Do I need a RAS or Miter saw?

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Forum topic by ClimbOn posted 03-13-2011 08:25 AM 5843 views 0 times favorited 20 replies Add to Favorites Watch
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10 posts in 2605 days

03-13-2011 08:25 AM

So I’m in need of a saw for cross cutting, my last project had me cutting long lengths of 2×4 on my table saw…very awkward, hence my need for another tool!

I’m debating over getting an old 50’s era Craftsman RAS like attached or a modern compound miter saw. The RAS is big and I don’t have a lot of space, and it’ll do more than I need it to do. Can it do compound miters? I think the tool I really need is the miter saw, but I like the old tools and thought the RAS would go well with my 50’s DP, BS, and grinder.

Any opinions on using the RAS for a reliable miter saw? Any suggestions for maybe an old miter saw? Or should I just accept the reality and buy a used modern miter saw…I’m trying to keep my budget under $100

20 replies so far

View Dan's profile


3630 posts in 2843 days

#1 posted 03-13-2011 09:05 AM

With that budget my opinion would be to go with an older RAS. Most miter saws are limited to the size of board they can cut. The RAS will cut much wider boards. I have both in my shop and of the two I find myself using the RAS a lot more for cross cutting.

-- Dan - "Collector of Hand Planes"

View Greedo's profile


473 posts in 2923 days

#2 posted 03-13-2011 11:13 AM

IMO it’s true that the RAS can do what a miter saw can, and even more. it can work like a tablesaw, shaper and mitersaw, but it’s not as good at it or as safe as those tools. so for cutting normal stock like 2×4’s i would say get a miter saw, way more practical to set up and not such a space hog. if ever you need to cut stock that is wider than your miter can handle then just do it on the tablesaw.
now for $100 i guess you can find an old quality RAS, but finding a decent used miter may be harder, especially when you will be using it to make not only rough length cuts but also final cuts.
i even rarely use my festool miter saw for final cuts, my european sliding tablesaw is way faster for repeated cuts and accurate to 2/10th of a mm.

View iamwelty's profile


259 posts in 3078 days

#3 posted 03-13-2011 02:47 PM

Unless space means absolutely nothing to you… which it sounds like you need the space, I would get a miter saw in a heartbeat… portability, speed of set up, storability… Yes, a RAS can do some neat things but it’s big and it’s going to be “there” 365 days a year. You should be able to find a used one with low mileage in your price range.

-- There is a fine line between eroticism and nausea...

View bluesmarky's profile


21 posts in 2879 days

#4 posted 03-13-2011 02:52 PM

I have both in my shop as well & both get used quite a bit. One thing I really love about the RAS is if I load with a dado set it enables me to see the cut much better while I am doing it. When I use the dado set on the tablesaw it works well but the cut is somewhat blind.

-- bluesmarky..........................................."If you're here & I'm here, doesn't that make it our time?"

View SnowyRiver's profile


51457 posts in 3443 days

#5 posted 03-13-2011 02:59 PM

I have both in my shop too. I tend to use the RAS for cutoffs, and the miter saw for tri/angle cutting etc. I think the miter saw is a bit more accurate, but the RAS offers more flexability.

-- Wayne - Plymouth MN

View helluvawreck's profile


30765 posts in 2829 days

#6 posted 03-13-2011 03:23 PM

I would get a mitre saw. You can use the table saw and a sled for larger crosscuts. You can also use a circular saw and a straight edge to do accurate crosscuts and ripping if your shop is not large enough to handle these larger sheets safely or conveniently.

-- helluvawreck aka Charles,

View Gregn's profile


1642 posts in 2946 days

#7 posted 03-13-2011 03:29 PM

Having both the RAS and SCMS I find that I use the RAS more than the SCMS. While the RAS can be more finicky to set up it can be just as accurate as the SCMS if not even more so.

If the RAS is left set up on its manufactured stand it can be a space hog. Mount it into a bench and it takes no more space than the SCMS on a bench.

Given your budget and your collection of vintage tools you already have I would go with the RAS as it will do what the CMS can do and then some. At a $100.00 its a safe bet to try it out, if you don’t like it you can resell for the same money and go with the CMS which will more than likely cost more than a $100.00.

