Table saws and miter saws can serve similar purposes, so some beginning woodworkers don’t know the specializations that make them both valuable. Although you can make some of the same cuts with both saws, their unique qualities make them more suited to certain tasks.
There are a few factors you can use to see the differences between table saws and miter saws. Cutting capacity, portability, price, and precision are all important things to consider. But the most important is probably the types of cuts you can make with each saw.
A table saw is a circular saw blade mounted under a table, that you use by pushing wood into the spinning blade. On the other hand, a miter saw’s circular blade is mounted on a mobile arm, allowing for different types of cuts and differences along other factors as well.
Cutting Capacity – Table Saw Vs. Miter Saw
Because of the differences between how they’re constructed, there are different factors that limit the depth and lengths of cuts that table saws and miter saws can make. Depth of cut and width or length of cut are the two numbers that make up these saws’ cutting capacities.
Depth of cut is easy to understand: it is a measure of how deep into the wood the saw’s blade can penetrate. A table saw’s maximum depth is three or four inches, whereas a miter saw’s is two to three. That number represents the thickest wood that the saws can cut in a single pass.
While the depth of cut is easy to compare between miter saws and table saws, length and width of cut are two different measurements that are a little trickier to compare.
A table saw’s maximum width of cut, also called its rip capacity, is the maximum width of wood it can cut when making a rip cut, or a cut along the grain. Most table saws have a maximum width of 24”, although there are accessories to extend the width.
Miter saws aren’t designed to make rip cuts and have a maximum cutting width, unlike table saws. Standard miter saws can cut wood 5½” to 7½” wide, although you may be able to find specialized models with larger cutting capacities.
Overall, table saws have much greater cutting capacities than miter saws. Table saws have no maximum cutting width, while miter saws’ limited capacity can seriously hinder some projects.
Table saws are, as their name suggests, built into tables. Miter saws, on the other hand, are heavy power tools on stands. While neither is easy to lug around, one has a clear advantage.
Table saws are one of the least portable tools you can find in a woodshop. They are heavy machinery made to process large amounts of hardwood. There are different models of portable table saw, but they still require considerable effort to move around. The most portable models may also make sacrifices in power and cutting capacity.
Miter saws are much more portable than table saws. They come with a built-in platform but remain relatively compact. There are even some cordless miter saw models for extra portability. All other things being equal, it is generally much easier to move a miter saw from place to place than a table saw
Miter saws and table saws can both be significant investments, but their usefulness makes up for the cost. It’s also important to remember that the least expensive models of saws won’t be appropriate for everyone; if your living depends on this tool, you should make sure you buy one that’s professional-quality.
Table saws start at about $200, but you don’t enter into decent-quality territory until about $450. They can be as expensive as $2,800 for the most high-end models, but even professionals don’t typically have a need for those.
Miter saws start even lower, with the least expensive models as low as $100. Those models are usually compact and less powerful than full versions, but you can get a quality saw at around $300. The most expensive miter saws clock in at about $1,900, which is significantly lower than the most pricey table saws.
At the high end, table saws are much more expensive than miter saws. But there’s a significant difference even between the cheapest versions of the tools, and quality budget versions are about $150 apart.
Because miter saws and table saws work on different mechanisms, they allow for very different levels of precision. In general, the miter saw offers greater precision through both its ability to hold the material it cuts still and its greater flexibility. Table saws’ static nature keeps them only as precise as your hand movements.
Miter saws were created to make it easier to make miter, bevel, and compound miter cuts. They have multiple hinges for three-dimensional control over the blade’s location and angle, used to place cuts exactly where they need to be.
Miter saws also hold the wood they cut firmly against the fence, creating a static target for precise cutting. With this design, you have complete control and visibility over where the blade goes.
Table saws cut with a very different method. You slide the wood along the fence and into the turning blade, pushing it all the way through for a complete cut. In this situation, both the blade and wood are moving at the same time.
While it’s possible to adjust the height and angle of a table saw blade, it requires resetting the wood away from the blade. This makes on-the-fly adjustments more difficult and time-consuming, decreasing the accuracy you can have in practical terms.
Because miter saws are easier to adjust and hold the wood stationary, they’re generally easier to be precise with than table saws.
– Table saws
- Table saws are used to make straight, precise cuts in different types of wood and various other materials.
Types of cuts that table saws are designed for include crosscuts, ripcuts, bevel cuts, miter cuts, and dados. More on these types of cuts will come later in this article
- Resawing, similar to rip cutting, is another common function of a table saw.
Resawing involves ripping a piece of timber vertically; standing it on edge and ripping it through the blade into thinner stock.
Resawing is useful for reducing waste in the form of offcuts and wear and tear on other tools, and bookmatching.
– Miter saws
- Miter saws were designed to make quick and accurate miter (angled) cuts into various types of wood. The head of a miter saw can be adjusted until it is set at the desired angle, also allowing for bevel and compound cuts to be made
- Miter saws are also designed for speed and efficiency. They allow users to make quick, highly precise cuts – much of their popularity is owed to this time-saving functionality
- Saws are highly versatile depending on the blade they are fitted with. This means they can be used when dealing with a variety of different materials such as metal and plastic, as well as all sorts of wood.
– Table saws
- Making rip cuts in wood
- Crosscutting against the grain
- Kerfing cuts to make a tight angle
- Cutting Rabbets and grooves for wood joints
- Cutting various wood joints.
– Miter saws
- Cutting miter joint moldings
- Trim work
- Cutting rafters
- Straight cutting
- Use with various types of materials.
