Compound Miter Saw vs. Table Saw
Two power saws that every woodworker eventually encounters are the miter saw, and the table saw. Although they both have the muscle to take on big projects, you can’t substitute one for the other. In general, miter saws make cleaner, more precise cuts but can only make small cuts at a time. Table saws, on the other hand, can make large cuts with ease but not with the same level of accuracy.
This is the main reason you can’t swap one of these power tools for the other without affecting your productivity. Read on to see more differences between compound saws and table saws and to learn how to pick the best option.
Compound Miter Saw
Differences between a Compound Saw and a Table Saw
The physical differences between a compound saw, and a table saw are quite obvious. One saw has a stationary blade while the other has a blade that swings up and down, and sometimes, back and forth, as is the case with sliding miter saws.
These configurations handle wood very differently. For instance, the stationary blade of the table saw must be fed by hand (or push stick), whereas the mobile miter saw blade can only cut secured pieces of wood. One saw deals with moving wood; the other moves the blade to cut stationary wood.
This dramatically influences what the two types of power saws can do. The most notable effect of having a swing blade is a reduced cut capacity, which is something miter saws are known to experience. Even with a sliding blade arm, most miter saws can only cut a maximum width of 16 inches. Mid-range table saws have twice the cut capacity of the compound saws.
What this means is:
Compound saws have a small cut capacity, so they struggle with large workpieces.
Table saws can handle very large pieces of wood due to the stationary position of the blade.
Considering their physical differences, it’s clear why compound miter saws make far more accurate cuts than table saws.
To use a miter saw, you must first secure the piece of wood onto the fence, then move the blade down to make the desired cut. Since the wood does not budge during the process, miter saws can make very accurate cuts.
It’s why carpenters specializing in trim and molding opt for a compound miter saw instead of a table saw. Though the table saw can make the same types of cuts (angled and beveled cuts), moving the workpiece towards the blade sometimes leads to poor cut accuracy.
To summarize, miter saws offer better accuracy than table saws even though both power saws make the same types of cuts.
If your main reason for getting a power saw is to get more muscle for large projects, then you’re better off with a table saw.
First of all, a table saw can handle much bigger pieces of wood than a compound miter saw. This is because its cut capacity is not determined by the width of the blade or movement of the sliding arm.
More important to note is that table saws typically have very powerful motors. They are designed specifically to cut through the toughest materials, so whether you’re working with hardwood or pressure-treated lumber is irrelevant since there’s more than enough power at your disposal.
Table saws are designed to accommodate very large workpieces and equipped with the power to rip through tough materials.
Compound saws and table saws can make the same types of cuts. There are three types of cuts commonly used in carpentry.
Angled cuts are made by tilting the blade on a vertical axis to achieve cut angles of 90 and 45 degrees. Such cuts are essential for creating joints and connections for lumber.
Similar to angled cuts, beveled cuts are made by tilting the blade, this time on a horizontal axis. This technique is also used to create joints and connect pieces of wood together.
You can make all these cuts using a table saw, or a compound miter saw. However, you will get different results from each tool. The miter saw can make such cuts far more accurately due to its design. The movable blade and secured workpiece keep things stable, ensuring clean cuts at any angle.
Although a table saw will make the same cuts easily, it’s not quite the same level of accuracy. Moving wood towards the blade is great for cutting or ripping large pieces at a time, but not so much for making precision cuts.
Compound miter saws are far more portable than table saws. You can mount one permanently on your bench, but it is mostly designed to move around.
The same can’t be said about most table saws. While this doesn’t apply to all of them (some are extra portable and fitted with wheels), you’re going to have a much harder time moving a table saw than you will with a miter saw.
Table saws are larger, typically more advanced, and built very durably. It makes sense that they should cost more than miter saws.
Nevertheless, carpenters insist that a good table saw can be invaluable to your work, especially since they can make all types of cuts and produce enough ripping power for tough types of lumber.
Where you should invest your money is entirely up to two factors:
How much cut accuracy matters to you, and;
How much power you need
Keep in mind that table saws also need a lot more storage space.
Ultimately, your choice will be influenced by the type of work you do. If you mostly make intricate workpieces such as trim and molding, then accuracy is your best friend. However, you shouldn’t settle for anything less than a table saw if you routinely see large cuts of lumber through your wood shop.
The trade-off here is either power or accuracy, so once you establish which is more important to you, you’ll be in a better position to decide which power tool to get.