Whatever Happened to the Radial-Arm Saw? - Fine Homebuilding
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Whatever Happened to the Radial-Arm Saw?

comments (62) November 19th, 2009 in Blogs
ManKnit Matt Berger, executive producer

What ever happened to the radial arm saw?

Long live the radial arm saw?
Photo via Flickr (safety glasses added via photoshop)
What ever happened to the radial arm saw?Click To Enlarge

What ever happened to the radial arm saw?


Raise your hand (or post a comment) if you still use a radial-arm saw.

(SILENT PAUSE)

That's what I thought. Once the staple of any carpentry shop and home garage, this multi-talented cutting tool has fallen out of favor over the past decade with new innovations in the power tool market. (In fact, I couldn't find a single Fine Homebuilding article on the subject.) And the topic of its demise recently surfaced in the Breaktime forum. (free registration required)

Where did all the radial-arm saws go?
"I was looking around last night and noticed that radial-arm saws have largely disappeared from the consumer market place," writes Mike Mills. "I did notice that the top dollar chop saws, err, ... excuse me, I meant to say, 'miter saws' are now coming with a sliding arm. This makes them very much like a radial-arm saw."

sliding compound miter sawIn short, sliding compound miter saws (the bigger cousins of the chop saw) have taken the place of the radial-arm saw. With a blade diameter as large as 12 in., big cross-cut capacities, and an ever-growing number of do-dads and whiz-bang features, these tools have many benefits over their predecessors. 

"They are lighter, way more accurate, hardly ever go out of adjustment, and safer," reads one reply in the forum.

"Radial-arm saws tended to bite people because the rotation of the blade could hog the saw into the work and toward the operator," reads another reply. "It's safer because you plunge the saw into the work and push against the rotation. If it jams it tends to get thrown out of the work, not into it."

Long live the radial-arm saw
While the high-end chop saws do offer a lot of features, radial-arm saws did have some unique capabilities that can't be reproduced in a single tool. For example, have you ever tried ripping lumber on a sliding compound miter saw?

"Some things like cutting dados are easier on the radial-arm saw and you can raise and lower the blades on a radial-arm saw," another comment reads. "Also you can rip boards but to me thats what my table saws are for and much less dangerous."

Mike Hennessy, another breaktime member said he's still a fan: "My RAS was my first stationary power tool. It still has an honored spot in my workshop. I use it far more than my 'chop' saw when building furniture-type stuff," he said.

Radial-arm saw memories
When I was a kid, I used to spend a lot of time in my step-dads shop (he was a contractor in the Bay Area), and the beefy radial-arm saw that was parked in front of the piles of building lumber is the one image that sticks in my mind to this day. Everything about it screamed tool. But that was a long time ago. Since then, I've never pulled the trigger on one, nor do I plan to. 


posted in: Blogs, sliding compound miter saw, radial arm saw

Comments (62)

Hawkspride Hawkspride writes: The tragically under powered Dewalt 9" has been a main stay and a legend in my family since my Grandpa went out to collect a bill from a client and came home with one of those instead, much to my Grandmothers dismay. That was in the 1960s and it's still a work horse today as is my dads, when we've got a tricky compound miter it's the go to tool even with a Makita SCMS. While it is a little unnerving to use it does it all and I've seen pictures of guys using their RAS as everything from a motor for a lathe to a shaper and to hog out a bowl.
Posted: 11:44 am on July 30th

deadnuts deadnuts writes: In my opinion the Festool track saws/MFT3 table combination put the nail in the coffin for the RAS. Anyone still working with a RAS is someone who simply prefers to live with a dangerous dinosaur that takes up a lot of otherwise valuable space.
Posted: 9:52 am on March 9th

pwilkins383 pwilkins383 writes: Hi All, I have a 20yr old, just out of the box new Craftsman 10" RAS for sale; see the pics/info here:

http://boston.craigslist.org/nos/for/3919268585.html

Posted: 8:51 am on July 22nd

turnertoo turnertoo writes: For decades the radial arm saw got it done for me seeing as how it would do it all for a home owner, raising a family, do it yourselfer, on a limited budget with limited space. Now years later as an empty nester and a high end furniture maker in my golden years I use my 12" 2 HP 220 volt Delta RAS exclusively with a 8" dado blade dedicated to making tenons and dados, can't beat it with a stick as they say.
Posted: 10:16 am on January 16th

golfer299 golfer299 writes: There's a reason why every lumber yard and home center has a radial arm saw. It's better for some stuff than anything else. That said, it sure has a lot of flaws when trying to do precision work.
Posted: 5:51 pm on January 8th

