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Radial Arm Saw vs Miter Saw [Differences & Winner]

Are you a woodworking enthusiast confused between purchasing a Radial Arm Saw and a Miter Saw? Well, you’ve come to the right place!

A professional carpenter works with a circular saw miter saw in a workshop.

Having the right equipment in your tool kit can change your woodworking game completely. Whether you require the tools for personal home improvement projects or professional woodworking, having the right saw by your side is absolutely essential.

But with both Radial Arm saws and Miter saws available in the market, there has been a lingering question in most people’s minds about which to buy. Professionals and enthusiasts alike are constantly wondering which of the two saws is the better tool.

However, we believe that this perspective is the wrong way to approach this dilemma. What one really needs to be asking is not which saw is better, but which equipment will be best for you and your individual usage. But even then, making a choice between the two can seem very overwhelming, especially if you’re a beginner in the woodworking circuit.

Radial Arm Saw vs. Miter Saw

Circular saw miter saw photographed in the workshop atmosphere.

So, in order to help you all make this decision effectively, we have compiled the required differences between the two. This informative piece will detail the features, how each of these saws functions, what they are capable of, and the purpose they serve.

First, we will look at each of the pieces of equipment above on a one-to-one basis to get a more clarified idea regarding them. So, without further ado, let’s jump right into the thick of it, shall we?

What Is A Radial Arm Saw?

The Radial Arm Saw is the comparatively older equipment of the two and is, therefore, an extremely reliable tool to have in your workshed. This saw is the good old friend that every home woodworker and professional owned before the Miter Saw came into being. 

So, if you’re someone who has a small workshed and is short on space, the Radial Arm Saw is a rather good investment to consider. The sheer versatility of this tool will eliminate the need for you to own multiple devices for different purposes and hence save you both money and space in the long run.

The tool itself consists of a shapely circular blade that is mounted on a sliding arm, which enables it to power through all kinds of wood stock and makes a variety of cuts. The blade on this tool can be adjusted according to various angles and degrees; however, the adjustment will need to be measured and made manually.

However, one aspect this saw falls short in is having an inbuilt safety mechanism. Although it does include some locks and provides you the option to strengthen the fence around its side, it’s still not very safe to use. This is because the powerful blade of this saw poses a significant risk to users because of its ability to cut fingers clean off if not used with extreme caution.

Moreover, if your saw is equipped with a dull blade, it has the ability to latch onto your wood piece and then throw it around the room with its sheer speed. Hence, when it comes to Radial Arm Saws, it is essential to use them with the utmost caution, and is best if not used by beginners at all.

Highlights of the Radial Arm Saw

  1. The machine consists of a circular power saw lodged into a mechanical arm.
  2. The diameter of the blade ranges from 12 to about 22 inches.
  3. This equipment is highly customizable and has an array of adjustable angles and depths that can be set up in order to enhance its versatility and usage.
  4. The side fence provided as a part of this equipment is usually sufficient to provide the required amount of stability and accuracy for a variety of cutting operations. However, it is recommended you fortify this side fence by attaching an additional fence for extra security.
  5. Safety guards are separately available and should be necessarily purchased to make this saw more safe and secure for the user.
  6. It comes equipped with additional attachments

Different Cuts It Facilitates

The Radial Arm Saw, as we mentioned above, has more versatility and hence facilitates a large variety of cuts. Here we wanted to mention the 4 major kinds of cuts it can perform and how to execute them to provide you with a better idea of the tool.

  1. Crosscuts

Crosscuts are one of the simplest cuts that can be made rather easily with a Radial Arm Saw. All one needs to do is measure the piece of wood you plan to cut with a scale and mark the top part with a marker or a pencil of your choosing. After accounting for the width of your blade, lower and align it to the piece before you proceed to power the saw.

It’s essential to build a fence around the equipment so that you can hold the wooden piece against that fence while slowly pulling the saw toward you. Once the entire width of the wood is cut, turn the power off and return the blade to its original and neutral position before continuing with your work.

  1. Ripping

Ripping is a method of cutting that enables you to cut a piece of wood along its length instead of its width like in the case of crosscuts. This can be executed in a Radial Arm Saw by twisting the rotating head of the blade and locking it in place.

