All Replies on RAS, A necessary beast or outdated Dinosaur??

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RAS, A necessary beast or outdated Dinosaur??

by bluekingfisher
posted 04-18-2011 04:17 PM

40 replies so far

View patron's profile


13606 posts in 3363 days

#1 posted 04-18-2011 04:51 PM

me i never get rid of tools
i worked to hard to acquire them

in your situation i might find a way to make a rolling stand
for both the slide saw and the RAS
a cab with a common back fence and sliding stops
with fold down wings to either side
the base box could have room for a vacuum or air compresor
or some other tools on shelves or storage in drawers

they both have similar functions
yet are different in good ways

on the slide saw you can do compound angles
to your hearts content
without trashing the fence or table

set up right the RAS can plow for selves
and still rip if needed it the table saw is set for some repeat cuts
and turned to sand or route if needed

together these two are a dynamic duo
and you will never find that price again
if you change your mind

-- david - only thru kindness can this world be whole . If we don't succeed we run the risk of failure. Dan Quayle

View Bill White's profile

Bill White

4947 posts in 3982 days

#2 posted 04-18-2011 05:08 PM

I’ve had my RAS since 1978. It is used quite often. Matter of fact, I didn’t have a TS until about 5 yrs. ago. I guess that my “dinosaur” will stay with my shop.


View BilltheDiver's profile


255 posts in 2907 days

#3 posted 04-18-2011 05:17 PM

I still use mine daily and my shop is only 12X18.

-- "Measure twice, cut once, count fingers"

View sawblade1's profile


754 posts in 3049 days

#4 posted 04-18-2011 05:28 PM

Radial arm saws are necessary Beast you can do a multitude of functions even angled Dadoes try that with a tablesaw :)

-- Proverbs Ch:3 vs 5,6,7 Trust in the lord with all thine heart and lean not unto your own understanding but in all your ways aknowledge him and he shall direct your path

View Jeff's profile


438 posts in 3216 days

#5 posted 04-18-2011 05:34 PM

Donated mine to Habitat four years ago. Replaced it with a table saw and haven’t missed it since.

View Bertha's profile


13529 posts in 2715 days

#6 posted 04-18-2011 05:58 PM

I recently bought a RAS and in my small shop, it’s useful for cross-cutting long boards. If you orient it in your shop for this function, I think you’ll find it useful. Other tools can certainly perform its function but it affords you really great visibility for cross-cuts. I bought mine out of novelty and still use it as such. It’s just a cool tool to have around.

-- My dad and I built a 65 chev pick up.I killed trannys in that thing for some reason-Hog

View Lee Barker's profile

Lee Barker

2170 posts in 2872 days

#7 posted 04-18-2011 06:37 PM

It used to be the only tool on which the cutting part could come at you, real fast. For that reason I am not fond of mine but it does get occasional rough cut use. Very hard to keep it true; too many ways it can go south.

Years ago in FWW there was an issue on small shops (#24; I just looked it up) and one of the guys had included a port (window flap) for long material to go outside when it was at the table saw or shaper. The same concept would work in some applications for a RAS which would then need 1/3 less wall space. And could you put the SCM right next to it, common table?

As I reread that article, I see that one woodworker bought a single wide and gutted it and made it into a shop. Pretty cool idea, actually: easy to run DC ducting under the floor, plumbing could be already there, and structural modifications could be pretty simple. Obviously there would be some tradeoffs but it would be interesting to see someone run the numbers vs. a site built, slab-on-grade insulated building.

Sorry for the rambling off the OP’s question.



-- " his brain, which is as dry as the remainder biscuit after a voyage, he hath strange places cramm'd with observation, the which he vents in mangled forms." --Shakespeare, "As You Like It"

View ND2ELK's profile


13495 posts in 3796 days

#8 posted 04-18-2011 07:40 PM

I think you would get more use out of a 12” sliding miter box saw than a RAS. I also feel a miter saw is much more accurate. Not trying to start a debate here. There are some people that really like their RAS. It sounds like you got the RAS cheap enough where you could make some money off of it. On the other hand, I am a guy that has 9 pieces of equipment in a shop smaller than yours. It is like having children, you make room for them.