DougSeagrim DougSeagrim writes: I commented before about doing dado cuts on a ten foot board which is almost impossible with a table saw, completely impossible with a sliding miter saw and certainly more difficult and time consuming with a router. With a RAS and a new fence to gauge the cuts it is a breeze. The one caveat I use with ALL my saws is to have a top quality blade and keep it sharp. I use appropriate FOREST blades on all my saws including the hand held circular saw and have NEVER had a hog or kickback. Having said all that, I use my Dewalt 10 in almost exclusively for cross cuts and have no trouble keeping it accurate because I do not move the arm except vertically.
Posted: 6:29 pm on January 7th

stephenjnielsen stephenjnielsen writes: I’ve been a woodworker for 50 years and also have homebuilding experience. While many will say a table saw is the most dangerous tool on a job site. I think a Radial Arm Saw takes first prize. Hogging, the amount of exposed blade and the saws penchant for going out of alignment caused me to give mine away years ago. Every once in a while a miss it but not enough to make me get another, even if it was free.
Posted: 2:01 pm on January 7th

woodspoiler woodspoiler writes: I bought my Rockwell Delta radial arm saw in 1963 while I was a student in college. It has moved with me from Ohio to Wisconsin to Michigan and I use it daily and on nearly every project. Several years ago, I bought a nice Milwaukee sliding compound miter saw to use on projects at my daughter's or son's house and became quite concerned about safety and frankly, I just didn't know how to use it. My RAS holds a prominent position in my shop and I only use my table saw to rip wood. Crosscuts, dados and many other cuts are performed on the RAS. I wouldn't give it up or anything and if it went down on me, I would buy another one.
Posted: 11:14 am on January 7th

GregW_Oregon GregW_Oregon writes: For a small home shop without room for multiple stationary tools, the RAS is a workhorse. I've had two Craftsamn 10" saws over a period of 25 years or so and they just keep working. Like anything, asking one tool to do so much does have some compromises, but overall a great compromise.
Posted: 10:42 am on January 7th

aircommuter1 aircommuter1 writes: I have a Dewalt 16" 7.5 HP 3PH RAS in my home shop and it still has many functions that I use it for that the little chop saws will not do. But for the average consumer the chop saw has taken over.
Posted: 10:14 am on January 7th

econodome econodome writes: Precision cutting EconOdome struts is only possible with a radial arm saw. Many of the cuts are made at 25 to 35 degrees above horizontal. I do not know of a miter saw that leans enough to make the pointed ends on an EconOdome strut. If someone out there is underemployed and wants to put a radial arm saw to good use, please contact me via econodomedotcom
Posted: 6:28 am on January 7th

lrry lrry writes: I'm surprised that no one has mentioned the recall on Craftsman radial arm saws manufactuered by Emerson Tool Co. and sold by Sears. I had an 8 inch model that I purchased used in 1967. A couple years years ago I felt the blade guard was not working properly. While searching for a fix, I stumbled across this website:

"http://www.radialarmsawrecall.com/"

It seems I was not the only one with problems. Emerson has issued a recall and will supply a free repair kit or repurchase your saw if a kit is not available. My saw was old enought that no kit was available and I returned the saw (actually just the motor) for $100. It was more than I paid in 1967.

My 12" DeWalt chop saw now sits on the table the RAS used to occupy.


Posted: 8:30 pm on November 2nd

onebigelf onebigelf writes: I have a 10" Craftsman that I bought used in excellent condition on a stand for $60. I think that of all of the shop tools I've ever used, only the ShopSmith is more versatile. If you have limited space, the RAS is indispensable for the variety of tasks that can be accomplished on the single tool.

John
Posted: 7:51 pm on October 6th

Dreamcatcher Dreamcatcher writes: Q: What Ever Happened to the Radial Arm Saw?

A: Black and Decker bought the DeWalt brand and promptly destroyed it by using industrial cheapening techniques in order to appeal to the burgeoning crowd of DIY'ers. The combination of a cheaper, lighter weight, and thus less safe saw with the unrefined skills of the DIY user resulted in mass casualties.

Other low cost/lesser quality brands such as Craftsman, Skill, Rockwell, and Montgomery Wards saw that there was a buck to be made and jumped on board, more casualties followed, and a bad reputation for the entire field of radial arm saws grew.

As noted, the SCMS was introduced as a safer, more portable alternative and has become the replacement standard. The bad reputation and heaps of the cheap/dangerous versions of RAS's still abound in the shops of modern DIY'ers who, on average, have a much better understanding of their proper usage than the DIY'ers of the past.

Note: I have a 1940's DeWalt GW. It is heavy, tight, powerful and much safer than most. I use it almost exclusivly for cutting dados.

DC
Posted: 11:43 am on May 23rd

woodguru2 woodguru2 writes: Gee, I should have read this before I bought the Delta 33-890 I just got for $450 (being facetious). I have a 12 inch Ridgid dual miter sliding chop saw on the great stand but find a radial arm invaluable for things like repetitive length cuts and dado slots that are spaced in a repeating manner. There is a huge difference between a wimpy saw and a massive and solid one. There are also huge differences in how they cut with great blades. Just an upgrade to a high end blade seems like a saw upgrade.

I am building the new saw into a stationary bench with 8 feet to one side and six to the other. For cuts that are a few inches or unevenly spaced I use a series of blocks that can be added or taken off the fence each time another cut is made. I also like the cutoff piece to be clamped down so it can't jam against the blade because it's up against a block.