The pawl of this tool requires it to be released and readjusted to the height of the wooden board you are planning to cut in order to prevent any potential jams or kickbacks. It’s also essential to note that this positioning of the blade makes it one of the most dangerous ways of utilizing this equipment. Hence it is absolutely crucial for the user to be extra cautious during the process.

  1. Miters, Bevels, And Compounds

Miter cuts and their variations are another cut that can be executed with a Radial Arm Saw with relative ease. This specific cut and its variations are made possible by the option of miter and bevel release levels which enable you to manually customize the degree you plan to cut in.

Moreover, it is essential to ensure that the blade of the equipment is lifted when you make any of the above adjustments. It’s also crucial to lock the angle in before proceeding with the cut, which a lot of new woodworkers may tend to overlook. We will be discussing these cuts in a little more detail when we come to the Miter Saw.

  1. Dadoes And Rabbets

Dadoe is a U-shaped cut that runs across the width of the piece of wood, while rabbet is an L-shaped cut made along the edge of the same board. These cuts come in most handy when acting as joinery in larger and more complex woodworking projects.

Since the Radial Arm Saw gives you the ability to customize its depth according to your requirements, it is also effective in making these specific kinds of cuts. However, to efficiently execute this cut, you will need to attach the separately provided dadoes blade onto the machine.


  • Versatility in usage
  • Incredibly powerful blade and cutting depth
  • Much more compact compared to other woodworking equipment


  • Not very precise in its cutting
  • Dangerous to use and hence requires a lot more safety precautions to be followed

What is a Miter Saw?

A Miter Saw is basically a stationary power tool constructed with a circular blade suspended from an arm as the Radial Arm Saw itself. However, unlike other more traditional circular saws, this equipment allows for considerably more precision and control in cutting wooden planks. This is made possible because of its hinged arm that is attached to its main body with a slit and an extremely well-fortified fence.

The blade of this power tool usually ranges between 8-12 inches in diameter, which further facilitates the execution of high-precision cuts more effectively. Furthermore, this tool is equipped with a unique dust collection mechanism and a blade guard that makes it very safe to use in all environments and especially for beginners starting out in the woodworking field.

If that wasn’t enough, it also has a built-in scale in place that enables users to easily adjust it with minimal effort and make cuts in varying degrees. As a result, this tool has gained a lot of popularity since its release and has now become a regular appliance found in almost every professional woodworking workshop.

A significant detail to remember, however, is that the Miter Saw is not one size fits all and is in fact, available in variations that we will be discussing below.

Types of Miter Saws

There are mainly 3 different types of Miter Saws freely available in the market right now.

  1. Compound Miter

This variant of the Miter saw only enables the blade of the equipment to pivot from left to right specifically. This limits the movement of this saw and only facilitates wooden board cutting in that particular direction.

  1. Dual Compound Miter

This variant of the Miter Saw is similar to Compound Miter but allows the blade of the equipment to pivot both left and right. This provides greater flexibility in cutting direction and facilitates the making of quick bevels at any angle.

  1. Sliding Compound Miter

This last variation of the Miter Saw is the most flexible among all its counterparts. In addition to the compound movements we described above, you can slide this saw backward and forward to enable you to cater to wooden boards with greater lengths. Out of all the variants, this is, therefore, a better option to invest in.

Highlights Of The Miter Saw

  1. This is a motorized power-cutting tool system with a circular blade, hinged arm, and heavy-duty structure.
  2. It is available in different blade diameters that range from 8-12 inches, respectively.
  3. It is equipped with varied adjustable mechanisms that facilitate rotating angles and depth adjustments to provide precise cuts. These mechanisms additionally come with built-in locks and stop to give them stability during operation.
  4. A laser guide may be installed on the side fence for enhanced accuracy.
  5. Additional clamps and table extensions can be separately purchased to use this equipment for a wider variety of projects.
  6. The fence of this equipment is extra-fortified and provides stability while absorbing the shocks of the functioning machine.
  7. The in-built clear protective blade guard and dust-free mechanism of this equipment make it safe to use while maintaining a clean and dust-free workspace.

Different Cuts It Facilitates

The Miter Saw, as we mentioned above, is available in 3 different variants. However, when we talk about the cuts this power tool is able to accomplish, we are explicitly talking about the Sliding Compound Miter. There are mainly 4 different kinds of cuts that this equipment can hence perform, and we are going to describe the cuts and how to execute them below briefly.

