Miter vs Table Saw Accuracy

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Forum topic by Beeguy posted 11-13-2010 05:53 PM 13693 views 0 times favorited 13 replies Add to Favorites Watch
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179 posts in 3842 days

11-13-2010 05:53 PM

I know the table saw is the most versitle cutting tool in the shop. I have noticed in quite a few posts where individuals mention only using a TS for miter cuts because of accuracy. I know you can’t fairly compare a $1000 table saw to a $100 miter saw, but I was wondering why those who make it a point to say they go to the table saw for accuracy are doing so. Is it because they have two saws on the opposite ends of the price range? I think miter saws get a bad rep because they are used by contractors on jobsites. Yes, if you could only have one, it would be TS hands down.

In my small shop the majority of work my TS gets is ripping. I have two TSs set up next to each other. A 10” Jet Contractors and a 10” Craftsman bench top that fits between the fence rails of the Jet. I keep the Craftsman for cutting old, questionable, or pressure treated wood, and with its fence removed and blade retracted, it acts as a side table for the Jet, and can also utilize the Jets fence.

I also have a Makita 10” sliding miter saw. I go to it for almost all of my crosscutting. I learned a lot of woodworking from my dad and he always seemed to do the same only he used a RAS because miter saws were not available back then. I am not a big fan of constantly switching blades on the TS and, although a combination blade is great, I still look at them as a compromise unless you buy a really high end one. If you take the time to check the angles I have found my cuts to be very accurate and repeatable on the MS.

If you have expensive aftermarket miter gauge or sled that changes things. But without add ons I think both tools can product good cuts. And cutting two inches off a 10’ length of 6/4, 12 in oak seems easier (and safer) on the miter saw than trying to move the entire board on the table saw. In my case I can’t do this because of space.

So which do you favor for cross and miter cuts and why? Just for perspective, give some brief specs on your saw(s).

-- Ron, Kutztown, PA "The reward is in the journey."

13 replies so far

View Cato's profile


701 posts in 3518 days

#1 posted 11-13-2010 06:30 PM

Ron- I use my table saw for ripping most of the time and keep a ripping blade on it. I go to my Makita SCMS for crosscutting.

Its easier for me to do that and the accuracy seems fine. Maybe if I was cutting more miters all the time that were a main focus of a piece such as picture frames, then I might have to use a crosscut or miter sled, but for now I like my set up simliar to yours.

Seems to add a lot more flexibility in work flow to not have to change set ups while working on a project.

View Scott Bryan's profile

Scott Bryan

27250 posts in 4028 days

#2 posted 11-13-2010 06:39 PM

Ron, I use my table saw for both ripping and fine crosscutting. If I am cross cutting lumber to rough length then I will go to my slider but I just prefer to use my table saw for fine cuts. As you mentioned I have a sled that can be used on my table saw, use only high end blades on both saws and an after market miter gauge. I just find it to be more accurate than my slider. I have largely consigned my miter saw to cutting trim.

-- Challenges are what make life interesting; overcoming them is what makes life meaningful- Joshua Marine

View Kent Shepherd's profile

Kent Shepherd

2718 posts in 3492 days

#3 posted 11-13-2010 06:47 PM

I will come at this from both perspectives, as I have done multiple types of woodworking. I have built cabinets and done the trim work on several new houses, including my personal house. I would not consider doing all that moulding on anything but a miter saw. It is faster and accurate enough, especially considering the walls you are trimming are not usually even close to accurate. However, you mentioned a $100 miter saw. I would not want to trim a house with that cheap a miter saw. There is rarely any acurracy to them. I’m talking Harbor Freight, etc. You said you have a Makita. I Have the 12” dual bevel sliding miter saw. I love it, and get great results from it. I also use a 10” Radial Arm Saw for my rougher cross-cuts, and often for multiple cuts of the same length. I have a longer fence with stops on my RAS right now, and not on my miter saw (in progress)

Now the other side. In my personal shop at home, when building furniture or other more precise work, I use my table saw sled on a 3hp, 10” Steel City cabinet saw, or my old Delta Unisaw. I do think it is more accurate to use this method here. Doing moulding for raised panel doors, or even miter frame raised panels is effective this way. Blade is critical, no matter which saw you chose.

I typically encourage woodworkers to think “outside the box” Rarely does any merthod have to be either-or, but maybe both. Use the method that fits a particular application. My answers are normally not cut and dry, because everyone’s needs, ability, equipment, and experiences are so different.


View Sawdust4Blood's profile


408 posts in 3228 days

#4 posted 11-13-2010 07:23 PM

I don’t think there is a universal answer. I have a miter saw and table saw and use both of them for cross cuts and miters at different times. If I’m cutting long boards to length then it’s definitely the miter saw because it’s quicker and safer. On the other hand, if I’m cutting miters for a picture frame or something else that requires a real clean and accurate cut, then I do that on my table saw with an Incra 1000HD miter gauge because my delta miter saw simply can’t reproduce the same quality and repeatability. Bottom line is that no one tool is ever always the right tool, it’s always about using the right tool for the right job at the right time in the right way.

-- Greg, Severn MD

View RalphBarker's profile


80 posts in 2975 days

#5 posted 11-13-2010 07:37 PM

When doing repeated crosscuts on the TS with a stop block, there’s often a tiny bit of play in the stop block. When doing miter cuts, the blade can also pull or push the stock a touch, resulting in a less-than-perfect cut. Using a well-tuned sled can minimize either of these issues, particularly if the sled has a stock clamp, but I still tune the (small) cut pieces on my shooting board that I’ve tuned to high precision.