For precision cuts and dado work I consider the radial arm to be a huge asset in my shop, it's the tool of choice to do a few things the best they can be done. It takes the place of some accurate crosscuts I would otherwise have to use the table saw for.
Posted: 12:37 pm on May 15th

MHBacklund MHBacklund writes: A 10" Craftsman came into my life about 30 years ago...used!...and I just finished squaring it up today for a bed building project. I'm doing a lot of dadoing right now, always cross cutting, and no small amount of ripping.
By the way, quite a few years ago, after a perhaps slightly dull blade did "hog" up onto the wood and scared the bejezus out of me, I started ripping from the opposite direction, so that the blade cuts from the bottom surface to the top of the wood as I push the stock through. I keep the sawdust guard fairly low to prevent sawdust blowing up into my face, and do have to pay close attention to not feed it too fast, but that's true for whichever direction I'm pushing it.
I appreciated the comment above that an RAS tends to focus your mind toward safety. Of course all these screaming, spinning pieces of sharp metal tend to do that, but maybe moving the RAS blade back and forth toward your face tends to heighten the effect!
Posted: 3:10 am on December 7th

MARC65 MARC65 writes: Bought my Craftsman in 1970. Only bench type saw that I have ever had. Only one run away in all of those years whrn cutting a 2 x 4 taper on length on the flat. My Dad and I were both supporting, run away came with my Dad at the wrong end (blade pushing piece toward him). No other mishaps, cuts true, ordinary adjustments, expected table replacements and general maintenance. I am not planning to change saw style in my new shop and yes I have and do some fine detained wood work. ADVANTAGE: I can see the blade and always respect what it can do so I am always sober and attentive as to what I do. SAFETY is the UTMOST.
Marc
Posted: 12:35 am on December 6th

sirhalo291 sirhalo291 writes: Stgeorge above who signed his post paul, I promise I am not picking on you when I say this but i have to address what you said. YOu said you are a teacher in a woodshop...If you dislike it and wont teach it then you could be part of the problem. My father taught me well!!! If teachers would do the same instead of teaching that it is a chop saw with a big motor the new woodworkers would not be afraid of the RAS. I consider it one the safest tools I use. It has its guards and the overhead arm lets me see everything all the time. I can control the wood using the kickback guards and It does everything. I have some very expensive tools in my shop but use the old RAS more than any of them. Yes it is loud but that is why I have hearing protection. I replace the table on it as needed and keep on going from there. Im concerned that it is a tool that has truly caught a bad rap. I have worked with carpenters that are scared of it until I show them all that it can do safely. Teaching is the key!!!
Posted: 12:07 am on December 2nd

stgeorge stgeorge writes: IN TEACHING WOODWORKING/CONSTRUTION IN A HIGH SCHOOL, I USE MY 12" DELTA RAS STRCTLY FOR CUTTING OUT ROUGH LENGTHS OF LUMBER WHICH MY STUDENTS WILL THEN TAKE THROUGH THE SQUARING UP PROCESS. I COULD NOT IMAGINE DOING A RIP CUT ON THIS MONSTER AND I FIND IT OUT OF SQUARE AND INACCURATE ON MITRES AND BEVELS AND SUCH WITHIN A FEW WEEKS AFTER SETTING IT UP. SO I DON'T EVEN BOTHER WITH TRYING TO KEEP IT SQUARE. EVERY FEW WEEKS I MOVE THE CARRIAGE ANOTHER DEGREE TO THE LEFT OR RIGHT JUST TO KEEP IT FAIRLY CLOSE AND USE THE SCMS TO DO ALL OF OUR ACCURATE CUTS

PAUL
Posted: 6:56 pm on December 1st

stgeorge stgeorge writes: IN TEACHING WOODWORKING/CONSTRUTION IN A HIGH SCHOOL, I USE MY 12" DELTA RAS STRCTLY FOR CUTTING OUT ROUGH LENGTHS OF LUMBER WHICH MY STUDENTS WILL THEN TAKE THROUGH THE SQUARING UP PROCESS. I COULD NOT IMAGINE DOING A RIP CUT ON THIS MONSTER AND I FIND IT OUT OF SQUARE AND INACCURATE ON MITRES AND BEVELS AND SUCH WITHIN A FEW WEEKS AFTER SETTING IT UP. SO I DON'T EVEN BOTHER WITH TRYING TO KEEP IT SQUARE. EVERY FEW WEEKS I MOVE THE CARRIAGE ANOTHER DEGREE TO THE LEFT OR RIGHT JUST TO KEEP IT FAIRLY CLOSE AND USE THE SCMS TO DO ALL OF OUR ACCURATE CUTS

PAUL
Posted: 6:56 pm on December 1st

nolnryd nolnryd writes: The simple fact of the matter is... You really need both a RAS, and a Chop Saw.

I am a general contractor in the San Diego area. We build custom homes from the foundation to the roof, and everything in between. I have a cabinet shop where I have two RAS's set up, and a Chop box as well.

There is no beating the RAS when it comes to cross cutting. The fact that a 14" 3hp RAS has far more power than any chop saw, or sliding compound miter saw on the market today, and that is a huge benefit. The point being that each saw can do something the other one can not! Cutting multiple pieces all the same size, the RAS wins that challenge easily. Cutting up base, casing, or crown, the chop saw wins hands down. You need them both.

I have a 14" Delta-Milwaukee RAS set up for cross cuts. Then a 12" DeWalt chop saw set up for miters. Then a 10" Delta-Rockwell RAS set up for dados. They are all permanently mounted on an 18' table with a fence. I have four or five other slide compounds, and chop saws that I use for job site work.

