When you want to make clean crosscuts and miter cuts there are a few different options available, a miter saw vs crosscut sled vs panel sled on a table saw but which one is the best?
Miter saws are specifically designed for making crosscuts and miter (angle) cuts but are limited by the width of wood that they can cut. A crosscut sled on a table saw is great for making crosscuts and miter (angle) cuts on wider pieces of wood than a miter saw. A panel sled is just like a big crosscut sled that is designed to cut even larger ‘panels’ of wood such as plywood.
Miter saws are a great option for DIYers, contractors and woodworkers. People often go for this type of saw because they can make a variety of different angle (miter) cuts. So using a miter saw you would be able to make just about anything.
But nowadays, it is common to see that many DIYers, contractors, and other woodworkers have decided to substitute or even swap their miter saws with a table saw in a combination with a crosscut sled or a panel sled.
This made me think – are crosscut and the panel sleds a better choice for DIYers, contractors, and other woodworkers? Or, if not, then why have many of them decided to add a table saw with sled to their tool collection?
Recently, I did some research to find answers. It seems like space is one of the most important things considered but not the only thing. Let’s dive a little deeper.
What are Miter saws used for?
Miter saws are a great tool for making crosscuts in a wide range of angles. Check out my review of the best compound sliding miter saw.
People who often use miter saws, know the importance of having a miter station. Building the station is not a big deal, although you need to decide what would you like yours to look like.
Would you like a huge and complex one, or small but good enough for all the tasks you are about to do?
Whatever your choice is, make sure it is completely safe, and keep your mind on where the dust will go.
The miter saw station refers to a miter saw, fixed on a specially built desk. It looks pretty different to the traditional table saw, but it isn’t. Obviously, contractors and others requiring portability use a portable miter saw stand.
You can make different types of cut with your miter saw – crosscut, miter cut, beveled cut, and compound cut. With this, you will be able to cut the materials just as you want for almost any project.
Sounds good, but not everything is perfect. If it was, people would only use the miter saw, right?
What are its limitations?
Miter saw is a great choice if you want to make crosscuts, but this depends on the width of the wood as well. If the piece you are about to cut, is very wide, the miter saw is completely useless, which is why people use a table saw instead.
However, for smaller pieces of wood, a miter saw/station will do the job. There is another thing you need to consider – use only the miter saw, or make a station for it?
It is up to you whether you would like to build a station, or just keep using your miter saw in the traditional way.
However, building a miter station will only give you advantages, and even though your saw won’t move, you will be able to make precise cuts.
Want to build one? Check this video for further instructions.
What is a Table Saw With Crosscut Sled used for?
It is common knowledge that you can perform crosscuts on a table saw. See my review of the best portable table saw. It is possible, but it is very dangerous unless you are well equipped.
Almost every table saw has a miter gauge and although this somehow helpful, you will struggle to make precise cuts.
Well, you will need to put the wood on the gauge and push it towards the blade. However, this is not as simple as it sounds, as the wood can move and you won’t get the cut you wanted to.
Plus, you won’t be able to make repeated cuts.
So, what is the solution?
Building a crosscut sled. The sled has two runners, so your cuts will be more accurate. If you build it on your own, it may won’t be too beautiful, but if it is done in the right way, it will do the job.
The fence needs to be square to the blade, so you will get accurate cuts. If you are able to do a bigger sled, that is better, as it will be suitable for bigger projects.
And how will the crosscut sled help you?
Well, with the crosscut sled you will be able to cut wider pieces of wood. However, precision isn’t the only reason why you should use a sled, think about the safety as well. The crosscut sled reduces the risk of a kickback, so in case it occurs, the piece of wood won’t injure you.
I guess now you are aware of the importance of having a crosscut sled. Instead of buying it, I suggest building one on your own.
If you lack knowledge of how to do this – do not worry. It is a simple process, and if you follow every step you will succeed to make it as it should be done.
Use this video for guidance and you will see that is not that difficult as you may think.
Related: crosscut sled for portable table saw
Related: Best cabinet tables saws
What is a Panel sled with a table saw used for?
Wait for a second – why don’t you just use the crosscut sled? Well, as I said, the crosscut sled is designed for wider cuts, but if you decide to use it as a substitution for a panel sled, you will have to move it every time you attach it to the saw.
And the answer is yes, that is very annoying and it may be inaccurate as well. Plus, it takes more space.
The panel sled has a different use – not every piece of wood can be cut on a table saw using a crosscut sled. If you need very wide cuts, the only option you have is the panel sled.
In addition to this, the panel sled reduces the risk of a kickback as well, so it is much safer to cut using it.
So, for cutting wide panels, you need to build a panel sled.
The process is similar so I won’t go into depth explanations – just take a look at this video and you will understand what you need to do.
The issue most furniture builders may experience when cutting wood is cutting square corners. As you already know, making pieces of furniture require cutting really precise corners.
With the panel sled, you will never have doubts if the if the corner cut is square. There is one anecdote I often hear – if you build the panel good, you can even take hair and make a square cut.
Now, let’s face them together.
Miter saw vs crosscut sled vs panel sled
To sum up, this is what you need to know – a miter saw, or a miter station is a very handy tool that can be used for a variety of cuts, ranging from crosscuts to compound cuts. However, it is limited to the width of wood it can crosscut. So if you need to cut some wider pieces of wood then a table saw with a crosscut sled or if cutting even wider pieces (e.g. panels) a panel sled is what you will need.
But if you like to use a table saw instead, you will need a crosscut sled. Without it, you won’t be able to make a crosscut safely which is very important when making furniture and a range of other things.
And finally, the panel sled. Most of the projects you will work on, will require cutting corners and there isn’t something worse in woodworking than making a bad corner cut.
Luckily, with the panel sled, you will succeed in making perfectly square corners and it takes less space compared with the crosscut sled.
Related: miter saw vs circular saw
These were the basics of the miter saw/station, crosscut sled and panel sled. What is your favorite? Do you use a miter saw, table saw, or a combination of both? Please share your opinions in the comments section below.
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