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Which one should you get – Rate Geek

  A DeWalt miter saw and Saw Stop miter saw over a US combat background.
Denys Koltovskyi / Shutterstock

When building a workshop you may choose between two common power tools: table saws and miter saws. The two saws have many similarities and a few determining differences. When you choose one, you must know those differences.

Table saws and miter saws are both great power tools for cutting wood and other materials to size. They are also capable of more advanced cuts such as angles and even angled edges. But how they are going to cut physically differs between the two saws and those differences are important for both what they can do and how safely they can be used.

Moving the miter saw blades to the forest

  A DeWalt miter saw tilted at a corner to cut through the floor.
Here, a miter saw moves obliquely downwards to make an oblique cut. DeWalt

Miter saws and table saws both rely on a rotating knife concept, comparable to a circular saw. It is even possible to use the same knife in both tools (although you will generally not do that). But where that knife is physically located and how you use it differs between the two tools.

A miter saw holds its knife high with the teeth facing down. You place your wood or other material under it and place the rotating knife on the wood. A table saw holds its knife in the table with the teeth facing up. If you imagine a circular saw upside down on a table, that is the basic concept. Instead of moving the rotating blade toward the wood, move the wood into the blade.

For a beginner, this difference in design makes the miter safer. Instead of pushing your limbs and fingers toward a rotating blade, move the blade in a predictable downward way. That makes it easy to keep your arms out of the way.

On the other hand, table saws require knowledge of concepts such as kickback, three pressure points and correct use of safety equipment such as push sticks and push blocks. Recoil occurs when the table saw blade grips enclosed wood (or other material) and throws it at you. This leads to serious injury. Although kickback can also occur with a miter saw, it is less likely that this will happen. As such, table saws are inherently more dangerous than miter saws with more room for errors.

Table saws are more versatile

  A man who feeds a large piece of plywood on a DeWalt table saw.
A miter saw can never cut a piece of plywood like this. DeWalt

You can perform three types of cuts with a miter saw: cross saws, miter saws and oblique cuts. Cross sections make a long piece of wood shorter. Miter cuts are an oblique cut that connects two pieces of wood, such as the corner of your door frame or a photo frame. Angled cuts are similar to miter cuts, but come in at a different angle.

The slanting cut makes it possible to nicely merge two long pieces of wood, as seen with the skirting boards in your house. To cut the saw, turn the blade from left to right while holding it straight up and down. To tilt the saw at an angle, tilt the blade to the side, to the left or to the right. It is possible to cut both sloping edges and miter saws simultaneously.

For most woodworking projects, crossings and miter cuts are the two most common cuts that you will make. But for some types of projects you may need additional options that a table saw offers.
In addition to all the aforementioned cuts, you can use a table saw to cut, re-saw and make French cleats. A rip cut makes a wide board narrower. Depending on the blade height and the size of the plank, a table saw can also saw wood again to divide a thick plank into two thin planks.

A French cleat looks like a combination of a tear and miter cut. This means that you take a narrow strip of wood and cut a 45-degree angle along its length (making it even narrower). The two shelves are a powerful and versatile mounting point that is often used for hanging cupboards. You screw one shelf to the wall, the other to a cupboard and then place the cupboard on the wall piece.

So what should you get?

If you are new to woodworking and you are still developing your skills, you should probably consider a miter saw. Although not as capable as a table saw, it is less prone to kickback and generally safer to use. You can also perform the two most common cuts that you probably need.

And while you can cut material with both table saws and miter saws, if you have very long wooden planks (say 10 feet or more), it is better to use a miter saw. That's because you don't have to move a 10-foot plank back and forth while cutting it. And when you set up your first store, miter saws are usually cheaper than table saws.

On the other hand, if you want to implement more complicated projects, a table saw will come in handy. It can do everything a miter saw can do and more. This also applies to miter cuts! A miter saw is also limited in how wide a piece it can cut (depending on the size of the saw blade that your saw uses).

Table saws do not have that limit, since you push the wood through the saw. As long as you learn the right cutting techniques, they are relatively safe and they can handle short work with large jobs.
You may want both in the long run, because miter saws are often better for fast repeated cuts, while saws are great to more complex cuts that require precision.

But if you only have to choose one, a miter saw is a good starting point.

The best miter saws

  A Matebo miter saw next to a Dewalt miter saw.
Matebo, DeWalt

We have discussed miter saws before and our general recommendations remain the same. When looking for a miter saw, note the blade size. 10-inch blades are the most common and cost less than a 12-inch blade, but limit your cross-cutting capacity. You can cut even wider planks with a sliding miter saw. Look for a folding gate and a dust extraction bag or gate for a vacuum system. Some miter saws contain a laser guide, but they usually cost more than they are worth.

Metabo is the new name for Hitachi and they have been making reliable power tools for years. This electric miter saw has a 10-inch blade that is suitable for most people. It also has a folding fence for longer pieces of wood and a clamp to secure the material.

Best on a budget

If you have to cut something larger than 10 inches, the DEWALT miter saw does the trick. Not only does it have a 12-inch blade, but you can also pull it towards you and then push it back to cut a total of 16 inches into the material. Just like the Metabo, you get a folding fence, and although it is not supplied with a clamp, you can use your own wood to secure it.

Best Overall

The best table saws

  A DeWalt table saw and saw Stop table saw side by side.

Table saws come in various form factors, from portable "work site saws" to large industrial cabinets. The latter takes a lot of space and is not designed to move, but they are more powerful and have better dust collection options.

When you buy a table saw, you must pay attention to the crack fence. Crack fences are crucial for straight cracks. Very cheap saws tend to come with bad fences and are often not accurate. You will also want to pay attention to the blade size and safety functions. Each table saw must be supplied with a riving knife and knife protector. If you saw a used table that is missing two components, skip it. Your fingers will thank you later.

The compact DeWalt DW745S table saw is great if you don't have a lot of workshop space. And in no time you can take it somewhere else for external projects. If you need to cut larger pieces, such as plywood, the fence will extend by a maximum of 20 inches. This version comes with a removable standard, but if you prefer, you can skip it to save a little money.

Dear overall

The first thing you notice about Saw Stops is a dramatic price increase. But if you can afford it, these table saws are worth the price of entry. In addition to high-quality saw cracks and surfaces, the Saw Stop has technology that will save your fingers in the event of an accident.

The saw flows through the saw blade an electric current. If your skin comes in contact with the knife, the change of charge fires the safety system. In 5 milliseconds, a brake switches on and stops the knife and pushes it down and off your finger. At the same time, the system ensures that the motor does not drive the blade. That can make the difference between a nasty cut and a missing finger. Here is a video demonstration:

After the security system you have to replace the saw blade and the braking system to get back to work.

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