Q: What tool should I buy first, a mitre saw or a table saw? I’ll be using the tool mainly for home repairs, with an occasional need to cut sheets of plywood. My budget is $600.
A: If I could buy just one kind of saw, and I was mostly interested in home repairs and construction involving solid lumber such as 2x6s and 2x10s, then I would choose a mitre saw. But if your intentions lead you towards cutting sheet goods such as plywood, particle board and MDF, then a portable table saw makes more sense.
Mitre saws are enormously useful, but they’re not quite as versatile as a table saw for general home repairs and renovations that involve sheet goods. In the end, you should aim to own both a mitre saw and a table saw, but for now, I’ll begin with table saws.
A nice option
Tools everywhere are getting better all the time, and table saws are no exception.
It’s especially hard to beat those models that come with a built-in rolling stand. My current favourite is the Bosch 4000-09. It’s somewhat above your $600 budget, but well worth the money.
That’s it below, complete with that great folding/rolling stand Bosch has developed. It’s the nicest portable table saw stand I’ve ever used.
Choosing a mitre saw
Also called a chop saw, the model you choose in this category is less crucial than with a table saw, because a great proportion of chop saws on the market are good.
If you want the ultimate in portability, consider one of the cordless models. They take regular cordless tool batteries and they perform a surprising number of cuts between charges. An excellent model is made by DEWALT. You can see it in my shop below.
Milwaukee also makes an excellent cordless chop saw that I’ve used quite a bit. You can see the one I’ve used for several years below.
Both the Milwaukee and the DEWALT cannot crosscut something as wide as 2x12s, so if you’ll be dealing with big lumber you should look at a plug-in sliding compound mitre saw spinning a 10-inch or 12-inch blade.
This same Milwaukee is what I used filming what turned out to be one of my most popular videos. It’s on cutting precise mitre joints and you can watch it below. This video has gotten more than 1.2 million views so far.
Regardless of what you buy, the blade you use is important, especially when it comes to a table saw. Go ahead and use the stock blade for a while, but save your pennies for an upgrade.
I’ve been using the Freud Premier Fusion combination blade lately on my table saws. It’s the smoothest-cutting general-purpose blade I’ve ever used. The almost flawless edge you see below was cut on a piece of Baltic birch plywood using the Freud Premier Fusion table saw blade.
Normally it takes a specialty blade to produce these results. The Fusion blade is suitable for all types of cutting, in solid wood and sheet goods.