If there’s a job you need to do, and you’re in the market for a saw, you might know which type you need to get the job done. And, that’s okay. With this easy guide, you should learn everything you need to know about table and miter saws so that you can get the right one to get the job done. You’ll also get some of our recommended models so that you can buy with confidence.
Part of the reason that it can be hard to choose between a table saw and a miter saw at first glance is that there is some overlap in what they can do. Both are designed to cut wood and are able to cut angles into your pieces. However, there are differences that you should pay attention to before making your final purchase.
First, size. And, no, not the size of the machines themselves, though that does vary. Instead, we’re talking about the shape and size of the wood you’re planning to cut. With a miter saw, the width of the wood you’re working with is limited by the width of the blade you’re using. For instance, 10” miter saws can cut wood up to about 8” thick, while 12” blades can cut up to 10”. Likewise, the height of the wood is limited by the height of the miter saw. With a miter saw, you’re not going to be cutting plywood sheets, but you should be able to work with many other kinds of lumber and miter gauge posts.
The table saw, on the other hand, is great at cutting plywood sheets, since it doesn’t have the same depth limitations. You can also use it to cut lumber, though if it starts to get on the thicker side, it may get difficult, as you’ll have to adjust the blade height to make sure it goes all the way through. This is a problem you won’t have with a miter saw, which you can lower all the way down each time to ensure your cuts go all the way through.
Both kinds of saws can be used to cut bevels into wood. Miter saws use a blade mounted on an adjustable arm that tilts to change the angle at which it cuts. Table saws generally keep the blade stationary but tilt the table itself around the blade to change the angle at which you make the cut. All the same limitations from the size section still apply, meaning that by doing this you don’t gain any extra maneuvering room to do tasks you could do before.
What this does mean, generally speaking, is that the miter saw will generate a more precise cut, and will generally be more able to do deep, angled cuts than a table saw. The table saw is still the only one of the two capable of beveling a large piece of plywood, but that’s not a common task. Instead, the miter saw excels at cutting bevels into things like wooden trim or moldings.
So, which one is right for me?
Overall, the choice between a table saw, and a miter saw is going to depend on the task. If you’re working with pieces with smaller depths and widths, and need a precision angle cut into them, it would be hard to go wrong with a miter saw. Likewise, if you’re going to be doing a lot of straight cuts on larger pieces, then a table saw will work much better.
The most important thing you can do before you buy is to figure out which kinds of cuts you’re going to be making in the future, and what angles you’re going to be cutting. In most circumstances, the table saw can do what the miter saw does and is a better general-purpose tool. In the circumstances in which the miter saw is better, it tends also to be faster, though that’s a much narrower set of circumstances.