Radial Arm Saw: Worth Owning?

The pros and cons of a radial arm saw for woodworking.(Incidentally, the video does not intend to demonstrate ripping, I was just standing at that camera angle while I was talking.)

Some people love ’em, some people not so much. Here’s my take on the controversy!

Categories: woodworking tricks

Comments

  1. Don Steward
    Don Steward 10 May, 2016, 01:18

    Thanks for the video. I just picked up a DeWalt 7740 for free, so it was a helpful introduction.

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  2. Uhlan
    Uhlan 10 May, 2016, 01:18

    One item you didn't mention is the ability to see your marks and your cut. That's especially handy when making repetitive cross-cut dadoes. If you dado a lot, the RAS is indispensable.
    I have an old PowrKraft (Montgomery Wards) I picked up used for under $100 a few years back, and grew up with my step-dad's even older Delta. To me the RAS is like sailing and driving a stick – it's not for just anybody. :)

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  3. Mark Smith
    Mark Smith 10 May, 2016, 01:18

    I inherited a Sawsmith Radial Arm Saw (w/ cabinet base) from my Dad originally purchased circa 1960.  It's been sitting quietly in the corner and while it runs could use some TLC.  It has a belt sander attachment on the back that runs off the motor but it's a nuisance, awkward, etc., pulling the saw away from the wall to use.  I've been looking for the [then] available base to mount the sander (& motor) as a standalone tool w/o success.  One of these days I'll cobble together a home made version.  Great posting.  Thanks ….

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  4. JIMMY TATE
    JIMMY TATE 10 May, 2016, 01:18

    its getting very difficult to find a RAS anymore. I predict that they will be all but phased out in the near future. If you are thinking about getting one I suggest you take the first opportunity and get it now. I think Sears still carries them in their inventory but most other big stores are not showing them anymore.

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  5. Glen Kelley
    Glen Kelley 10 May, 2016, 01:18

    I use my radial saw all the time. I agree 100% with you about ripping with it. It delivers a nice face full of sawdust on any rip cut. The table on my saw is made from 1 1/4' plexiglass from the bullet-proofing in an old bank office. It's marvelously flat and stable.and has been there for years.

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  6. Rob's Garage Woodworking
    Rob's Garage Woodworking 10 May, 2016, 01:18

    Like all tools, it's only as safe as the operator. If you feel that the tool is not safe you are likely using it wrong. I have used my RAS to its full capacity performing compound miter cuts, cross cuts, dado cuts and of course ripping. Now if you use the blade guards, the dust shield, the riving blade and anti kickback pawls as shown in the manual the saw is perfectly safe. (The direction of ripping that you demonstrated is backwards and yes I read your note) The problem that I find with the RAS is the size of the saw. It takes up a lot of valuable real estate and it's not portable. Thanks for sharing your video though – creative criticism aside… Rob

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  7. crabtrap
    crabtrap 10 May, 2016, 01:18

    a little-known feature of some radial saw is…the little red plastic cap opposite the blade spindle, is for adding a drill chuckhead which can be used as a disc sander or a drill press using the crank to raise the matrial into the drillbit.

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  8. Mike Davis
    Mike Davis 10 May, 2016, 01:18

    If properly educated,this saw is safe. Yes dangerous when used by inexperienced like all power tools. Accuracy is dependent on how much effort used during initial alignment. I love compound mitering. Also the outboard rip allows sheet goods to easily be ripped in 24" widths. Remove the blade,install drum sanders on aux shaft is pretty handy also. If you use the anti kickback Paul's you won't have any trouble. I have also seen experts feed from the wrong direction while ripping,,,yea,,that's not safe. Be safe,good luck.

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  9. hammerhead99140
    hammerhead99140 10 May, 2016, 01:18

    I've been using RAS since I've been 14 yrs. old I'm now 55. I have a old delta 12" 3 phase commercial and a old Dewalt 10 in my shop. I can' t seem to go to sliding chop saws although I think there very versatile. I just like RAS . I never ripped on one and never wanted too. If you have the room and can get one reasonably priced I recommend you get one. 

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  10. bill48m
    bill48m 10 May, 2016, 01:18

    You didn't mention the drill !

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  11. GJ Saltwaterfisher
    GJ Saltwaterfisher 10 May, 2016, 01:18

    What model craftsman is that?

