Radial Arm Saw vs Miter Saw: Which is Better?

If you buy something through our posts, we may get a small commission. Read more here.

As a power tool expert, choosing between radial arm saw and miter saw options can be tough for beginners. Although these are two of the most versatile tools in the industry, I can’t deny that they have different cutting capabilities suited for different projects. 

In this radial arm saw vs. miter saw comparison, I’ll help you determine which of these power saws can offer you a better woodworking experience. 

Comparison Chart: Miter Saw and Radial Arm Saw

 Radial Arm SawMiter Saw
CutsMiter cuts, rip cuts,
compound cuts,
cross cuts, bevel cuts
Miter cut, bevel cut, compound cut, and cross-cut

Produces cross-cut precisely

Includes safety features

Capable of ripping cuts

Relatively easier to use

Higher cutting depth

Good for repeated precise cuts


Less accuracy when cutting 

Limited cut variations

Safety concerns for newbies

Not suitable for thick pieces 

Its construction is too light

More expensive than some power tools

VersatilityTrimming & angularTrimming & angular 
Saw BladeStraight cut saw bladeFixed pivotal saw blade
Blade Diameter12-22 inches8-12 inches
Cutting CapacityPowerful cutting depthNot for cutting thick wood
Safety MechanismMinimal safety specificationsSide Fence & Blade Guard
ApplicationsCarpentry/WoodworkingCrown molding, trimming wood pieces, framing
PrecisionLess accurate Accurate cuts 

Key Differences Between Radial Arm Saws and Miter Saws

Cutting Depth

While both miter and radial arm saws provide sufficient cutting capacity, the radial arm saw’s design allows it to handle thicker wood. Surprisingly, even modern miter saws are more suitable for cutting smaller pieces.


Besides cutting thicker lumber, professionals seek radial arm saws because they offer more versatility. While a miter saw can produce basic cuts, a radial saw can do a wide range of cuts from bevels and miter angles to ripping. 


From my time in the workshop, I’ve noticed that radial arm saws are definitely bulkier than miter saws. This makes miter saws a go-to for me when I need something more portable around the workspace.

setting up miter saw


While it’s true that a radial arm saw is more versatile, the latter is still more precise in repeated angled cuts. Its lighter design makes its circular blade capable of moving in different directions.

What is a Miter Saw?

Generally, a miter saw is considered one of the best power tools for precise angular and cross cuts. It has a circular blade mounted on its frame and a hinged arm that explains its impressive user control and accuracy. 


You can tell you’re using a compound miter saw when its saw blade can be pivoted from left to right. 

Dual Compound

Like the previous variation, a dual compound miter saw lets you tilt the blade left and right. However, the only difference is users can do bevel cuts from any cutting angle.

operating a sliding miter saw

Sliding Compound

As for sliding compound miter saws, their sliding arm allows forward and backward action. Because of this, sliding miter options are suitable for longer wood materials.

What are the Uses of Miter Saws?


Miter cuts are great for carving corners, so creating door frames and boxes should be easy for this type of power tool.


Since it has a circular saw blade just like the skilsaw and circular saw, users can make cross-cuts faster without the need for clamps. 


Having an angular blade meant that a miter saw could execute an automatic bevel. With this, you can select your desired angle with no hassle. 

adjusting miter saw to make a bevel cut

Compound Cut

It’s a combination of bevel and miter cuts, and you can rely on it for projects like crown wood moldings.

Key Features of a Miter saw



Because of its blade’s diameter, accuracy is guaranteed during the cutting operations.

More Room for Customization

Since it can do basic cuts at different angles, making customized cuts isn’t impossible to achieve.

making a bevel cut on a miter saw

Equipped with More Safety Features

Miter saws offer safety gear options like a fence, guard, and dust collection mechanism.


Less Power

Miter options are equipped with engines with less power, so they can’t handle thicker material as a table saw and radial arm saw options can. 

Not Much Variety of Cuts

Typical miter options only offer four cut types. If you need more, we suggest opting for its variations.

What is a Radial Arm Saw?

Like its alternative, a radial arm option includes a power circular saw blade that’s placed on a mechanical arm. Its long arm can also be adjusted to multiple angles, but its biggest perk is its blade size which ranges up to 22 inches. 

RIGID radial arm saw

Are Radial Arm Saws Obsolete?

No, radial arm saw options are not yet obsolete. However, they’re not as popular as lightweight power tools like miter and table saws which dominate today’s market. 

What are the Uses of Radial Arm Saws?


This type of saw can do cross-cuts, but you’ll have to mark exact wood measurements for better results. 

Miters, Bevels, and Compound Cuts

Similar to miter models, it can produce basic cuts. However, radial arm saws lack measurement indications. 

Dadoes and Rabbets

These power tools can make perfect L-shaped and U-shaped cuts, which means they can be handy for projects that need dadoes and rabbets.


Because radial saws have blade rotation, adjustable height, and lock features, making rip cuts in thick pieces won’t be a problem.

radial arm saw

Key Features of a Radial Arm Saw


Cutting Depth

Above all else, its blade’s size range allows radial saws to have higher cutting depth than their alternatives. 


Its ripping and cutting capacity is highly owed to its versatile blade rotation feature.

Smaller Than Table Saw

Unlike other powered tools, it has a compact design, so it doesn’t take too much storage space.

black radial arm saw


Less Precision

It takes time to get used to, making it less precise and not beginner-friendly.

Less Safety Features

As it lacks portability, this tool is more susceptible to accidents. 

What to Look for in a Radial Arm Saw or a Miter Saw


The power of your cutting tool signifies its cutting capacity. It depends per model, but you can check it in the saw’s specifications. 


Professionals often opt for radial arm saw options because they have blade sizes ranging up to 22 inches. Meanwhile, miter blades are only up to 12 inches, which are perfect for intricate cuts. 

person operating a radial arm saw

Safety Features

Many people consider radial arm saws dangerous as they don’t offer tool safety [1] features like miter options. I recommend reading safety tips if you really need to buy a radial arm saw.


 If you’re making repeated cuts, accuracy is important for the power saw you’ll purchase. 


Power saw features could differ per brand, so buying ones that offer more safety and convenience is better.


How can you cut more accurately with a radial arm saw?

You can cut more accurately with radial arm saws if you use a template for repeated cuts.

Will I need a radial arm saw if I already have a miter saw?

Yes, you will. Although miter saws are great with precision, there are thicker materials that only table and radial saws can handle.

Is a radial arm saw dangerous?

If not properly used, radial arm saws can be dangerous. Furthermore, their safety guards aren’t widely available in the market.


Wrapping up this miter saw vs radial arm saw debate, the choice all boils down on your project. Always think about what you really need for your project. Craving flexibility? Go with the radial arm saw. But if you’re just starting out and need something more portable, grab that miter saw. 

robert headshot

Robert Johnson is a passionate furniture maker & carpenter, sought after for his knowledge on the craft.
You’ve probably seen his down-to-earth wisdom in USA Today, Bobvila, Family Handyman, and The Spruce, where he has shared commentary and guidance on various woodworking topics.

Robert is the brain behind Sawinery, where he aims to share tips, tricks, and a passion for all things carpentry.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Related Articles
Join our community on facebook and get 3 woodworking plans for free!
    Your Cart
    Your cart is empty