a table saw and miter saw side by side

Table Saw vs Miter Saw: Which One Do You Need?

Knowing the difference between a table saw and a miter saw will not only help you complete projects faster, but also for less money.

People who are just DIY’ers may not need to buy every saw on the market, which is why it’s important to know which one will offer the most benefit.

We’ll talk about both saws so you can make an informed decision on which one you need for each task. Different projects may need one or the other, or they may be overlap. The saw you pick will make a difference in how accurate your finished project is, and how much time is spent.

Everything About Table Saws

A table saw is a tabletop with half a blade protruding out from the top. An arbor holds the circular saw blade in place while an electric motor drives the arbor. The table around the saw creates a platform to support whatever you want to cut.

When Should A Table Saw Be Used?

When you invest in this tool, you get a versatile piece of equipment that will allow you to make crown molding, cut down boards, and straighten out crooked or curved boards. This tool is very popular for cutting larger pieces of wood.

When cutting larger pieces, the timber does all of the work for you. The saw blades stay stationary, giving a more accurate cut and reduces operator fatigue.

You should use this saw when you need a high degree of accuracy on large wood cuts. A table saw speeds up projects, so weekend DIY’ers take note.

Since the saw allows for clean and accurate cuts, it makes fitting the pieces of your project together that much easier.

How To Use A Table Saw

Before you use your new tool, make sure you have proper eye and ear protection in place. Also, read the manual if you haven’t already so you’re aware of all safety concerns and features.

Ripping

  • Adjust your blade so it’s ⅛ to ¼ of an inch higher than the wood’s thickness.
  • Get a tape measure and measure the distance from the fence to the blade. Adjust the fence’s width to the size you need to rip.
  • Hold the wood against the fence.
  • Put your hand and thumb behind the wood, and keep them a safe distance from the saw blade and fence.
  • Place the board tightly against the saw and side fence. This will stop the wood from coming back at you.
  • Keep the board flush with the fence and push the wood into the blade using a slow and steady motion.
  • When you get to the end of the board, use a push stick to guide the rest of the board through. Make sure you keep a minimum of six inches between the saw blade and your hand.
  • Switch off the saw.

Dado Cutting

  • Install a dado blade onto your saw.
  • Find the table insert that fits whichever dado cut you want to make.
  • Set your rip fence so it’s the correct distance from your saw blade.
  • Make your first pass. This will create your dado. Guide the wood through, and use push sticks to move the end of the wood into the blade.
  • Reposition your rip fence approximately ¼ of an inch from the first cut you made. Make a second pass, and repeat until you have the desired width for your dado cut.
  • Switch off the saw.

Cross Cutting

  • Adjust your saw blade so it’s ⅛ to ¼ of an inch higher than the thickness of the wood.
  • Set the miter gauge into the slot. You should find this on the left of your saw blade.
  • Square your miter to your saw blade. Put a 45° drafting triangle along the blade’s length. You want to adjust your blade the drafting triangle’s sides are at 90° before removing it.
  • Hold your board tight against the miter gauge fence’s end. You want it to sit at a 90° angle from the blade. Make sure your fingers are at least six inches away from the blade cover.
  • Guide the board through the blade. Keep your hand firmly on the handle of the miter gauge, and keep your left hand on the piece of wood.
  • Switch the saw off when you finish.

Bevel and Miter Cutting

Bevel and miter cutting are angled cuts. When you make a bevel cut, angle your cuts alongside the length of your board. To do this, use the instructions we outlined for ripping.

For miter cuts, you’re cutting angles along the board’s width. Follow the instructions for cross cutting.

Benefits, Features, and Safety of A Table Saw

There are several benefits that come with using a table saw. One of the biggest benefits is cut accuracy. This saw comes with an adjustable guardrail along both or one side, allowing for easy and fast cuts that come out uniform.

This saw also allows for the adjustment of the blade for depth and angle. The blade adjusts to let you cut as deep or shallow into your piece of wood as needed. You can do this by turning a crank and locking your blade at the desired height or angle.

It can also incorporate accessories like an extension table to take on bigger projects.

