Last Updated on December 22, 2022 by Barry Gray
The problem with so many different types of saws is knowing which one you should use for any particular purpose. Now, this is something that clearly becomes easier the more experienced you become with woodworking, but I know it’s tough at the start.
So, this is really for those beginner DIY’ers who are still trying to get to grips with what they need to do to get the desired results.
However, I’m going to make it even easier for you. Rather than talking about all of the different types of saws out there, I’m going to focus on just two: the miter saw and a jigsaw.
By the end of this, I promise you will have a much better understanding of what both saws can do and how to get the best possible results out of them.
Should You Choose Miter Saw or Jigsaw?
You should realize that it all depends on the job in question, as both the miter saw and jigsaw have two distinctly different reasons why you should set them up.
If you plan on making straight or angle cuts, I would only use a miter saw. It gives you that complete precision, and you can absolutely trust your cuts when you go to make them. However, if you need to make any curved cut, and not only delicate and intricate cuts, then a miter saw cannot cope. At that point, the jigsaw comes into play and will not let you down.
But this is part of the fun of working with wood. You end up requiring different tools for various jobs to get to the end of what you plan on doing.
Sure, I could have tried to really push the qualities of the miter saw over the jigsaw, but when you have two tools designed to carry out two different jobs, then what’s the point?
The Basic Concept of the Miter Saw
So first, let’s look at the miter saw, as I believe that most people will have just that bit more experience with a jigsaw than a miter saw.
A miter saw is fantastic for making short, accurate, exceptionally straight cuts. Also, it can be used to produce cuts with precise angles with no need to worry about making a hash of things.
A miter saw must also be mounted on a solid surface such as a table or workbench. It comes with a plate allowing you to line up the piece of wood you need to cut by incorporating a fence into the equation to keep everything straight.
Once ready, you switch on the miter saw and pull the blade down and through the wood. However, a miter saw does offer you the opportunity to carry out more than one type of cut, as you are about to see.
When You Need to Use a Miter Saw
There are three different areas where a miter saw offers you the best option for making specific cuts.
One thing I love about a miter saw is the way in which you can move the base to create angle cuts. Now, it starts off at a 90-degree angle, which leads to those straight cuts, but you can change the angle to make cuts at various degrees down to 45 degrees.
Of course, you still get that same precision with those angle cuts, and most miter saws remain straightforward to use even when working on those angles.
A miter saw is actually a pretty unique tool in that it can create bevel cuts to both the left and right.
They can do this to 45 degrees making life so much easier when you need to make that bevel.
This is the perfect tool if you find yourself cutting wood for door frames or even moldings.
A compound cut is really an amalgamation between an angle cut and a bevel.
Once again, the miter saw can be a highly effective tool, but be aware that not every miter saw on the market offers this ability.
When you take these three different cuts into consideration, you can see why a miter saw can prove to be a handy tool.
Also, it’s worth pointing out that a jigsaw cannot offer this, but that’s something I will get into later.
The Advantages of a Miter Saw
So let’s go through the different advantages of a miter saw. Don’t worry, I’m also going to discuss the disadvantages shortly.
After all, I need to be fair in what I do here to give you the best possible insight into both a miter saw and a jigsaw.
The first advantage, and it’s an obvious one, is the precision you can achieve with a miter saw. The hardest part is ensuring you line up the cut before firing up the miter saw.
However, rest assured that the blade of the miter saw will come down on whatever line you tell it to, and it will then make a clean cut.
Another considerable advantage is the speed aspect.
Miter saws will cut through material in seconds, allowing you to really press on with your projects.
All you do is line up the cut, bring the blade down, and the job is done.
Cutting Those Angles
I also love how a miter saw makes life so much easier for you to cut angles.
Miter saws help when it comes to lining up the angle itself, and you do at least then know the miter saw will cut where you want.
Safer to Use
A miter saw will also prove to be safer to use as you only bring the saw blade down when everything is lined up, and your hands are out of the way.
With a jigsaw, you need to physically move the saw, which means you get closer to the blade.
One thing I love about a miter saw is the way it deals with dust.
Most models have a built-in vacuum option, and that does make it a whole lot easier to use.
Some jigsaws also have a vacuum option, but it’s rarely built into the jigsaw.
Ease of Use
The final advantage is really just how easy a miter saw is to use.
Even making those bevel cuts is not difficult since you simply need to line everything up using the gauges that appear on the saws themselves.
I find it tough to mess things up to such an extent that you need to start again.
As you can see, a miter saw has several advantages, and it should be evident how this type of saw could potentially transform your entire project.
The Disadvantages of a Miter Saw
But while I’m sure you can see where a miter saw would prove helpful, it’s not all plain sailing.
Instead, there are times when a miter saw just cannot do the job you want or need.
The Model Itself Can Be a Disadvantage
However, the major disadvantage of a miter saw will vary depending on the model you purchase.
Remember I mentioned above how a miter saw can make bevel cuts, angle cuts, and compound cuts? Well, some models just will not have all those capabilities.
That means you need to be aware of the limitations that come with the saw. It’s not a case that every miter saw can do the same things. Even the angles they can work to may vary.
The Cutting Depth
Another disadvantage is the cutting depth with the miter saw. People see this large blade and think the size of the blade means it can cut material the same size, but that’s not true.
The problem is that miter saw blades come in three sizes: 8”, 10”, and 12”. The depth of material they can cut does increase as the blade size increases, but you are still looking at some limitations.
