Miter Saw vs. Table Saw: The Right One for the Job

Are you in the process of trying to decide between a miter saw and a table saw? Well, the choice may be quite difficult if you don’t know exactly what features you’re looking at. So, we’ve decided to do a miter saw vs table saw article to try and make the job easier for you. For the latest DIY trends and new woodworking ideas we strongly recommend you check out Wood Magazine.

Let’s start by looking at what each one of these machines are before we can look at what they’re supposed to be used for. We will then discuss which one is the best for you for what you’re attempting to do. Then we will consider what to look for when choosing a table saw or miter saw by breaking down their different types and identifying which features each type of saw provides better than the others.

The Table Saw

This is an essential part of any woodworking shop. Some actually call it the heart of the workshop. This is the reason why it is very rare that you will ever find a serious workshop that does not have one. The fact that a table saw will also often be more powerful per inch of cutting capacity and can handle longer continuous use also factor into its popularity.

The reason why the table saw is so popular has to do with the number of things that you can easily do with it including crosscuts, miters, ripping and a host of other functions that happen in a wood shop. However, the table saw is designed to primarily make straight line rips. The other types of cuts are actually the reason miter saws exist.

If you would like to see our list of best table saws on the market check them out here.

Uses of a Table Saw

The table saw can be used for a variety of jobs including trimming pieces of timber and remodeling houses. Improvements in the manufacturing of these tools have made them much stronger and accurate than your previous models. Though, there is a much larger gap between the consumer grade and professional grade than there used to be.

Contemporary table saws also come equipped with rolling stands and sliding supports. This allows them to handle more applications than they could do before. This means that table saws can be used for the hobbyist in their home workshop, the professional remodeler, or the specialized warehouse contractor depending on which type of table saw you use.

Types of Table Saws – Portable vs Stationary

Portable:

Benchtop – Despite the fact that benchtop saws are technically considered part of the portable subcategory of table saws, this type of saw rarely includes a stand or wheels to help you move it around. Instead, a benchtop saw is considered portable, because it “only” weighs about 40 to 50 pounds. However, benchtop table saws are expected to either be bolted down or, more likely, held in place with clamps.

This is the cheapest type of table saw available and is definitely built for more of the at-home hobbyist than the professional contractor. They are the smallest type of saw which will limit the length of rips you can make, and they are also often the least powerful type of table saw. Still, the biggest issue with this type of saw is often the fences which can be finicky and the common use of plastic pieces.

Jobsite – The job site table saw could easily be seen as a beefier cousin to the benchtop table saw. On top of the larger size and more power, a job site table saw is also designed to be more portable. In fact, this is actually the most portable type of table saw. Often the job site table saw will have its own stand with a wheeled base.

This type of saw is not only meant to be moved but to take a beating too. Jobsite table saws are far less likely than benchtop saws to have plastic parts which could easily snap off in transit. This type of saw will also often be a bit more powerful than benchtop saws by anywhere from 3 to 5 amps. However, even though the stand and wheels might make this easier to transport, job site saws are a bit heavier than their benchtop counterparts.

Stationary:

Contractor – Contractor saws are the first type of stationary saw and generally the lowest grade. But that does not mean that these are poor quality saws. It is just that the other stationary saws are often built with the toughest jobs in mind–potentially for industrial work

Contractor saws, on the other hand, are essentially large job site saws though they may come with a stand or various other means of transportation. Of course, weighing in at often 300 pounds or more means that you probably want to leave the saw where it is. The main draw of a contractor table saw is that it is the least expensive table saw designed with the professional in mind.

Hybrid – If the name does not give it away, hybrid table saws are meant to fill the gap between contractor table saws and cabinet table saws. Since cabinet table saws can weigh well over 500 pounds and are often bolted to the floor, hybrids offer a good balance between features and form.

In fact, hybrid table saws are far more similar to contractor table saws than they are cabinet table saws in terms of function. That said, hybrid table saws will generally come with a built-in table of their own that is essentially a smaller cabinet. These saws provide the wealth of additional features found on cabinet table saws at a price much closer to the contractor table saw.

Cabinet – This is the “big daddy” of table saws. They are far larger and more powerful than any other type of table saw. While they are often reserved for professional contractors, skilled woodworkers can also benefit from the high level of quality, power, and precision that this type of table saw offers.

You will not have to worry about vibration or a bowed table here and the sheer size and weight of these monsters limit vibration and their hefty price tag often necessitates quality manufacturing. This type of table saw also comes with far more bells and whistles than the other types like heavy-duty dust collection, rigid fences, and smaller measurement increments.

 

The Miter Saw

If a workshop wants to be able to do complex designs with ease, then that workshop will certainly need to have a miter saw. The miter saw gives you a certain level of versatility ranging from the simple to bevel cuts. This is the tool for someone who wants that elaborate piece of art made from wood.

