Table Saw Or Miter Saw: Which One To Choose?

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Beginners will find it challenging to choose between a table saw and a miter saw because of their apparent similarities in design and function. But there are significant differences between the two pieces of equipment that make each one more suitable for specific tasks. Beginners should know what is a table saw used for and about use of miter saw as well.

Before making your choice, you should consider these differences so that you can make an informed choice. Besides, both types of equipment are among the most expensive tools in a woodworker’s shop so it makes sense to do your research first.

Table Saw: What It Is and How It Works

Table saws come in a wide range of designs from the basic table-top version to the full-sized contractor’s version. The former obviously is more suitable for home-based workshops for DIY enthusiasts, while the latter is common at large construction job sites. But a portable table saw may also be used in commercial and industrial applications because of the ease of is transport, especially in a mobile workshop.

The main difference between the two lies mainly in the sizes of the table and blade, as well as in the power of the motor. But their basic designs are the same – a circular saw blade mounted on a strong and stable metal table, as well as an electric motor that powers the blade (i.e., makes it rotate to cut through wood).

Table-top table saws usually have 15-amp motors combined with 10-inch blades, which can be of the 20-tooth or the 40-tooth variety. The blade can rotate at different speeds, usually from 3850 to 4400 revolutions per minute (rpm).

Full-sized contractor’s table saws obviously have more powerful motors and larger blades. These can accommodate larger and thicker materials from board sheets to lumber. Most of them even have extensions at both sides that increase the area of the working space.

In both versions, nonetheless, there are several common accessories that add to the table saws’ value in terms of functions. These accessories include but aren’t limited to tool-less blade guard, miter gauge, rip fence, anti-kickback pawls, blade wrenches, and push guard.

When it comes to versatility, the table saw is the better choice over the miter saw. The table saw can be used for tasks like:

  • Make rips
  • Crosscut boards
  • Cut panels in various sizes of up to 4×8 feet
  • Install dado and rabbets
  • Cut at a 45-degree angle
  • Make shapes at the edges of wood stock

But emphasis must be made that cutting at a 45-degree angle with a table saw can be a challenge partly because the miter gauge may be inaccurate. While veteran woodworkers can make a miter jig to address the issue, beginners are better off using a miter saw when cutting at a 45-degree angle for best results.

Miter Saw: What It Is and How It Works

Every miter saw is obviously designed to cut miters, which are used for picture frames, crown moldings, and door frames, among others. As a specialized tool, it’s the best one for making cuts at several angles.

The basic miter saw design is a blade mounted on a swing. The user can then crate cuts either to the left or right with ease, as well as without taking more steps to ensure the right angles and alignment in contrast with using a table saw.

Most miter saws can be used in cutting through wood, as well as aluminum, plastic, and concrete. For wooden boards, a miter saw can be used for making crosscuts of up to 6 inches for a 10-inch saw or 8 inches for a 12-inch saw. The actual cutting capacity will vary depending on the power output of the motor and the size of the blade.

Miter saws can only be used for making crosscuts, which means only across the width of the board. These aren’t safe for making rips, or lengthwise cuts. For this reason, these cannot be used for cutting plywood to their desired sizes.

There are also a few overlaps in the functions of the table and miter saws. For example, you can use a table saw with a miter gauge when making crosscuts on shorter boards for as long as these can be placed sideways on the worktable.

Think of these saws in another way, too. With a best table saw, you will move the material across the stationary blade. With a miter saw, you will move the saw blade across the stationary material.


Ultimately, choosing between the two types of saws will depend on the tasks you’re planning on doing. Be sure to use each saw according to its specific uses so that you can get the best results, not to mention keep your hands and fingers intact after each job.

You should always respect the blade, so to speak, when you’re using a motorized saw because its blade can easily cut through flesh and bone. Your vigilance about adopting safety measures, from wearing protective gear to checking your workplace, may mean the difference between an intact body and an amputated limb.

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Hazel Gottesman - October 15, 2019 Reply

Quick question, What should someone be looking for in a table saw? Are there specific features you really need to have? I’ve been looking at Dewalt but there are so many good brands out there. It’s hard to choose… Looking forward to your reply.

    Woodworkology - November 5, 2019 Reply

    Hi Hazel,

    Good question. I would check out our table saw buying guide.

    For me personally, I look for good quality cut and precision, stability, and safety. If I was in the market for one today I would look very hard at a SawStop table saw.

    Good luck!

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