Band Saw vs. Miter Saw
Band saws are called “band” saws because the blade is a long loop of toothed metal that rotates continuously in the same direction, rather than sawing back and forth.
This long loop of blade provides even, consistent speed that is perfect for long rip cuts, and is so long that it can easily manage very thick stock, unlike saws with circular blades.
The slender blade is also good for making long arcs and curves as you move the workpiece against the blade.
They have the versatility for long, straight cuts, angled cuts, and curved cuts, although they are not good at very tight curves and angles.
Types of Band Saw
Band saws are usually differentiated by how big they are, which determines the kind of stock they are best at and how portable the tool is.
Different sizes of band saws are:
Portable band saws are easy to transport to a job site, but have a very small working area and aren't as robust.
They are often used simply for trimming, and are popular with plumbers for cutting pipes to the specific dimensions needed for their job.
Benchtop band saws are designed to be clamped to a shop bench or table.
These smaller models are the most popular for DIYers and hobbyists, because they take up less space but are very nearly as powerful. Benchtop band saws come in a variety of sizes, optimized for different needs and projects.
Large, floor standing band saws are designed for professionals who will always keep the tool set up in their workspace.
These are powerful machines, capable of cutting stock that is both very thick, or cutting big flat boards.
The big size and work area makes it easy to optimally position and manipulate the work, although they require a lot of clearance.
The size of the tool itself and the clearance needs means that these tools need a lot of space, and they are also expensive.
Band Saws are the Optimal Tool For
- Rip cuts in stock that is 2 to 6 inches thick, but large band saws or the addition of a riser block can cut stock that is 12 or more inches thick.
- Cutting even, gentle curves in large flat stock
- Cutting awkward angles or irregular shapes in large flat stock
A miter saw has a circular blade that is hinged over the work. The blade is pulled downward into the stock, working much like a chop saw.
A miter saw is distinguished by the fact that the blade can be rotated to cut at an angle. Instead of being locked at a 90° angle to the work, the blade can also pivot to the left or right, to make angled cuts.
The ability to make both straight and angled cuts (miters) is what differentiates a chop saw from a miter saw, and makes a miter saw capable of angles and bevels that a band saw cannot cut.
What Kind of Cuts Can a Miter Saw Make?
While a miter saw can always make fast, consistent cuts at square angles to the work, miter saws can also be adjusted to make:
These cuts are angled across the width of the board, usually at 45°.
These cuts are angled through the thickness of the board, usually at 45°.
These cuts are angled in both width and thickness, to cut the same stock at two angles at once, ideal for trim and molding.
Different Types of Miter Saws
All miter saws can make angled cuts by pivoting the blade back and forth.
However, different types of miter saws can also make compound cuts, where the blade can both pivot and tilt, to produce different angles of cuts.
The three different types of compound miter saw are:
A compound miter saw allows you to both pivot and tilt the head and blade relative to the work, so you can create cuts at two different angles at the same time.
A compound miter saw usually only tilts in a single direction, to the left or right, so a compound miter saw may tilt from 0° to 90°, or from 90° to 180°, but not both.
As the name suggests, a dual compound miter saw has a head that can be tilted to either the left or right, so you could make a 45° cut and a 135° cut by just re-tilting the blade.
Sliding compound. A sliding compound miter saw allows the blade to slide forward and back, as well as be set at a compound angle.
A sliding compound miter saw combines some of the features of a radial arm saw with a miter saw, and allows for mitered chopping cuts as well as shorter rip cuts.
What is a Miter Saw Best For?
Miter saws are generally smaller and less powerful than chop saws, and cannot manage stock that is either as big or as thick as a band saw.
They cannot cut curves. They are regarded as “finessing machines” for their precision and the cleanness of the cuts. They are excellent for finishing work, like moldings and framing, or for small precise jobs like piping and aluminum.
They perform miter cuts more quickly, repeatably, and with less cleanup or sanding than any other power tool.
Miter saws are ideal for cutting precise angles and bevels, particularly when cutting trim, framing, baseboards, and the like.
A band saw is more versatile, capable of long rip cuts, cutting thick stock, and cutting curves. However, a band saw blade cannot be angled, so the work must always be angled relative to the blade.
This makes angled cuts less precise and repeatable than those on a miter saw. A band saw also requires more clearance, as you manipulate the work relative to the blade, while a miter saw has a more compact footprint.