When it comes to your carpentry and woodworking projects, knowing which saws are which, and which saws perform which tasks with ease is very important. After all, you don’t want to use a miter saw when it’s a scroll saw that you should be using, or using a miter saw when a table saw would be the ideal candidate for the job at hand. As somebody who works with wood, you need to know the differences between various saw types, and what each saw is ideal for.
More than likely, you are going to have a plethora of saws at your disposal, at least if you are a professional that works with wood and other such materials on a daily basis. Today, we are here to do a miter saw vs. table saw comparison. We are going to talk about what miter and table saws are, and we are going to talk about the jobs which each is fit for, as well as the jobs that they are not fit for.
Let’s get right to it and figure out whether it is a miter saw or table saw which the job at hand calls for.
The Miter Saw
A very popular type of saw which many contractors have is the miter saw. Now, miter saws also have circular blades with lots of teeth. They move in a circular motion at a high RPM level, although usually not as fast as the table saw’s blade moves. Miter saws are a lot more portable, as they do not have full-sized tables or stands that need to be set up in a certain place. They are much smaller, more portable, and much more compact, which makes them good to use if you are on the go a lot.
For instance, transporting a miter saw is much easier than trying to lug around a table saw, especially a full-size one complete with its own table stand. Unlike the table saw, where you put the piece of wood on the table and then feed it through the stationary blade, a miter saw only has a small support on the bottom, where you put the wood.
The circular blade of the miter saw is in a housing that is atop the small work table, and it features a hinge so the blade can be moved down onto the wood that is being cut, and then back up when the cut has been made. So, whereas the table saw has its blade on the bottom, with wood being fed into it, the miter saw has the blade on top, and the blade has to be moved to the wood. Miter saws are a bit more versatile in this way, as the blade can usually be changed in terms of position. The blade of the miter saw is mounted on a swing, and therefore can be changed for angle, so you can make angled cuts on small pieces of wood with ease. Now, there are also compound miter saws that add an extra feature to the mix. The big difference between the normal miter saw and the compound miter saw is that the compound version can also cut on a bevel. Being able to make bevel cuts with a compound miter saw can definitely come in quite handy.
The Table Saw
When it comes down to it, one of the most versatile tools in the world of woodworking is the table saw. One of the things which many people like about the table saw is that it comes in many different shapes and sizes.
You can get benchtop table saws, which are small, portable, and are designed to be used atop of a workbench. There are larger table saws which are not portable, but still not huge. And then you have the full-size contractor cabinet table saws that are meant for some really big jobs. The table saw is probably one of the first woodworking tools that any contractor will purchase. Most good table saws are going to come with a dust management system – a vacuum and bag to suck away the sawdust.
Table saws feature a round blade housed within the table, a blade which spins at several thousand RPM, thus making quick work out of many different materials. The table saw is great for making any kind of straight cut, whether it is with the piece of wood perpendicular to the blade, parallel to the blade, or at an angle as well.
The bottom line is that if you want to make a straight cut on a long piece of wood, the table saw is the way to go. They come with fences and guides to ensure that cuts are always made straight. Table saws are ideal because they are large and can handle larger pieces of wood, both in terms of length and width. Moreover, table saws can usually handle fairly thick pieces of wood as well, as you can lower or raise the blade depending on the thickness of the material being worked with.
Miter Saw vs. Table Saw – Main Uses
Let’s quickly talk about what the main uses of each of these tools are, so you know when to use a miter saw, and when to use a table saw. Knowing the differences is going to come in very handy.
Miter saw – main uses, pros, and cons
So, miter saws are much smaller than table saws and therefore the materials they can handle are also much smaller in size. They can come with extension wings on occasion, but the width, length and thickness of what the miter saw can cut is still limited, especially when compared to the much more spacious table saw. Simply put, if you have a smaller piece of wood, a miter saw will do just fine, but in terms of work piece size, it can only go so far.
However, with that being said, the miter saw tends to be more versatile in terms of the types of cuts it can make. This is especially true if you have a compound miter saw that has a bevel adjustment feature. A compound miter saw can make cross cuts, angled cuts, angled cross cuts, bevel cuts, and more.
While they cannot handle as large of work pieces as table saws, they can make more types of cuts than the table saw. With that being said, one type of cut which the miter saw cannot make is the rip cut. You cannot feed a long piece of wood through a miter saw. As you can probably tell by now, with a miter saw, the blade is what is moves towards the wood, whereas with a table saw, you feed the wood through the blade. It’s a major difference that needs to be kept in mind.
