SCMS vs. table saw for furniture joints

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Forum topic by unisaw posted 05-25-2013 01:39 AM 4080 views 0 times favorited 15 replies Add to Favorites Watch
View unisaw's profile


92 posts in 4329 days

05-25-2013 01:39 AM

Topic tags/keywords: scms angles furniture joints

I was listening to the FWW Shop Talk Live #31 podcast and the argument was made (unequivocally) that you NEVER use the CMS for furniture grade joints. Something about the blade flexing as it dives into the wood (CMS) or slides into the wood (SCMS). I always go to my Makita 10” SCMS for precise angles and consider my TS to be a rough cutter. I never heard this before. Is it just that I don’t have the right mitre guage or sled on my TS?

Anyone else share thoughts on this? What am I missing (besides experience).

15 replies so far

View Kaleb the Swede's profile

Kaleb the Swede

1874 posts in 2165 days

#1 posted 05-25-2013 02:35 AM

Well this one is going to get interesting….............. I know for myself, my sled is much more accurate than my compound miter saw (I don’t have a slider). I could see how dropping it in completely might flex the blade. Maybe a slider as it passes achieves relatively the same as a sled. Hopefully the guys with more experience chime in. Warning: there will be strong opinions. Strap in

-- Just trying to build something beautiful

View knotscott's profile


8144 posts in 3572 days

#2 posted 05-25-2013 02:35 AM

The mechanisms of a quality table saw are simply more robust than those of a miter saw, which should give the TS an accuracy advantage…. especially a slider that has an extended arm that’s more prone to flexing than a shorter arm. That doesn’t mean you can’t get good results from a miter saw or a slider with proper setup and good technique, but the mechanisms are inherently less stable. The end results you get depend on a number of variables, but I’ve always done better with my TS. My CMS is typically relegated for long boards.

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

View john111's profile


73 posts in 2182 days

#3 posted 05-25-2013 02:42 AM

I have a miter saw and rarely use it. A sled is just so much easier for me.

-- john111

View ShaneA's profile


7051 posts in 2795 days

#4 posted 05-25-2013 03:04 AM

If your Makita delivers square, smooth cuts no reason it can’t be used in fine woodworking. My Makita seems to deliver a pretty high quality cut. I like it for longer boards. However, for shorter boards I do find the TS easier.

View RonInOhio's profile


721 posts in 3060 days

#5 posted 05-25-2013 03:14 AM

It all depends. SCMS are said to be not as accurate as a non-sliding CMS. Thats all pretty much subjective though. It all depends on your saw.

How accurate is it ? Thats the determining factor.

I haven’t done any furniture building yet with my miter saw. For construction and such, its great.
I use it all the time. No sled yet for the TS so cross-cuts are done solely on the miter saw.

I could see where the size of the blade on the miter saw (10 or 12 inch) could be more prone to some runout (wobble) than a smaller diameter table saw blade. Also a TS with a zero clearance insert may be better at preventing tear-out.

Its a good question though. One I never gave a lot of thought to. I always assumed I would use my table saw for rips and cutting panel wood. And the miter saw for crosscuts.

View scott ernst's profile

scott ernst

41 posts in 2024 days

#6 posted 05-25-2013 03:18 AM

Unisaw, what kind of blade do you have on your table saw? A good, sharp blade will probably help your table saw give you a nice cut. I started using Forrest blades 20 years ago and I get amazing cuts from them. One of the great things about them is that they’re dead flat. That keeps the blade from doing the shimmy, which will give you a lousy cut. Maybe your miter saw is just running truer than your table saw. As with anything in woodworking, if it works do it. Every tool has it’s own quirks…...

-- Scott, NM

View Bernie's profile


422 posts in 3033 days

#7 posted 05-25-2013 03:36 AM

I have a mid size shop so I carefully chose my tools and their placement. I don’t own a miter saw and have no desire to own one. They are great for on site work and while doing a major renovation of our kitchen last year, I did borrow one from a cousin for a few weeks. But in the shop… my ts can do everything a miter saw can and more and better. Like Kaleb said… that statement should get attention.

A cheap ts can be problematic, but you don’t need a supper expensive ts with 5 hp. I own the smallest ts cabinet saw Jet makes with a motor that can be converted to a 3hp by switching a couple of wires. I rewired my kitchen from box to fixtures so I could convert my ts too 3hp, but I’ve kept my saw at 1 1/2hp. When working 2 inch thick hardwood, I slow the feed rate, but how often do I do that… My ts has kicked back hard enough to get my attention so 3hp + scares me.

It is important to have a good fence and miter (more important then a ++++hp). A lot of miters wiggle in the slot while my more expensive one has an adjustable screw to eat up the slack. A well built sled is even better. Same can be said about the rip fence. Invest in good tools and they pay you what you spent.

