Table Saws vs. Miter Saws

Updated
Categories Saws
Should you buy a table saw or a miter saw?

If you are familiar with woodworking, you will undoubtedly know your way around a table saw. Likewise, you will probably have some experience with a miter saw. However, you may be a woodworking novice?

As a rookie, you’re likely keen to learn all you can about the essential power saws you’ll need.

So, miter saw vs. table saw, what’s the difference?

Table Saw vs. Miter Saw

Table saws make long cuts and rip-cuts, and will cut through sheet material. Table saws also cut miters but the table is angled, not the blade. Miter saws consist of a circular blade, mounted on a pivoting arm. They make angled, bevel, and compound cuts. Miter saws are better for creating window and door frames, and crown and base moldings. 


What is a Miter Saw?

A miter saw

Miter saws are power tools designed to make accurate angled cuts. They cut across the surface of your workpiece, or along the edges, known as a bevel. A miter saw consists of a circular blade mounted on a pivoting arm. The arm typically swings to the left, unless you have a dual bevel miter saw, which pivots in both directions.

What Is a Miter Saw Used For?

A miter saw opens a world of cutting possibilities in the hands of an experienced user. The best use is when cutting crown moldings, door frames, window frames, and picture frames. If something requires an angled cut, a miter saw is the tool you’ll need.

A double bevel miter saw increases your options and convenience by enabling you to cut in both directions without flipping the workpiece. It also increases the speed of your work as well as accuracy. How? It removes the chances of human error when you line up the cut after you’ve turned your project over.

Note, though, that a miter saw is better suited to a carpenter rather than a woodworker. And there is a difference.

Carpentry involves working on-site, constructing most aspects of home or office buildings. Carpenters work with a wide variety of materials making door and window frames with complex angles.

Woodworking, in comparison, involves building products from wood or composites, like furniture and cabinets. Woodworkers typically work in factories or workshops designing bespoke items and other home or office products.

PROS:
  • Increased accuracy.
  • Precise
  • Cuts 45-degree angle cuts.
  • Makes bevel, miter, and compound cuts.
  • Safe to use compared to table saws.
  • Increases your cutting options.
  • Better on smaller projects.
CONS:
  • Not suitable for cutting larger material.
  • Won’t make rip-cuts.

What Is a Table Saw?

A table saw

It is precisely what it says it is. A table saw consists of a circular blade mounted through a slot in the center of a table. They often have miter gauges to help you cut basic 45-degree angles. The rip fence, located to the side of the blade, helps you to make accurate rip-cuts.

Table saws, or bench saws as they are sometimes called, are fixed in position, making them the ideal workshop addition. Because cabinets and furniture are rarely made on-site, a table saw is the better option when creating wood-based products.

You can buy portable table top saws, but they are not as versatile because of their smaller size.

What Is a Table Saw Used For?

A table saw is the perfect all-round cutting tool. It is often referred to as the workhorse of the woodshop because of its versatility and relative accuracy. It can speed up the woodworking process and is ideal for making rip-cuts, crosscuts, 45-degree angles cuts, and working with larger pieces of material.

Also, if you have large panels or a lot of wood to cut, a table saw will eat through your work pile quickly. This will save you a lot of time, leaving you free to get on with other tasks.

Can a Table Saw Cut Angles?

The answer is yes. You can cut angles using a table saw. The best way to cut angles is with a miter saw, but if you don’t have one, then the miter gauge on your table saw will do the job.

The miter gauge typically has a 60-degree swing to both the left and right. To cut angles, clamp your stock to the miter gauge, and using the angle settings, find the angle you want. Then, slide the wood towards the table saw blade, making sure that it doesn’t move in the clamp.

There are other ways of cutting angles with a table saw, like using a jig assembly. However, the simplest way is to use the miter gauge on the saw.

PROS:
  • Highly versatile; one of the most useful tools in the workshop.
  • Powerful.
  • Great for making rip-cuts.
  • Ideal for working with larger materials.
  • Works well with sheet material.
  • The miter gauge allows you to cut basic angles.
CONS:
  • Not as accurate at precision cuts as the miter saw.
  • Fixed in one place, so not maneuverable.
  • Takes up a lot of room in the workshop.
  • Dangerous to use.
  • Requires a degree of skill to make angles cuts.

