Miter Saw vs Table Saw: Which is Best and When to Use Each

what is a table saw and how do you use it

When working on a woodworking project, it is essential to have the right saw for the job. Using the wrong saw to cut a piece of wood can cause you to struggle. It may produce a cut that is less than optimum for your project.

Understanding the difference between a miter saw and a table saw can help you select the right saw for your project. It can also give you a seamless cut that has a custom fit every time.

​What is a Miter Saw?

Miter saws are handy saws that allow you to cut wood in almost any degree angle you would need for your woodworking project. These saws are typically electrically powered. They operate on a rotating base that allows you to dial in the exact angle for cutting your wood piece.

Adding a miter saw to your workshop toolbox allows you to make crosscut and miter cuts with ease and convenience. You’ll be able to seamlessly fit two angled edge pieces together to achieve the exact corner piece you need to fit your wood project.

This saw differs from the chop saw, which only allows a right angle cut.

what is a miter saw

Photo credit: Ewen Roberts on Flickr / CC BY

The blade of a miter saw is generally a circular blade that measures 8 to 12 in. By moving the blade down on your wood piece, you are able to accurately cut to angles of 15, 22.5, 30, and 45 degrees, as well as custom crisscrosses. When your miter saw is perfectly straight, it can also cut a straight edge of 90 degrees.

​When to Use a Miter Saw

Miter saws are ideally used for cutting moldings and trims. This type of saw allows you to cut the necessary angles you need to fit these wood pieces within corners and edges of varying angles. This is the perfect saw to use if you have small cuts to make that require a great deal of accuracy. You can set a miter saw to the precise angle of cut.

A home improvement project where you might use a miter saw includes installing a hardwood floor in your home. This requires precision as you work around the angles of the room.

You will also benefit from a miter saw when adding crown molding or base trim to your home’s walls. Virtually any type of wood project you have requires some intricate angled cuts that are primarily performed by a miter saw.

You can read our non-sliding and sliding miter saw reviews to decide what type of mitre saw might work best for you.

​What is a Table Saw?

Table saws are also capable cutting devices that provide straight cuts on your wood surfaces. These saws are typically mounted on a cabinet or table top. This provides support for you to feed your wood material through the blades of the saw.

The saw blade of a table saw extends under the wood material as it cuts. It makes a perfectly straight edge as you manually glide the wood through the blade. These saws help to give you a straight cut on small to large wood pieces. They also work on materials such as plastic and metal, using special blades.

The angle of the blade as well as the blade height can be adjusted and controlled on a table saw. This allows you to cut to the exact depth and dimensions you need.

A table saw is an ideal investment for any woodworker as it gives you plenty of options to cut sheets of wood in varying lengths. You will be able to use a table saw for a series of straight cut applications such as creating supports and surface pieces out of wood or other types of material. It is also good for making a quick cut in a smaller piece of wood that doesn’t require a great deal of accuracy.

Depending on the type of table saw you have, you may be able to perform 45-degree angle cuts by using the adjustment setting. You will still need to guide the wood or other material through the blade. But, it does give you some additional options on where you make your cut in your wood piece.

This can provide you wood cuts at both a 45 and 90-degree angle.

​When To Use a Table Saw

A table saw is the ideal saw to use when you are cutting large sheets of wood. Because this saw allows you to glide the wood along the tabletop, it gives you almost no limit to the dimensions of wood material you are able to cut.

A table saw is ideally situated for cutting sheets of plywood into the exact dimensions you need. You can simply place a sheet of plywood flat and move it through the blade of your table saw while it is supported on the tabletop surface.

what is a table saw and how do you use it

Photo credit: Kevin Gessner on Flickr / CC BY 

You will also want to use a table saw when you need a straight cut as opposed to freeform or mitered cut. A table saw can help you get an accurate straight edge cut without any hassle or inconvenience as you work.

Related: The Best Portable Table Saw

Also, working with a table saw gives you the ability to make a quick cut without having to tune in the required cut angle. You can simply run your wood or another material piece through the blade and cut it on the spot you have defined.

This can make for a fuss-free way to cut a piece down to size or make an object more manageable to work with.

​Important Factors to Consider

When it comes to deciding if you should invest in a miter saw or a table saw, you need to consider the application you will be using the saw for. While both saws are able to cut wood, as well as other materials, they cut them with a great deal of difference.

​Miter Saw

A miter saw makes accurate angle cuts while a table saw is able to cut straight edges. It would not make sense to use a miter saw to cut a straightedge in a large piece of wood. You would not be able to feed the material through the saw with ease.

A miter saw is designed for small piecework while a table saw excels at cutting large dimensional objects such as plywood.

A miter saw locks the wood piece in place and pushes against a support piece for accuracy and to prevent shifting. A table saw allows for more flexibility. You are able to move a large surface of wood the way that you want through the blade.

However, you are unable to make accurate angle cuts with a table saw as you will be essentially eyeballing the cut. The miter saw allows you to dial directly into your cut angle. You can make a 45-degree angle cut with a table saw if your model allows. But, you do not have the option to cut at small incremental angles your woodworking project may require.

Another aspect to consider when using a miter saw over a table saw is safety. A miter saw holds your wood piece in place without the guidance of your hands. A table saw, on the other hand, requires you to use your fingers to move the wood along the blade edge. For a novice, this may be a challenge and require some guidance the first time.

