Miter Saw Vs. Table Saw – Which is Right for Your Needs?

If you are going to use utilizing a miter saw or a table saw for a project, it is crucial to understand the difference between the two. Those who do not have access to both types of saws but plan to take on a DIY project may be curious which is the best option for them, both now and in the future. Building up a toolkit of useful tools is something that often takes time but is important for completing projects in the best way possible.

In this article, we are going to look at the miter saw and the table saw so you have the information you need to choose which is the right tool for your needs. Not every project will have the same requirements so it’s important to choose the right option to ensure the accuracy of your project and determine how long the project will take in sum.

The Miter Saw

The miter saw is a specific tool that allows you to make cuts of various angles. The saw consists of a blade which is mounted on a swing, which allows for cuts that run left or right. A miter saw is often used for items like photo frames, door frames, and crown molding which require that more precise angled cut.

One of the most popular saws on the market today is the miter saw. This is also why many people question whether they also need a table saw if a miter saw is present. The name of the saw comes from the fact that it is traditionally used to cut miters. Remodelers, carpenters, and contractors often make use of this precision tool. It is capable of cutting plastics, aluminum, and concrete and can easily provide 45-degree angle cuts. There are multiple types of miter saws, which we will cover later in this article.

Pros:

  • Capable of producing accurate trim work in a limited amount of time.
  • Often considered to be a safe option than the table saw.
  • Miter saws are often more affordable than the alternative.
  • Kickback is traditionally not a problem.
  • Many offer a brake system to cut the power immediately.
  • Are a portable option that can be used or stored nearly anywhere.
  • Offers the best miter and bevel cuts possible.
  • Safer in operation than a table saw is.

Cons:

  • Less accurate for ripping or making longer cuts.
  • Many models have less power than the table saw.
  • May not hold up as well as the alternatives.
  • Does not cut large stock as well as the table saw.
  • Less than ideal for rip or lengthwise cuts.

The Table Saw

As for the table saw, it is also an extremely popular saw for many projects. Those who are do-it-yourselfers often own this saw because it is seen as being versatile and appropriate for many tasks. Just like with the miter saw, the table saw also comes in many different designs. The table saw is able to be used for many woodworking projects and is a versatile tool for those tasks.

You can expect to see a table saw as a common item in any work room and can be one of the largest purchases made by a homeowner or DIY participant. It makes a great option for many, but it is critical to understand the different types of table saws before purchase. Some will likely fit your needs better than others. As far as the options out there, you can expect to find hundreds of brands and types out there so there is truly something for everyone.

Pros:

  • Versatile tool that can do almost anything adequately.
  • Can work with long and thick wood with no issues whatsoever.
  • Ideal for nearly any sort of project due to higher power and larger range of options.
  • Can handle angles with a miter gauge and a dose of practice.
  • Does better with sheet materials than a miter saw is able to.

Cons:

  • Can cause you to experience kickback due to large range of wood that can be used.
  • Does not offer a large selection of guards.
  • Requires an extra tool in order to handle angled cuts well.
  • Significantly more expensive than a miter saw.
  • More dangerous than the alternative in most cases.
  • Requires a much larger workshop space.

Differences Between the Miter and Table Saw

Both of these saws are popular and useful, which may be part of why people become confused about which saw they should rent or buy. Knowing the differences between the two can offer you better insight into which fits your specific needs.

With the miter saw, only crosscuts can be done. It offers an accurate cut on boards of up to about 6 inches with a 10 inch saw and 8 inches with a 12 inch saw. This type of saw can be ideal for someone who is doing things like building decking or handling home renovations. The process itself will often take less time, which is a perk. However, it may not be the right option for other types of jobs.

When looking at the table saw, it has a higher level of versatility than the miter does. It can not only rip boards but also crosscut them. It is also useful for cutting panels. That said, where it has more versatility, it doesn’t always have the highest quality. It is the best option for someone who needs to do many different types of cuts and doesn’t mind if the cuts aren’t perfect.

The Tool for the Job

If you have a specific job that you need done, there may be a better tool for it between the miter and the table saw. Here are a few examples:

  • Ripping Lengthy Boards: Table Saw
  • Crosscutting Lengthy Boards: Miter Saw
  • Cutting Small Sheets or Crosscutting Small Pieces: Table Saw
  • Ripping Large Sheets: Table Saw
  • Making Precise Angled Cuts: Miter Saw

How to Use a Miter Saw

guy using miter saw

For very accurate molding and lumbar cuts, a miter saw is the right saw for the job. It is an essential tool for anyone who is involved in carpentry. Bearing that in mind, a miter saw needs caution to use. When you first power it on, you should not be surprised if it makes noises and jerks while it gets to the right speed. After using the saw, make sure you wait for the blade to discontinue spinning or you may experience spitting wood. It’s also important not to force the blade and instead let the saw do the work for the most precise results.

There are numerous types of miter saws on the market today for you to consider. A basic miter saw will crosscut and do miter cuts. There are also lighter models with inexpensive price tags that tend to be more comfortable to work with. You can also select to purchase or rent a compound miter saw which offers a large number of cuts, including the bevel cut. It also makes it simple to do cuts in various directions without any need to flip your project. In addition to those types of miter saws, there are also sliding compound miter saws and cordless models that may meet your specific needs.

