July 26, 2022

Miter Saw vs Radial arm saw

Choosing between a miter saw vs radial arm saw is a tricky exercise. Functionality, performance, and design are almost similar, but the difference matters. Match your needs with features each saw tool brings. The article below takes you through a review of each saw tool, with the pros and cons of each.

Overview of the Miter saw

A miter saw is well known for making cuts at various angles, unlike other saw types like chop saw. It performs better when cutting material like dimensional lumber for framing, decking, or flooring. It works from small square stock to boards a foot or wider. The saw blade is on the arm that makes pivots from both the right and left sides for angled cuts. 

The tool works better on frames and window casings. It comes in three variations, including the dual compound and the sliding compound. The compound miter saw pivots in a single direction for bevel cuts, making compound cuts in one pass, while the Dual compound miter saws tilt from the left and right sides. 

The Sliding compound miter saws have an exceptional sliding feature. It moves the blade forward and backward, increasing the length of the cut, making it ideal for longer material. Expect some quicker bevels at multiple angles from the saw machine. 

If you are looking for more cutting power, go for higher Amps. Consider more positive stops to avoid time-consuming project set-up cuts. Saws with thumb-activated stops are for quick adjustments. 

There are multiple sizes of blades that suit different applications. If you are working on a limited space, a smaller unit mounted on a workbench is easier to use, but if you do not intend to transport one to and from work, you might have a bigger one. For better results, buy a blade compatible with your miter saw before you blame your miter saw for a technical fault. Use the correct extension cord on the miter saw. 

Pros

  • Ideal for trimming and angular cuts
  • Ideal for cross-cuts and bevels
  • Moving blade
  • Precise
  • Safe
  • More cutting power
  • Quick adjustments 

Cons

  • Fixed stock
  • Limited in variety

Radial arm saw

A radial arm saw is a cutting machine made of a circular saw mounted on a sliding horizontal arm. It is well known for its length cuts and can be used with a dado blade to create cuts for dado, rabbet, or half-lap joints. Some radial arm saws allow the saw blade turned parallel to the back saw fence for a rip cut.

They feature a simple design that allows carpenters to cut wooden workpieces in no time. It is easy to use. Minimal effort is required. It is driven by an electric motor, making it a faster saw machine. Using a radial arm comes with its pros and cons. It performs both miter and rip cuts at the same time. 

Unlike the miter saw, the radial arm saw supports rip cuts and many more, including miter and rip. The cost makes them unattractive for woodworking applications. Radial arm saws require extra work to maintain. If the blade becomes dull, it fails to cut perfectly. 

The saws perform better when cutting plywood and other thin sheets of wood but are not effective at cutting lumber. Thick pieces of lumber require a different woodworking machine. The power saw poses risks of injury with its ability to cut off fingers if not used with caution. It can grab your wood piece and kick it around the workshop. Expect some kickbacks if you work with a dull blade (Superbcutter.com). However, you can build the locks and fence on the side for stability and safety.

Pros

  • Powerful cutting depth
  • Maneuverability 
  • Versatility 
  • Long cuts
  • It cuts wider stock
  • Accurate crosscuts
  • Safe

Cons

  • It could have been more precise
  • More safety precautions are needed

Favorite Features

Power

A miter saw is a power-cutting tool with a motorized system. A Radial Arm Saw consists of a power circular saw with a mechanical arm. Purchase a saw with high power capacity so that you can deal with multiple blocks of wood with your ease.

Blade sizes

A miter saw is available in blades ranging from 8 to 12 inches in diameter (Toolstop.co.uk). Due to its blade diameter and motorized system, the saw cuts easily through any wood piece. Additionally, the rotation features help to streamline between different cuts. 

The miter saw gives higher precision due to its blade diameter than the radial arm saw. A radial arm saw blade diameters range from 12-22 inches with additional attachments such as the dadoes blades. Due to its blade diameter, the saw can cut through tough lumber while running its woodworking use.

Rotations

When using a miter saw, rotation angles are locked for precise cuts and quick adjustments. It comes with depth stops to adjust the height of the blade. A radial arm saw can also be rotated and placed at multiple angles and depths to provide versatility in cutting and their usage. The rotations and changes in degree allow smooth maneuverability to the user, unlike other saws restricted in their use.

Fence system 

Both saws have a fence system for stability and accuracy for various cutting options. A radial arm saw has a fence that you can attach an additional.

Blade guard 

A miter saw has a clear protective blade guard that makes it safe. You are protected from accidents while it collects wood shavings and saw bits to keep your workspace dust-free.

What could have been better?

Miter saw

  • Variety should not be limited.

Radial arm saw

  • It could have been safer to use.

Similarities

  • Both are versatile
  • They have a circular blade.
  • The blades are adjustable.

Differences 

  • Radial Arm Saws have a higher cutting depth that allows them to cut through thicker lumber, whereas Miter Saws do not cut thicker wood.
  • Radial Arm Saws are stationary, whereas Miter Saws are portable. You can take it around where ever you go.
  • Radial Arm Saws make multiple cuts, whereas Miter Saws offer only four cuts.
  • Miter Saws are more precise than a radial arm saw.

The verdict 

Choosing between a miter saw and a radial arm saw depends on your project. The miter offers you all the wood cutting you need or home improvement projects. That is from bathroom renovations to framing. If you intend to make longer cuts, the radial arm saw is the ideal saw to use. It also suits beginners since it is easy to use. Above all, you have read what each saw tool does, its limitations, and its strengths. Choose what sorts for your projects.

David D. Hughes
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