To say that the RAS is extinct, or a thing of the past is a stupid comment. I can't think of any professional cabinet shop that I've been through, that doesn't have a RAS or a cutoff saw of some sort. A chop saw just wouldn't hold up with their tiny little motors. I think the author of this article makes a mistake when he tries to feed us this line. "In short, sliding compound miter saws (the bigger cousins of the chop saw) have taken the place of the radial arm saw." I think a more accurate take on the overall view would be to say "the sliding compound miter saw is geared toward the home owner and hobbyist. Someone who is not a professional, and has no need for a RAS." They can get by with a sliding compound miter saw. But a true professional (a production framer, or a production cabinet shop,) would never be able to get by with only a compound miter saw. They need a big powerful RAS!!! And that's all there is to it!
Posted: 1:04 pm on December 1st

lorencharter lorencharter writes: I love those big DeWalts for fast cross cuts. Those big GEs can cut 6 boards at a time. Check out the successor at Home Depots under the name "The Original Radial Arm Saw" or something. Black and Decker sold the original to them when it bought Dewalt. To me, they left the heart of the company to someone else and only walked off with the name.
Posted: 11:14 am on December 1st

writes: I appologize for the repitious comment, it was not intentional.
Posted: 10:37 am on December 1st

writes: For those that still like and use their radial arm saw do not read further. For me the radial arm saw has died the death it deserves. It is the only tool that has hurt me, when mine was stolen 23 years ago I was at first angry that someone would steal a tool, but gradually grateful that it was gone and then secretly hopeful that the saw would punish the thief in a kind of divine justice. Multi-purpose tools can never be as effective as dedicated tools.

Not a sermon just a thought.


Posted: 10:34 am on December 1st

writes: For those that still like and use their radial arm saw do not read further. For me the radial arm saw has died the death it deserves. It is the only tool that has hurt me, when mine was stolen 23 years ago I was at first angry that someone would steal a tool, but gradually grateful that it was gone and then secretly hopeful that the saw would punish the thief in a kind of divine justice. Multi-purpose tools can never be as effective as dedicated tools.

Not a sermon just a thought.
Posted: 10:30 am on December 1st

Fiveoaks Fiveoaks writes: I had no idea all you RAS users were out there! My first stationary power tool was my 10" Sears RAS which I still use today, some 30 years later. It received a new sacrificial top, new fence and a new kitty litter pail dust collector this summer. Like many of you I don't use my RAS as much as I used to as my table saw and miter saw have taken on a larger share of the load. The RAS does have a place in my shop and always will.
Posted: 9:17 am on December 1st

mboehlen mboehlen writes: I bought my 10" Craftsman RAS in the mid-70s. It was my first stationary power tool and still runs like a charm. It is dedicated to in-shop duty, unlike my 12" miter saw (and stand) that moves with the job. The RAS is most useful when making repetitive cuts that require stops or jigging.
Posted: 7:47 am on December 1st

grpphoto grpphoto writes: I picked up and restored a 1956 DeWalt GWI about 9 years ago. I have 8", 10", and 12" blades for it and quite a few moulding cutters.

Just this weekend, I used it to rip some Ipe decking at an angle from 3.5" to 0" over a 20" length. Not an easy thing to do on my tablesaw. In the past, I've ripped wedges 1/4" wide on one end and 6' long to true up leaning walls. I suppose I could make some sort of jig for a tablesaw to do this?

I prefer the RAS to the tablesaw for dado cuts, since I can see what the blade is doing.

The RAS can also be used as a jointer (I don't have the space for one of those). Straight cutters with a moulding head, combined with a custom fence do the trick.

In a few years, I expect to be moving. When I do, the tablesaw will go on Craig's list. The RAS will move with me.

George
Posted: 11:34 pm on November 30th

cpcandel cpcandel writes: I bought a 12" DeWalt RAS back in 1977 I have a molding head cutter and a set of dado blades for it. I even used it as a drill press. I used my RAS for everything back then. Around 1984 I bought a table saw, I thought I was living high. I was able to set two things up at once. I don't use it the way I did back then, but it is always set up and ready to cross cut. Call me sentimental but special feeling when I use it.
Posted: 10:22 pm on November 30th

dirkfaegre dirkfaegre writes: I have a 1970 Montgomery Wards RAS and I LOVE it. The adjustments are easy and extremely fine (very accurate). It can drum sand, route, dato, compound miter, rip, cross cut and more. My greatest complaint ... it's noisy. Very noisy. But I keep my headphones on the arm, easy to grab. All power tools are dangerous. I expect that more guys have lost thumbs on table saws than there are RAS's out there (either neatly slicing them off or busting them from kickback). You need to use some good common sense and stay aware of what you're doing - no matter what tool you're using. I've never had an accident with mine (yet) and I use it a lot. To each their own. (If you want to use a dangerous tool, that's extremely effective, try a crooked knife! It's one of the finest hand tools ever invented.) I'm keeping my RAS and dreading the day it fails. And yes I bought the first sliding miter saw (Hitachi) that I could find, many, many, many moons ago. It gets lots of use too.
Posted: 7:53 pm on November 30th

