The table saw and the miter saw are among the most popular of saw types. Still, many wants to know the difference between table saw vs miter saw.
Are you looking to get yourself into a DIY project, but you’re not sure which model would serve you best? Let us help you learn their strengths, so that you can make a fully informed choice.
Defining Table Saw vs Miter Saw
What is a Table Saw?
A table saw has a circular blade, a tabletop, an arbor, and an electric motor. The blade, located on the underside of the table, protrudes through the top of it.
Held by an arbor, it moves up and down powered by an electric motor. And as it exposes more or less of the blade, it can facilitate deeper or shallower cuts.
So, the blade sits in place, and you push the working material into it. While it works best for cutting wood, it also handles plastic or aluminium sheets, and even sheet brass.
Depending on its construction, a table saw can be portable (bench top, compact, or jobsite table saws) or stationary (contractor, hybrid, or cabinet table saws).
What is a Table Saw Used For?
The primary function of a table saw is to turn large pieces of wood into smaller and more manageable sizes. It cuts fast, and it is effective with many different types of cuts. But you can still expect it to work better with some cuts than with others.
The top 3 uses of a table saw are:
Table Saws are Used for Ripping
Ripping implies cutting the wood piece to its width, meaning parallel to the wood’s grain. Given its construction and how it works, a table saw is giving you unlimited width cutting and ripping capacity.
Ripping entire lengths of plywood with it is not just easy, but also enjoyable.
Using a Table Saw For Cross Cutting
Crosscutting is the opposite of ripping, meaning you have to cut the wood to its length. When cutting across the wood’s grain, you need a sliding crosscut table guide.
For the best crosscutting results with a table saw, you’d have to work on small sheets, getting short pieces.
Bevel Cutting With A Table Saw
Though it has a limited bevel cut ability, a table saw can still perform this job. That’s because it allows you to change the angle of the blade.
You will need to add a miter gauge and to double-check for accuracy using an angle measure. But other than that, the saw will perform well.
What is a Miter Saw?
A miter saw also has a circular blade, but a very different mode of operation. The blade is attached to a swing and instead of having a fixed position, you can switch it to the right or left, with more adjustability on different angles.
It helps you get short, quick, and precise cuts, at the right angle, with easy repeatability and increased productivity. So, the working material sits in place, and you bring the miter saw down onto it.
Trim workers particularly use it, for wood or non-wood materials. The standard models only rotate to the side. But you’ll also find compound miter saws, which also tilt, allowing horizontal or vertical angle cuts.
And there are even sliding miter saws, which can slide forward, for extra cutting length.
What is a Miter Saw Used For?
A miter saw is meant to facilitate short angle cuts, swiftly and with high accuracy. From this perspective, some of its uses can overlap the ones of a table saw.
But clearly, the miter will outrun the table saw when it comes to the following types of cuts:
Miter Saws are Suited for Angle Cuts
To miter means to join two pieces into a 90-degree angle. Cutting wood pieces in the standard, 45-degree angle is extremely easy.
By joining pieces, you get the 90-degree angle that gives the name of the saw. But one can always get creative and cut even at 50, 60, or 70 degrees.
Bevel Cuts Using a Miter Saw
A bevel cut is an angled cut with a sloped edge rather than a flat edge. It is made with the blade tilted over.
And what you get is a unique cut with attractive decorative features for cabinet trim, picture frames, or interior moldings. Bevel cuts are super easy to make with compound saws.
Trimming With a Miter Saw
Trimming means cutting all types of molds for various utilities. With a miter saw that moves to the right or left and cuts in many different angles, trim and molding for carpentry projects is extremely easy to perform.
Do Table Saws and Miter Saws Require Additional Accessories?
Both the table and the miter saws require personal protective equipment and safety equipment that allows optimal functioning for the saw.
Table Saw vs Miter Saw Comparison
Table Saw Pros and Cons
- Highly versatile tool that can be used for a wide range of cuts, even crosscuts
- Perfect for handling larger material, ripping lumber or plywood lengthwise
- Easily collects sawdust, allowing a more precise cut and a neat finish
- Boasts extra power, at least compared to miter saws
- Can handle various materials, not just wood
- Won’t guarantee ideal results for all the types of cuts it can handle
- Takes up a significant amount of space in the workshop
Who Will Use s Table Saw the Most?
As a versatile tool that can perform many different cuts, a table saw is a must-have for many homeowners and occasional DIYers. Those who want to make rip cuts, repetitive, same-length accurate cuts, or just turning large boards into smaller pieces will make the most of a table saw.
You should particularly consider it if you work on various projects, and you have multiple cutting needs. If you have a generous working space at your disposal, it makes sense to allocate some of it for either a portable or a stationary table saw.