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

View JasonWagner's profile


527 posts in 3143 days

#8 posted 03-13-2011 03:57 PM

The most practical tool to cut 2×4s is a miter saw. Much smaller and even portable. Sounds like you “want” a RAS. We’ve all been in the situation where we want something that’s not exactly the best choice for the needs. Nothing wrong with that. I have a RAS and miter saw and I do not use the RAS to cross cut. I have found a lack of accuracy and constant need to attention to calibration. The miter saw is basically always on whenever I call on it. I don’t think the miter saw is something that benefits from being vintage like some other tools in the shop. In your price range I guess you’d be limited to a “good” used miter saw like DeWalt, Makita, etc… or a new import from Harbor Freight (which I know nothing about). Good news is people are selling their old miter saws in favor of sliding versions. Just my thoughts.

-- some day I hope to have enough clamps to need a clamp cart!

View David Kirtley's profile

David Kirtley

1286 posts in 2961 days

#9 posted 03-13-2011 04:14 PM

Under no circumstances would I recommend the Harbor Freight RAS. I had one and it self destructed in the most unusual way. The castings for the pillar lock and the saw carriage disintegrated. I had bought one and had it set up over in the corner but never really used it other than to stack things on. Fast forward a couple years, I was going to use it for a project and moved it out for clean up and tuning. I reached up and started to tighten the head lock and the lever crumbled in my hand. I thought it was just me and then went to loosen the pillar lock and it just came off the same way.

I don’t know if this is an isolated occurrence but I wouldn’t take the chance again. (And I normally like the cheap HF stuff I have bought like my bandsaw)

-- Woodworking shouldn't cost a fortune:

View ND2ELK's profile


13495 posts in 3737 days

#10 posted 03-13-2011 04:33 PM

I would go with a 10” or 12” sliding miter saw. I have had both sizes in Makita over the past 35 years.

-- Mc Bridge Cabinets, Iowa

View JasonWagner's profile


527 posts in 3143 days

#11 posted 03-13-2011 05:26 PM

thanks for the warning David, I was suggesting the miter saw…I wouldn’t buy one either (although I do own some HF tools) but just suggesting what you’d get for $100 new.

-- some day I hope to have enough clamps to need a clamp cart!

View Brian024's profile


358 posts in 3363 days

#12 posted 03-13-2011 06:23 PM

Between a small miter saw and a radial arm saw, I would go with a radial arm. Now if it was between a slide miter saw and a radial arm, it might be a different story. If you check Craigslist or any other classified site, you could most definitely find one within your $100 budget as well as a miter saw. My opinion is that the increased cross cutting capacity makes it worth it, just learn how to set it up, that website and book has really been helpful for me. I love how many comments are made on how “unsafe” they are, they “may be not as safe as a miter saw” but the only person who can feel safe or unsafe while using one is you.

View Delta356's profile


463 posts in 2817 days

#13 posted 03-13-2011 06:29 PM

RAS, Hands Down, it will serve you forever.

Thanks, Michael Frey
Portland, OR


View NBeener's profile


4816 posts in 3137 days

#14 posted 03-13-2011 06:40 PM

The more I get to know my RAS, the more stuff I begin to stack on my (Ridgid) Miter Saw.

I’m not sure that’s right, good, or smart, because …. my CMS DOES do a NICE job with the crosscut … and … a slider would be a wonderful luxury. In my case, it might be the novelty OF the RAS.

But … man … that RAS is just a joy to use, for crosscutting !

-- -- Neil

View DavisFilton's profile


2 posts in 2619 days

#15 posted 03-13-2011 07:12 PM

You’re right, a sliding miter saw would be the closest to a radial arm saw for wide materials. Then there’s that axial glide model from bosch.
I think in the price range of $100 you might be able to find something modern that’s refurbished or reconditioned by the manufacturer. Might be better than an old one because I”m guessing they recalibrate the saw before reselling.

There’s a hitachi model that I think would do 2×4’s, but long lengths with a miter saw would be awkward. I’ve seen people build miter saw cabinets that extend the table which I think would help you..the link for the hitachi is here and the link for this great ultimate miter saw cabinet is here.

I hope that helps


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