bigcu bigcu writes: Bought 10 inch RAS in 1966 when I got off of active duty in the Army and was living in a rental house with only a 12 by 16 foot storage area to work out of. Moved two years later and had a dedicated 8 x 10 area. Used the RAS to build furniture and for mods to my house. Bought a used 12 in craftsman RAS at a commercial shop going out of business sale and donated the 10 in model to a charity where the maintenance guy didn't have any saw. Used that 12 in radial for the next twenty-five years. 10 years ago mover into a new house with a dedicated 34 x 32 foot shop. The RAS still in an intergral part of my shop and sits in the middle of one of the 24 ft walls. It is the most used tool in my shop, mostly now for crosscut ( rough and finished) and for dados. I now have a shaper and routers but find that the RAS is still the most versitle for certain kinds of moulding operations. The key to its use is checking that it the settings are still acurate and buildind jigs which have good safety guards attached to prevent injury when things could get jammed. My table saw (10 in craftsman) gets the most use for ripping but I still carefully use my 12 in RAS for ripping thick 4 by material. As my old Industrial Tech woodshop teacher always said: "respect that they can bite you and you won't get hurt" . Thr RAS may be fading but I don't think that it will dissapear. Thanks to all for their comments. PS I reciently lost my electric brake, any suggestions on where to start looking for over 30 yr old parts?

Posted: 6:02 pm on November 30th

kingmanson kingmanson writes: I still have the Craftsman that I inheirited from my father-in-law. As a matter of fact it is the same exact model that is pictured above without the table surface attached. I have considered getting rid of it but haven't quite been able to part with it. It would be a lot handier for quick cut offs it I could stop piling stuff on it when it is not being used.
Posted: 5:13 pm on November 30th

kingmanson kingmanson writes: I still have the Craftsman that I inheirited from my father-in-law. As a matter of fact it is the same exact model that is pictured above without the table surface attached. I have considered getting rid of it but haven't quite been able to part with it. It would be a lot handier for quick cut offs it I could stop piling stuff on it when it is not being used.
Posted: 5:11 pm on November 30th

dickybyrd dickybyrd writes: I am surprised that a manufacturer has not put a swivel-head on a sliding chop saw. Viola, a compact radial arm saw. You could then rip fine with it. Just wait. I'll bet you see one of these in the next year.

Posted: 4:50 pm on November 30th

pwshoser pwshoser writes: I've got a Craftsman just like the one in the photo. Versatile but DANGEROUS!
Posted: 3:09 pm on November 30th

libramento libramento writes: Whatever happened to the radial arm saw?
Well, my Dewalt 9" RAS is still sitting in a prominent place in my workshop since I bought it in 1957. I have a tablesaw but my RAS is well-tuned, has a good Forrest blade and is still my choice for accurate crosscuts. May be time for a rebirth of that type of tool.
Posted: 1:59 pm on November 30th

custominsideandout custominsideandout writes: The Craftsman 12" radial arm saw on the first photo is the same saw I've been using for twenty plus years in the center of a 24' table. Usually use it to cut large/rough boards to size, dado lap joints and use the wire wheel on the right side for cleaning things up. Don't use it too much for anything else since I have an 8-1/4" Ryobi radial arm, 12" Milwaukee slider, Hitachi 12", DeWalt 12", Makita 10" and a few others. The 12" Craftsman radial arm seems to be the best saw for dadoing 4x4s and other large pieces. I went from a small 24x24' shop years ago to a 40x60' shop, now everything has it's place, and...I seem to accumulate more "stuff" with the extra room!
Posted: 1:36 pm on November 30th

fred_w fred_w writes: I have had a Sears 10" RAS since 1962 and have improvised a couple of unusual applications. I found that I could cut aluminum jigplate in any thickness by using a 10" Delta blade with zero rake angle on the teeth, pushing the blade into the aluminum stock clamped against a wood fence. The blade tip speed is several times what the machinist's handbooks recommend, but going slowly and carefully works fine. It leaves a beautiful finish, as good as a milling machine. I have also used it as a surface grinder, with a discarded surface grinder wheel mounted with a hub adapter to fit the saw spindle, to clean up worn valve tappets from an OHV Mercedes engine. I took very light skim cuts with the tappets clamped in an improvised fixture. Not exactly carpenter work, but meeting my needs!
Posted: 12:19 pm on November 30th

fred_w fred_w writes: I have had a Sears 10" RAS since 1962 and have improvised a couple of unusual applications. I found that I could cut aluminum jigplate in any thickness by using a 10" Delta blade with zero rake angle on the teeth, pushing the blade into the aluminum stock clamped against a wood fence. The blade tip speed is several times what the machinist's handbooks recommend, but going slowly and carefully works fine. It leaves a beautiful finish, as good as a milling machine. I have also used it as a surface grinder, with a discarded surface grinder wheel mounted with a hub adapter to fit the saw spindle, to clean up worn valve tappets from an OHV Mercedes engine. I took very light skim cuts with the tappets clamped in an improvised fixture. Not exactly carpenter work, but meeting my needs!
Posted: 12:19 pm on November 30th

Cadabra Cadabra writes: The dangerous "CLIMB" cut, when its blade is pulled through a crosscut, is the trademark of the RAS. It should be avoided, at all times. And, when ripping, the motor and spindle of an RAS can wobble, bounce and deflect enough to grab the workpiece and fling it across the shop. Massive, solid, table saw trunions and spindles don't dance around like the overhead RAS arm. Rugged slide arms with heavy ball bearings and a strong pivot bearing don't allow the "play" in a chop saw that is common to the RAS arm. Simply said, science and physics put the RAS at an overwhelming disadvantage.

As already stated in other postings here: Use the right tool for the job. 'Right' encompasses safety as a premium.

