- Miter saw vs Table saw
- What can a miter saw do that a table saw can’t?
- What miter saws can’t do?
- Can you use a miter saw like a table saw?
- Do I need a table saw or a miter saw?
Miter saw vs Table saw
The miter saw
A miter saw is a saw that that specializes in creating miter and sometimes beveled cuts. These saws are extremely accurate and efficient at creating quick cuts.
One of the downsides to a miter saw is the width of the board that can be cut. Miter saws can only perform cross cuts and not rip cuts.
Cross cuts are when you cut across the wood grain and rip cuts are when you cut with the wood grain
The table saw
A table saw is a type of saw that specializes in performing accurate cuts on larger pieces of wood. These saws are not as accurate at creating miters as miter saws, but they make up for it where the miter saw lacks.
The table saw provides very accurate rip and cross cuts. You can also use a table saw to create miters. The table saw is the most versatile saw because of the types of cuts you can perform and the types of jigs that are available.
With the help of jigs, you can create precise miter cuts and joinery.
Table saw downsides
The table saw cannot create miters and bevels to the same degree/angle as the miter saw. While the table saw can perform rip and cross cuts on larger boards, there is a limit to how much board that can be cut by just using the table saw.
One way to combat the size limitation is to use a outfeed table.
An outfeed table is a table that will support the wood as it is hanging off the table after passing through the blade. You can buy an outfeed table, or make one at home.
|Cross and Rip cuts
|Semi accurate miters, positive stops at 45 degrees
|Very accurate miters, many positive stops
|Easy jig integration
|Little jig integration
|Can be portable, depending on type
Purchase my table saw: Lowe’s link
Below, I will explain what a miter saw can do that a table saw cannot, the limitations of a miter saw, if you can use a miter saw like a table saw, and what questions to ask to decide which saw to pick.
What can a miter saw do that a table saw can’t ?
Most miter saws have several positive stops on the miter gauge. Some have more than others with 11 or more positive stops.
These stops are factory set points on the miter saw that allow for near exact accuracy.
To cut miters on a table saw, you will either need to utilize special jigs or use the integrated miter gauge. The miter gauge is a sliding gauge that allows you to push the wood at the angle that you want.
While using the integrated miter gauge on the table saw is accurate, it is not as accurate as using a miter gauge with the factory set positive stops on the miter saw.
On the miter saw, you can create near exact accurate miters in seconds. Setting uncommon miters on a table saw, anything other than 45 degrees, takes more time and effort.
Miter cuts are cuts across the width of the board while bevel cuts are angled cuts across the thickness of the board.
Setting a bevel cut on a table saw requires you to tilt the blade. Most table saws are built to tilt the blade by pulling the handle at the front of the saw.
Miter saws are built to tilt the blade by adjusting the bevel gauge at the back of the saw.
The main difference in using a miter saw or table saw in bevel cuts are the amount of positive stops and the maximum bevel degree. Good table saws have a positive stop at 90 and 45 degrees. Miter saws have more positive stops on the bevel gauge like 22.5 and 39.1.
You can create near exact accurate bevel cuts on a miter saw in seconds. This would take you more time and effort to complete on a table saw.
Purchase Dual bevel miter saw: Amazon link
What miter saws can’t do?
You may be thinking, “Wow the miter saw is the best of the best! It’s just so accurate and the best saw all around.” Well, that is not entirely true.
The miter saw has a lot of disadvantages and drawbacks. Frankly, I hardly ever use my miter saw now because I rarely create cuts that are not 90 or 45 degrees.
A miter saw cannot create rip cuts and cannot be used with the amount of jigs that can be used with a table saw.
Rip cuts are cuts that go with the wood grain. The reason why miter saws cannot perform these cuts are due to its design limitation. A regular miter saw can cut around a 6 inch wide piece of wood at max. A sliding miter saw can cut around a 12 inch piece of wood at max.
Lets say that you want to do a rip cut on a piece of wood that will be used for a 4 ft table top. You will have to utilize another type of saw like a table or circular saw.
Not being able to cut longer pieces of wood is a major limitation and will likely require you to have another saw in your workshop along with a miter saw.
