Radial Arm Saw Dilemma

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Forum topic by Tony Z posted 01-23-2008 11:53 PM 5160 views 0 times favorited 22 replies Add to Favorites Watch
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Tony Z

205 posts in 3989 days

01-23-2008 11:53 PM

Topic tags/keywords: question miter saw

I originally posted this as a response to a post by Blake and thought it should get it’s own space. About a year ago I got an old siezed-up Craftsman 10” at an auction and have since restored and installed it. It works like butter. I installed a whole wall of cabinets around this saw. My dilema is this, I’ve been thinking about getting rid of it and replacing it with a 10” sliding CMS. All I use the RAS for is cutting things to length. I keep seeing everyones thoughts on radial arm saws being dangerous and how you should get rid of them. I can’t help but agree. I feel like this thing is going to jump right into my chest sometimes. I figure I can cut things up to 12” wide to length with a Sliding CMS just as easy with much more control. I would like to hear everyones thoughts on this.

-- Tony, Ohio

22 replies so far

View RobS's profile


1334 posts in 4505 days

#1 posted 01-24-2008 12:37 AM

The only things you really lose are a bigger, more stable workspce and the ability to cut consistant dados or consistant heights like you can with the RAS. You can’t really “raise up” the CMS to a constant/set height.

-- Rob (A) Waxahachie,TX

View GaryK's profile


10262 posts in 4187 days

#2 posted 01-24-2008 12:43 AM

I don’t have a RAS and never have, but anything you could do with it I could find a way to do without it.
Might not be as quick, but then again you can save a lot of wall/shelf space by not having one.

A straight edge and router can cut a longer dado than a RAS and with the jig I use I can do it faster.

Just my thoughts.

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

View motthunter's profile


2141 posts in 3998 days

#3 posted 01-24-2008 12:46 AM

I have an old sears radial myself that I got from an old woodworking buddy who passed away. I use it for a variety of things although I am extra cautious for my safety. I use it for multiple crosscuts and to miter longer pieces. I also do multiple dadoes for making bookcases. I much prefer it over my table saw when pieces are longer. I also replaced the sofit on my house with new vinyl requiring me to cut hundreds of pieces. I put a crappy old blade on backwards and set a stop. It was the perfect tool. (never cut vinyl with a blade installed the normal way.. a backwards blade is the best.)

It is part of my wall work area and when I am not using it, it is out of the way. I would never use this saw for ripping stock or other more dangerous things. A radial is not good at most of the things people claim they can do.. but they are an asset and a useful tool.

-- making sawdust....

View Scott Bryan's profile

Scott Bryan

27250 posts in 4021 days

#4 posted 01-24-2008 12:48 AM

I agree with Rob. The major advantage of the radial arm saw comes with cutting a dado in long work pieces. but this can easily been done with a router. Other than that the slider will crosscut up to 12”. I have a slider and have only needed a radial arm saw in passing. It would be nice to have a shop like Norm’s- with every tool combination possible. But let’s face it most of us don’t have the space, tool budget or time necessary to learn the tool. Given an either or choice I would choose the slider without hesitation.

-- Challenges are what make life interesting; overcoming them is what makes life meaningful- Joshua Marine

View RobS's profile


1334 posts in 4505 days

#5 posted 01-24-2008 12:55 AM

I was just listing the things he’d lose, I’d make the switch any day.

-- Rob (A) Waxahachie,TX

View WaywardHoosier's profile


80 posts in 4234 days

#6 posted 01-24-2008 01:02 AM

I have a Craftsman RAS that is about 25 years old. It just keeps working. There is a safety recall on the blade guard and it is a must have piece of safety. Emerson Tool STILL supports this recall which is now well over 5 years old. They shipped the guard and new table top at no cost to my door and it weighs 75 lbs.

With the guard set up properly, I have had no safety issues and yes, I have had wood jump in the saw. I use clamp down and push stick techniques.

I cannot stress enough how the new safety guard design is needed. Unfortunetly , It is well though out design because of a lawsuit due to serious injury. Too bad they didn’t think of safety 25 years ago like they do now.

-- WaywardHoosier - Behind schedule and over budget, but who's counting? Well of course she is!