The type of saw you get differs based on functionality.  Some of the saws can do more sophisticated cuts than others. If you are selecting one, ensure that you have your current and future needs in mind.

If you’d like to see the best miter saws on the market today we have put together a list of the top 6 on our homepage

Uses of Miter Saws

There are different types of miter saws ranging from basic, to compound right through sliding miter saws. They are generally used for compound cuts, miter cuts, bevel cuts, or crosscuts. So, the one you select has to be one that meets the demands of the work you are trying to do.

Types of Miter Saws – Standard vs Compound vs Sliding Compound


Standard – As the name implies, this is your most basic type of miter saw. It features a radial circular saw that is brought straight down onto the workpiece with a handle. This saw can only cut vertically, unlike some of the other miter saws, but features a guide that can generally give you up to a 60-degree miter cut from either angle.

This is the least expensive type of miter saw and is also generally a bit lighter than the other types since it does not have to worry about extra moving pieces. One of the best things about miter saws is the different types generally have little to do with their cutting power, so a standard miter saw will often be just as powerful as a compound sliding miter saw.

Compound – A compound miter saw differs from the standard miter saw in what type of cut it can make. While a standard miter saw can make an angled cross cut, it cannot make a sloped bevel cut. This is where the “compound” in compound miter saw comes into play. Not only can a compound miter saw make an angled miter cut as well as a sloped bevel cut, it can do both at the same time which is a compound cut.

One thing to keep in mind is that there are actually two different types of compound miter saws: single and double. The difference is that a double compound miter saw can be angled to cut the bevel from both the right and left-hand alignment while the single compound generally only tilts to the right. Either way, they both offer a bevel between 0 to 50 degrees.

Sliding Compound – The sliding compound miter saw is essentially a compound miter saw with one key feature: the blade can slide in or out. This allows you to increase the cutting capacity of the miter, bevel, or compound cut with a much larger piece of wood. Some of the higher end sliding compound miter saws can provide a cutting capacity over 1’ long.

The sliding action of the miter can also be great for medium sized rips as it is generally a bit quicker and easier to bring the radial blade down than it is to feed wood into a table saw. Of course, the compound sliding miter saw is not only the most expensive miter saw, it is also the heaviest. This means you will need a sturdy table to mount the sliding compound miter saw onto.

 

Miter Saw vs. Table Saw

table saw vs miter saw comparison of the best options for your workshop

Now that we have an idea of what these two are and what they can do we can now look at which one you should choose. As we have indicated earlier, the choice really depends on what your needs are.

First, it has to do with the size of work that you are doing. If you are looking at performing a very high amount of cuts, then you certainly want the accuracy that comes with a miter saw. Of course, the main draw of the table saw is the ability to make longer cuts and a motor that generally will not quit even after a full day’s use.

The thing about the table saw is it does not do these high volume types of jobs accurately. While the table saw can crosscut boards of any width the cuts will not get done nearly as fast as on a miter saw. The dual bevel miter design allows anyone to crank out hundreds of cuts per hour if needed.

Position of the Wood

One of the things you need to consider is the piece that you are working on. For example, are you planning to have the wood piece fixed or moving while you work on it? If you are planning to cut a large piece of wood that is held stationery, then you may want to use a miter saw.

If the wood is smaller you may want to rather have the blade stationary and move the wood piece as you cut it. Then in this instance, you can use the table saw. Of course, if you need to feed a large piece of wood for a long rip cut, you will again want to use the table saw.

Key Miter Saw Features

  • Cut Size – Can only do a 6″ to 8″ crosscut depending on the blade size and sliding function
  • Cut Precision – Extremely accurate and can make miter, bevel, and compound cuts
  • Better to cross cut long boards than a table saw, shorter rip cuts–even for a sliding compound miter saw

 

Key Table Saw Features

  • Versatility – Typically you can use a table saw to make most of the cuts you need
  • Flexibility – Can make both rips and crosscut boards
  • Cut Size – Great for ripping long boards, can handle cutting wood panels up to 5’x10′ in length

Table vs Miter Saw: Conclusion

As you can see from the discussion above, whether you get a table saw or a miter saw depends on exactly what you want to do. If your budget allows, it can actually be a great idea to have both. If you’re doing work that needs to come out accurately such as trimming and framing, you will certainly need a miter saw.

However, if you are looking at doing those large jobs such as making furniture or building large cabinets, the table saw may be your tool of choice. Essentially, whenever the cuts call for large capacity or a full day’s worth of use, use the table saw.

Remember all the time, whether you are using a miter saw or a table saw to follow every single instruction that is on the owner’s manual. Both are pretty dangerous tools if used without due care.

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