Can I Use a Miter Saw as a Table Saw?

It would be difficult to use a miter saw as a table saw because of the differences in design. A table saw has no restrictions around it, so it is ideal for rip-cuts and working with larger stock materials.

A miter saw will cut accurate 90 and 45-degree angles, but only on smaller workpieces. It has a pivoting arm that sits directly behind the blade, restricting the size of your material.

Keep in Mind

You could argue that miter saws can be used as an alternative to table saws but only for small stock pieces. But that still doesn’t make it a table saw, as it lacks the capabilities.

Is a Table Saw Better Than a Miter Saw?

It depends on the project. If you want a workhorse that can make light work of large stock, cut basic angles and make rip-cuts, then yes, a table saw is better.

If, however, you want precision, accuracy, and are working on a complex project, then a miter saw is better. Also, miter saws are maneuverable, whereas table saws typically get fixed into position in the workshop.

Should I Buy a Table Saw or a Miter Saw First?

If you are new to the world of power saws and want to gain experience and confidence, a table saw usually is the way to go. It teaches you the basics about how a saw works, what it can do, and it improves your skills. From there, you can graduate to a miter saw.

That said, it is subjective. Table saws are easier to master, but more dangerous to use. A miter saw, on the other hand, requires some skill to handle, but is safer to use.

Also, the project you are about to undertake will determine which is better; small and complex work requires a miter saw. Large sheet material, the sort used in cabinet making, will need a table saw.

Can You Use a Miter Saw on a Table?

Your miter saw will need a sturdy and flat surface to sit on. Without it, you run the risk of inaccurate cuts and angles. You can mount your miter saw to a small stand or table to make it a permanent fixture in your woodshop, especially if you use it almost all the time.

However, if you do mount your miter saw to a table, it removes the portability of the tool.

Table Saw vs. Miter Saw Comparison Table

Features Table Saw Miter Saw
Size Takes up a lot of space Takes up minimal space
Portability Not portable at all Can be transported to site
Functionality Multi-purpose cutting tool Specialist saw for precise angles & bevels
Accuracy Accurate Known for extreme precision
Safety Dangerous if not careful Very safe
Best For Larger material, rip-cuts, cabinet and furniture making Base or crown moldings, door & window frames, precision work
Skill Level Beginners Advanced

Let’s Cut to the Chase

If you want to know which saw is better, the truth is both have merits. Whatever the task on hand, there will be a time where you wish you had both. A table saw makes light work of more substantial material, while a miter saw gives your project a professional finish.

Whichever category you fit, either carpenter or woodworker, the attributes of a table saw, and a miter saw will benefit you. If you are making a cabinet, wouldn’t you benefit from super-accurate angled cuts and beveled edges?

Likewise, when it comes to carpentry, not all the jobs are small. Sometimes you have to go big, and that’s when a table saw shines.

Headshot of mark

About the Author

Mark Weir

Mark spent 24 years working in real estate, so he knows his way around a home. He also worked with contractors and experts, advising them on issues of planning, investments, and renovations. Mark is no stranger to hands-on experience, having renovated his own home and many properties for resale. He likes nothing better than seeing a project through to completion.
Table Saw Safety (14 Things You Should Know Before Sawing)Table Saw Safety (14 Things You Should Know Before Sawing)
Miter Saws and Chop Saws: Which Is Right for You?Chop Saws vs. Miter Saws
Single Vs Double Bevel Miter Saws (Comparison Table)Starting a DIY project? Should You Use a Single Or Double Bevel Miter Saw?
32 Types of Saws: What Do They Do?32 Different Types of Saws and Their Uses
The Difference Between Worm Drive Saws and Sidewinder Circular SawsWorm Drive Saws vs. Sidewinder Saws
10 Best Table Saws (2020 Reviews)The Best Table Saws on the Market (Our Definitive Guide)

Leave a Comment