-- Mc Bridge Cabinets, Iowa

View Gregn's profile


1642 posts in 3005 days

#9 posted 04-18-2011 09:21 PM

I would give up my SCMS before I would my RAS. In fact I go to the Ras before my SCMS for many projects. While the stand takes up quite a bit of foot space it can be mounted into a bench or a more space saving base can be made with extra storage. I think if you give it some time and work with it you may change your mind as to its usefulness.

-- I don't make mistakes, I have great learning lessons, Greg

View sIKE's profile


1271 posts in 3776 days

#10 posted 04-18-2011 11:44 PM

I really enjoy using mine, I too have a small shop, I use mine only for Crosscutting at 90 degrees so it doesnt get knocked of alignment, I just make sure to got thoguh the truing process as a part of my spring maitence. Love it when it comes to cutting wide boards. Dados are easy also, in the case of half-laps etc….

The thing I really like about mine is it makes a beautiful hum when I fire it up, the CMS screaches loudly each time I pull that trigger!

-- //FC - Round Rock, TX - "Experience is what you get just after you need it"

View Kent Shepherd's profile

Kent Shepherd

2718 posts in 3308 days

#11 posted 04-19-2011 12:01 AM

RAS questions typically result in a great division among woodworkers.

I happen to be one who has and will always use one. I am not afraid of them, maybe because I started using them so young I didn’t know enough to be scared. The only near accident I have had was when the bearing in the track broke, resulting in the saw falling out onto the table as it was running (the saw, not the table) This was a freak thing that wasn’t at all typical of a radial arm saw, but it should encourage one to inspect equipment on occasion. My real point is—-paying attention to what you are doing could easily prevent a major injury. I came out fine—the table (and my underwear)—-not so much!

Are they absolutely necessary in woodworking? I guess that depends on what you are doing. In my production shop, a SCMS would never hold up to the volumes we cut. Does the average hobbyist really need one? I think a SCMS would serve most people just fine. I have both in my home shop, and wouldn’t want to give up either one, but space is not a problem for me.

This question is like most pertaining to equipment choices. We all have opinions, and usually they are all very valid, based on our own experiences. Pick whichever one fits what you really want to do.


View GaryK's profile


10262 posts in 4010 days

#12 posted 04-19-2011 12:07 AM

That’s interesting. I have never had one or wanted one.

I can see where it would come in handy at times with a long board, but not something I can’t do with a small miter saw in most cases.

-- Gary - Never pass up the opportunity to make a mistake look like you planned it that way - Tyler, TX

View NBeener's profile


4816 posts in 3196 days

#13 posted 04-19-2011 12:29 AM

As a newbie RAS owner, with an otherwise pretty complete shop … here’s my take:

They’re a luxury, if you have a pretty complete shop.

But a GREAT luxury.

For example: I can leave my dado stack on the RAS—the way you might, if you had a second table saw—all the time. BIG convenience.

Similarly, it can function as a 2nd SCMS—very convenient if you have to make a LOT of … two different cuts … both of which can be made on an RAS OR an SCMS.

But the RAS is fairly unique in that it can probably single-handedly cover about 75+% of the cuts we make in—for example—a cabinet/furniture shop.

Mine ?

The more I use … the more I like.

And … since you can buy a wonderful, vintage DeWalt for $100 …... :-)

-- -- Neil

View Minorhero's profile


373 posts in 2627 days

#14 posted 04-19-2011 04:44 AM

I have a Dewalt 7790 and I like it quite a bit. That being said, between a table saw and a sliding miter saw (if it is a good one and very accurate) can duplicate all of the cross-cutting operations a good RAS can do.

If your RAS is of good quality, is properly calibrated and has a good dead flat table then it is absolutely possible to use it for finish level cuts. Most people do not have dead flat tables however. Most folks have a table that is made from a single sheet of MDF or plywood (either of which sags with time and thus throws every cut out of square). If you do not have a good table then your RAS is can only be used for rough cuts and that decreases the usefulness of the tool. If your RAS does not have a solid cast iron arm but instead has a sheet metal arm bolted to a steel frame it will not give finish quality cuts either.

