Reciprocating saws, miter saws, table saws, jigsaws, circular saws, plunge saws, radial arm saws, etc., etc., etc. These are just a few of the types of power saws available today. Using the right saw for the job is a lot easier than it sounds, if you know what each saw is capable of.
Two of the most popular types of saws found in serious hobbyist workshops are miter saws and table saws. In appearance, they are nothing alike, but in terms of functionality, there is quite a bit of overlap. So how do you determine whether your workshop would benefit more from one over the otherIn this article, we’ll address this question as well as many more that you might have regarding these two essential pieces of equipment for any woodworking shop.
What is a Miter Saw?
Between miter saws and table saws, miter saws are considered to be the more specialized saw type. Miter saws let users produce cuts at a variety of different angles with just a few adjustments and a plunge of the saw head.
The miter saw consists of a blade, typically between 7-1/2 inches and 12 inches in diameter, that is mounted onto a swing. The saw head tilts either to the left or right (or in both directions depending on the type of miter saw) which is perfect for projects molding, picture frames, and so much more.
As the name suggests, the miter saw is used to make mitered cuts without the fuss of jigs. This makes the miter saw a valuable tool for professional contractors, carpenters, and remodelers.
There are several types of miter saws available, including basic box models (no tilt), compound miter saws (tilts in one direction), double-bevel compound miter saws (tilts in both directions), and a sliding compound miter saw (sliding saw head which increases crosscutting capacity).
What is a Table Saw?
Table saws are considered to be one of the most versatile and widely used saws out there. A table saw can help common DIY-ers and hobbyists with a wide range of different projects.
The table saw is designed to dimension boards by crosscutting and rip cutting them down to size. As the name suggests, a table saw consists of a table with an upward-facing saw. Users push boards over the blade to cut to the right dimensions by pressing it against the guide fence located on either the right or left side of the blade.
The saw’s blade can tilt to the side to produced beveled cuts. However, making mitered cuts with a table saw requires the use of an external jig (you can either make one yourself or purchase one). This means that a table saw, though versatile, does have certain limitations.
Miter saws and table saws are both extremely popular tools, but their popularity just adds to the confusion of which tool to get or use in certain situations. For this reason, it’s important that you know what each of these tools can and cannot do.
A miter saw is used for crosscutting and nothing else. This may sound disappointing, but you’d be surprised to learn how many crosscuts you’ll need to make to complete even the simplest of woodworking tasks.
Precision is what the miter saw is all about. By locking the saw head at the correct angle and by clamping a few stop blocks to keep your boards in place, you can produce hundreds of identically sized boards in hardly any time at all.
The table saw, on the other hand, is the more versatile of the two. Yes, we’ve said it before, and we’ll say it again in this article. The table saw’s ability to make mitered, beveled, crosscuts, and rip cuts make it such a valuable tool for pro and amateur woodworkers alike. The size of the worktable allows you to dimension boards of virtually any length and width. Repeatable cuts are also possible by adjusting the angle of the blade, purchasing/building your jigs, and sliding the guide fence.
Miter Saw Uses
Miter saws are used to produce several styles of cuts compared to tables saws. However, the type of cuts that you can make depend on the type of miter saw you have in your shop. Basic miter saws can make mitered cuts and cross-cuts. A compound miter can also make beveled cuts and compound cuts (cutting on both planes).
Making mitered and beveled cuts are useful for producing beautiful trim pieces and molding. The miter saw is also a handy tool for squaring the ends of boards without too much fuss, especially with a larger blade (10-plus inches) that can dig deeper into thicker stock.
But perhaps the greatest advantage that a miter saw offers is the ability to cut multiple boards to a specific length. Tearing long, thin boards into multiple smaller pieces is where the value of a miter saw shows. This is what makes the miter saw such a handy tool for professional carpenters and remodelers.
Table Saw uses
A table saw, though one of the most resourceful saws you could ever have, is made for two specific functions. These are cutting boards along the grain of the wood (rip cuts) and cutting across the grain (crosscuts). As you can see, this is twice as much cutting capacity as a miter saw which is used specifically for crosscutting narrow boards.
A table saw takes up more floor space than a miter saw, but the size of the table – which is quite large – helps in supporting longer, wider stock. With a table saw, you can purchase rough lumber of lumber yards and tear them down to size before processing them through a jointer and planer.
Table saws are also great at making precise cuts. By setting the tilt of the blade, the positioning of the fence, and the placement of any jigs, your table saw can be used to produce a ton of different cuts on any type of wood.
Unlike miter saws, the table saw’s blade is much smaller and thus ill-equipped for cutting through thick boards, even when adjusted to the highest setting. When rip cutting thicker boards, you may want to consider getting a handheld circular saw with a large 10-inch-plus blade.
Miter Saw vs. Table Saw – Which to Get?
You can’t go wrong with both a miter saw and table saw in your workshop, though you may need to save up quite a bit of money to get them both. So if you’re looking for one tool to do most, if not all, of your cutting, a table saw would be the far better tool to invest in. With the right jigs, you can make any cut that a miter saw can.
The miter saw, on the other hand, is a more specialized tool that serves a very specific function, namely crosscutting through boards of almost any thickness and width depending on the blade size and sliding feature.
Miter Saw vs. Table Saw