Miter Saw vs Table Saw (Which Should I Buy?)

Explore the miter saw vs table saw comparison to understand the distinct features of each, ensuring you select the best tool for your woodworking projects and expertise.

Choosing the right tool for your woodworking tasks is essential. When it comes to deciding between a miter saw and a table saw, it can feel a bit challenging. Both these tools are top picks for any workshop, offering unique features that cater to specific needs.

Here’s the main difference: a miter saw excels in making precise angle cuts and is particularly adept at crosscuts, miter cuts, and bevel cuts, making it a favorite for tasks like molding or framing. In contrast, a table saw is the powerhouse of woodworking tools, engineered to take on substantial tasks and boasting greater flexibility in executing a range of cuts, from ripping long boards to cutting bigger pieces of wood.

In this article, I’ll break down the main differences and what’s similar between a miter saw vs table saw. By the end, you’ll know which one might be the better fit for your projects and when to use each one.


How to Crosscut with a Table Saw Crosscut Fence
Crosscuts on a Table Saw

What is the Difference Between a Miter Saw and a Table Saw?

In this section, I’ll cover the main differences between the two power tools and what each one excels at. By comparing the table saw and miter saw, you’ll gain a clearer understanding of which one might be the best fit for your woodworking tasks. Let’s get started and see which saw matches your needs more closely.

Miter Saw:

  • A miter saw specializes in making accurate angled cuts, especially useful for things like crown moldings and picture frames.
  • It’s a fantastic tool when you need precise crosscuts in materials like lumber or boards.
  • Thanks to its pivoting arm, a miter saw can make both miter and bevel cuts, giving more design options for your projects.
  • Generally more compact than table saws, it’s easier to move around and requires less space in your workshop.
  • Provides an efficient method for repeated cuts, making tasks like framing or baseboard installations quicker.
  • It’s particularly handy when working on projects that require multiple, exact-angle cuts.

Table Saw:

  • A table saw is a powerhouse, designed for cutting larger and longer materials, handling everything from hardwoods to plywood sheets.
  • It’s the tool of choice when you have multiple, long straight cuts, offering a consistent cut every time.
  • With its built-in fence, it guarantees straight and accurate cuts, which is vital for projects like cabinetry or furniture making.
  • Its broad table surface provides stability, ensuring your material stays flat and even during the cutting process.
  • Thanks to its versatility, you can use it for different types of cuts – from rip cuts and crosscuts to making bevel cuts and miter cuts.
Miter Cut on a Miter Saw
Miter Cuts on a Miter Saw

Miter Saw vs Table Saw: Comparison Table

Now that you’re more familiar with the differences between a table saw and a miter saw, check out the table below. It breaks down how each saw performs in areas like usage, accuracy, portability, and cost.

Miter Saw Table Saw
Main Use Best for quick, short, and angled cuts, especially for moldings and frames. Ideal for handling larger pieces and long straight cuts across wide boards.
Precision and Accuracy Provides precise angled and mitered cuts. (Blade quality matters) Offers great precision, especially for ripping wood along the grain. (Blade quality matters)
Repeatability Excellent for repeated angled cuts due to preset angles on the saw. Superior for repeated straight cuts with the help of a fence.
Portability It is generally more portable because of its compact size. Bulkier and mostly stationary, making it less portable.
Space Requires less space, fitting into smaller workshops with ease. Needs more workshop space due to its size and stationary nature.
Types of Cuts Specializes in miter cuts, bevel cuts, and crosscuts. Excels in rip cuts, and crosscuts, and can also do miter and bevel cuts with the right attachments. Versatile in making dados and rabbets.
Price Typically more affordable than a full-sized table saw, but the price varies with features. Can be pricier, especially for models with advanced features.

* Price depends on the actual saw model

What is a Miter Saw?

A miter saw is a specialized tool designed primarily for making precise angled cuts. A compound miter saw takes the basics of a standard miter saw and adds a bit more flexibility. One of its standout features is the ability to tilt its spinning blade, which means it’s not just for straight cuts. This tilting feature is a huge help for jobs that require beveled cuts, like when you’re crafting crown moldings or more complex frames.

If you’re thinking of an upgrade, you can consider the sliding compound miter saw. This type has a blade that slides back and forth, extending its cutting range. It’s especially handy for those times when you’re dealing with wider wood pieces. A compound miter saw is great for precise and clean cuts, especially useful for detailed woodworking projects.

What is the difference between a Compound Miter Saw and a Double Bevel Miter Saw?

Now that you understand the basics of a miter saw you might wonder how a double-bevel miter saw fits into the picture. Essentially, while a compound miter saw can tilt in one direction to make beveled cuts, a double bevel miter saw, often called a dual bevel miter saw, can tilt both left and right. This means you don’t need to flip your workpiece to make bevel cuts on opposite sides, making your work faster and more efficient.

