Miter Saw vs. Table Saw – What’s the Difference?
If you are a wood craftsman or a carpenter who uses wood frequently, then you clearly understand why wood is needed in varying lengths and widths. Besides that, some wood planks tend to be tougher than others. This solely depends on the source of the wood.
Regardless of what type of wood you deal with, you have to cut it into various shapes and sizes, to allow you to make the wood into whichever structure or furniture item you want.
A saw is the most crucial tool when it comes to cutting wood. This is a standard tool for many people who do not take up any professional wood projects. However, there are more sophisticated types of saws that are used at an advanced level. You would find these in numerous wood workshops. They may be different from the typical handheld saws, but they have similar functions.
While many of the saws found in ordinary households are not powered, large professional wood projects use power saws. They are more like wood machines and are able to cut through thick and long wood planks. Some of these include table saws and miter saws. These are the types of saws that we will be looking at in this article.
A miter saw is one of the most prominent tools used in woodwork. You don’t have to be super skilled to use these saws.
A miter saw is used for crosscuts and miter cuts on a piece of wood. Unlike with other saws, a miter saw uses a stationary sawing technique. It performs tasks with the utmost precision when used right.
A plank of wood is placed on a flat surface and the mounted saw blade is brought down on it. With most saws, however, you'd have to cut across. The typical cutting position is usually at a 90-degree angle.
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A table saw is one of the most commonly used woodcutting tools, especially in workshops and other wood projects that demand power. It is designed in such a way that an electric motor is attached under a table. The motor is tasked with steering a saw blade that protrudes on the surface of the table through a specially made opening. The circular blade rotates in a forward motion, and the operator has to push the planks of wood towards the blade. The workpiece has to approach the wood from the opposite direction of rotation.
If not handled with great skill and care, a table saw can be quite dangerous. The learning curve is, therefore, a bit steep when compared to other types of saws.
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Table of Comparison
Has a moderate learning curve
Has a steep learning curve
Size of the workspace
Suitable for small planks of woods
Suitable for all sizes of wood, including the longer ones
Fits and operates in a relatively small space
Requires a larger space to operate
Types of cuts
Risk of injury
Has a moderate risk of injury
Has a high-level risk of injury
Easy to maintain
Demands more in terms of maintenance
Level of accuracy
Moving blade/ fixed stock
Stationery machine/ moving stock
Suitable for a carpenter due to its accuracy
Suitable for a general worker
Table Saw and Miter Saw Comparison
Before you decide whether to buy either of these saws, there are some factors that can help you determine the right fit. Let’s go through some of these factors.
Workspace is one of the factors that you must look into. For instance, if you operate in a very small space, it wouldn’t be unrealistic to buy a table saw. This is because this saw is not only large but also requires plenty of space when work is in progress.
Moreover, a table saw has the ability to cut longer and thicker planks of wood that occupy lots of space. Remember that you need sufficient space to feed the workpieces into the saw blade.
On the other hand, a miter saw may not demand as much space. Therefore, it can fit into your small shop or workshop at home.
2. Size of the workpiece
What size of wood do you intend to cut? You should think of it in terms of thickness and length. If you intend to work on plywood sheets, they may prove to be too large for a miter saw.
However, if you are to cut planks of wood that are about 8” to 12” thick, then a miter saw can take the workload comfortably. Unlike the table saw, a miter saw will also limit you in regard to the height of the workpiece.
Though you can use a table saw to cut lumber, you might encounter some challenges along the way. The most common challenge is that the lumber tends to get thicker on one side. Although you can work around it by adjusting the blades to certain heights, you can perform this task flawlessly while using a miter saw.
Are you a seasoned woodworker seeking professional grade equipment? If you are, then both miter and table saws could come in handy. For a personal hobbyist, more basic tools would still help you get through various tasks. Nonetheless, a table saw has the ability to do almost everything a miter saw can do. It is, therefore, the most powerful tool between the two.
Woodwork sometimes demands unique cuts and designs to achieve the desired outcome. Making these cuts requires more than just a cutting machine, but one that can maneuver accurately. This makes the miter saw a perfect solution in this case. Moreover, due to the fact that a table saw is stationary, it is simply not the kind of saw you can use with lots of precision.
On the other hand, you should not dismiss the table saw because it is a real workhorse, especially when you have to work on plywood sheets. It's however important to note that a miter saw cannot be used for rip cuts.
5. Woodworking versus carpentry
A carpenter is tasked with building structures such as windows and door frames. They use wood that is already cut into reasonable sizes. This kind of work requires a great deal of accuracy, which makes a miter saw an extremely helpful too.
Woodwork is different from carpentry. It may involve preparing and cutting large pieces of plywood used to make furniture. This can be viewed as somewhat breaking bulk. For this reason, a table saw comes in handy.
As a mobile wood craftsman, it is fairly easy to move around to different workstations with a miter saw. Though there are some portable table saws, they are still quite heavy to move around with.
For you to get the best out of both a table and miter saw, you have to carry out regular maintenance practice. A table saw requires more attention and is likely to take most of the workload.
Every machinery or equipment, including the simple blender that you use in your home can cause serious damage if not handled with care. Both a miter and a table saw need to be used with caution. You have to be extremely attentive when either learning how to use them or when using them. A single slip up can result in a bad injury.
As much as manufacturers are trying to improve the safety features of a table saw, it still comes across as the most dangerous when compared to a miter saw.
So when should you use a miter saw?
Does your woodwork require more accurate cuts? If you are a carpenter the answer would be “yes.” Besides precise cuts, details such as length, width, and angles in your line of work are more specified. In such circumstances, a miter saw will prove to be invaluable. If you are always molding and trimming, you will never go wrong with a miter saw.
When to use a table saw
If your work involves predominantly long pieces of woods, a table saw should be the equipment of choice. You also don’t need to change its blades in order to cut long. Most importantly, it is more of a general woodwork tool.
Depending on your budget, you can choose to buy both a table saw and a miter saw. Nevertheless, if you own a wood shop and can only buy one at a time, then you should give priority to a table saw. This is because it is arguably the most useful tool in terms of the power and versatility that it brings on board.
The information in this article leaves the ball in your court. More so, you know where you would like to steer your craftsmanship and the equipment that would get you there based on what these outstanding tools can do or not do.