Types of Cuts
There are four kinds of cuts you can make with a table saw, and even more you can make with attachments. Miter saws can also make four kinds of cuts, but no attachments will increase that number, and it excludes some important and basic types of cuts.
A crosscut is a cut across the grain of a piece of wood. It’s considered one of the most basic types of cut, and it’s the first one that many amateur woodworkers learn to make.
Crosscuts with table saws are simple. They aren’t always the cleanest crosscuts you’ll find, but they’re simple and easy, and table saws can typically handle at least 3” of depth on crosscuts. While the crosscut isn’t the table saw’s specialty, it does the job with perfect competency.
While crosscuts are fine to make with table saws, miter saws do them especially well. You can make precise, exact crosscuts with miter saws, typically much more cleanly than you would with a table saw. However, miter saws have limited cutting capacities, so it’s important to make sure that yours is suited for the length of cut you’d like to make.
Where a crosscut slices perpendicular to the grain, rip cuts split wood along the grain. Rip cuts are very difficult to make with most types of saw because the grain can make the saw bend and cut unevenly.
Fortunately, table saws are designed to make rip cuts as easy as possible. They are one of very few saws that you can use to make rip cuts confidently, with the blade’s stability allowing for much more precise cutting than you’d see with a miter saw.
Miter saws are simply not suited for rip cuts. Rip cuts can be dangerous to make with miter saws, so it isn’t even advisable that you try it out.
A bevel cut divides a piece of wood vertically at an angle. It’s used to make baseboards, boxes, and other projects that need wood to meet at a smooth, flat corner.
A bevel cut is made by tilting the blade at an angle so that it is no longer vertical. Because you can do this with both table saws and miter saws, you can make this kind of cut with either. However, miter saws may allow you to do so with more precision, while table saws have the capacity to cut larger pieces.
Miter Cut and Compound Miter Cut
Miter cuts are similar to bevels, but keep the blade vertical while turning it to the left or right. A compound miter combines the two, tilting the blade and turning it at an angle at the same time.
As the names suggest, miter cuts and compound miter cuts are only possible with miter saws. Despite this, additional attachments can make miter cuts possible with table saws as well.
Dados, along with grooves and rabbets, are special cuts that you can make with a table saw but not a miter saw. They take out a channel of wood, not cutting all the way through to the other side.
While the three terms of dado, groove, and rabbet may be overwhelming at first, they all refer to similar types of shallow cuts. They’re used for projects that involve interlocking wood, such as making shelves and cabinets.
What Is More Useful, a Table Saw or a Miter Saw?
They each have distinct pros and cons, which makes it almost impossible to say which one is more useful for sure!
It all comes down to what you will be using them for.
If you’re working on a project that requires lots of angular cuts such as window casings, picture frames, or other detailed joinery applications, a miter saw will be your best bet.
If you are working on a project that requires long, straight cuts or a wide variety of different types of cuts, you will get more use out of a table saw!
Do You Need Both a Table Saw and Miter Saw?
Although table saws and miter saws offer very similar functionalities, such as the types of cuts you can achieve with each saw, they each have unique qualities that make them better suited to different tasks.
Whereas table saws offer more precision on heavy-duty cuts, miter saws are more compact and lightweight – meaning they offer greater versatility on a cramped job site.
This key difference 00 in addition to a marked cost difference (table saws are consistently more expensive than miter saws due to their precision and range) – makes table saws and miter saws different enough that a passionate woodworker could benefit greatly from having one of each.
However, every woodworker will require slightly different things from their tools, so don’t go rushing off to your nearest hardware store to buy one of each just yet!
Consider what you will need from your tools and how you will be using them before making that decision.
Conclusion : Table Saw Vs. Miter Saw
Chances are you clicked on this article because you wanted to know if you needed both a table saw and a miter saw.
As you’ve made it this far, I’m sure you’ve come to realize that the answer isn’t as ‘clear cut’ as that – it really depends on what you plan on using them for!
Table saws are great tools when dealing with larger pieces of timber and making cuts such as ripcuts and dado cuts.
Miter saws are great when you’re looking to make more precise cuts or beveled/mitered angles in your timber.
And what’s more: both saws are well-equipped for making crosscuts!
So, long story short – if you are a more experienced woodworker working on a project that requires you to make a wide variety of cuts, your interest in both types of saw may be well justified.
However, if you’re just starting out on your woodworking journey, I would recommend you make an executive decision on what type of cutting capabilities will be more valuable to you in the projects you will be working on and take it one step at a time!
Can you use a miter saw like a table saw?
In some cases, you can use a miter saw like a table saw – such as when making crosscuts. However, many other table saw functionalities can’t be replicated using a miter saw, such as ripcuts and dado cuts.
Can a miter saw do everything a table saw can do?
A miter saw can do some things a table saw can do, such as cross cuts, but they are largely designed for different purposes, such as making mitered and beveled angles.
What are the disadvantages of a miter saw?
Miter saws are less effective at dealing with large sheets of plywood or longer board lengths. Miter saws are better equipped to cut smaller pieces of wood.
What is the best saw for a beginner?
Miter saws are more suitable for smaller, more DIY projects compared to table saws. As a result, they are better for the beginner woodworker.
Do carpenters use miter saws?
Miter saws are an important part of a carpenter’s tool arsenal; their ability to make precise angled cuts makes them very versatile in all manner of projects.
What type of cut should the miter saw never be used for?
Miters saws should never be used for rip cuts or dado cuts. A table saw is much better suited for these types of cuts.
Can a miter saw cut a 4×4?
You would need at least a 10” compound sliding miter saw to cut a 4×4, or a 12” fixed miter saw.