So while a sliding miter saw and a table saw can duplicate the capabilities of a RAS, the RAS will be easier to use for certain kinds of cuts. For isntance, it can be easier to setup repeatable cross cuts because the RAS has a bigger table surface to work with and the work piece stays put. This is where Dado’s really shine on a RAS.

There is however one function a RAS can do that neither a table saw or a miter saw can do without a jig, and that is make tenons. A RAS can easily be turned into a tenon making monster because the blade can be turned parallel to the table making it extremely easy to cut shoulders. A table saw requires a jig to accomplish the same task, and most such jigs have are limited as to the size of the piece you can make a tenon with, a RAS is limited only be the height of the blade above the table.

So that is basically it. If you want to make tenons, or make lots of repeatable cuts, a RAS is a good tool to have. If you do not need to make lots of repeatable cuts or need to make many tenons you probably do not need the RAS.

There is of course a third option. Keep the RAS and sell the sliding miter saw. You will probably get more for the slider then you would for the RAS depending on the condition.

View bubinga's profile


861 posts in 2689 days

#15 posted 04-19-2011 05:06 AM

I have a sliding miter saw, so the craftsman RAS sits in the corner and hasn’t been used in a long time.
If someone asked me for it I would give it away or trade it for something just to get the extra room
If it were a Elu I would not give it away !!!!!!!!

-- E J ------- Always Keep a Firm Grip on Your Tool

View C_PLUS_Woodworker's profile


601 posts in 2929 days

#16 posted 04-19-2011 05:16 AM

We use a RAS outside for working with rough lumber….........sawmill stuff.

We use a lot of (true) 2 x??? wide boards for horse stalls, round training pen, barn work, loafing sheds, etc.

The RAS is so much easier, quicker and more accurate than any kind of circular saw

Slide the board off the trailer and onto the saw stands and then into the saw for cutting to length as we go.

But, we have never trued the saw to 90 or even taken much care of the saw

It does it’s job cutting fairly accurately the stock we need cut.

I remember when RAS’s were all the rage …... and I think that time is long gone.

I agree with the folks that keep one in the shop for 90 crosscuts

But, I sure wouldn’t get rid of my Makita SCMS.


View bluekingfisher's profile


1250 posts in 3001 days

#17 posted 04-19-2011 09:24 AM

Thanks for all the input fellahs. From what I have read most contributors value the RAS (pending it being a quality machine). As mentioned, because mine happens to be what is considered a quality machine I am unlikely to ever come across such a bargain again and would therefore no doubt regret selling it right off.

I may have to reconsider my options, I could of course build a base/stand and have the SCMS sitting along side and make use of storeage beneath. This may not solve my problem of having to shuffle machines around when needed. I may just have to sit down and make another floor plan and induce some creative ingenuity to maximise the floor space. Thankfully I haven’t got around to installing the duct work for dust collection yet ….....but that’s another story!

Thanks again all.


-- No one plans to fail, they just, just fail to plan

View hairy's profile


2717 posts in 3554 days

#18 posted 04-19-2011 03:31 PM

I regret selling the one I had. I kept it in my lawnmower shed because I didn’t have room in the garage. It was a hassle to get it out to use it. At least that is the weak excuse I used. It is a versatile tool.

-- My reality check bounced...

View agallant's profile


551 posts in 2908 days

#19 posted 04-19-2011 04:24 PM

I am scared to death of those things, I don’t know why but I just am.

View NBeener's profile


4816 posts in 3196 days

#20 posted 04-19-2011 04:37 PM

To Minorhero’s point …..

THE book on Radial Arm Saws was written by Wally Kunkel, a/k/a “Mister Sawdust.”

If you’re interested in RAS’s, buy it.

If you’re working with an RAS, buy it, AND build the “Mister Sawdust table.”

I believe that Mister Sawdust would agree 100% with Minorhero’s comments about the table.

