Table saw vs miter saw vs just a circular saw

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Forum topic by ekrphoto posted 07-20-2011 03:53 AM 28749 views 0 times favorited 18 replies Add to Favorites Watch
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1 post in 2465 days

07-20-2011 03:53 AM

Topic tags/keywords: miter saw tablesaw circular saw joining modern asian

Hello good people of LumberJocks,

I’m about to embark on my first large scale woodworking project, building a low to the ground multilevel deck, simple-ish modern Asian looking pergola, and vertical garden wall. I’m also going to install a new handrail with one 45 degree angle.

So, the question lies here: what is the best and most cost effective saw to buy for the job? I have a basement where I can store and work on a table saw, but I’m not sure if that’s necessary. I also want to use something that’s safe for someone, me, that doesn’t have much electric saw experience, but is a quick study.

Any and all constructive advice is greatly appreciated.

Thank you,


Also, if you have a good saw in great shape I’m looking to make a purchase very soon.

18 replies so far

View cabmaker's profile


1717 posts in 2771 days

#1 posted 07-20-2011 04:11 AM

circular saw for sure based on your job description.

View DinoWalk's profile


29 posts in 2521 days

#2 posted 07-20-2011 04:14 AM

Yeah my first reaction was also circular saw for you.

View CharlieM1958's profile


16274 posts in 4180 days

#3 posted 07-20-2011 04:20 AM

I’ve seen plans for decks that call for cutting some pieces to length with a circular saw after installation. For times like those, you really need a circular saw. Personally, though, I wouldn’t want to undertake a deck without a portable miter saw. For $300 or less, you can get both. That’s the route I would take.

-- Charlie M. "Woodworking - patience = firewood"

View knotscott's profile


7980 posts in 3337 days

#4 posted 07-20-2011 04:22 AM

Sliding miter saw and circular saw is what I’d want for your projects.

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

View Beginningwoodworker's profile


13345 posts in 3635 days

#5 posted 07-20-2011 04:25 AM

You need a circular saw.

View TheWoodNerd's profile


291 posts in 3154 days

#6 posted 07-20-2011 02:36 PM

I’d go with the miter saw. Far more useful in the future than a circ saw.

-- The Wood Nerd --

View Mark's profile


1807 posts in 3236 days

#7 posted 07-20-2011 02:54 PM

based on what you’re building, circular….any finer work like furniture or something then you need to have a table saw and mitre

-- M.K.

View Manitario's profile


2628 posts in 2845 days

#8 posted 07-20-2011 03:06 PM

A circular saw can do what a mitre saw and a table saw can do, just a mitre saw and a table saw tend to be more accurate, and I find that a mitre saw is WAY quicker for making cross cuts than a circ. saw. A circ. saw is great for cutting boards too wide to cut on a mitre saw or for making long rip cuts. I prefer using a mitre saw though for making cross cuts; your typical 10” mitre saw will cross cut wood up to 8” or 10-12” if a sliding mitre saw. Depending on your deck construction my first choice would be a mitre saw; likely the deck is made with dimensional lumber (2×4, 2×6 2×8 etc) which will need to be cut to length; a circ. saw can do this, but as I said, I’ve found a mitre saw an easier choice for this sort of work.

-- Sometimes the creative process requires foul language. -- Charles Neil

View jerkylips's profile


393 posts in 2532 days

#9 posted 07-20-2011 04:03 PM

as others commented, usually when you build a deck, you install the decking left a little long, then snap a chalk line & cut it all at once with a circular saw. No matter how accurate you try to be with your cuts, cutting boards to the exact length before screwing down is just asking for trouble.

A couple things to consider – often, you have at least one board (that butts up to the house) needs to be ripped to the correct width. You can do it with a circular saw, but will need to set up a straight edge, have something to clamp it to, etc. A table saw would make that much easier.

Most deck boards are 6” wide. Unless you get a really small one (not likely), any miter saw would handle that just fine. The structural components are another story. If you’re using 2×10 or 2×12, you’re not getting through that with a miter saw. A table saw would handle these things, plus any miters you need to cut.

To me, a combo of circular saw & table saw would be best. Of course, if this is the only thing you plan to use the saw for, it may be tough to justify buying. You may want to consider renting a saw for a weekend. If you want to buy, look on craigslist for used saws – I’ve gotten several really nice things there…

View Arch_E's profile


48 posts in 2484 days

#10 posted 07-20-2011 04:44 PM

Won’t deny that the circular saw is totally more versatile for deck building. Please do get a good one—Makita, Dewalt, Bosch, Milwalkee (in no particular order, plus there are others)! But, a QUALITY 10” compound miter saw (not slider) is hard to beat. Why? Because it cuts square!!!! That’s not necessarily true for those learning to use the circular saw. When needed, precision beats convenience!

View TheDane's profile


5399 posts in 3625 days

#11 posted 07-20-2011 04:47 PM

I won’t cut pressure-treated lumber on my table saw … that AC2 pressure-treated stuff can’t be good for the tool.

I’ve done a fair amount of deck work (all three of the decks on our house had to be replaced after we bought the place in 2002) ... used 2 circular saws.

One is a 7 1/2” Skil for rough cutting, the other is a Ridgid Fuego 6 1/2” framing saw. I used a Wolfcraft guide/fence on the Skil for ripping boards to width. My decks are ‘picture-framed’, meaning there are two courses of deck boards around the perimeters with 45-degree mitered corners, and no cut end grain visible … that’s where the Fuego is nice (it is light-weight, easy to handle, and cuts straight as a string).

Those 2 saws, a set of sturdy sawhorses, a screw gun, a framing square, a rafter square (for the 45-degree cuts) and a boat load of Irwin quick grip clamps were all I needed … along with ample Miller Lite for lubricant.


-- Gerry -- "I don't plan to ever really grow up ... I'm just going to learn how to act in public!"

View Loren's profile


10241 posts in 3610 days

#12 posted 07-20-2011 06:26 PM

I’d use both a miter saw and a circular saw on most deck and
pergola projects. You’ll also want a saber saw or a handsaw for
notching cuts.

View StephenO's profile


44 posts in 2508 days

#13 posted 07-20-2011 07:07 PM

You can do an awful lot with a circular saw, a cordless drill, and a speed square and framing square. Given the choice I would also have the miter saw available, but if you’re limited to what you can use the list above will do the job.

-- -Steve, Seattle

View crank49's profile


4030 posts in 2933 days

#14 posted 07-21-2011 12:44 AM

Dane, don’t you know that Miller Light will rust your pipes. Never tackle a deck without a Bud. :^)

View TheDane's profile


5399 posts in 3625 days

#15 posted 07-21-2011 01:58 AM

Crank—I’ve heard that, but I try to support local workers (Miller is brewed here in Wisconsin, you know).


-- Gerry -- "I don't plan to ever really grow up ... I'm just going to learn how to act in public!"

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