Feature Single Bevel Miter Saw Double Bevel Miter Saw
Direction of Tilt Tilts in one direction Tilts both left and right
Ease of Making Bevel Cuts Requires workpiece flipping for opposite side bevels No need to flip the workpiece
Price Generally more affordable Typically pricier due to added feature
Bevel Cut on a Miter Saw
Sigle Bevel Miter Saw

Benefits of a Miter Saw

  • Compact and space-efficient: Miter saws, especially the sliding miter saw varieties, are designed to be compact, allowing you to maximize your workspace.
  • Perfect for precise miters: Unlike some other saws, miter saws excel at creating precise angled cuts, making them ideal for tasks like picture framing and molding.
  • Neat and clean operation: Many miter saws come with effective dust collection systems, ensuring that your workspace remains clean and sawdust-free.
  • High precision and accuracy: Miter saws are built for accuracy, ensuring that every cut is clean, smooth, and just right.
  • User-friendly and manageable: Thanks to their design, miter saws are relatively easy to use, and their manageable size makes them a fit for various woodworking settings.

When To Use a Miter Saw?

There are many situations when a miter saw proves its worth.

When faced with the choice between a table saw or miter saw for certain tasks, consider the specific cuts you need. For making accurate crosscuts, especially on smaller pieces of wood or when dealing with precise angle cuts like for frames or moldings, a miter saw can cut with unmatched precision.

In tight spaces or specific job sites, the miter saw’s compactness becomes a significant advantage. It allows for efficient and accurate cutting without needing a large setup space. Moreover, when making bevels or compound angle cuts, the miter saw blade can easily be adjusted, offering flexibility that might be challenging on a table saw.

A unique feature of the miter saw is its ability to slide (in sliding miter saws), which extends the cutting width. This proves valuable when you’re working with wider boards that need a precise cut without shifting the material around multiple times.

Miter Cut, What tools to use to cut a miter and bevel
Perfect for cutting miters

What is a Table Saw?

A table saw is one of the must-have pieces of equipment in woodworking. It consists of a flat table surface with a circular saw blade protruding through it. Various types of table saws are available, such as the contractor table saw, jobsite table saw, and the more extensive cabinet table saw. While each type serves specific needs, they all share the same basic design: a flat table to support the wood and a circular saw blade for cutting.

Similar to the miter saw, table saws can make cuts at different angles with the help of a miter gauge. However, the primary distinction between the two is in how they operate. With a table saw you move the wood over the stationary blade. In contrast, with a miter saw, you move the saw itself while the material stays put.

The strength of a table saw lies in its ability to make repeatable and consistent cuts. Just set the fence, and each cut will match the previous one. This tool is especially valuable for long cuts, ripping tasks, and handling thicker materials, whether it’s wood, metal, or plastic.

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Types of Table Saws

Contractor Table Saw:

  • Often used by hobbyists, the contractor table saw is portable and typically more affordable than other types.
  • Provides good quality cuts but might not be as precise as higher-end models.

Jobsite Table Saw:

  • Designed for portability, the jobsite table saw is great for on-site work and tends to be in the mid-range price category.
  • Offers a balance between performance and convenience, suitable for varied tasks.
  • With the appropriate blade and configuration, it can provide excellent results.

Cabinet Table Saw:

  • Positioned at the higher end of the price spectrum, the cabinet table saw is built for professionals and serious woodworkers.
  • Known for its precision and durability, it provides top-notch quality cuts.

The table below provides an overview of the main types of table saws.

Type of Table Saw Usage and Portability Price Range Cut Quality
Contractor Table Saw Best for hobbyists, offers portability More affordable Good quality, might lack precision of higher-end models
Jobsite Table Saw Ideal for on-site work, balanced portability Mid-range Balanced performance and convenience
Cabinet Table Saw Designed for professionals, less portable Higher-end Top-notch precision and durability
Table Saw Blade Adjustable Mechanism
DeWalt Jobsite Table Saw

Benefits of a Table Saw

  • Durability: Table saws are built to handle continuous use and stand up to regular wear and tear. They are ideal for processing large amounts of material consistently.
  • Great for Long Cuts: When it comes to making long, precise cuts, table saws are one of the best tools for the job. With the ability to lower the blade to the desired height, they provide better control in cutting depth.
  • Versatility: The versatility of a table saw is one of its best features. Whether you’re breaking down larger wood pieces, making cross-cuts, or ripping boards in half, this tool is perfect for the job.
  • Precision: With the right setup, especially with the fence, table saws ensure you get consistent and exact cuts. This precision really helps when you’re making multiple cuts of the same width.

When To Use a Table Saw?