View Gregn's profile


1642 posts in 3189 days

#6 posted 11-13-2010 08:42 PM

To say one is better than another would depend on your equipment, skill level and purpose. I have a RAS, SCMS and table saw all of which I tend to use during one application or another. For myself I have found that my accuracy is dependent on how well tuned a tool is and my taking the time to set up for cuts accurately. I sometimes will leave one machine set up for one cutting process and another for another operation to avoid having to change set ups.

-- I don't make mistakes, I have great learning lessons, Greg

View knotscott's profile


8154 posts in 3582 days

#7 posted 11-13-2010 09:31 PM

It really depends on the individual TS and miter saw you’re comparing, and what you’re cutting. The better full size cast iron table saws tend to have better inherent accuracy and repeatability than miter saws in general, which have a manual pivot point which typically isn’t as robust or as accurate as a higher quality fixed TS, but miter saws are usually a better choice for handling long pieces if they’re setup properly. Sliding miter saws are even less accurate by way of their design, but that doesn’t mean you can’t get reasonably accurate results from them…there’s just a bit more technique to it. Add the convenience, size, and cost, and it’s easy to understand the popularity of a CMS and SCMS. My CMS tends to collect dust unless I’m cutting long pieces like molding.

-- Happiness is like wetting your pants...everyone can see it, but only you can feel the warmth....

View richgreer's profile


4541 posts in 3280 days

#8 posted 11-13-2010 10:04 PM

There is no right or wrong approach here. I usually prefer to use the TS whenever I can. In my case that is partially because my miter saw is not set up in an ideal location. Also – dust collection on the Miter saw is much poorer than it is on the TS.

I’ll also mention that if I need to do a compound miter cut, I find the setup to be much easier on the TS than on the miter saw. Of course, compound miter cuts represent less than 1% of the cuts I make.

-- Rich, Cedar Rapids, IA - I'm a woodworker. I don't create beauty, I reveal it.

View Beeguy's profile


179 posts in 3842 days

#9 posted 11-14-2010 01:52 AM

Thanks for all the replies. Again, my reason for starting this was based on the comments that some woodworkers seem to look down on a miter saw and I wondered if they were comparing apples to oranges. It sounds like the TS is probably a better choice especially if you have upgraded your miter gauge. But it also sounds like there is a place in the shop for the miter saw too.

-- Ron, Kutztown, PA "The reward is in the journey."

View Robsshop's profile


907 posts in 3181 days

#10 posted 11-14-2010 05:12 AM

Ron, IMO there is pros/cons for both saws when it comes to all of the different cuts we as WW’s will make in various projects but we are talking about miters I think. It is possible to achieve good results with good quality machines on either saw and if you are lucky enough to own both high end saws that’s great,but when forced with the choice between the two I felt that the TS won out. With that said I think it boils down to REPEATABLE accuracy . Most miter saws design and purpose base are in fact geared towards the building trade and the industries tolerances are somewhat questionable and its typical features consist of many moving parts which opens the door for even more suspect tolerances ! The TS has been around a long time and although some are less than perfect , the basic design for the most part is often copied and accuracy is more likely obtainable !In My personal experience,I have used both saws for mitered cuts and have found more often, the TS gives me better, consistent results. So yes ,if You can swing the cost and floor space for two quality machines then life is good but if not I choose Pepsi (whoops,wrong poll) I mean TS ! Good topic and as always , be safe. ROB

-- Rob,Gaithersburg,MD,One mans trash is another mans wood shop treasure ! ;-)

View davidroberts's profile


1027 posts in 3692 days

#11 posted 11-14-2010 06:13 AM

A good MS or tuned up RAS will beat out a TS for cross cuts, IMHO. That’s why people spend so much money on miter gauges for the TS. Or build miter sleds. It’s hard to get a miter just right on a TS, especially if the board is longer than 3 or 4 feet. And you are getting you hands pretty close to the blade if the board is short. I own 2 RASs, a MS and a good quality grizzly 1023 TS. If I have the choice, I will go to the saw that is specifically designed to cut miters.

Edit – I forgot to mention a really good blade, i.e. Forrest or Freud, makes all the difference.

-- Better woodworking through old hand tools.

View Dennis Fletcher's profile

Dennis Fletcher

467 posts in 3261 days

#12 posted 11-14-2010 06:16 AM

Ron, I use my $100 Delta 10” MS for most cuts on the job site, with extreme accuracy. Took me quite a while to figure out how to get that accuracy, but I get it. Love the saw, though, I am looking at upgrading.

I have a Makita 10” TS that weighs as much as I do. (Exaggeration, kind of), so I pull it out for ripping, when needed, since I do most of my rips with my Hitachi circular saw.

I had a Craftsman 10” TS that was lighter, I loved it. Made a sled for it and ended up burning it up. Now I’m stuck with my Makita.

If I could stay in my shop to work, I would probably do most cuts on the TS, using my MS for nothing but straight cuts.

--, Making design and application one. †

View davidc's profile


43 posts in 3514 days

#13 posted 03-24-2011 03:05 AM

Now all you people have me wondering. I have a Craftsman TS and a Black & Decker MS. I am faced with making a 5×7 oak picture frame. Neither machine is Ideal for making small frames like that, But I am faced with matching an existing 5×7 oak frame with another. Of all the hundreds of frames on the market it seems imposable to find one to halfway match the one I have. My daughter purchased this one but has no idea where.
On the TS my blade is probably off a half a degree with the table and I can’t get it any closer. I’m assuming the
sled would only work if the alignment is perfect.
as many of you know when you buy Oak articles, they are many times” oak color” or” oak look” and not the real thing. Dave Roseville, MN

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