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  12. bigviking0001
    bigviking0001 10 May, 2016, 01:18

    The key to using a RAS safely is to always use a very sharp, clean NEGATIV RAKE blade. Negative rake provides that the blade will cut instead of grab the work. A positive rake blade will "crawl" up the work. I do everything on a RAS . I don't even own a table saw. Thanks for your video.

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  13. Joe Bucci
    Joe Bucci 10 May, 2016, 01:18

    In late 2015, I was looking for an owners manual for my used Craftsman RAS, And discovered there was a recall on them, I went to the recall web site and entered my model and I was shipped at no cost, a safety upgrade kit for my 1993 yard sale find..I have not yet added the up-grade kit, but the shipping weight is around 45lbs.Great tool."Radial Arm Saw Recall.com"

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  14. Nathaniel Steele
    Nathaniel Steele 10 May, 2016, 01:18

    My Grandpa was missing two fingers on his left hand courtesy of a radial arm saw. Didn't scare him away from power tools and even still used an RAS, though I'm not sure if it was the one that claimed his digits. That didn't scare me away from power tools either but it did make an impression and I've always had a healthy respect for power tools and a mind towards safety. His accident was long before I was born, but just the sight of those missing fingers every time I saw him left a pretty good impression.

    Anyway, any tool can be dangerous, and one must be conscious of where his or her body parts are at all times.

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  15. Crane Zilla
    Crane Zilla 10 May, 2016, 01:18

    Go not ever do this, but, I will show you how to do it?
    Having used my RAS since 1984, the most dangerous thing to have on one of these saws is a dull, garbage blade.

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  16. Slope Oak Productions
    Slope Oak Productions 10 May, 2016, 01:18

    Appreciate the vid and thanks for sharing but I have to disagree on your comments re: "not accurate" and "not good for ripping". Almost all saws of this type come with adjustment mechanisms to keep it in good form. Keep the table true and the radial arm and saw contact true all across the work surface. Also needed is a good in-feed/out-feed table and a good blade! Garbage blade in any saw makes it an accident waiting to happen not to mention the damage it can do to your material! Garbage in=garbage out.
    Yes, it can be a scary-dangerous saw but I've used mine for years for ripping hardwoods and softwoods alike (very accurately and safely), to cutting trim and even picture framing. The right blade and technique as well as being aware of how this saw can come out and bite you are all part of it. Good featherboards and anti-kickback pawls in good condition are a must but this saw still can do what many others cannot, and usually do it faster and more efficiently.
    Just my thoughts. Not a slam. Thanks for the video.

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  17. Lowell M
    Lowell M 10 May, 2016, 01:18

    I rip with my radial arm all the time in both directions. My latest project was laying the saw flat, with the router guard, to make overlap joints for doors. I made a jig with a clamp so I can repeat cuts. I cut both the mortise and the tenon.

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  18. nThanksForAllTheFish
    nThanksForAllTheFish 10 May, 2016, 01:18

    Thanks for the video. Your voice reminds me of Joe Pesci.

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  19. Kat's DIY Adventures
    Kat's DIY Adventures 10 May, 2016, 01:18

    I have had more oops ripping on my table saw (Very few) than I have had ripping on my RAS. Yours doesn't even have a blade guard, if i were you i wouldn't rip on it either.
    Now I have a newer Craftsmans RAS that has a few more safety features than the awesome antique you are using and for 7 months I have not had a single issue ripping boards. I will say that i do use feather boards when ripping but just to claim straight out it is dangerous, maybe it is on YOUR saw. JMO.

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  20. YooToobModerator
    YooToobModerator 10 May, 2016, 01:18

    OK to have if you have the space and the $50 they typically cost…Plus they have a nice "old school" vibe..

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  21. Matthew Cartwright
    Matthew Cartwright 10 May, 2016, 01:18

    Good Vid – thanks. I always found the RAS in the shop very useful for making multiple repeat cross-cuts to my cutting list. Good point about the backstop – and ensuring you have a good quality ruler and lockable backstops that have been zeroed in accurately.

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  22. pistolpete1911a1
    pistolpete1911a1 10 May, 2016, 01:18

    If you are an idiot, ANY tool is dangerous. Ive never had a moments trouble with my saw.