​Table Saw

​A table saw is good for making lots of large cuts. Table saws are large and can handle big pieces of wood, where other smaller saws might not be able to keep up. They are highly efficient and making the same measured cuts across a lot of different pieces of wood.

​A table saw can cut  in two ways: ​ripping or crosscutting. A rip cut is ​a long and straight cut that goes with the wood grain. A crosscut is exactly as it sounds: cutting the wood across it's grain.

​A miter saw can't really make either of these two cuts. Table saws are best suited for large cuts, made across large or long pieces of wood. While miter saws can be used on large pieces of wood, the cuts they make are smaller in nature.  

​Similarities and Differences

There are some similarities when using a miter saw vs a table saw:

​Similarities in Miter Saws vs Table Saws

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    Both saws can easily make a 90-degree cut without issue.
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    You can cut this type of straight edge on both saws with ease. You can be sure you have the exact dimensions you need to cut a straight pattern.
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    The blades of a miter saw and table saw are also similar as they both use a circular blade that spins to cut.
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    These saws allow you to swap the blade type to cut a variety of different materials including metal, glass, and plastic.

There are a variety of differences that separate a miter saw from a table saw. The most important being the angle of the cut that is made. Lets walk through each of the differences: 

​Differences in Miter Saws vs Table Saws

  • While a table saw allows for 90-degree cutting and in some instances 45-degree cuts, a miter saw can cut at any angle needed. You have no limitations in cutting a range of angle cuts. This is something a table saw just can’t accomplish.
  • A miter saw also allows you to secure your wood piece in place as you cut. A table saw relies on you to push the wood through the blade.
  • The miter saw will provide a more accurate cut than a table saw as it needs you to guide the material.
  • Also, your large wood projects will do well with a table saw as this is the most efficient way to cut a piece of wood down to size. Your table saw allows you to decide where you want the straightedge cut without limitations on the size of wood you are cutting.
  • If you try to cut a large wood piece on a miter saw, you will find it does not fit well or provide the accurate cut angle you are looking for in your large wood project.
  • When you need to cut a small wood piece to an exact dimension, you should select a miter saw to make the cut. This accurate cutting device is designed to accommodate smaller pieces of wood with ease. This makes your cuts at any angle you have in mind.
  • Even if you are looking to make an accurate straightedge cut, it is recommended you use a miter saw set at a 90-degree angle to make the cut. It can hold your wood piece in place and properly cut to size smaller wood items without any feeding into the blade.

​​Miter Saw vs Table Saw

As you can see, a miter saw is better at making defined angle cuts. A table saw can only really be relied upon to cut a straight edge cut. Your miter saw will help you with a variety of cutting application projects that require you to cut two edges at an angle that need to be fastened together.

what separates miter saw vs table saw

Photo credit: Mark Hunter on Flickr / CC BY

A table saw does not really have the ability to cut angled pieces unless you are looking for a 90-degree angle edge to piece together. The type of cutting application that you are working with really determines what type of saw you should use.

​Which Saw Should You Choose?

When it comes to making a decision to own a miter saw or a table saw, your best bet is to invest in a miter saw. This versatile saw will come in handy for a variety of woodworking projects that need exact measurements for fitment.

You can cut your wood pieces to length at 90 degrees with a miter saw. You can also angle the edges to virtually any desired degree in just seconds. You’ll find the miter saw also provides quick cuts that are perfectly measured as you can tune in your desired angle of cut for your saw.

By holding the wood piece in place, you don’t have to worry about slipping, or inaccurate cutting. These can occur with a table saw as it relies on you to feed the material through the blade.

Your best bet is to invest in a miter saw over a table saw for more accurate cutting with added functionality and flexibility. You can still get that straight edge 90-degree cut a table saw provides with a miter saw. You will also have extended capabilities to cut in a myriad of other dimensions as needed.

​Our Vote

Deciding to invest in a miter saw or a table saw can be a challenge. You may have a need to make both straight edge and miter cuts. ​

However, if you can only invest in one saw, you may want to lean towards a miter saw. It is an extremely versatile saw that allows you to cut wood to the exact dimensions you need.

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    ​A miter saw, unlike a table saw, will give you that perfect cut while still allowing you to cut a straight edge of 90 degrees when you need to. It is a more precise saw that is designed for more intricate woodworking and home improvement projects.
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    You will have the ability to cut a variety of materials with your miter saw. With the right blade, your miter saw can cut wood, plastic, and even metal. This gives you plenty of capabilities and makes this type of saw a handy companion in your workshop.
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    The learning curve for a miter saw is also easy to adapt to. You simply need to adjust the blade to the angle that you want to cut. There is no need to guide the wood through the blade straightly or place your hands near the moving saw parts.
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    ​A miter saw is a lot safer. There are not many injuries from working with a miter saw, whereas a table saw results in almost 100 injuries per day across the United States. 

​You’ll find that a miter saw is the perfect accompaniment for your woodworking projects, as you are able to easily make accurate cuts without any guesswork or trial and error. You should be able to master the fine cuts that a miter saw requires easily, which ​is signifigantly harder to achieve with a table top. 

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