  1. Crosscuts

As we discussed before, the crosscut is the most straightforward woodcutting procedure amongst most woodworking projects. To execute this standard cut, you will require to slice across the grain direction of any given piece of the wound on your Miter Saw.

  1. Bevels

Bevel, on the other hand, Bevel is an angled cut that goes through the thickness of the wood board and is typically made when you want to connect two pieces of molding to establish an invisible seam. This cut is usually created by tilting the circular blade on the sliding compound miter to a specific angle. The wood is continued to be placed in the regular place allowing the angular blade to design an automatic bevel.

  1. Miters

This cutting technique that the Miter saw facilitates is essentially what this equipment is named after. Much like the bevel cut, this cut likewise requires the circular blade of the tool to be set up in an angled position. However, this cut is mainly made across the width of the wooden board instead of its thickness and is used primarily for creating corners in wooden projects.

This is also an extremely common cutting procedure in woodworking that is regularly used to make boxes and wooden frames. Furthermore, the Miter Saw is naturally inclined at making cleaner, more precise, and better-looking miter cuts. This is possible because of its pivotable saw that can easily be adjusted to varying degrees along with its hinged handle and fence that provide it the necessary stability.

  1. Compound Cuts

Compound Cuts are essentially an amalgamation of both the bevel and the miter cuts. It’s ideal for making kitchen renovations that require seamlessly cut wooden crown moldings. These are also a little more complicated to execute usually; however, they are made far easier because of the unique design of the Miter Saw.


  • Provides extremely precise operation
  • Additional optional attachments available for a more versatile operation
  • Designed with numerous safety mechanisms enabling beginners to use it
  • Has the ability to create 4 essential yet varied cuts


  • Not very powerful and can’t cut through very thick pieces of wood
  • Can execute a limited variety of cuts

Differences Between Radial Arm Saw and Miter Saw

Now that we’ve covered what each of these pieces of equipment essentially is and how they function individually, we wanted to highlight some of the most significant differences between them.

  1. Power And Size

Power and size are interrelated when it comes to the factors that determine the performance of woodworking equipment. Usually, the larger the size of the tool the more powerful the tool typically is.

In this context, the Radial Arm Saw is a more substantial tool that is compatible with larger blade sizes ranging from 12 to 22 inches. Compared to this, the Miter Saw has a more compact structure and is only compatible with blades ranging from 8 to 12 inches in diameter.

The large and enhanced structure of the Radial Arm Saw provides it with more power, giving it a comparatively high cutting depth. Hence, this equipment is able to cut through thick pieces of lumber with relative ease, which the Miter Saw cannot.

  1. Portability

On the other hand, however, the compact size and structure of the Miter Saw make it a lot more portable than its space-taking counterpart. This is further compounded because the latter requires a fixed and static workstation for a seamless operation that the Miter Saw already comes inbuilt with. Hence, you can easily lob the former around wherever you wish to place it as compared to its more substantially sized counterpart.

  1. Safety

The Radial Arm Saw is lagging far behind the more modern and secure Miter Saw when it comes to safety. This is because the latter is constructed with a lot of considerate features that make it simpler and a delight to use.

For starters, this Miter Saw is equipped with a protective blade guard that not only protects users from the dangers of using such a big blade but also collects wooden shavings to keep your workspace clean and clutter-free. Furthermore, this equipment comes with an extra fortified fence that has an excellent shock-absorbing system that makes it a lot more stable to use.

As compared to this, The Radial Arm is a rather dangerous woodworking appliance to own and is a threat not only to beginners but also to professionals alike. Hence, before using this tool, it is essential to properly equip yourself and the equipment with all the necessary safety guards and extra fences to ensure maximum security from accidents during operation.

  1. Precision

The Miter Saw, as we mentioned earlier, offers a lot more precision than its counterpart. This precision is mostly derived from the smaller blade diameter that it is compatible with, making it easier to control. However, the precision of this equipment can also be attributed to the clear blade guards that provide enhanced visibility, and safety lock mechanisms that make it steady.

Additionally, some saws come equipped with a laser/LED guide that adds further precision to the process of cutting. You can also buy these laser/LED guides separately and install them on your machine as and when required. Compared to this, the Radial Arm Saw does not have any of these given features. Hence, overall it lacks the precision that the Miter Saw offers.

