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Thread: Do I need a Radial Arm Saw?

  1. #1
    Join Date
    Feb 2007
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    Canton, GA
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    123

    Do I need a Radial Arm Saw?

    My grandfather was an avid woodworker up until his death several years back. At the time of his death I was just getting into woodworking and didn't have enough room for his tools so my grandmother sold or gave away most of the bigger stuff.

    Long story short, my uncle wound up with the radial arm saw that my grandfather had. The other day my uncle asked if I would like to have the saw as he never got around to using it and probably never would get around to using it.

    To be honest I am not sure what all you would use the radial arm saw for. I currently have a table saw, band saw and compound miter saw and would think that between those three I would be able to do what the radial arm would do.

    So other than for sentimental reasons, do I need this saw for some operation that I am missing? BTW - I still don't really have the room for it. It is one of the older Craftsman saws. I am unsure of the model number.

    Thanks

  2. #2
    The only capability a radial arm would add is the ability to crosscut with a dado blade.

  3. #3
    Join Date
    Dec 2006
    Location
    Toronto Ontario
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    6,372
    Radial arm saws are great for breaking noses, cutting fingers off, and shooting rip cuts across the shop.

    OK, so that was a bit tongue-in-cheek, however they are more dangerous than other cross cut machines. (Ask yourself why you see so few machines except for the industrial class).

    They are good for cross cutting larger items, as well as dadoing, however there's always the safety issue.

    Now that 12" sliding mitre saws are common, most people don't purchase radial arm saws.

    I might also point out that while General and The Original Saw Company make nice, accurate machines, that's not always what frustrated owners of low cost radial arm saws say.

    It takes a lot of accuracy and rigidity to control a saw blade out on the end of a 24" long arm.

    Regardless of what you do, check your new saw against the Emerson recall list......Rod.

  4. #4
    Join Date
    Jun 2006
    Location
    Independence, MO, USA.
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    2,474
    Has your miter saw ever been too small? Wished you had a sliding compound? If you have space, it will cut wider things for you, and has family history, otherwise, the fact that your asking the question, tells me that you seem to be getting along fine without it.

    I have an old DeWalt, that I am replacing with another old DeWalt (GWI model). I got it for around the cost of a cheap miter saw. I have the room, and it is a lot harder for my family to try to borrow it.

  5. #5
    Join Date
    Oct 2006
    Location
    Mid Michigan
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    I would love to have a radial arm saw for large items that I can't cut with the table saw or the miter saw. If I had a compound miter saw that would do the work then I would go that route.
    David B

  6. #6
    Join Date
    Feb 2003
    Location
    South Windsor, CT
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    3,304
    If it's free, you can use it for rough cutting wide stock to length and - as has been noted - use it for crosscut dados on wide boards.

    Beyond that, It's another surface to put stuff on.

    I have heard of folks putting a sanding disk on one.

  7. #7
    Join Date
    Jun 2008
    Location
    35 miles NW of Canon City, CO
    Posts
    28

    Radial Arm Saws

    When I bought my jointer, the seller threw in an old (60-70s vintage) Dewalt RAS. It has become one of the most used saws in my shop.

    I have never done any ripping on it, but it is great at 90 degree crosscuts.

    It cuts wider stock then my non-slider 12" miter saw and for me it seems to be more precise, but that is just my opinion.

    You do have quite a bit of exposed blade with it and it can run a cut due to the blade spin direction.

    It is another tool in the arsenal.

    Pat

  8. #8
    Join Date
    Nov 2008
    Location
    Modesto, CA
    Posts
    43

    A nice old RAS is a great addition to the shop

    I asked a similar question a while back on another forum and the answer was a resounding yes. 99% of the woodworkers preferred the RAS to a SCMS. Mostly because it will cut wider boards. None of them were using the RAS for ripping. Several were using it for dado's. I had a nice DeWalt SCMS. Some of the same safety issues you have with a RAS are there with a SCMS too. The blade wants to run into you. I chose a 1964 Delta/Rockwell model 30-C 10" RAS. DeWalt has a very nice saw from the same time period too. I think the Rockwell 30-C is one of the best 10" RAS's ever built. I plan to use it for dado's, disc sanding and 90 degree cuts. If I want to cut angles, I will do that on my CMS or make a few angle jigs for the RAS. I was able to buy both 1964 RAS and a new Hitachi 12" CMS for what I sold mt SCMS for. My RAS and CMS will use the same fence/bench in my shop. So I'm not losing any space.