Proper maintenance to a miter saw is crucial if you wish to get the most use out of your saw for many years to come.

How to Use a Table Saw

The table saw is seen as one of the most versatile tools to be found in a woodshop. It’s also a tool that has many productive uses. It can be used to square, rip, cross cut, miter cut, rabbet, dado, and add shapes to the edges of your wood. However, the table saw is also one of the most dangerous tools out there so being constantly conscious of what is going on when using it is a must. If your table saw is maintained regularly, it can be safer and more accurate for all of your woodworking projects.

Maintaining your saw begins with a proper tune-up, which will lead to smooth and easy cutting. If the saw is ill maintained, it can be more dangerous. One of the maintenance tasks that is of supreme importance is keeping the saw free of any rust. Every time you plan to use your table saw, you want to inspect it to be sure there are no issues or rust. Not doing so could lead to a poorly cut piece of wood or even an injury. Those who use the saw regularly will want to do maintenance after each use. If you use it less often, storing it correctly is extremely important to avoid rust buildup.

The humble table saw is best used for situations where you need to make numerous cuts that are all of the same length. This can be difficult to do by hand, but simple when you have the use of a table saw. In addition, it can prevent you from making errors after making dozens of cuts, which may not be realized until you have completed your cutting.

If you want a more portable option, the contractor’s saw is a great solution. It can be used both outdoors and indoors and has various safety features. There is also a benchtop saw which is even smaller. However, it needs the most care to ensure you are safe while using it. That said, the benchtop is not the least expensive just because it is the smallest. As such, it’s best to base your purchase on the features and size that fits your needs the best.

When to Use Each Type of Saw

If you are going to be cutting wood at a certain angle or a precise length, you may be better suited by the miter saw. Many carpentry projects benefit from the use of a miter saw over a table saw. This is especially true for molding and trim projects. In addition, the miter saw is fantastic for craft projects such as building picture frames. It offers quick accurate cuts and is best when time is of the essence.

A table saw may not be the optimal option for angled cuts, however it can do pretty much anything else. It is a versatile tool, which is impressive considering that it is stationary. A table saw can rip through large pieces of maple or oak in only seconds as long as you do not need special mortises or channels. It’s the best option for any large-scale products which require straight and long cuts. It also can accommodate a large selection of blades to add even more versatility into the mix.

What to Consider When Choosing a Saw

There are a few things that are important to be aware of before you select between a table and a miter saw. A person who is a hobbyist is likely going to have a much different set of needs than someone who is purchasing for a large shop. We’ll list the important aspects to think about below:

  • Power: Do you need professional grade tools or is power not a huge contributor in your projects?
  • Size of Project: Do you typically work with larger or smaller projects?
  • Versatility: Do you need the ability to make advanced cuts on a regular basis?
  • Workspace: How much space do you have to house your new saw?

If you have a smaller work space, you are going to need smaller tools, as well. For example, a contractor who is on the go from location to location every day isn’t going to want to have to store and transport a large table saw at all times if the cuts they make are typical rip cuts. Instead having a mobile option is more important to maximize the use of space available. However, someone in a large space may be happy to choose a large table saw which has significant power but also takes up a large amount of space in the workshop.

The same is applicable to miter saw usage. A homeowner who makes basic angle cuts may not want to worry about an expensive and complex tool. However, the woodworker might be the exact opposite. Part of what will determine the answer lies in the size of the blade required. If a miter saw comes with a large blade, that allows you to make longer cuts without taking up extra time. A smaller miter saw, on the other hand, will take up little space in general. The only way to know which is right for you is to think about your needs as far as your project and the size of the space you have available.

Which Saw is the One for You

miter saw vs table sawIf you are new to woodworking you may be forced to choose between the table saw and the miter saw. Which is best will depend upon what you are intending to do with the tool. Some people choose to first start with a miter saw as it is less expensive, takes up less space, and can carry out many cuts. However, a table saw can be more versatile and is often the first saw purchased for a new woodshop. For those who are carrying out projects at home, the added power and lack of needed mobility might make the table saw right. At the same time, the inexpensive nature of the miter saw might make it more attractive to some in the DIY crowd. It’s hard to say one is better than the other, when it really comes down to what your actual needs are.

In some cases, if your budget allows it, buying both gives you the best of both worlds. However, when you need to select on, think about the needed versatility and size of workspace available. In reality, the table saw can do everything that a miter saw can do, but it may not always do it quite as well. Those who need extra precision will want to consider the miter for that reason. In either case, you get a reliable saw that can help you complete projects with ease.

No matter which you choose, take some time to consider the different types and brands available. Look into which features are important to you and which saws those typically come on. This is the best way to ensure the tool you choose is right for the applications it will be used for.

Conclusion

When it comes down to it, the miter saw, and table saw are both fantastic options depending on your unique needs. Each tool is capable of doing many things well. The ultimate decision is going to boil down to an understanding of what you need and what each saw can provide to you. Think about budget, project versatility, and space to decide which is the right tool for you. In the end, the investment is your own and what matters isn’t which tool someone else needs, it’s which tool will best help you with your own projects. Take some time to consider the factors listed above and enjoy your new saw!

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By Adi | Tools

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