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  23. bearbon2
    bearbon2 10 May, 2016, 01:18

    I've been ripping with my 12" 220V Craftsman for decades and haven't found it to be dangerous at all. Even bevel rips go smoothly and you don't have to apply down pressure like on a table saw. A sharp blade is a must though.

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  24. RedwoodGeorge
    RedwoodGeorge 10 May, 2016, 01:18

    I've got a Craftsman RAS circa mid '90's and it's the primary tool in my workshop. I can't count how many bookshelves I've made with a dado cut – certainly dozens. Ripping can be a bit dicey but with judicious use of push sticks and featherboards you're pretty safe.

    The one area where there's just no competition is in production work. A long fence and a stop block and you can crank out identical pieces all day long. I've built a livingroom's worth of bookshelves where every piece is the same length, every dado is in the same place. You really can't do that with any other tool.

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  25. Nicolas Hallee
    Nicolas Hallee 10 May, 2016, 01:18

    Got an old DeWalt RAS and it's ripping like a charm! It's just not a conventional saw (as opposed to a table saw) so you need to be aware of how to operate it safely and there are not a lot of instructions out there. Thanks for raising some safety tips on RAS !

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  26. rwe2156
    rwe2156 10 May, 2016, 01:18

    Besides having the wrong blade on the saw (negative kerf angle a must) you did not mention the number one reason why RAS's are falling out of favor – you can't keep them square or plumb. You should NEVER pull a pin or lever to tilt or angle the saw because you will spend the next 20 minutes getting it back to square and plumb

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  27. JR Armstrong
    JR Armstrong 10 May, 2016, 01:18

    Great video. Thanks for taking the time.

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  28. Jon Miller
    Jon Miller 10 May, 2016, 01:18

    I inherited my grandfather's old RAS, by way of my father. I had been saving up to get a Bosch GCM12SD (the glide saw) for larger capacity crosscuts than I can get with my non-sliding/gliding miter saw, and faster than pulling out the crosscut sled. But now that I have this thing I'm not going to need the Bosch!

    I was having trouble making sense out of the controls until I saw this video, as you have the exact same model. I really appreciate you taking the time to make this video. :)

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  29. Francis yu
    Francis yu 10 May, 2016, 01:18

    2/ Always use the Hold-Down mechanism while ripping.
    3/ Always tighten the saws position knobs, don't just rely on the "catch". This guarantees an accurate cut every time.
    4/ Align and adjust the saw every couple of years.

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  30. Critical Truth
    Critical Truth 10 May, 2016, 01:18

    I totally disagree about the cross cut ripping it acts exactly the same as a table saw. You were demonstrating feeding it from the wrong side and didn't even have it locked in place.. This saw has a lot of advantages. It excels in cross cutting compared to the table saw as you can quickly change where you want it. With a table saw it takes time cause you have to readjust your fence. It also excels in doing various angle cuts which a table saw can't do. If you need to cut aluminum plate for instance on a 45 degree angle (or even plywood) you would most likely have to do it with a circular saw.

    Dado blade aside, it also excels in doing depth cuts. You can get by with just a radial arm saw and a circular saw, where as if you go the table saw route, you need a table saw, a circular saw, and a miter saw and they still can't do everything that the radial arm saw with circular saw combo can do.

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  31. bodryn
    bodryn 10 May, 2016, 01:18

    My brother picked up one of these at auction for me for $100 – the motor runs smoothly like brand new.  Just have to try and change the blade (existing blade has had it ) – I like the idea of being able to make instant dado cuts to make shelves.  And cutting identical length pieces for projects.

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  32. Julian Hughes
    Julian Hughes 10 May, 2016, 01:18

    I have found through the years, the 3 RAS's I've owned were as safe as the operator, versatile as my imagination and, as accurate as the person setting up the cut. And yeah, thanks for taking the time to do the video.

    Reply this comment
  33. Gerald Walker
    Gerald Walker 10 May, 2016, 01:18

    I bought my Craftsman radial arm saw in 1963 and I still use it today.  It is one of the most convenient power tools in my shop for cross cutting as apposed to setting up a sled on the table saw each time there is a cross cut.  I can cut up to 16" and with some practice you can even reverse the piece and cut a further 5 or 6 inches accurately.  I never rip with it any more although I did many rip cuts in the early years.  Always scared me which I guess is a good thing. If it is dead accurate if you occasionally pay attention to the setup, but no more so than a table saw.

