Table saw vs miter saw: What’s the difference?

miter saw vs table saw
The right angles on the small boards were cut with a miter saw, and the workbench top was cut with a table saw many, many years ago. The different cuts, much like the wood stains, are in stark contrast.

I use to cut small boards for my projects with a hacksaw and a miter box. I had the large sheets cut at the home center before buying them. Efficient? Hardly. Did it work? Most of the time. But, now my projects require an upgrade in tools.

(Find the best deals on miter and table saws on Amazon.)

In this article, I compare and contrast the differences of a table saw vs a miter saw.

The gist of why to choose a miter saw over a table saw (or vice-versa) follows:

A table saw rips long, large boards with ease. A miter saw excels at cutting angles on small boards. However, a table saw can be used with a miter gauge, which allows it to cut angles, but a miter saw will never be able to cut long, large boards — the same holds true with the best radial arm saw.

Best selling table saws on Amazon

SaleBestseller No. 1
Hitachi C10RJ 10" 15-Amp Jobsite Table Saw with 35" Rip Capacity and Fold and Roll Stand
  • Direct drive universal 15 Amp motor produces 4,500 RPM to power through the toughest ripping applications
  • Soft start function reduces noise and recoil at start-up
  • Electric brake halts the rotation of the blade within seconds for added safety
  • 10" 40-Tooth carbide tipped blade included for high cutting capacity
  • Bevel range of 0 degree to 45 degrees for cuts ranging from 3-1/8" (at 0 degree) to 2-1/4" (at 45 degrees)
SaleBestseller No. 2
SKIL 3410-02 10-Inch Table Saw with Folding Stand
  • 20-Inch x 26-Inch cast aluminum table extends to 20-Inch x 32-Inch for longer work pieces
  • 3-1/2-Inch cut height capacity for cutting through 4x materials
  • Heavy-duty steel stand for fast setup and easy transport. Bevel Angle Range:0° to 47°
  • Self-Aligning Rip Fence for accurate measurements
  • EZ view measurement system for accurate settings.Cord Length:6 feet
Bestseller No. 3
DEWALT DW745S Compact Job Site Table Saw with Folding Stand
  • 22 kg unit weight and optimized footprint make this the most portable saw in its Class. Shoe bevels 0° to 45° for beveled cuts
  • 15 amp motor quickly rips through hardwoods with ease
  • Powerful 1850 watt motor for high performance in all applications (1300 watts 110 version for UK only)
  • Fence system provides 610 mm of Rip capacity in a portable design for cutting large sheet materials to size
  • Lightweight; folds flat for easy handling, storage, and transport.No Load Speed:3,850 rpm

Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API

Best selling miter saws on Amazon

SaleBestseller No. 1
DEWALT Sliding Compound Miter Saw, 12-Inch (DWS779)
  • Powerful 15 amp, 3, 800 RPM motor delivers extended power and durability
  • Exclusive back fence design cuts up to 2x16 dimensional lumber at 90° and 2x12 at 45°
  • Super efficient dust collection system captures over 75% of dust generated.
  • Backed by DEWALT'S 3 year limited warranty
  • Maximum Cutting Thickness:6.75 inch
SaleBestseller No. 2
DEWALT DW713 10 in. Portable Compound Miter Saw
  • 15 Amp, 5,000 rpm motor delivers extended power and durability
  • Stainless steel detent plate with 11 positive stops provides repeatable accuracy and jobsite duability
  • Tall sliding fences support crown molding vertically 4-1/2-inch and easily slides out of the way for bevel cuts
  • Machined base fence support maintains fence perpendicularity with blade for cutting accuracy
  • Cam miter lock for quick and accurate miter table positioning; Miter detent override for fine adjustment and precise miter angles
Bestseller No. 3
Genesis GMS1015LC 15-Amp 10-Inch Compound Miter Saw with Laser Guide and 9 Positive Miter Stops
  • Make bevel cuts up to 45 degrees left | perform compound Miter cuts with ease!
  • Use compound cutting for crown molding, shadow boxes, Picture frames, and more | the Genesis compound Miter saw is inexpensive and versatile!
  • Laser cutting guide for quicker alignment and improved accuracy | Know where the cut will be ahead of time with the integrated laser guide!
  • Electric brake stops the blade in seconds and Arbor lock for quick blade changes
  • Includes: 60T Carbide blade installed, hold down Clamp, dust bag, Two extension wings, blade wrench and two AAA batteries for laser

Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API

Comparison: miter saw versus table saw

Safety: Saw injuries are usually serious injuries. Miter saws are safer. Most have automatic brakes that stop the blade quickly when you release the trigger. Most table saws, especially cheaper ones, don’t have this feature.

Guards: Miter saws usually have a built-in guard shielding you from the blade. Table saw guards are not as effective, since one hand or both have to reach past the blade if you are not using a pushblock.

For work where a flip-down guard gets in the way, you might want to consider using a miter saw.

Kick back: Table saws can kick loose material right back at you, such as knots or hidden chips.

Larger pieces of wood can come right out of your hands if you aren’t prepared.

Table-saw blades rotate toward you, whereas miter saws rotate away from you, so you rarely have this problem with a miter saw.

Angles: Miter saws are designed for cutting angles, and nothing does it better or easier.

There are built in presets that you can move to in either direction for cuts up to 50 degrees off center.

A table saw can be used a good miter gauge to get the same results as a miter saw. But, a table saw and miter gauge are are little more difficult to use and more error-prone, especially the cheap versions, while cutting angles.

Sheets: Table saws are the best solution to cut long boards or 4×8′ sheets. Like any tool, it does take a little help and practice at first.

Miter saws are meant for small work and single boards, often 6″ or less. A sliding miter saw can extend this to 12″ to 15″, but many projects require cutting larger sheets or panels where a miter saw is useless.

Cutting to width: Nothing rips a board lengthwise like a table saw.

Miter saws can’t rip lumber to width, and hand saws are impossible to get the job done accurately. Miter saws only cut at right angles to the length of the board.

Trim: The miter saw is the perfect tool for cutting trim.

It’s quick, and easy to adjust to any angle. It’s portable, so that it can be carried where needed by one person, and rest on any table top or bench.

Whereas a larger table saw requires two or more people to move as well as ample floor space and a miter gauge, which can be a pain.

Joinery: Table saws are better for cutting joinery than a miter saws. They can also be equipped with blades for cutting channels, tenons, and so forth, and the saw cut depth easily adjusted.

Miter saws typically come with a standard saw blade, and in any case are harder to manipulate for anything other than narrow cross cuts.

If use a pocket hole jig and screws to join boards, you won’t need to cut channels or tenons or any fancy joinery cuts.

Tilt: Bevel cuts are a common requirement in woodworking and construction projects.

The ability to title the blade to any cutting angle is best done with a table saw. A basic miter saw cuts straight down at a 90-degree angle.

Budget: While it’s unfair to compare the capabilities of a $900 table saw versus a miter saw costing $100, a miter saw is generally much cheaper.

If you are going to be primarily cross-cutting single boards, save the strain on your back and your wallet and get a miter saw instead of investing in a table saw. Get the home center or lumbar yard to rip the long, sheet boards for you.

Versatility: Most shops do the vast majority of their cutting on a table saw, where the type, depth, angle, and bevel of the cut can all be adjusted accurately.

A good saw is indispensable for cutting longer lengths, and there are plenty of table saw accessories for various tasks.

But, changing blades, moving fences, etc. can be an extra hassle and time-consuming. Nothing beats a good miter saw on a job site or at the shop where a lot of angled cross-cutting has to be done to make pieces fit.

I hope this helps with the debate about the table saw vs miter saw.

(Find the best deals on miter and table saws on Amazon.)