So … his solution solves the problem. Here’s mine:

NOTE that I SHOULD HAVE run my bar stock the LONG way—not the SHORT way—but, as it’s two boards of 3/4” hardwood plywood … I’m not concerned.

By my dial indicator—mounted, via the magnetic base, to the bottom of the motor—this thing is F-L-A-T, flat !

Long Live Mister Sawdust :-)

agallant: we all know why. If you’ve never used an RAS, they can BE scary.

But … in all fairness … so can a table saw, a band saw, and a compound miter saw.

And a router table … and darned near anything in most of our shops that whirls a flesh eating blade at 3,000+ RPM.

An RAS merits respect, and TIME SPENT learning its proper operation.

Just like Uncle Norm (Abram) always said :-)

-- -- Neil

View bluekingfisher's profile


1250 posts in 3001 days

#21 posted 04-19-2011 04:57 PM

Indeed a useful tool, that has never been the question, if I had the space then thie RAS would have a place.

I guess by a process of elimination I am trying to establish which machine is most likely to get the chop. My new shop is not completely set up yet so establishing which machines I would gain the most from cannot yet be determined.

Perhaps I should persist with the limited space for the time being to gauge the machines Iuse the least and could therefore justify selling/clearing.

I’d love to keep em all, buy more in fact but the enjoyment diminishes somewhat everytime I need to pull a machine out of the way. Although as a hobbyist I guess I could live with it.

Nice saw and table BTW neil.

-- No one plans to fail, they just, just fail to plan

View William's profile


9949 posts in 2864 days

#22 posted 04-19-2011 06:01 PM

When I first got into woodworking I aquired a Craftsman radial arm saw for next to nothing. After doing a lot of research I was scared of the saw and got rid of it, for next to nothing. Now that I have gotten deeper into woodworking and learned a few things, I wish I still had that saw.


View NBeener's profile


4816 posts in 3196 days

#23 posted 04-19-2011 06:11 PM


The good news ?

I see about EVERY sort of Craftsman RAS—from about EVERY year they made them—for sale … for cheap … on the CraigsList of even my relatively low-population area.

Go buy another :-)

-- -- Neil

View rowdy's profile


375 posts in 3464 days

#24 posted 04-19-2011 06:43 PM

I use mine a lot for what I call carpentry instead of woodworking. I have a small and cramped shop and long boards, for example, cannot be crosscut on my table saw since there is not enough room. So I wheel the RAS outside and use it for crosscutting operations. Most of the time this is for things I am doing to or for the house (baseboards, furniture) as opposed to woodworking (boxes, cutting boards). For example I am just finishing up on the construction of six lattice panels to replace the old ones that cover a large window well, starting off with 12 ft long strips of cedar. No way could I make the required cuts on the TS. I suppose I could do it with a jig saw, but the RAS is faster and more accurate. So in the final analysis, I do not use mine all of the time, but it really does come in handy for some projects.

-- Rowdy in Kechi, Kansas

View jm82435's profile


1285 posts in 3764 days

#25 posted 04-19-2011 07:26 PM

Mine is relegated to cutting tenons, half laps or 3/4” dadoes exclusively. (I never change out the cutting head) It is pretty handy; though with limited space, I have often considered getting rid of it…
I won’t be mounting this in any SCMS any time soon…
All those big chips are from a router table that often sits on it btw…

-- A thing of beauty is a joy forever...

View Dan's profile


3630 posts in 2902 days

#26 posted 04-19-2011 07:52 PM

I also don’t understand why some woodworkers are scared of the RAS. Like someone else said its really no more scary then the table saw or other big power tools. I have been using the RAS since I was like 12 years old. Its the first power tool I ever used and the same one is in my shop now and is still used on a regular basis.

The biggest advantage IMO is the ability to raise the arm to take a shallow cut. Mine also has a router chuck on it which has come in handy for some very small detail work.