Long live the table saw and the sliding miter saw. Eventually the RAS bigots will all pass away and the bones of their extinct machines will be recycled. In the meantime we will all read their stories of being too cheap, or uninformed to equip themselves properly. Lore and legend still finds it way into print from guys who refuse to let their beloved RAS dinosaurs die. They are underwhelming.
Posted: 12:09 pm on November 30th

jeffsmyth1950 jeffsmyth1950 writes: i bought a craftsman in 79 and used it for years to gang cut studs and siding . it was a bear to move with it attached to the table , so it fell out of favor with the advent of sliding miter boxes . it sat around until i needed space and it moved out to the side of the road .one of my neighbors thanked me profusely for the gift . this was 2007 .
Posted: 11:35 am on November 30th

EngRetiree EngRetiree writes: While working part time in a custom furniture shop in the 60's, I was shown how innacurate the radial arm saw can be. Sure, you can adjust it to be accurate, but push it laterally and it very willingly changes course. But while building my own house, part time, in the 80's I discovered how well it cut ganged studs. It still has its place but should never be anyone's first major tool. That should be a table saw.
Posted: 11:14 am on November 30th

sawzall316 sawzall316 writes: I have two Sears RAS'. They come in handy for multiple setups
(dados,rabitts and tendons)that leave the tablesaw open.
As far as ripping with RAS', yes it can be done but just because it can doesn't mean you should. I've seen that accident and I don't want to witness it again.
It's not seen on worksites anymore but I cannot see a small shop without one. RAS' are like routers in that they are very flexable for smaller shops. Larger Shops have more automated machinery that eliminates the need for a RAS.
Watching "Norm" showed me years ago how flexible and useful RAS are in a shop and I've never looked back.
Posted: 10:48 am on November 30th

DougSeagrim DougSeagrim writes: Try doing bookshelf dados on a 10 foot long pair of verticals with a miter saw or even a table saw. That is where a RAS really shines. Also, if you put in a fresh fence once the saw is set, it is sooo simple to space the dados precisely.
Posted: 10:20 am on November 30th

engrx2 engrx2 writes: Sliding miter saws in a shop waste space behind them to accommodate the sliding bars that support the saw head. Good Delta Pro-Radial saws are much more rigid for doing things like a dado or cutting 4 x 14 headers and don't waste that space. Miter and chop saws are great for doing trim. For me you need them both --right tool for the right job...
Posted: 10:12 am on November 30th

able_baker able_baker writes: I'm still using my Sears RAS, which I bought used for $200 about 25 years ago. No real reason I chose it over a table saw except that it was the only used saw in the classifieds the day I was looking for a saw. I should get rid of it and get decent table saw, as it overheats every time I try to rip any 2X stock, and I have a nice DeWalt 12" miter saw that is both portable and precise. The table saw I have is an ancient Sears, which I found on the side of the road. Rigged up a motor mount (out of wood of course!), bought a pulley and a belt and it was back in business.
Posted: 9:36 am on November 30th

Redss1 Redss1 writes: I use 2-radial
Posted: 9:21 am on November 30th

Rocketj Rocketj writes: I bought my Delta 10" back in the mid 70s, after I bought my first house and had lots to repair. It got me through that house, then the next house where I converted a 2nd floor porch to a sitting room 14 X20 with 5 ea 5X5 sliders looking out to the back yard. Now I'm in the country, rebuilding a 200 year old Post and Beam where nothing is plumb or straight or even machined - the main members are all hand hewed, and I ripping off 3 layers of siding to go back to the clapboard style. I'm using rough cut Larch, and the 5/4 trim boards all pretty much have to be ripped to width. This August the RAS suddenly quit! I have a young neighbor down in town who "fiddles" with all kinds of stuff, so he came over, we removed the motor, and he took it to his shop. Called me the next day - he found 35 years of caked on saw dust inside the cowling. The soft start switch and the thermal overload switch had both burned out. Delta had to search (the model has been out of production for a decade or so) but found them in an hour and called back. For $60 including shipping I was back in business in a week. I have a chop saw which is good for certain things, but we have found problems with it. I agree with others - the RAS is great for cutting certain dados, ripping (sometimes - I like my cabinet saw for ripping, but I can easily move the RAS to the back deck from the shop, not the 450 pound cabinet saw), compound miters, etc. I think safety is an issue - someone mentioned 2X4s sailing through a wall ... I think when ripping, you want to turn the head so the blade rotates toward you and you push the work into the blade, then it can't grab the piece and fling it.
Posted: 8:57 am on November 30th

bill117 bill117 writes: Why don't we bring back the "swing-saw" too?
Posted: 8:42 am on November 30th

sirhalo291 sirhalo291 writes: Wow I am not believing this article. I am a woodworker that does it for a living and I sware by my 1971 Montgomery Ward radial arm saw. It was my dad's and he Showed me the art of using it correctly. It is lubed and in tune and I can change settings in seconds. I have thrown more boards out of a table saw than I ever have a RAS. Mine and many others I have seen have teeth that prevent kickback when adjusted properly. I now have a full shop of tools but still use the Ras everyday. FOR EVERYTHING!!! I use it to route, with sand, cut and even have used it for a drill press. I have dual speed spindles opposite the blade and I can change chucks blades and do everything faster than I can put dados on my table saw. People have not been properly trained. AS far as a shopsmith is concerned I would take one in a heartbeat. Again any tool that does multiple jobs take up a lot less space it is just a matter of knowing what to do to use it properly. I own a makita, rockwell and delta chop saws and they are not even mounted in my shop I dont use them except on job sites. I have a full shop including a shaper, lathe and drill press...Personally the detail work I can do with an overhead router on the RAS far supercedes the detail I can accomplish on a router table which I also own. I guess it boils down to preference...but probably mostly about training, or should I say the lack of it!
Posted: 8:22 am on November 30th