  1. Ease Of Use And Installation

How easy each piece of equipment is to use is intrinsically related to the safety mechanisms provided. And since the Miter Saw is loaded with more safety features it automatically makes it a lot safer to use than the Radial Arm Saw.

Additionally, the Radial saw comes with a lot of loose attachments and manually adjustable mechanisms. The angle plus depth adjustment features that this tool is equipped with are all required to be adjusted physically by the user with the help of a separate scale. The extra dadoes blade provided also needs to be set up manually, which can be quite a hassle to install.

As compared to this, the Miter Saw has all automatically adjustable features that do not require separate scales or an extra pair of hands to adjust. Therefore, it is safe to conclude that the Miter Saw is considerably easy to operate and install.

  1. Types Of Cuts/Versatility In Work

As we mentioned earlier, the Radial Arm saw has greater versatility when it comes to cutting wood. The enhanced structure of this equipment enables you to create ripping cuts and dadoes and rabbets that the Miter Saw is unable to make. Furthermore, as we mentioned before, the Radial Saw also allows for a greater cutting depth that facilitates the slicing of thicker wood and lumber as compared to the Miter Saw.

However, while the Miter Saw may lack versatility, it can still be enhanced in that arena by installing additional clamps and table extensions. Therefore, these separately available attachments can make the equipment a little more flexible and versatile to use for your varied woodworking projects.

Which One To Choose?

With that, we have comprehensively covered all the major differences between both these woodworking saws. Hence, one could conclude, in the most basic sense, that structurally both these saws are sort of similar in their build. This is because both of them are inherently mounted circular blades, however, even so, they vary greatly when it comes to their form, usage, and functionality.

So, now the question that remains is which woodworking saw is the best purchase for you? Well, we’re here to inform you that the answer to that question lies completely in the range of your personal usage. There can be no clear or explicit winner between the two because both of them fulfill very distinct functions.

Factors To Consider While Choosing The Right Saw

Hence, although both saws may look similar to the untrained eye, the reality is that these are both very different equipment. If you ask any trained or professional woodworking they would all tell you the same thing. And that thing is that which wood-cutting saw you choose always depends on primarily two important factors, they are:

  • Your level of expertise
  • What do you plan to use it for?

So, if you’re a trained or self-developed woodworker looking to branch out into the field of woodworking and are already familiar with the safety mechanisms and procedures practiced within the industry, then the Radial Arm Saw might be the right fit for you. This choice is also, however, dependent on the kind of woodworking projects you want to take up as a professional.

If your expertise, for example, lies in small projects that need more precise cutting procedures then the Miter Saw might be a better option for you. Alternatively, if you’re planning to take up more substantially sized woodworking projects, then the Radial Arm Saw is hands down the better option for you.

On the other hand, if you are a woodworking enthusiast or someone who is fairly new to the DIY woodworking game, then the Miter Saw is without a doubt the best purchase for you. These not only offer a higher precision level but are also safer and easier to use.

Hence, while this equipment may not provide a lot of varied options for versatility in cutting, they do cover all the basic and essential cutting procedures that you might require for your projects. This includes any projects you may take up for home improvement such as creating the crown molding for your kitchen.

The Winner

So, if you ask us who the winner between these two mounted saws is, we’d have to go with the Miter Saw.

This is mainly because, regardless of your level of expertise when it comes to woodworking, the Miter Saws are usable by different kinds of people. So, no matter what your standing as a woodworker is, this saw will always come in handy.

This is because the use that this provides is unmatched by the most powerful tools available in the market. And hence, for that same reason, this saw is more popular for mainstream usage while the alternative has faded in popularity and is still fighting to remain relevant.


Final Words

It is important to remember that our choice of the winner does not erase the fact that the Radial Arm Saw provides much more functionality than its counterpart. It’s just that those extra functionalities that this equipment offers don’t come into use as often and consequently are not considered essential by most woodworkers.

We would still, therefore, ask everyone to base their final decision on the factors that we stated above so that you end up with equipment that meets all your individual woodworking needs. Nevertheless, based largely on the consensus of relevancy, if we had to pick only one mounted saw to recommend to you today, we would still go along with the Miter saw, as we mentioned earlier.

So, we hope this comprehensive guide exploring the differences between the Miter Saw and Radial Arm Saw has aided in providing you guys some clarity. That’s all we have for you today folks. Happy woodworking!

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