For making the same rip cut over and over, the table saw is the best tool. Unlike a miter saw, where you might need to set it up for each cut, with the table saw, you set the fence once, and all your cuts come out the same width. It’s a big time-saver in woodworking projects.

Also, table saws are great for cuts that don’t go all the way through the board like grooves, dados, or rabbets, and it’s a solid choice for cutting tenons or making splines. They have a cutting depth of around 3 to 4 inches, which is deeper compared to some miter saws.

When it comes to making precise 90-degree cuts, seeing the blade on a table saw makes it straightforward to see where you’re cutting, though you’ve got to be careful since the blade is out in the open. On the other side, a miter saw might be easier to move around, but can be a bit tricky with really small pieces of wood because of the blade design and not seeing the cut as clearly. So, when you’re deciding between a miter saw and table saw, think about what you’ll be working on.

How to straight a live edge with a taper jig
Table Saw Tapering Jig
T Tracks on Table Saw
Cutting T-tracks on thin wood strips

Table Saw vs Miter Saw Safety

Table saws and miter saws come with safety concerns. Miter saws often lead to hand and finger injuries due to close proximity to the blade. Meanwhile, table saws present a risk called kickback, which is when the material gets jammed between the blade and the fence, hurling it back toward the operator. This situation can result in serious injuries.

Statistically, table saws are seen as the riskier tool compared to miter saws, ranking them among the more hazardous power tools. The open blade on a table saw, coupled with the threat of kickback, amplifies its danger level. It is important to approach table saws with a careful attitude, following all safety guidelines and using protective gear like eye and ear protection. Utilizing push blocks or featherboards dramatically decreases the potential for injuries by keeping a safe distance from the blade.

Miter saws and table saws often come equipped with built-in safety features like blade guards, safety switches, or anti-kickback pawls reducing the risk of accidents during operation. However, it’s still crucial to ensure they are used correctly and safely. Regardless of whether using a miter saw or table saw, understanding and respecting the tool’s potential dangers is key to safe operation.

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gripper push block review
Table Saw Push Block

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

I remember when I was deciding whether to get a table saw or a miter saw first. Both tools are great at what they do, but they serve different purposes. Here are a few things that might help you decide.

The blade you choose is a big deal, and each blade has its own role. But even with the right blade, there’s a huge difference between what a table saw and a miter saw can do. I found the table saw to be more versatile. It’s adaptable and handles a variety of cuts and tasks with ease. Whether it’s ripping long pieces of wood or cutting larger boards down to size, the table saw handles it all with ease. And what is great is you can add different jigs to a table saw like a crosscut sled for precise 90-degree cuts, or a tenoning jig for perfect tenons, among others. This versatility is why I leaned towards getting a table saw first.

Now, table saws have their downside – they can be a bit dangerous due to the open-blade setup. On the other hand, miter saws are a safer bet, especially if you’re just starting out. However, if budget allows, getting both is like having the best of both worlds. The table saw covers a wide range of cuts, while the miter saw is excellent for angled cuts, and particularly handy for trim work.

RELATED: Best Table Saws for Woodworking Beginners

Frequently Asked Questions

Can a miter saw perform the same cuts as a table saw?

No, a miter saw and a table saw serve different purposes. A miter saw is exceptional for crosscuts and miter cuts, while a table saw excels at rip cuts and can handle a wider range of woodworking tasks.

Is a table saw more dangerous than a miter saw?

Yes, table saws tend to be more dangerous due to the risk of kickback and the exposed blade. However, with proper safety measures and the right technique, risks can be significantly reduced.

Which one should I buy first for my woodworking projects, a miter saw or a table saw?

It largely depends on the projects you’ll be tackling. If you need to make a lot of long, straight cuts or will be working with larger pieces of wood, a table saw might be the better first purchase. If you’ll be doing more crosscutting or angle cuts, a miter saw may be more useful.

Can I use the same blades for my miter saw and table saw?

Not necessarily, as blades are designed based on the saw’s specifications and the task at hand. It’s essential to check the blade’s compatibility with your saw to ensure it fits and functions properly.

How to prevent kickback on a table saw?

Preventing kickback on a table saw involves a few steps: Ensure the blade is sharp and clean for smoother cuts. Use a riving knife or splitter to keep the wood from pinching the blade. When cutting, make sure the wood is flat and securely against the fence to avoid any shifting during the cut.

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About the author, Lukas
About the author, Lukas

Meet the creator of AllFlavor Workshop! As a passionate DIYer and woodworking enthusiast, Lukas is always looking for ways to make things himself rather than buying them off the shelf. With a keen eye for design and a knack for working with wood, Lukas enjoys sharing his craft with others and helping them discover the joy of building. Whether you're an experienced woodworker or a novice looking to try your hand at a new hobby, you're sure to find plenty of inspiration and tips on AllFlavor Workshop.