Of course when trying to achieve accuracy, good work habits will trump tool quality. A simple example… Marking your work accurately is very important so measure twice and cut once! But how do you mark your work? When I need to be accurate, I do not use a pencil to mark my cuts. I use a knife. Pencil marks are too thick and cutting to the left side or the right side of my pencil mark can leave a gap in my finished product. I put a knife mark and carefully line up the saw tooth edge on my thin knife mark before starting up the saw.

-- Bernie: It never gets hot or cold in New Hampshire, just seasonal!

View a1Jim's profile


117328 posts in 3773 days

#8 posted 05-25-2013 03:46 AM

It all boils down to never say you can’t do fill in the blank with fill in the blank__ because all woodworkers work differently an have different equipment set up differently . As soon as you say you can’t make furniture grade joinery with a can opener sure as shooten some one will do it.

-- wood crafting & woodworking classes

View Bluepine38's profile


3379 posts in 3281 days

#9 posted 05-25-2013 04:04 AM

The new Bosch sliding compound miter saw has me thinking I might want to upgrade my Delta compound miter
saw that been giving me extremely accurate cuts for quite a few years. I waited until Delta developed a good
laser setup before I bought it, and bought a good blade,saving the Delta one for construction. For me it cuts
better angles than the right and left tilt unisaws. A friend has an old German CMS that is even more accurate
than my Delta. I think Bernie got bit by a bad early CMS. Just my opinion, and the wife insists that I have been
wrong before. One of things I like about the new MS is that they are belt driven, so you get the full use of
the blade, without the direct drive motor limiting your cut.

-- As ever, Gus-the 79 yr young apprentice carpenter

View Loren's profile


10477 posts in 3844 days

#10 posted 05-25-2013 04:11 AM

Depends on what tolerances you are working to.

An average miter saw is probably a better joinery
machine than a comparably priced (jobsite) table

If you have a cabinet saw, it will probably do a better
job of tenon shoulders, generally, than any SCMS
you can buy. Jigged appropriately of course.

Tenon shoulders are the trickiest. The work has
to be flipped to index from the stop, so squaring
errors in the cut are doubled.

Wider tenon shoulders above perhaps 9” wide
may be indexed from a rip fence, which makes
them equal. A miter saw cannot do this.

Dados cut in both sides of a board follow the
same rule.

View Picklehead's profile


1050 posts in 2126 days

#11 posted 05-25-2013 12:17 PM

My experience has been that, with regards to CMS vs SCMS, when the board is wide enough to require the CMS to perform a PLUNGE cut, landing in the middle of the face of the board and plunging down into it, it produces much more vibration/flex/wobble (especially with a blade that is not perfectly sharp) than a cut from the EDGE of the board (such as a CMS cutting a narrower board or a SCMS sliding ACROSS the width of the board).

-- Quote from ebay tool listing: " Has nicks and dings wear and tear dust and dirt rust and pitting but in good working condition"

View knotscott's profile


8144 posts in 3572 days

#12 posted 05-25-2013 12:21 PM

Loren touches on a really good point about the range of quality that’s available for both types of saws….the gap from worst to best is enormous for both. All table saws and all miter saws aren’t created equal. I have a $150 CMS and a $1300 TS… it’s not really fair to compare the performance of the two, but I’m guilty of it nonetheless.

With that taken into account, do any sliding miter saw mechanisms compare in robustness and rigidity to the arbor support mechanism on a better example of a good TS? Even the best SCMS that I know of has an arbor mechanism that pivots from a single support point at the end of a cantilevered arm, then travels through the cut propelled free hand (is the Kapex generally considered one of the better sliders?). The arbor of a quality TS has considerably better support whether it uses a traditional swing arm or a dovetail way. It’s definitely possible to guide the sliding mechanism accurately by hand, but I’d think it’s inherently less consistent that using a support jig like a good miter gauge or sled that’s used on a TS….please correct me if I’m wrong.

I wouldn’t expect much of an accuracy advantage from TS Ex1, but I definitely would from TS Ex2.
TS Ex 1…. a table saw:

TS Ex2….a beefier table saw:


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

View nwbusa's profile


1021 posts in 2482 days

#13 posted 05-25-2013 01:38 PM

I have a couple of quality miter saws (one CMS and one SCMS) and I prefer to use them for most crosscuts. I do use quality blades (Forrest Chopmasters) which makes a difference. The only joinery I do with a MS is.. miters. Everything else gets done on the TS.

-- John, BC, Canada

View Woodknack's profile


12425 posts in 2576 days

#14 posted 05-26-2013 12:27 AM

I have two Delta CMS which are relatively low end, I only use them for carpentry. I’ve tried using them for furniture grade joints and they are just not precise enough. They do make very nice cuts with an 80T blade though.

-- Rick M,

View unisaw's profile


92 posts in 4329 days

#15 posted 05-26-2013 12:43 AM

OP here. Thanks all. I think I’ll begin to work on a worthy miter gauge and TS sled.

There ’s always something to learn just when you thought you knew most all of it. I’ve even begun to rip boards on my bandsaw instead of the TS. Who’d a thunk!

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