Having a miter saw alone will not be enough to complete most woodworking projects. A miter saw is what I like to see as a “helper saw”. You will likely use this saw in conjunction with another saw.
Miter saws fall behind table saws in versatility. Tables saws are extremely versatile because you can purchase jigs or make your own. There are jigs for edge joining, miter joints, dado joints, lap joints, miter and bevel cuts, and cutting very small and very large pieces of wood.
With the help of jigs you can make your table saw comparable to a miter saw by creating more accurate miters and bevels. You can also make it more comparable to a circular saw by being able to cut larger pieces of wood with the use of an outfeed table.
Can you use a miter saw like a table saw?
A miter saw cannot be used as a table saw because the abilities of a miter saw is too different than that of a table saw. The miter saw is good for precise cuts of miters and bevels.
Table saws are good for performing rip cuts, and this is where miter saws fail. If you have a 12″ sliding miter saw, you will not be able to cut more than 14″ out.
A table saw outshines the miter saw in its versatility and ability to create rip cuts.
The issue with jigs
The table saw is effective with its ability to integrate jigs. You can use a table saw to cut joinery, miters, and to work with small or large pieces of wood.
It is very difficult to create a jig to cut joinery or smaller pieces of wood on a miter saw.
The issue with rip cuts
Rip cutting larger pieces of wood is nearly impossible.
If you have a sliding miter saw that can cut 2 x 12 wood at 90 degrees. You can cut 24 inches max, if you flip the wood to the other side to complete the cut. Even then, that may not be enough to perform longer rip cuts.
The issue with this is that you will lack in accuracy and increase your risk of injury because the miter saw is not designed to support cuts that wide.
The issue with plywood
The miter saw can cut plywood very well. However, the issue is that plywood normally comes in larger sheets of 4×8 feet or more.
Miter saws cannot cut most plywood pieces because it cannot support cuts of more than 6 inches wide of a miter saw and 14 inches wide on a sliding miter saw. You cannot cut a 4 by 8 foot sheet of plywood on a miter saw. You will have to utilize another saw that longer cuts, like the jigsaw, circular saw, or table saw.
Do I need a table saw or a miter saw?
Now that you know all of the benefits and drawbacks of a miter and table saw, you can now decide which one will be best for you.
The ideal miter saw purchaser
The ideal person to purchase a miter saw will see a specialty too to perform specific cuts.
You will want to purchase a miter saw if you..
1. Already have another saw
- You should only get a miter saw if you have another saw to perform rip cuts.
- Ideally, you should only get a miter saw if you have a circular saw or a table saw. Due to the limitations of the jig saw, you should get a table saw if this is the only saw you have
- The miter saw is a “helper saw” or specialty tool. You will need this saw in conjunction with another saw that will perform the bulk of the cuts that you will need
2. Need to create quick and accurate miter
- If you need to make quick and accurate miters regularly, then you should get a miter saw.
- The ideal purchaser will need to perform cuts other than 90 and 45 degrees and will need to utilize other positive stops
- If you only need to cut 45 degree miters, then a table saw will suffice
3. Need to create quick and accurate bevels
- A miter saw is great for creating accurate bevels. With one, you will be able to create bevels of varying degrees
You will not need a miter saw if you..
1.Don’t need to cut odd miters
- The most common miter is 45 degrees. Many table saws have a positive stop for 45 degrees.
- If you do not need to cut anything other than 45 and 90 degrees, then there is no real reason to get a miter saw
2. Don’t have another saw
- If you do not have another saw or if you only have a jigsaw, then you should get a table or circular saw first.
- These saws will benefit you more and then you can get a miter saw to perform those specific tasks
- If you do not know if you should get a table or circular saw first, then you should check out my other article where I explain The most important 7 woodworking tools for beginners.
3. Want to create joinery
- If you want a saw to create joinery like half lap and dado joints, then you will need to use a jig with a table saw.
- A miter saw does not allow for easy jig integration and is not as versatile
4. Need to perform rip cuts
- If you need a saw to perform rip cuts, then you should get a table saw. Miter saws are not designed to handle rip cuts.
In this article we looked at if a miter saw can be used as a table saw, the difference between the two saws, and their pros and cons.
Thank you so much for taking the time to read this article and I wish you luck on your woodworking journeys!
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