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  34. Stu Boyer
    Stu Boyer 10 May, 2016, 01:18

    I've been using a Dewalt 740  RAS for 39 years as my primary tool and I love it.  You have nothing to fear with the saw if you respect it and are careful and aware at all times.  Keep it properly adjusted and NEVER oil it, use powdered or liquid graphite with no oil.  Always use the blade guards and adjust the front rip leaf hold down to 1/8" above the stock when ripping.

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  35. Ryudox la
    Ryudox la 10 May, 2016, 01:18

    I have a radial arm saw made by craftsman my dad got new back in the sixty's I disagree with the statement that only Dewalt are the better tool.the radial arm from the sixty's and seventy' s were just heavy duty as Dewalts radial arm mid eighties the craftsman got cheap.l use my radial arm saw all the time and the only thing that had to be replace twice is the switch.sears only sells the new style plastic switch for it and I hate it.that is the only flaw that I have.

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  36. r chavez
    r chavez 10 May, 2016, 01:18

    I have an old craftsman that I bought for $50.  I bought it specifically to do kerfing. I needed to build two structural beams (glulams) that were about 16ft long at about a 16ft radius. 3.5" by 10" .  Built forms an a floor and then kerfed 3/8" plywood and bent it around the forms….glued and screwed. Amazed by structural city inspector!

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  37. John B
    John B 10 May, 2016, 01:18

    I have a DeWalt 7770, fucking love that thing.
    Only problem is, it's stuck so I can't do ripping, oh well. That's what table saws are for, eh?

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  38. Brent Clark
    Brent Clark 10 May, 2016, 01:18

    It's been probably 13 years since I've used one of these I find them very handy if cutting large deck boards, such as 2×10's and larger and probably my favorite machine for cutting 4×4's as long as your fence is high enough and secure

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  39. Matthew Coffey
    Matthew Coffey 10 May, 2016, 01:18

    I have a radial arm saw similar to yours and i took the arm adjustment apart to clean it but i can't remember how to put it back together can you send me a video or pictures of yours to help me remember how it goes back together
    

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  40. Matthew Harper
    Matthew Harper 10 May, 2016, 01:18

    found this video informational, thanks

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  41. TheSoloAsylum
    TheSoloAsylum 10 May, 2016, 01:18

    The radial arm saw I believe is making a comeback. These things can run all day everyday if needed and handle sizes you could not even attempt with a miter saw. I have two of them, one new one old. One is going to be my dado saw and mounted 6' down the bench from the miter saw.

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  42. Rick Rabies
    Rick Rabies 10 May, 2016, 01:18

    so basicaly an overhead compound sliding miter saw?

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  43. Doug Everett
    Doug Everett 10 May, 2016, 01:18

    Have the same saw. Like your video, but got a really good laugh at the ripping comments. Most of what your saw can do in a wood shop is wasted with such a thought. I have ripped hundreds of pieces and never had an accident and it was one of the big reasons to have this tool in my shop. Too funny, rofl.

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  44. ldg332004
    ldg332004 10 May, 2016, 01:18

    The quality of that saw is outstanding,with some tlc you can make an old girl like that dead on accurate. Machines like this were made in a time when quality was # 1 , not like today where accountants and CEO's want to build mass produced plastic junk.
    AND YES TO ANY AND ALL OF YOU YOUNG FELLOW'S OUT THERE THAT ARE JUST LEARNING TO USE POWER TOOL'S.NEVER RIP WITH THESE SAW'S………..VERY BAD IDEA…….

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  45. ballzack57
    ballzack57 10 May, 2016, 01:18

    I use mine with a dado stack to cut perfect half-lap joints. I line the two pieces parallel to one another and make the cuts on both pieces at the same time. Since both dado paths are identical, it make for a great fitting joint in the field of the wood…as opposed to making end half-laps. As long as the depth is dialed in of course. 

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  46. Marc Eaton
    Marc Eaton 10 May, 2016, 01:18

    I had a Craftsman saw like this.  Just could never get it square to make good cuts.  That is why I went to a chop saw.

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  47. Wilson Revelle
    Wilson Revelle 10 May, 2016, 01:18

    What year model is your saw. We almost have the same one but my on/off are on the top of the arm. I have been trying to find out what year it is. I just got this saw and a Felker tile saw both for $110 and it came with the Dado set and a molding set and the Planer blade.

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