  9. #9
    Join Date
    Oct 2008
    Location
    Wapakoneta, Ohio
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    207
    I have just recently acquired an old Dewalt, rebuilt it, and it is now installed in my shop. It's like having an old friend back. My first stationary tool (and only one for about 12 years) was an RAS. It was a Craftsman, and I couldn't keep this particular one aligned no matter how much effort I put into it. So, when Emerson offered the recall route, I let it go. I thought a miter saw would give me enough functionality to make up for the loss; I was wrong. But with the RAS back, I feel whole again, and the best part is that this holds it's settings, and even returns to them when I move...and I can get fairly good DC on it as well, something I could never do with the miter saw I have. But an RAS is not for everyone, and if you haven't missed having it...it probably won't be as welcome in your shop.

  10. #10
    I have a radial arm saw and frankly it doesn't get used a lot. I can do 98% of my cuts on the table saw just as fast and more accurately. I use the RAS for making cuts when I have a set up on my TS I don't want to change. A RAS is hard to keep aligned and is generally not as accurate as a miter saw. The stops are close, but not close enough to cut four miters on a picture frame and have them all line up properly.

    Yes it can do compund angle cuts, but how often do you need to do that?
    Yes you can cross cut with a dado blade, but you need to take small bites.

    A 10" RAS has no more cut capacity than a 10" TS or at least not enough to make it worth the shop space.

    Cross cuts are done with a push while you pull motion that can be difficult to master.

    Kick backs are easier to create, particularly when ripping.

    Cuts are not as clean because you cant have a zero clearance insert.
    Lee Schierer - McKean, PA

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  11. #11
    Join Date
    Feb 2006
    Location
    SE Wisconsin
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    491
    The price is right. Take it and use it. I don't know if anyone mentioned but I would recommend that you purchase a good negative hook crosscut blade. Before I had a negative hook blade, I was very cautious when using the RAS as it seemed to want to come right at me. The negative hook blade has made a world of difference. I use mine almost exclusively for crosscutting boards. It's easy to set up a stop block to cut same length boards. I have used it for dadoing boards as well and it works well for that.

  12. #12
    Join Date
    Aug 2007
    Location
    east coast of florida
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    1,482
    Quote Originally Posted by Mark Roderick View Post
    The only capability a radial arm would add is the ability to crosscut with a dado blade.
    I have done this a few times. I just cut some dados at a 38deg angle for an attic ladder I am building. Here is a picture of it cutting a piece of scrap and the finished cut.
    radial3.jpg

    radial2.jpg



    Even though the blade is exposed I feel very safe using the RA for a cut like this because I clamp the wood down and my hands are no where near the blade.

    I tried a rip cut with it one time. I'll never ever do that again. I must have fed the wood the wrong way because it shot across the room.

    I also like it if I need to make an angle cut on something long and wide where using the miter sled/gauge on the table saw is just impractical.

    I have it just for cross cutting dados. (Just in case I ever get to build and sell custom book cases).

    I payed $75 at a garage sale. If you want one (and you have the room) it would be worth it to by one used at a good price like I did. This one will make a 7/8 wide 1" deep dado very easy and clean.

  13. #13
    I'd get it and horse trade for something you do need/want
    ken

  14. #14
    Join Date
    Aug 2007
    Location
    east coast of florida
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    Quote Originally Posted by Lee Schierer View Post
    I have a radial arm saw and frankly it doesn't get used a lot. I can do 98% of my cuts on the table saw just as fast and more accurately. I use the RAS for making cuts when I have a set up on my TS I don't want to change. A RAS is hard to keep aligned and is generally not as accurate as a miter saw. The stops are close, but not close enough to cut four miters on a picture frame and have them all line up properly.

    Yes it can do compund angle cuts, but how often do you need to do that?
    Yes you can cross cut with a dado blade, but you need to take small bites.

    A 10" RAS has no more cut capacity than a 10" TS or at least not enough to make it worth the shop space.

    Cross cuts are done with a push while you pull motion that can be difficult to master.

    Kick backs are easier to create, particularly when ripping.

    Cuts are not as clean because you cant have a zero clearance insert.

    As far as having to take small bite with the dado blade I find that un true. As i said in the previous post I did 7/8 wide by 3/4 deep very easy in one slice.

    But your right about most everything else.

  15. #15
    Join Date
    Jun 2005
    Location
    Byron, IL
    Posts
    609
    I inherited an older Craftsman RAS from my dad. I used it of and on for years and built some basic stuff using pretty much it alone. It did a lot of things, but none of them particularly well. When I retired four years ago and got serious about woodworking, I took the motor off the saw and sent it in for the hundred bucks. (I probably could have sold the entire saw for more, but my conscience wouldn't let me.) Since then I've set up an entire shop and never once have I missed the RAS.

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