DavePanetta DavePanetta writes: I have built many fine things with the B&D RAS I bought back in the 70's. I built furniture with it for many years and until about 8 years ago it and a "skilsaw" were the only power saws I owned. I used the RAS to help build my workshop where it still is used for cross cutting long lumber. I now have a TS with a 52" top surface, but still prefer the RAS for cross cutting long parts. Several friends have chop saws, but other than portability I don't see any big advantage.

I don't think the RAS is any more dangerous than any other properly used cutting tool. Even hand tools can do you damage if not used properly. I know people who should not be in the same room as a power tool. As for space, I don't think a RAS takes up much more space than the now popular chop saw if the chop saw has a nice in/out feed table to properly support the work.

Chop saws are more portable, but I think the main advantage is to the manufactures - they can sell a smaller, fewer heavy parts, less costly (to them) saw for the same or more money as the RAS. from where I sit, most of the difference is HYPE.
Posted: 8:22 am on November 30th

Celsed Celsed writes: A radial arm saw was my first stationary woodshop machine too (a 10-inch Sears) and it is still in the shop gathering dust thrown off by the other machines. I do like it though--by swinging the arm out of the way, it provides another benchtop and the six huge drawers are handy for storing accessories for other machines I have.
Posted: 7:58 am on November 30th

weiserbNYC weiserbNYC writes: Yes I have a 12" one.
Delta 33-890 Single Phase 120
I am on my second motor, the first one I had was 70's These motors were Delta's worst. The motor blew out after getting jammed. Guess what? Delta does not make a 120 single phase motor anymore.
So luckily I found one on ebay. A mint Rockwell 12". The seller took the motor off the saw and sold me just the motor.

It took my delta tech a couple of hours to install, but now this motor hums and looks like it will last a liftime(like it should) I think the radial saw is a great tool and the one I find myself using very often for crosscutting mostly.

Delta still uses the original design and castings on the 33-890 from pretty far back.

I would love to add the new Unisaw some day to my shop and replace the Delta contractors saw I own. They saw is also great and has a lot of milage in my home shop. I used it to rip over a hundred IPE 2x4's into 2x2's for a fence project.
Posted: 7:55 am on November 30th

redfir10 redfir10 writes: I started banging nails in the early '70's... everyone had a radial. I had a chance to pick up a used Delta for a good price and did; a 10" double arm model. Used it for about two years. Quickly learned that whoever thought you should pull the carriage to you was a *!@3 idiot. And you'd best use feather boards to keep it from pitching 2x's through the wall whilst ripping. But I built a number of houses with it and used it for a lot of cross dado stuff. But in about '75 I sold as I'd gotten a Makita chop and a Delta contractor's saw.
Posted: 10:19 pm on November 27th

bobmarlon bobmarlon writes: We had an ras at school it was mainly used to break put rough lumber but there was a great instructional video from the 70s that showed you how to do anything with it. It really is the
most versatile tool in the shop just very dangerous if you don't know how to use it. If anyone is on the Vancouver ca area I recomend stopping by bcit and watching it for a laugh.

I saw one student feed wood into the side of the blade to put a curve on the ends of a coffee table.

Everyone was afraid of the saw though because the teacher told us a gnarly story about a girl who sawed her arm right off.
Posted: 12:29 pm on November 26th

frogranch frogranch writes: I purchased the Sears saw in the picture in 1973, using it to build furniture, my timber framed house, cabinets and more. Still runs true and like a champ. think I got my money worth. It still is used almost daily, an old friend.
Posted: 10:09 am on November 22nd

JTAdams JTAdams writes: I have always had a RAS and don't understand the fuss about table saws. Seems to me that table saws are trying to copy everything that RAS have done for decade. I consider the table saw more dangerous than my RAS. It may be that I have never had one that was very big or didn't have the proper fence or something that I was doing wrong. I recently bought a brand new RAS at a yard sale. The owner was a carpenter by trade. He hated the RAS and I got it for $20.00. I'm talking a brand new 10" Craftsman with laser light and all! He swore it was useless and that it couldn't cut a simple 90 degree cut.

When I got it home and checked it out I discovered he had screwed and bolted the back fence in place! Do I need to say it was not mounted straight. A 3 1/2 inche cut would be off by 1/4 of an inch! I disasembled the machine and put it back together using the instruction manual that was still in the plastic bag that had never been opened! I don't have to worry about living in a house that he might have framed. I would know it!

I already had a RAS that I love! I could not find anyone that I could give it to. No one had room in their small shops or garage. I finally sold it to my neighbor for the same $20, who stuffed it into a small shed with his other treasures. It is currently supporting a bag of ferilzer and a few yard tools! This seems to be the disadvantage of the RAS. People just do not have room for it!