-- Dan - "Collector of Hand Planes"

View emart's profile


445 posts in 2650 days

#27 posted 04-19-2011 08:23 PM

you should do what i did. my RAS is storable. it has 2 drop leaves on either side of it and is on wheels. when i unfold the drop leaves the table is 7 feet long.

when folded up it is only 2ft by 2 ft so it can fit into a corner of my shop

my shop is even smaller than yours (10×10) and my RAS is my main machine i use it more than anything else since i can set it up for repeated cuts (i barely ever use my table saw.)

it is also my most accurate machine after i tuned it (only took me 40 minutes and it keeps tuned for years

-- tools are only as good as the hands that hold them

View brianinpa's profile


1812 posts in 3745 days

#28 posted 04-20-2011 02:41 AM

To RAS or not to RAS? That is the question. I have used them since my days in wood shop in high school, and I will not have a shop without one. I would find a way to fit it into your shop, or make your shop bigger!

-- Brian, Lebanon PA, If you aren’t having fun doing it, find something else to do.

View Rick  Dennington's profile

Rick Dennington

5908 posts in 3216 days

#29 posted 04-20-2011 04:28 AM

Hi pal,

Well…. it sounds like the pros and cons of any dilemia. We have “yeas”, and we have neys”.....Now comes the decision to keep or to cast out… I won’t try to sway you one way or the other as what you should do…..The decision is totally up to you…I will tell you this though: I have both, and if I had to s#@tcan one or the other, the RAS would stay in my shop…..I still need to answer your PM…..:))

-- " At my age, happy hour is a crap and a nap".....

View tenontim's profile


2131 posts in 3766 days

#30 posted 04-20-2011 04:37 AM

RAS was the first large power tool that I ever bought. Used it for about 10 years and sold it. Every once in awhile I would miss being able to do some things only a RAS will do. So 30 years later, I bought another. It was even the same model I had before. I haven’t set it up yet, because I have to remove a stair way so I’ll have a place for it. I won’t get rid of it again, until I sell everything.

View sIKE's profile


1271 posts in 3776 days

#31 posted 04-20-2011 05:23 AM

You can see what I did with mine here and here.

-- //FC - Round Rock, TX - "Experience is what you get just after you need it"

View emart's profile


445 posts in 2650 days

#32 posted 04-20-2011 05:33 AM

here’s my RAS with the drop leaves up

when its put away it takes up less space than my table saw and is more convenient to use than my miter saw

and here it is with them down

-- tools are only as good as the hands that hold them

View bluekingfisher's profile


1250 posts in 3001 days

#33 posted 04-20-2011 09:47 AM

Thanks again all for contributing, I guess the feeling is “keep it” down to it’s usefulness, (which was never in question) There are some good designs for mouting and siting the RAS so may look at adapting some of them for my particular space.

No worries Rick, I’ll catch up with ya soon.


-- No one plans to fail, they just, just fail to plan

View Bertha's profile


13529 posts in 2715 days

#34 posted 04-20-2011 11:57 AM

I guess the jury’s out. Mine is certainly a dedicated 90-degree station and I’ve never exploited the machine’s other possibilities. The tenon-cutting function mentioned above is a great point! As is the dedicated stack! It’s a powertool, so my vote is to keep it:)

-- My dad and I built a 65 chev pick up.I killed trannys in that thing for some reason-Hog

View bluekingfisher's profile


1250 posts in 3001 days

#35 posted 04-20-2011 03:41 PM

I think I’m convinced, keping it is the way to go. I’m still really in the process of sorting out my shop so should it become a complete pain in the A$$ I can reconsider it’s future at that point.

I guess a guy can’t have to many power tools after all ;-))

-- No one plans to fail, they just, just fail to plan

View Stonekettle's profile


135 posts in 2926 days

#36 posted 04-21-2011 12:09 AM

Like somebody else said up above, the RAS was the first stationary shop tool I learned how to use as a kid. I’ve been using one for 40 years, since I was about 10 or so in my dad’s shop.