For example, a 12” blade can cut a 2×8 at 90 degrees, but this drops to a 2×6 at a 45-degree angle. A 10” blade can cut a 2×6 at 90 degrees with a drop to a 2×4 at 45 degrees.
That does mean it can only cut thinner material than most people realize.
I know some miter saws can prove to be expensive, but that’s not always the case. So, I don’t see cost as a disadvantage.
It’s very easy to get your hands on a budget version that can undoubtedly achieve some of the above cuts, even if they come with some limitations.
The Basic Concept of the Jigsaw
If I now move on to discuss the jigsaw because this tool is entirely different from the miter saw.
First of all, the jigsaw is a hand-held tool. You don’t set it up on your workbench and then operate from there.
Instead, you are free to move around with it and carry out the different cut options that come with this tool.
The blade with a jigsaw only ever sits at a 90-degree angle. The jigsaw comes with a trigger, and you look down on the saw looking through the shoe to watch the line you are cutting.
Blades are quick and easy to change, and while they do appear thin, different blades exist for working with various materials.
A jigsaw is certainly very distinctive in both how it looks and what it can do, and that’s what I’m going to look at next.
When You Need to Use a Jigsaw
I find a jigsaw works best with its own set of specific cuts.
First, if I need to make some curved cuts, I find a jigsaw the best option.
You have so much control over your actions, and the freedom to use a jigsaw is undeniable.
You just have the ability to move the jigsaw as and when required leading to the opportunity to create some pretty cool shapes.
I also love how easy it is to cut out notches with a jigsaw.
Once again, it comes down to the control aspect, and you have the ability to stop whenever you need to, even if it’s just ½” into a board.
A miter saw simply does not offer that same option.
Some DIY’ers see a jigsaw as being the saw equivalent of a scalpel, and for a good reason.
The way in which you can move a jigsaw around while following intricate lines is impressive.
I admit it does take some work to get used to achieving the more delicate cuts, but it’s worth it all in the end.
The Advantages of a Jigsaw
Obviously, a jigsaw offers many clear advantages should this be your tool of choice.
Also, it does lead to a few problems, but I’ll get to those in a few minutes.
For me, the first advantage has to be the versatility of a jigsaw.
It does offer so much control over your cuts when it comes to making those curves.
If you need to cut out any sort of shape, then this would be my tool of choice.
Ease of Use
I also find a jigsaw to be very easy to use.
Installing blades takes seconds, as does setting up the jigsaw, so it’s ready to go without it being that complicated.
It tends to do pretty much one job and one style of cut, so you don’t have too many knobs or dials to mess around with to get it working, and I love this about the jigsaw.
I think affordability is another massive advantage because your typical jigsaw will not cost you the earth.
Also, blades are inexpensive to purchase as well, so even when one breaks, you don’t have to worry too much.
I’m talking about expensive brands as well. I see the jigsaw as one of the least expensive saws out there.
Jigsaw blades are not only inexpensive, but it’s also very easy to swap one blade in for another.
Also, you can buy blades designed to cope with certain materials, so you should never feel as if your jigsaw is struggling to get to grips with whatever it is you need to cut.
You really can pick up several blades for almost nothing at all. As a result, it does increase the versatility of the jigsaw, which is another huge advantage for it.
Keep in mind that a miter saw sits there on your workbench and doesn’t move.
However, that’s not the same with a jigsaw. Of course, your ability to move around will depend on whether you have purchased a cordless version or one you need to plug into the mains.
But even then, you have the freedom to move the saw as and when required, and that’s just not something that happens with a miter saw.
Overall, I feel the advantages associated with a jigsaw are quite impressive.
The Disadvantages of a Jigsaw
But a jigsaw cannot do everything you could ever want when cutting wood.
However, just because it does come with some disadvantages doesn’t mean you should then consider avoiding using the tool in general.
It’s Not the Fastest of Tools
A jigsaw is not the fastest of tools at making cuts.
The blade is small and thin, which works to its advantage at times, but don’t expect to finish the task in a matter of seconds.
A miter saw will slice through the material in seconds. That is what it’s designed to do. Yet a jigsaw does take its time.
This time is further increased when you have to go ahead and cut out those intricate patterns, as you can hardly rush through that type of thing.
The Blades are Not Rigid
I do see this as a considerable disadvantage, but the blades you get with a jigsaw are not exactly rigid.
Honestly, they come across as pretty flimsy, and that hardly inspires confidence that you will be able to rip through hard material in next to no time.
The problem with the blades is that they can bend. That means your cut will end up not being straight through the material, and you will sometimes get some angle appearing.
If you use a jigsaw, I would always double-check the status of the blade before using the jigsaw. See that it has not become bent through use, or you will make life harder for yourself.
Now, I know just listing two disadvantages won’t come across as a lot, but they are pretty important issues that I had to highlight.
However, I have no doubt that the pros heavily outweigh the cons here, and I still suggest you ensure you have a jigsaw in your arsenal of tools.
And that’s everything you need to know about both the miter saw and the jigsaw. The one you choose depends on the job in question, but that applies to any power tool, not just to these saws.
Honestly, if you work with wood regularly and dive into different projects, I would advise investing in a miter saw and a jigsaw. They should not really cross when it comes to their capabilities, so it’s advisable to have both in your arsenal.
But no matter which one you have to use in your project, just know that it will always be faster and more accurate than attempting to make the cuts by hand. Ultimately, there’s no winner between the tools. The only winner is if you own the correct tool for your needs.