If you have some projects coming up and are trying to figure out which tools are best to purchase, here’s a side by side comparison of a miter saw vs. a table saw so you can decide which one you need!
Table Saw vs. Miter Saw
With our fair share of DIY projects under our belt, we have definitely grown our tool collection.
We don’t have a garage and so back in the day (way before our kitchen got a giant makeover) I created this organized tool closet in a closet under the stairs.
I wrote a post where I shared great beginner woodworking tools and even intermediate/advanced options if you’re looking for those too, but the things that didn’t fit in this closet were our saws – namely our table saw and our miter saw.
If you’re confused by figuring out the miter saw vs. table saw or which saw does what, you’re my peeps! Who knew you couldn’t just buy any saw from the hardware store and get to cutting?!
It turns out that there are several types of saws, and each one has different purposes. But it’s not hard to figure out whether you’ll need a miter or a table saw for your projects. Just keep reading to learn the differences!
What is a Miter Saw?
Miter saws also have a circular saw blade, leading to some common confusion between a miter saw vs. table saw. However, there is a major difference that should make it obvious to tell them apart.
The blade on a miter saw does not stick up through a table. Instead, it’s attached to a swing arm or track that you bring down over material to create your cut. This cutting method allows miter saws to adjust for cutting precise angles and accurate crosscuts.
You can use the same blades – rips, combination, or crosscut – that you would use on a circular saw for a compound miter, or a powered miter saw.
For versatile cutting purposes, you can use a 10″, 12″, or a smaller 7 ½” diameter blade.
Most beginners will be more comfortable starting with a corded miter saw.
These saws can provide more accurate cuts, but you can also adjust the angle from standards like 22 ½”, 45, or 90 degrees, or any number in the middle. You can even change right or left cuts for bevels, miters, or compound angles.
And newer models even allow for extended sliding arms to accommodate longer cuts. Plus, the power heads tilt to either side, which gives you the ability to make bevel and miter cuts.
What is a Table Saw?
Table saws are versatile pieces consisting of a saw blade built into a flat table.
This design allows for several cuts, making it a great choice for your home workshop, DIYs, or work saw that you take to job sites (look for a mobile table saw). Most beginner woodworkers invest in a table saw as one of their first power tools.
You can easily identify a table saw by appearance.
The table will have a slit where the top half of the circular blade sticks above the tabletop. A motor underneath connects to the bottom part of the saw and allows for raising or lowering the blade to account for different cut depths.
Types of table saws
There are a few types of table saws.
If you purchase one that will stay stationary in your garage or workshop, you’ll likely choose a cabinet table saw.
This style hides the motor – usually a belt and pulley design – in a cabinet under the table. However, the heavy weight makes it difficult to move, and the bulky shape will take up a lot of room.
A more lightweight, portable option is a benchtop table saw. You can easily take this table saw around to different projects, and it’s easier to store away without taking up a lot of room. In addition, a direct drive motor allows for compact use but noisier operation.
There’s a contractor table saw for professional jobs or frequent heavy uses. This model allows for easy, quick cutting anywhere – a job site, yard, or a minima space workshop. Another benefit of contractor tables is that they are more affordable, which makes them a great choice for beginners or expert professionals.
What’s the Biggest Difference Between a Miter Saw vs. Table Saw?
Besides the obvious difference in appearance, there are a few contrasts to compare between a miter saw vs. table saw.
The biggest difference between a table saw versus a miter saw is how you can use them.
Table saws are best for general cutting purposes. And you get the most versatility, handling most cuts. Where table saws shine is for making rip-cuts or crosscuts on long pieces.
But miter saws are better for specialty uses and have better accuracy. The biggest downside of miter saws is that they can only perform short cross cuts – 6″ to 8″ long.
Another difference is the method of operation. Remember that table saws have a fixed blade mounted to a table surface. To create a cut, you must manipulate the wood against the blade.
Miter saws allow you to bring the blade to the wood, fixed to a stable structure to prevent moving. Sliding compound miter saws also require moving the edge over the wood.
Table saws can give you the same cuts as a miter saw, so you may question why you’d want both. However, miter saws can cut wood and softer materials with better accuracy for bevel or precise miter cuts.
You’ll have to purchase extra accessories such as a miter or sled gauge to get better precision for miter cuts or crosscuts with a table saw.
When Do You Use a Miter Saw Versus a Table Saw?
Table saws are great for most general-purpose cutting needs, especially long straight rip-cuts. It’s also the better choice when you’re trying to cut large amounts of wood in a short time.
Tables saws can also be better for cutting smaller wood sheets or creating crosscuts on short pieces. Table saws, like boxes, cabinets, or drawers, are also essential work tools for carpentry or remodeling.
You’ll do better using a miter saw when making precise specific cuttings – bevel or miter angles. Also, complex jobs and custom projects like edging, frames, moldings, or furniture rails will do better with a miter versus a table saw.
Are Sliding Miter Saws Less Accurate?
A sliding miter is a saw with guide rails on both sides that moves the saw head forward or backward to cut longer pieces. It can also make bevel or miter cuts, making it a compound saw.
You get great accuracy with a sliding miter, for the most part. But frequent use can cause the sliding arm to wear down, affecting cut accuracy. Another issue that can affect the cut precision is the sliding rails. If dust builds up without cleanings, the saw won’t have as much of a smooth slide, resulting in a poor cut.
Can You Use a Table Saw as a Miter Saw?
The cool thing about table saws is that you can use them for any cut, including those you’d make with a miter saw. But doing difficult cuts can be more challenging and slower.
Purchasing attachments to add to your table saw can help you get the cut accuracy you’d expect with a miter without buying both saw types.
Can Table Saws Cut at Angles?
The versatility of table saws makes them suitable for different cuts, including angles. To create an angled cut using a table saw, you can use a miter gauge, a fence meant for tapered angle cuts or a bevel adjustment. The method will depend on what angle you need.
What Should You Never Use a Table Saw for?
There are some projects for which you shouldn’t use a table saw to account for safety. Table saws are not meant to cut:
- PVC pipe
- Curved cuts
- Backward cuts
- Ferrous metals (steel or cast iron)
- Angled cuts (unless you have beveled or miter attachments)
- Freehand tapered cuts
What is the Most Useful Saw to Own?
Table saws are the most versatile saws that you can have for home or work purposes. Not only can table saws cut faster and handle bigger pieces, but you can also create specialty cuts with attachments.
A miter saw is better for angled cuts. But they don’t handle bigger pieces as well as table saws. And as a specialty blade, miter saws have fewer uses.
Hopefully, you better understand a table saw vs. a miter saw and which one you will need for your purposes.
Most projects can be done with a table saw – if you have the space and attachments (for custom cuts).
But a miter saw can be an excellent addition to your toolbox if you want to make furniture or custom wood projects.
So stick with a table saw for renovations or building.