Nowadays I’ve got an old cast-iron original Dewalt 12” RAS. The thing is a beast and there isn’t a piece of plastic in it anywhere with the exception of the two Bakelite power buttons. It was 30 years old when I bought it off the son of the original owner in Sutton, Alaska. It took me a month to fully restore it and today it is the most used stationary tool in my very large shop. I’d give up both my Tablesaws, the big bandsaw, and the FESTOOL plungesaw table before I’d give up the RAS. Properly set up, it is dead on accurate. I particularly like it for dado, rabbit, and lap cuts because, unlike a TS, the work piece can be clamped firmly in place and does not move, I can set up a jig for production work with less trouble than on the TS, and most importantly I can see the saw blade/cut in progress. My RAS is the only saw I use for crosscuts, using a dedicated crosscut blade I get precise, glass smooth cut surfaces with zero tearout – something that is damned near impossible with a mitre saw/chop saw, even a sliding one. It’s so accurate, I use it for cutting pen blanks with my hand only inches from the blade without concern.

Somebody mentioned the old hoary concern about the RAS, i.e. it’s the only tool where the cutting piece comes at you. Couple points: 1) while true, the RAS can only move along a pre-determined line (unless there’s something very very wrong with your saw ;). That line is defined by the kerf in the tabletop or by the addition of a laser blade guide. Keep important parts out of that line and even if the saw gets away from you, you’re safe. Adding an auto-retractor also increases safety, as it will automatically pull the cutting head back away from you if you let go the handle for whatever reason. 2) the saw should not climb (i.e. come at you under its own power while making a cut), at least not overpoweringly. If it does, you’ve got the wrong blade installed. Likely you are using a blade designed for ripping or for a chop saw or one of those stinking combo blades. Using a crosscut blade specifically designed for a RAS eliminates this problem. Also, proper technique is important. Just like firing a pistol, your wrist and elbow should be locked, you use your body mass mass to control the saw pulling from the shoulder. 3) there is NO danger of kickback with a RAS. While most folks are concerned (rightly) about amputation or cutting injuries, the principle accident on a Tablesaw comes from kickback. How many folks here have been hit in the liver from a piece flying off a TS? There’s no danger of that with a RAS, it’s impossible if the machine is properly configured. Even using a RAS for ripping cuttings (by fixing the head and rotating it 90 degrees) typically leaves the operator 90 degrees out of the cutting/kickback axis, unlike a TS where the operator is almost always in the line of fire. For my money, the RAS is a much safer saw.

Also, unlike a tablesaw, the RAS throws swarf and dust away from you (and in my case, into a vacuum hood/box connected the cyclone). It’s a minor thing in the grand scheme of things, but just one more reason I prefer the RAS.

Yes, you got me, I’m a RAS fanatic. :)

-- Jim Wright, Stonekettle Station

View Beginningwoodworker's profile


13345 posts in 3695 days

#37 posted 04-21-2011 12:30 AM

Here is my RAS! I just got it a few months ago, I will using my for crosscutting and angle cuts in the shop.

View SPHinTampa's profile


567 posts in 3707 days

#38 posted 04-21-2011 12:34 AM

Most of the projects that I have posted here were done on the RAS as I only recent bought a table saw. I love my RAS but I am used to the need to constantly check and re check that it is square in all three dimensions. The John Eakes book … Fine Tuning Your Radial Arm Saw … is a great reference.

I don’t like my SCMS as much, mostly because I am more used to the RAS, but also because they take up nearly the same amount of space and are not nearly as flexible.

IMHO … I sure wouldn’t give away the deal you got.

-- Shawn, I ask in order to learn

View bluekingfisher's profile


1250 posts in 3001 days

#39 posted 04-21-2011 11:04 AM

Stonekettle, thank you so much for your informative reference to the RAS. I am now goingto keep the saw, as stated earlier it is a quality machine, all cast metal and accurately machined. Should I sell it I wouold never get anything like it again. It does have a retracting pulley too, although the bracket holding it to the main body had snapped off but that can be easily repaired/ replaced.

Thanks also to beginningWW and Tampa, much appreciated gents.


-- No one plans to fail, they just, just fail to plan

View bubinga's profile


861 posts in 2689 days

#40 posted 04-21-2011 12:06 PM

Anybody live in California

De Walt (DeWalt) MBF 8” Radial Arm Saw US $100.00
Laguna Niguel, CA, United States
Local Pickup

-- E J ------- Always Keep a Firm Grip on Your Tool

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