RAS, A necessary beast or outdated Dinosaur??

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Forum topic by bluekingfisher posted 04-18-2011 04:17 PM 6054 views 0 times favorited 40 replies Add to Favorites Watch
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1250 posts in 3005 days

04-18-2011 04:17 PM

I have recently purchased a Elu 1251 radial arm saw. I was purchasing another WW tool from the seller when I spied the RAS in the back. I just made mention of it and asked how much he wanted. To cut a long story short I got it for what was left in my wallet which was £60. A real diamond in the rough, I think the guy was just in need of instant cash and had I had £10 in the wallet he would have taken it.

At this price I thought I would be getting a dog, when I got it back home and dusted it down it looks like new. It looks like it has just been in storage for for years., hardly a mark on it It even came with the stand and no missing parts.

This is my dilemma, my shop is small 24×14 and space at a premium, I wasn’t planning on having a RAS but when I saw it I bought it without thinking about the bigger picture. I really like the look of it comparing it to all the lightweight kit on the market now I was truly pleased with my purchase. I am now however wondering if I will ever get the use from it particularly as I have a sliding mitre saw.

I have one machine too many in the shop now to have things out of the way without having to move machines around to use them.

The RAS is now the machine most likely to get the heave ho to make the necessary space, it’s a quality piece of kit but do I really need it?

Do they have a place in the modern hobby shop or should I sell it for some one else to benefit from?

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

40 replies so far

View patron's profile


13606 posts in 3366 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

4948 posts in 3985 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 2910 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 3052 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


439 posts in 3219 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 2718 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 2875 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 3799 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 3008 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 3779 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 3311 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 4013 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 3199 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 2630 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 2693 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

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