Features

For features, you want to have:

  • Flat Table
  • Fence
  • Miter Gauge
  • Bevel Capability
  • Wing Additions
  • Dust Collection System
  • Power

Safety

Understanding general safety practices of a table saw before beginning is a must. Never get your hands too close to the blade when you work. To avoid this, many people use smaller pieces of wood or “push sticks” to push material through the saw.

Make sure you lock the fence into place before starting so it doesn’t move and cause uneven cuts.

Finally, be aware of kickback. Kickback happens when the blade binds on the wood and forces it back at the operator. Make it a habit to stand to the side of the saw when you work to miss any kickbacked boards.

Everything About Miter Saws

What is a miter saw? It’s a specialized tool that lets you make a huge variety of angled cuts.

The blade mounts to a swing that lets you produce cuts to the right or left of the saw. It’s more lightweight and portable than the table saw, and it can cut 45° angles in plastics, wood, aluminum, and even stone. They come in several styles, including compound and basic.

When Should A Miter Saw Be Used?

You want to use this saw when extreme accuracy is needed. It’s an essential piece of equipment for carpentry due to the accuracy levels. Anyone who wants the freedom and flexibility to cut highly precise angles in different materials can benefit from owning a miter saw.

If you have to make bevel or miter cuts, this saw is a great choice. A miter cut angles across the board’s width, and a bevel cut angels across the board’s length. Compound versions of the saw can complete both angles in one cut. You can tilt and adjust the blade however you like.

How To Use A Miter Saw

How you use this saw will vary depending on the type of cut you want to make. You should have the correct eye, ear, and nose protection in place, along with a general safety understanding of the saw. Make sure the saw is either clamped or bolted down to a sturdy surface before you begin.

Dewalt-DW715-Saw

Miter Cutting

  • Plug the saw in.
  • Measure and mark your cut line on the board.
  • Put your board on the saw, keeping it flush against the saw fence.
  • Slowly loosen the miter gauge handle, depress the lock handle, and carefully pivot the blade until you reach the angle you need.
  • Tighten the miter gauge handle.
  • Lower the handle to check where your blade comes into contact with the wood.
  • Adjust the placement if necessary and clamp or brace the board firmly in place.
  • Keep a hand on the board and use the other hand to raise the handle.
  • Engage the trigger and let the saw get up to speed.
  • Lower the handle to allow the blade to cut through the wood.
  • Release the trigger after it makes a clean cut.
  • Let the blade stop before you lift it back out.

Bevel Cutting

  • Plug the saw in and turn it on.
  • Measure and mark your cut line on the board.
  • Place the board on its edge against the fence.
  • Adjust your saw gauge until it’s the correct angle.
  • Check that the board and blade meet in the correct position.
  • Brace or clamp the board.
  • Pull the trigger and lower the handle to cut.
  • Switch off the saw when you finish.

Benefits, Features, and Safety of A Miter Saw

Miter saws offer a high level of precision that can cut different types of angles at speed and quality. The saw can cut a variety of different materials varying in thicknesses.

It’s also very easy to operate, and it can help tackle large and small projects without a problem.

Features

For features, your saw should have:

  • Fence
  • Guard
  • Ergonomic Handle
  • Stable Table
  • Scale
  • Different Blades
  • Dust Port or Bag

Safety

Keep your saw unplugged when not in use. The saw should be bolted to the work surface or clamped onto a stand. Check to see if you get square cuts when the gauge is set to 90° as transporting it can knock it out of alignment.

Stand to the side of the saw when cutting to avoid kickback. Do not wear any loose articles of clothing when working, and make sure you have proper safety glasses and ear protection.

Conclusion

So, do you need a miter saw or a table saw? A table saw is better for larger and bulkier projects. Miter saws work well for projects that require higher levels of precision and accuracy, and where a saw needs to be easily transported.

If you can only buy one, consider the type of work you do.

For highly detailed work like creating molding or carpentry projects, the miter saw wins.

For larger projects where accuracy isn’t as high on your list, go for a table saw.

You can decide which one will work better for your needs based on what was discussed above.

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