View RobS's profile


1334 posts in 4505 days

#7 posted 01-24-2008 01:05 AM

Hmm, wonder if I can still get that new/recall stuff for mine, It’s a old Craftsman too. I’ll check it out, thanks.

-- Rob (A) Waxahachie,TX

View Dick, & Barb Cain's profile

Dick, & Barb Cain

8693 posts in 4498 days

#8 posted 01-24-2008 01:52 AM

I’ve had my old Wards Powercraft Since the mid 1960’s, & I built all of my raised panel kitchen cabinets with it

I’ve never had any safety problems with it.

The poor thing, the motor burned out on it 2 years ago, because of low voltage at my cabin.

I sure wish I could find a motor for it. Let me know if you see one around.

-- -** You are never to old to set another goal or to dream a new dream ****************** Dick, & Barb Cain, Hibbing, MN.

View bryano's profile


546 posts in 4132 days

#9 posted 01-24-2008 02:33 AM

I have two old 1950s dewalt ras. I wouldent trade them for anything. I use them more than any other tool on the shop.

-- bryano

View Don Niermann  's profile

Don Niermann

219 posts in 4171 days

#10 posted 01-24-2008 05:01 AM

I have an old Craftsman with the upgrade with the recall package. I would very seldom rip with it, but it is one of the most used tools in my shop. Would not trade it for any for any CMS.

30 years old model

-- WOOD/DON ( has the right to ones opinion but not the right to ones own facts...)

View DaveH's profile


400 posts in 3977 days

#11 posted 01-24-2008 08:00 AM

My only saw for years was a RA from sears. I scrapped it for the $100 recall and purchased a grizzly 1023slx cabinet saw ( I love it ). But, I just got another sears RA, a little newer than my old one, for $75. I have no safety concerns with the saw as long as I an using a sharp blade and the blade was designed for a RA saw. I use a Freud Freud LU91R010 10-Inch 60 Tooth ATB Thin Kerf Miter Saw Blade on mine and get very little climb. In fact, I’m building a 8 foot cabinet to house it rather than building one for my chop saw.

-- DaveH - Boise, Idaho - “How hard can it be? It's only wood!”

View Tony Z's profile

Tony Z

205 posts in 3989 days

#12 posted 01-24-2008 04:46 PM

Thanks for all of your input. I especially appreciate the heads-up on the recall. I believe my saw is one of them. Now I have to decide to either take the 100 bucks for it or get the upgrade kit. I’m now seriously thinking about keeping it. Thanks again for the feedback.

-- Tony, Ohio

View WaywardHoosier's profile


80 posts in 4234 days

#13 posted 01-24-2008 11:22 PM

Here is the link address to the Craftsman RAS recall:

-- WaywardHoosier - Behind schedule and over budget, but who's counting? Well of course she is!

View Blake's profile


3443 posts in 4073 days

#14 posted 01-25-2008 04:20 AM

As far as radial arm saws being dangerous, they don’t have to be. They are no more dangerous than a table saw and just have different precautions.

Probably the biggest mistake you can make is using the wrong blade.

Blades on a radial arm saw must have a zero or negative hook angle on the teeth. This means if you were to draw a line from the center of the blade out to the edge, that the angle of the tooth would either be perfectly in line (zero) or raked slightly backward (negative angle). If the teeth are raked forward even one degree (like MOST blades) it could “climb” toward you and send the powerhead/blade flying in your direction.

I’m not trying to scare anybody, because this danger is almost completely eliminated by using the right blade.

In my opinion a radial arm saw can be even SAFER than a table saw if the right precautions are taken. With a RAS the wood doesn’t move (like on a TS) so there is no kickback concern. And the blade can only move within a linear path which only extends a couple feet. If you keep yourself out of that path, there is very little that can go wrong.

Exception: RIPPING (in my opinion) is very dangerous on a RAS and should only be done on the TS.

-- Happy woodworking!

View ChicoWoodnut's profile


904 posts in 4014 days

#15 posted 01-26-2008 08:33 PM

I like my RAS very much. Very handy for crosscutting especially long boards. Easy to set up, nice wide table. I also use it for making tenons and to crosscut dados.

If you have the room, I’d keep it. Learn about it and treat with respect like any other electrical monster.

-- Scott - Chico California

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