Miter Saw Vs. Jigsaw (Which Is Better?)

Last Updated on August 28, 2022 by James Thomas

Miter saws and jigsaws are great power tools used to cut various types of wood. If you are a DIY enthusiast and want to equip your workshop, you might be wondering which of the two would be the most versatile to purchase to cover a range of projects. I have put together this handy comparison between a miter saw and a jigsaw to help you make the best choice. 

A miter saw is used to cut precise straight cut angles both vertically and horizontally from zero to 90 degrees to form virtually seamless joints. Jigsaws are handheld, portable saws that cut intricate curves into wooden boards using a vertically oscillating blade action.

Let’s explore the differences between a jigsaw and a miter saw. Both jigsaws and miter saws are used to cut wood, and there are several overlaps in their uses. However, they are by no means the same thing, and it is important to understand the functions and limitations of each before deciding what to buy. 

miter saw vs jigsaw

Miter Saw Vs. Jigsaw

When comparing a miter saw and a jigsaw, the first thing that you will notice is that they are very different in appearance. A miter saw has a prominent circular blade that is excellent for tasks such as cutting miters and creating angled cuts, for example, when making picture frames. 

A  jigsaw is a handheld device with a reciprocating blade well suited to cutting varying shapes. Let’s take a quick look at the main differences between a miter saw vs. a jigsaw.

Miter SawJigsaw
Circular bladeReciprocating, vertical blade
Mounted on a workbench or tableHandheld
Excellent for cutting straight, precise anglesCan cut shapes and intricate designs
Saw Blade determines the depth of the cutCan cut basic miters
Has a dust collection systemNo dust collection system
Can cut wood and aluminum Cuts ceramic tiles, wood, metal, and plastics 

The Advantages Of A Miter Saw Compared To A Jigsaw

miter saw

A miter saw is basically a circular saw attached to a sturdy frame, allowing the user to lower the saw attached to a swing arm, downward, onto a workpiece in a controlled manner when cutting. Miter saws have found their niche in cutting straight and precise angles into the wood. 

Unlike a jigsaw, the miter saw is frame-mounted and can be set to precise angles both vertically and horizontally between angles of zero to ninety degrees. These cut angles are called miter joints, like those found in picture frames. Miter joints are, of course, from where the saw gets its name.

Miter saws utilize a circular-shaped saw blade ranging from seven and a quarter to twelve inches in diameter. A jigsaw uses a thin straight blade of about three inches long. Given that the size of the saw’s blade determines the full depth of cut, the miter can cut thicker material.

Many miter saws sport a rail system that extends the saw’s reach, enabling the saw to cut across wider boards, which is a great feature. The length of reach of the rail determines the maximum width of the board that can be cut.

Miter saws are only suited to cross-cutting wood (cutting across the wood grain), trim work, moldings, angled cuts known as bevels, angled cuts in rafters, and many other carpentry applications.

In terms of portability, most miter saws can be carried safely by an adult. Their portability and versatility are two of the main factors that have made the miter saw an indispensable power tool on construction sites.  

When buying a miter saw, choosing a model fitted with a blade guard is best. The blade guard retracts into the blade cover or housing, exposing the blade as the saw is lowered onto the workpiece. The retracting blade guard is a valuable safety feature. 

In addition, a saw with a fitted dust collection bag or vacuum hose attachment makes life easier and keeps the work area clean and neat. As you may know, sawdust can be very slippery underfoot when coating a hard floor. 

The Advantages Of A Jigsaw Over A Miter Saw

jigsaw

A jigsaw consists of a thin and stiff motor-driven, vertical blade. The blade protrudes from the jigsaw’s shoe or base plate and cuts with a reciprocal action, moving up and down at high speed.  

The thin blade on a jigsaw blade can make irregular cuts, such as stencil-drawn designs, which the circular bladed miter saw could never perform. A miter can not do curved cuts. Miter saws can only move up and down, forward and backward, and tilt from side to side.

The jigsaw is a portable freehand saw, which means the saw is physically guided along the cutting line by the user. This level of flexibility is not possible with the frame-mounted miter saw.

Most jigsaws can cut boards up to one and a half inches thick for softer woods and three-quarter inches for hardwoods. Miter saws can cut up to about half the blade diameter, so deep cuts ranging between three and six inches are possible. The shoe on most jigsaws is adjustable (beveling function) up to an angle of forty-five degrees, enabling the jigsaw to cut miter joints.

Jigsaws can cut masonry such as ceramic tiles, wood, metal, and plastics provided the appropriate blade. This feature makes the jigsaw a versatile power tool for various construction disciplines. Miter saws are designed to cut wood but can cut aluminum using the correct blade. 

The introduction of battery-operated jigsaws has significantly improved the versatility of the jigsaw. Not being bothered by a cord that keeps snagging and impeding the movement of the saw during an intricate cut is a real advantage. 

Can You Use A Jigsaw As A Miter Saw?

In a bind, you could use a jigsaw to cut across the grain of a piece of lumber or even perform an angled cut known as a miter. However, the blade length fitted to the jigsaw limits the thickness of the lumber you can cut.

A jigsaw’s shoe can be angled or beveled up to a forty-five-degree angle. In theory, this is great, but anyone that has used a jigsaw will know that free handing a straight line is a challenge. The joining surfaces should be perfectly flat to make the cut less visible when cutting miters. Making these perfect cuts with a jigsaw is almost impossible.

Another challenge associated with jigsaws is that the blade tends to bend or flex, resulting in the blade following the grain of the wood when cutting a miter, resulting in a crooked cut. 

Conclusion

Jigsaws and miter saws complement each other well in any woodworking project. The miter saw performs straight, precise cuts like those required for miter joints. The jigsaw can make intricate curved cuts in several materials, including wood, plastics, metal, and masonry, such as tiles. All that’s required is the correct type of jigsaw blade to use the jigsaw to its full potential.

Photo of author

James Thomas

Hi, I’m James. I created The Tool Square to help as many understand and know how to use Table Saws, and many other tool-related products.

Leave a Comment