When Do You Use a Miter Saw Versus a Table Saw?

Picking the right tool for the job can be time-consuming and sometimes confusing. There are too many options to easily distinguish which one you need – even for those who have been woodworking for a while. This applies almost every aspect of woodworking, including picking the right saw.

So, what is the difference between a table saw and a miter saw?

Well, to put it simply: a table saw can be used to create long, straight cuts, including a rip cut. A miter saw is useful for short, complicated cuts, like angled or beveled cuts in the wood.

Each comes in different sizes for both the woodworking professional and the woodworking hobbyist.

Starting a project knowing that you will need one or the other puts you in a difficult spot: which one will you need most? Most of us can not afford to purchase both, so discovering which one will benefit you the most during your project is a must.

What Is The Difference Between A Table Saw And A Miter Saw?

The differences between a table saw, and a miter saw goes deeper than just the different basic cuts they can make, it includes their:

  • Versatility
  • Size
  • Cuts
  • Placement

Even so, they do have their similarities and can do some of the same things when used for your project.

What Cuts Can You Do With Each Saw?

Each saw has its own purpose, but sometimes they overlap. This happens when comparing the types of cuts they can do.

A table saw can make fewer cuts, and a miter saw can make many, but each have their own specialty that cannot be done by the other.

Overall, the performances vary greatly, and some projects may require both to be completed properly. While it may be able to be avoided with pre-cut wood or smaller tools, you may be stuck needing both.

What Cuts Can You Do With A Table Saw?

Table saws are used to make two types of cuts: Rip cuts and crosscuts. A rip cut is when you cut a piece of wood going with the grain. A cross-cut is when you cut against the grain, slicing the wood in half.

Table saws come in handy for longer cuts and can handle wider materials. The materials can be however long or wide since you will not have any size restrictions or walls that you need to remain within.

The cuts made by a table saw are generally caused by a spinning saw blade in the middle of a table or stand. You then push the wood into the blade to create the cut.

What Cuts Can You Do With A Miter Saw?

Miter Saws can be used to create a wide variety of cuts; they can perform:

  • Straight cuts: A cut that creates a basic 90-degree angle.
  • Angled cuts: Any angled cuts that are made straight through the wood.
  • Beveled cuts: A cut that is made at a side angle through the wood.
  • Combination cuts: A cut that is made through the wood that is both angled and beveled.

Miter saws serve as a fundamental tool in your workshop and can be used for many different projects, but they cannot perform rip cuts.

These saws work in a way that is almost the opposite of table saws; they pull down to cut. The blade is housed in a plastic cover on a small platform. The blade can be adjusted to whatever angle or cut you need and then pulled down onto the wood to make the cut.

Saw Types

Table saws and miter saws come in multiple different versions that offer different cuts and mobility.

Choose a type that will best suit your project needs; don’t get something that will be impossible to move when you’re trying to do an off-site project.

Also, consider which one is more budget-friendly if you’re shopping around. If one is out of the budget, think about angle adjustments or alternative methods to make up for the shortcomings.

Types Of Table Saws

Table saws come in three styles or types; there is the one found in most at-home wood shops where the table saw stands on its own legs; they usually have wheels to roll around on the shop floor giving it extra mobility.

Then there are table saws that are built on top of cabinets. These are typically found in professional shops and are a more permanent type of saw.

Lastly, there are light, mobile table saws that can be placed on any base. These are most often used for construction as they are built better for travel.

All types make the same types of cuts, and the best ones are usually connected to dust management systems such as a bag or hose near the blade.

Types Of Miter Saws

Miter saws do not typically come with stands and instead are meant to sit on a workbench while being used, they sometimes even come with extension arms for support.

There is the basic miter saw that allows you to make two different cuts, both of which are straight, including 90-degree angles. This basic type can also be used to complete angled cuts by adjusting the blade over the piece of wood.

The other main type of miter saw is the compound miter saw. They can make the same cuts as a basic miter saw, but they can also cut with a bevel. The blade can tilt into positions and lock at the angle you need.

More advanced compound saws may allow you to tilt the blade in any direction from its 90-degree starting position to make the cut.

Should I Use A Table Saw Or A Miter Saw?

The main question is: Should you use a table saw or a miter saw? Which one is appropriate for the project?

The basic answer is that you should use a table saw when you would need to make long cuts and a miter saw for short.

A more in-depth explanation would be that a table saw is the one that is capable of making longer cuts down the board, as in 1ft, 2ft, or more. A miter saw would be used when you make shorter cuts, usually no more than 16in, that need to be angled or beveled.

The best way to decide is to think about your project, make a plan, and then evaluate that plan to determine which type of cuts are most common and if you could deal with only making 90 degree angle cuts.

Common Projects That Require A Table Saw

There are plenty of projects that require a table saw in varying degrees. Some only need it to make a few cuts, but others require it for almost every piece of wood used.

Some common projects that use a table saw are:

  • Straight edged bookcase
  • Wooden bench
  • Spice rack
  • Closet shelves
  • Cutting board
  • Coffee table
  • Shoe organizer
  • House subfloor
  • Porch

There is no limit to the projects you can use a table saw for if you think creatively. A lot can be done with just a table saw without having to get a miter saw.

Common Projects That Require A Miter Saw

Projects that require a miter saw are common, especially when attempting to do things in the house. Additionally, there are still plenty of outdoor projects that run their best when a miter saw is involved.

A couple of the most common woodworking projects that need a miter saw are:

  • Crown molding
  • Window trim
  • Picture frames
  • Bookends
  • Hanging wood planters
  • Floating shelves
  • Wooden arrow wall art
  • Small birdhouse
  • Phone dock
  • Candle holder
  • Sofa sleeve

Generally, any project that you need a specific angle or an exact cut will need to be done using a miter saw. If you have a miter saw, you will not necessarily need a table saw unless you need an overly long cut.

Making A Decision

The one you would benefit from most would be a miter saw unless you need to make a rip cut, then you would have to have a table saw.

If you happen to own both, then use both. Use what you’re most comfortable with for your project and only touch the other if you have to.

If you’re still unsure which one you need and you are unfamiliar with your project, look up examples of other people doing the same thing. That will give you a good idea and nudge you in the right direction.

Additional Related Questions

Can you use a miter saw blade on a table saw? Yes you can. The blade on a miter saw is usually a bit thinner than those for a table saw, so you’ll need to keep this in mind when making your cuts. You should also check to ensure your splitter (the part that separates the wood after it has passed through the blade) is not thicker than the new blade size.

Do you need a table for a miter saw? It depends on your setup. If you are outside, you can get by without a table IF you are able to set the saw on a solid, level piece of ground such as a concrete sidewalk. However, if you use your miter saw often, it is highly recommended that you get a table. There are plenty of plans available online or you can pick up a basic table such as this one if you prefer not having to build one.

Do table saws cut angles? Yes they can, however, you’ll need to buy or make your own jig in order to make angle cuts.

Can a 10 inch table saw cut a 4×4? No, it can’t do it in a single cut. A 10″ tably saw will cut a little over 3″ deep into a piece of wood. In order to cut a piece of wood that is 4″ thick, you’ll need to make a cut, turn the wood and make an additional cut.