Learn some basics of using Miter saw in the short video below:
The miter saw is considered to be an essential tool for carpentry, as it allows for very accurate molding and lumbar cuts. On a side note, a miter saw will sputter and rumble a bit as it starts up. One important thing to keep in mind when it comes to safety while using a miter saw is that you always need to get the blade up to full speed before you move it down onto the wood you are looking to cut. It is very important to maintain your miter saw, just as you would your table saw.
Table saw – main uses, pros, and cons
When it comes to table saws, typically there are two main types of cuts that can be made with them. First off, you can cut a piece of wood lengthwise and with the grain. This is called a rip cut, or in other words, an example of this would be cutting a 2 x 4 in half length-wise. You can also use a table saw to cut pieces of wood width-wide and against the grain, which is called a crosscut. Some select table saws also allow for angled cuts, but this is generally left to the miter saw.
A big advantage of the table saw is that it can handle much longer, larger, and usually thicker pieces of wood when compared to the miter saw. A table saw is much larger and takes up more room than a miter saw, but it can also handle much larger pieces of wood.
The best table saws often come with extension tables, allowing them to handle even larger workpieces than they normally could. When it comes to large pieces and long rip cuts or crosscuts, the table saw is what you want to go with. Generally speaking, due to the big time size difference, unless you have a table top table saw, one that does not come with a stand, they are very large and not portable. Most table saws are purely stationary and are not designed to be taken from one place to another.
Here’s a short tip how to use a table saw for beginners:
One thing that you need to know about the table saw is that it is usually considered to be one of the most dangerous types of saws to use. You have to maintain a table saw very well, especially in terms of the table top and the blade to reduce the risk of accidents and injuries from occurring. One important thing to keep in mind is to keep it cleaned, oiled, and prevent rust from occurring, as a rusty blade and table top can be extremely dangerous.
However, when a table saw is properly maintained, it can help create a safe cutting environment, plus a whole lot of accuracy; one of the main benefits that you get from the table saw is that it is very accurate in its cutting. Table saws come with precise measurement guides, fences, and other alignment tools which can help create super accurate cuts down to a fraction of an inch.
Another big bonus of the table saw is that it is ideal for making various long cuts of the same size. When you have the fences and guides set, you can keep feeding wood through the blade, and you will get the same result time and time again. It’s a great tool if you need to make many repeated cuts that are exactly the same. Technically speaking, table saws can perform miter cuts, dado cuts, rabbet cuts, cross cuts, rip cuts, and more.
When it comes down to which type of saw you purchase, whether a table or a miter saw, you need to think about the job you are looking to do. The machine you get is going to depend on the challenge or job at hand.
If you are just starting out and beginning to stock up your woodworking shop, you might want to start off with a miter saw. They are small and portable, they can be taken with you, and they can perform a variety of cuts. They are fairly powerful and can make a variety of accurate cuts thanks to their fences and alignment systems. Moreover, they are great for making angled, bevel, and cross cuts on smaller work pieces.
This is the one we use:
Craftsman 10″ Single Bevel Sliding Compound Miter Saw
If you want to upgrade even more, you might then want to move on to the table saw. No, table saws are generally not portable, but on the other hand, they can work with much larger, longer, and thicker pieces of wood. The main advantage you get with a table saw over the miter saw, is that you can make long rip cuts with them by feeding wood through the blade lengthwise, something which a miter saw cannot do.
For safety and just starting out, it makes sense to use a miter saw. But, keep in mind a table saw can make every cut a miter saw can make, plus a lot more so it’d be the tool of choice from that perspective. It’s just a bit more challenging to use safety-wise.
Table Saw by SawStop
Because we have small kids, we don’t even want a table saw around for the moment. When we do get one, it will be this model:
The idea behind it is that if your finger (or any body part really) touches the blade, the blade will come to a complete stop in 5 milliseconds.
It’s pretty amazing really, and completely worth it in my opinion. A life-changing injury just doesn’t make sense and I’ve been in enough Woodworking related Facebook groups to know that it isn’t only newbies who get hurt on table saws.
When it comes down to it, both the table saw and the miter saw are very useful tools that every professional woodworker or contractor needs to have in their carpentry arsenal.
With these two tools, there’s very little that you can’t do when it comes to woodworking!