Last week I killed some time in the tool department at Sears while my wife shopped. Sears only had one RAS on display and probably had 20 Miter Saws.

A long time ago I put my saw on locking casters. I framed in the area beneath the saw and had a rather large cabinet to store all kinds of stuff. I made a contraption to catch the majority of the dust but most of the time I roll it outside when I'm going to use it so dust is my neighbor's problem. I built a second sacraficial table on top of the original and every few years I will replace it. The table is a little over sized which helps in ripping large, hard to handle stock. I see people who mound their RAS as part of their work bench and to me that turns it into a Miter Saw. I can cut right and left compound miter cuts that the Miter Saw engineers are still dreaming about!

I recently put crown molding up in three rooms of my house. I made a jig that in essence is nothing more than a second fence. I didn't have to turn the molding upside down and backwards to make my cuts! I placed the molding in the second fence just as it would be on the wall. I also used a 12" miter saw. Between the two of them I couldn't understand all the fuss about the difficulties in cutting crown molding. I will admit to reading many back issues of FHB before I started the project. Out of 10-12 inside corners and half that on outside coeners I didn't make more that 2 cuts at the wrong angle and I credit that to the RAS and reading FHB. This was the first time I've done crown molding and it was easy with both saws.

My shop will always have a place for both, provided they don't wuit making RAS to where I can't get a replcement when the time comes!
Posted: 8:24 pm on November 21st

MFournier MFournier writes: jross I hear you but the stay on feature you mention also makes the RAS much more dangerous then a sliding Miter saw. Not that I feel it can not be used safely but just like a table saw it is much more dangerous then a miter saw with a blade break that stops the blade after each cut.

Now a RAS station in a shop with enough space for long side extensions is very handy and they were much easier to setup for dust collection then miter saws.
But on the job site a you just can not compete with a sliding miter saw with a good stand. I hear you guys about all the stuff you can do with attachments on the RAS but
if multi-function is what makes for a good tool then we should all have shop smiths. http://www.shopsmith.com/ but how many professional wood working shops use a shop smith?? Multi function tools are not for professionals that need to do many different jobs. You do not want to constantly switch setups from one task to another personally if I was setting up a new shop the RAS would not be in my top 5 must haves although I would not remove one from my shop ether they are still useful but most RAS are used 90% of the time for cross cutting and in shops that have them they are used almost exclusively for that why? because you simple can not be switching setups to use it for other tasks when 5 min later you (or someone else if you do not work alone) may need it again for it's main task. And for that a 12inch sliding miter saw can do just fine. And for the other jobs you use it for 10% of the time that a sliding miter saw can't do it is ofter better to just use a tool specifically made for that task.

Top five stationary tools for me are #1 table saw with large out feed and side tables
and number 2 second table saw #3 planner #4 Jointer #5 band saw.
(I do not consider routers and router tables stationary tools)

Then after that in no special order is Drill press, lath, mortising station, molding cutter and large belt feed sander and a bigger shaper with power feed. then after all that maybe a RAS. Why because I do not want one tool station that does many tasks I want dedicated stations for each task. That is why I have more then one router and router table, and more then one table saw. And I can get 2 12 inch sliding miter saws for the cost of one RAS (unless you buy a used RAS).
Posted: 6:46 pm on November 21st

bbeshara bbeshara writes: Bought my radial arm saw in 1966 when I was 15 and it was my only stationary tool - crosscut, rip, sand, drill, router, shaper (did I miss anything?) With a belt sander, scroll/jig saw, hand drill and pipe clamps I made furniture and cabinets. It was 30 years later that I started to replace the saws special functions with a table saw, drill press, router table, sanding center, shaper, etc (I do have to admit these new tools are a lot safer to use than the radial arm attachments.)


Posted: 9:15 am on November 21st

jross jross writes: Most well equipped shops I’ve been in have one and the old timers still swear by them. I had an old Dewalt (one of the old blue ones) and it ran like a champ.

The biggest advantage of a RAS over a chopper is that you can flip the switch on a RAS and let it run continuously. This is a big plus when sorting or culling stock or cutting big packages.

This summer I made parts and pieces for twenty sets of twelve-over-eight reproduction sashes. In one three hour period I made over four hundred cuts. That’s going to put a lot of stress on the motor and brake of any chop saw.
Posted: 9:47 pm on November 19th

DanRowe DanRowe writes: Hard to find good information on RAS Yes! But still a great tool. Do to life circumstances I was forced to move my Hobby shop from a full 2.5 car garage to a 10 X12 shed I just built over the summer. Of course lots of my tools are in storage and when I had to decide between the table saw and the RAS I chose the RAS. It can be used to replace many shop tools not just used for cutting. You can with a little set up time and care in use do anything on a RAS that you can do on a table saw, plus use it as a disc sander, you can mount a router on it to replace the router table, use it as a shaper, mount a drill chuck on it. Yes table saws are generally quicker to set up and safer to use but with the right care RAS can be a great shop asset. Specially when your shop is small.
Posted: 8:57 pm on November 19th

florida florida writes: I always liked radials but with no shop to speak of can't imagine owning one now. But, 20 or so years ago there was an article in Fine Woodworking featuring fine furniture built on a radial and included tips on how to tune one up to get super accurate cuts.
Posted: 8:22 pm on November 19th

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