who||Highly useful for woodworkers||Precision tool for carpenters|
What is a table saw?
Most of you who are familiar with handiwork, have seen a table saw up close before. So, you are probably pretty familiar with what a table saw is. For those who are not, a table saw is a flat table with a saw blade built into it, which allows you to make a variety of cuts. It is important not to get confused here; it is tempting to refer to everything as a “table saw,” but a table saw is a specific tool. A table saw will have a circular saw blade that is protruding out from the surface of the table through a slit. The blade that is fixed on a motor below the table can be raised and lowered.
Table saws are very common in most woodworking workshops, whether they belong to professionals or simply amateurs. Because of its versatility and its ability to do a wide variety of jobs, you will be hard-pressed to find a woodworker without one.
They also come in a variety of models, and it is possible to find both stationary and mobile table saws at any hardware store.
What is a miter saw?
A miter saw a machine tool with a circular blade fixed on a swing arm which can be brought down on to the work-piece to make the cut. A miter saw is similar in conception to a table saw in that it utilizes a rotating circular saw blade to cut wood. However, a miter saw is meant for a very specific purpose, while a table saw is a general purpose wood cutting tool.
Miter saws are specifically designed to make accurate crosscuts and angular cuts. They have a swing mounted blade which can be set to different angles. This allows the miter saw to make far more precise miter cuts. And in general, it gives the user more control over where they make their cuts. Miter saws are slightly less common than regular table saws. But you will still find one in any workshop worth its salt.
Differences between Table Saw and Miter Saw
The main difference between the two lies in function, accuracy, and portability.
As I said earlier, table saws are general purpose cutting tools. This means that they do a large variety of cuts, but it is not exactly precise. Where a table saw truly shines is its ability to make long rip-cuts and crosscuts.
A miter saw is a specialty power saw designed to make accurate crosscuts. For example, your average miter saw can really only make 6 to 8-inch cross cuts (this can vary quite a bit though depending on model). Obviously, this is a much smaller variety of cuts than a table saw can do. However, what the miter saw lacks in variety, it makes up for in pure execution.
How it works
In case of a table saw the rotating blade is in a fixed position. You will move the wood stock against the rotating blade to make the cut.
On the other hand, on a miter saw you will fix the stock on the table and bring the blade on to the wood to make the cut. With a sliding compound miter saw, you will also move the miter saw blade across the work-piece.
A miter saw is the absolute best option for those who need precision miter cuts and bevel cuts of wood or other softer materials like plastic. Yes, table saws can do the same cuts that miter saws can. However, if you use a table saw to try and make precision cuts, then the chances of making a mistake go up drastically. Likewise, using a table saw to make a precise compound cut is going to take a lot longer.
A table saw requires additional accessories like sled and miter gauge with extensions to make precise crosscuts and miter cuts.
Also worth noting is that miter saws are generally easier to move from place to place. So, if you want to do carry the saw different job locations, then you are best off going for either a mobile table saw (which is still fairly heavy and cumbersome) or a miter saw.
A miter with a rolling miter saw stand is highly portable and would come very handy for professionals.
In general, a table saw and a miter saw (assuming both are from a reputable brand) will probably end up costing you about the same, so cost is not really a major difference. However, please keep in mind that prices can vary from retailer to retailer, and so your specific hardware store or online retailer may have different prices for miter saws and table saws.
When to go for a table saw
If you are just doing some general purpose cutting, like saying cutting large boards of wood, then a table saw is the best option. Table saw is the best choice for long rip-cuts accurately. It will be able to quickly cut through large amounts of wood, which will obviously save you a lot of time down the road. Likewise, if you need to make crosscuts on short pieces of wood or cut up smaller wooden sheets, then a table saw is your best bet. Finally, any remodeling or carpentry work that you can think of is going to require a table saw.
Like I said earlier, a table saw can do most of the cuts a miter saw can with the help of sleds and miter gauge. However, it is going to be very time consuming and it is very easy to make mistakes when using a table saw for miter cuts. However, if you are confident in your abilities to make precise cuts with a table saw (or you have a good guide available to follow) then you should definitely do so.
When to go for a miter saw
If you are in need of very precise miter and bevel cuts, then that is the time to invest in a miter saw. Stuff like furniture rails, frames, edging, etc., are all precise jobs and will benefit from the miter saw’s accuracy and speed. Similarly, if you are doing a very complex project, then the chances are good that you will need a miter saw, so if you plan on doing any big projects in the future (like building a deck for example), then you should be investing in a good miter saw.
Who should buy what?
Are you a beginner looking forward to buy your first power saw? If you do not own a saw of any kind, then you should start off by getting a table saw. They are more versatile and far more useful for people who are just learning how to properly do carpentry or woodworking.
You should consider investing in a miter saw if you already own and are comfortable using the table saw. Do not get me wrong, miter saws can be extremely useful. But unless you are very experienced, it is far better to start off with a table saw and then work your way up to a miter saw. If you are a DIY enthusiast, you should always consider what project you are doing before you decide to make a purchase.
Carpentery vs Woodworking
I have heard beginners often using these two terms interchangeably. However, there is a difference.
A carpenter builds the house. Carpentry involves building window and door frames, trimming moldings etc. Hence a miter saw is a precision power tool for a carpenter.
On the other hand, woodworkers build furniture. Woodworking involves cutting large boards to size, ripping plywoods to build cabinets, deck etc. So in case of a woodworker, a table saw is the most useful cutting tool.
Table Saw Vs Miter Saw Infographic
For those who love to see the visual representation, here is the infographic version of this guide.
The above infographic contains only the key points that differentiate a miter saw from a table saw.
Table saw is more versatile compared to the miter saw. For most people, a good table saw should be the first power saw you should invest in. However, if you only need cut wide boards occasionally, get a good circular saw and an edge guide to trim the stock down.
Go for a miter saw if your work primarily involves precision miter and bevel cuts.
The following list of common projects should help you to choose between a table saw vs miter saw.
To rip pieces of plywood
Cut a wide board to make window, wainscoting etc.
To build furniture, cabinets and deck.
To make picture frames, door frames, window casing
For Cap molding, window trim
Cut crown molding, base molding
To build a bird feeder, small knick-knack shelf etc.
Ideally, you must get both table saw and miter saw. But if you must pick one, buy a good quality table saw.