Miter Saw Pros and Cons
- Excellent tool for short cuts, especially for bevel and angle cuts
- Allows you to cut really fast and with high accuracy, on a wide range of angles
- Features a simpler profile that doesn’t take much science to get to work with
- Carries a compact design, without requiring much storage or operation space
- Lightweight and easy to move around, pretty much anywhere you need it
- Construction limits operation only to narrow boards
- Won’t allow making long cuts or rip cuts
Who Will Use a Miter Saw the Most?
As a specialized tool for precise, short cuts at various angles, a miter saw is best for contractors and remodelers, but also for carpenters.
Those who want to cut miters, make crown moldings, build frames for pictures or doors and anything else that involves simple, 45-degree angle cuts will make the most of a miter saw.
You should particularly consider it if you’re into this kind of work and handle cross-cutting boards of maximum 12-inches wide. Especially if you have limited space to work, a compact miter saw should find its place in your workshop.
Using a Table Saw vs a Miter Saw
How to Use a Table Saw
Using a table saw implies two stages, each one with its own steps: making sure that the tool is properly set and doing the actual cutting. Here’s how it should go.
Table Saw Protection and Safety Checks
- Make sure you’re properly dressed and protected
- Wear only tight-fitting clothes
- Put on eye and ear protection
- Unplug the saw
- Check that the blade and the fence are parallel to the miter slots
- Make sure that the blade forms a 90-degree angle with the table
- Check that the blade rotates towards the operator
- Make sure that all the wood parts you’ll cut are straight and flat boards
Actual wood cutting
- Bring in your push stick, to use it against kickbacks
- Readjust the blade’s position to sit a half-tooth above the material you’re going to cut
- Bring in your riving knife or a blade guard with anti-kickback pawls and splitter
- Set the positioning of the fence and lock it
- Plug the saw
- Put your wood piece on the saw
- Push your material through the saw at a reasonable pace
How to Use a Miter Saw
Just like with the table saw, you’ll have to begin with some standard safety measures, followed by the actual work. Here are the steps:
Miter Saw Protection and Safety Checks
- Make sure you’re properly dressed and protected
- Wear tight clothes, secure loosen jewelry or long hair
- Put on your eyes and hear protection
- Get ready to always keep your hands at least 6-inches away from the table
- Unplug the miter saw
- Bring in a table or a miter saw dedicated stand to support your work while cutting
- Place your wood on the table
- Pull down the blade to check that the wood is placed perfectly on the mark
Actual wood cutting
- Bring up the blade of the miter saw to its top position
- Plug in the saw
- And now pull down the blade
- Push it in, towards the fence, to cut all the way through the wood
- Wait until the blade makes a complete stop
- Then push the blade back up
- Reposition the wood
- Push the blade back down to cut, and keep repeating
At least compared to using a table saw, using a miter saw is a bit simpler. And there are certainly fewer things to check for, before you start cutting with it.
Protective Equipment For Your Safety
- Protecting Your Eyes - They protect you against the dust or the splinters that might fly off the blade. You can use simple protection glasses, or safety goggles, which fit the face even more tightly.
- Hearing protection - Earplugs with muffs must be used to reduce the risks of hearing loss, as saws can be quite noisy, depending on what you cut with it.
Accessories For Safe Saw Operation
Blade Guards On Saws
These anti-kickback devices contain any wood chunks, splinters, or broken saw teeth that might come off while cutting with your table saw.
Riving Knives or Splitters
These accessories prevent table saw kickbacks. A riving knife moves with the blade, always at equal distance, whereas the splitter remains stationary to the blade.
Push Blocks or Sticks
These accessories allow you to push the wood against the table saw while still keeping your hand at a safe distance from it. Push blocks are generally considered a must-have.
Metal or wood accessories, they are designed to help you maintain the desired length, width, and cut type. It sits on the tabletop of the table saw, at the right from its blade.
With table and miter saws, you can always choose to switch the blade with a newer version. You’ll find plenty of models with different designs, for enhanced cutting performances.
Auxiliary Table & Fence
For your miter saw, install such an accessory made of MDF, plywood or even hardboard. It will give you zero-clearance support, and prevent the tear as the blade exits each cut.
Collapsible Stands With Workpiece Supports
Again, for your miter saw, which has a small base, you can use a stand with workpiece supports and stops. It will give extra stock support when you pull out the wood. And it will make work with longer pieces more comfortable.
Flip-Stops & Clamp-On Stop Blocks
When looking to make repetitive cuts of the same length, securing the wood pieces with such accessories will help you move faster and easier.
Now You Can Tell the Difference Between Table Saw vs Miter Saw
By now, you surely know the difference between table saw vs miter saw. It is obvious that a table saw works better for long, straight cuts, and a miter saw is for short, angled cuts.
If you perform various works and you have the space and the budget, owning both a table and a miter saw is best. If you have to choose, you won’t help but notice that there are many jobs a table saw can perform, and a miter saw can’t.
All while there is nothing you can do with a miter saw that cannot be done with a table saw, a couple of accessories, and some creativity.
This article was written by the folks over at Tool Tango - a woodworking and tool review blog that helps DIYers and professionals tackle projects with ease.