What's with the renewed interest in RAS?

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Forum topic by distrbd posted 03-27-2013 01:43 AM 2562 views 0 times favorited 53 replies Add to Favorites Watch
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2252 posts in 2469 days

03-27-2013 01:43 AM

Since I am in need of a sliding miter saw I thought maybe I should give radial arm saw a try,there are so many of them available here with prices from under $100 for Dewalt(old B&D) to $400 for Delta super 900.

I brought up the subject of replacing a SCMS with the old technology of Radial arm saw and to my surprise a lot of woodworkers still use RA saws or prefer them if there’s enough space in their shops.
What’s all the fuss about radial arm saws? I’m not talking about the useless Sears Craftsman ,but I could easily spend about $200 or so and get a nice fully functional RAS.
So I wonder how many of you LJ members still use and /or love their radial arm saws?

-- Ken from Ontario, Canada

53 replies so far

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399 posts in 2004 days

#1 posted 03-27-2013 02:35 AM

Last year I bought a old Penncraft ( JCPenny’s ) made by Rockwell 9” RAS with the steel cabinet for a very reasonable price. I like it because it doesn’t take up as much room as a 10” RAS does.

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4827 posts in 2432 days

#2 posted 03-27-2013 02:38 AM

I have often wondered what happened to the RAS. I remember cutting with my Fathers which he still has and works.

-- Live to tell the stories, they sound better that way.

View mbs's profile


1656 posts in 2963 days

#3 posted 03-27-2013 02:48 AM

I have the 25+ year old delta 12” RAS. I rarely use it because the finished edge of the wood isn’t as nice as one produced by a miter saw or a cross cut sled. I attribute the poor edge finish to the design of the saw. The saw hangs on a rail and there is vibration from the rail into the saw and down to the blade. You don’t get the same vibration on a miter saw with linear bearings.

It works great for roughing out wood but you have to expect some tear out.

-- Sorry the reply is so long. I didn't have time to write a short reply.

View Loren's profile


10476 posts in 3671 days

#4 posted 03-27-2013 03:11 AM

Sliders are great for trim carpentry. They are quick to change
setups on and easy to move around. The also tend to hold
tolerances at the detents.

Radial arm saws can be had with more power and bigger
blade capacities than sliders. They are better at dust
collection. They are notorious for not holding tolerances
so some users leave them set up at 90 degrees
permanently. They can dado and make unusual joinery
cuts like tenon shoulders in long, heavy boards. For
fussing with fitting mouldings they are not as quick
as a compound miter saw.

View toolie's profile


2134 posts in 2651 days

#5 posted 03-27-2013 03:16 AM

I’m not talking about the useless Sears Craftsman

careful there. the older (‘60s and early 70s) c-man RASs with CI column supports were quite serviceable tools. the newer units don’t seem to warrant a lot of respect, and i had gotten a 9” for the recall payment that was a really poorly engineered and fabricated tool. but i got mine for $0 and ~ $50 in repair parts. fabricated the cabinet and it’s my go to CC saw. IMHO, they don’t like to be moved around a lot, but i really like it in my shop.

-- there's a solution to every just have to be willing to find it.

View Nicky's profile


695 posts in 4115 days

#6 posted 03-27-2013 04:27 AM

Got rid of my Craftsman many years ago and missed having a RAS. Found this on Craigslist for cheap and absolutely love it. Mid 60s, cast iron and it is accurate. These saws have fallen out of favor, many folks just feel that they are unsafe.

I have a dado blade installed most of the time and use it for tenons.

-- Nicky

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5032 posts in 3916 days

#7 posted 03-27-2013 04:33 AM

renewed interest

only for the few who refuse to accept the inevitable, much like the rotary phone

-- "Good artists borrow, great artists steal”…..Picasso

View a1Jim's profile


117115 posts in 3600 days

#8 posted 03-27-2013 04:41 AM

I really don’t feel there’s a renewed interest but RAS’s have there fans and do a few things SCMS can’t and their cheep to buy on the used market because they take up so much room.

-- wood crafting & woodworking classes

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5032 posts in 3916 days

#9 posted 03-27-2013 05:35 AM

for the record

I still have the telephone that my great grand folks had to wind up like a self inflating battery, then flick at the hanger, that the ear piece hung on the side of the cabinet, and he shouted into the abysses of oncoming technology,shouting at the neighbour through the big tulip shaped microphone that was separated by a big wooden box-jointed case that never failed to make a connection, to the neighbour who was on their jointly owned party line that tested great granddaddies patience so I am not a fool to those who think that I would prefer work over pleasure

my great grandfather persisted that common sense and common courtesy cannot be taught

a radial arm saw wins every time over manual labour and a hand saw ?…..neanderthals might argue this ?

gotta love the spark found only through electricity and a phone as it always beats a smoke signal pending another choice

my point is this.

A “renewed” interest is way better then those who have no interest in anything as tools remain mere extensions of ones IQ so I remain convinced that if I had a choice…….

-- "Good artists borrow, great artists steal”…..Picasso

View unbob's profile


810 posts in 1926 days

#10 posted 03-27-2013 05:39 AM

I have a 9” DeWalt “1955 vintage”.
I use it alot, its very accurate, all tilts, swings are accurate, and returns to cross cutting dead on.
It has many adjustments for squaring it up, and that is the problem. It does take some time and effort to dial one in.
The most important part is, the table must be flat, and true to the overarm. The motor is then adjusted true to the table with a three point gimble. The little DeWalt is a precision machine. When one is carefully set up, the finish cuts look better to me then the much lighter built miter type saws. If a quality RS is producing a bad finish, the blade is heeling from adjustment problems. That said, I do feel they must be handled with due caution, the table should be kept clear of junk.

View mchuray's profile


81 posts in 3021 days

#11 posted 03-27-2013 06:32 AM

I’ve had my Sears RA saw since the 70’s and I wouldn’t trade it for any type of miter saw. The big problem with then is the trough that is in the table. if you make a renewable insert of hardwood the poor cutting performance is greatly reduced. 2d is making the table level, and finally I check the square of the blade and carriage regularly. Really easy to do and adjust.

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Fred Hargis

4998 posts in 2516 days

#12 posted 03-27-2013 11:34 AM

My opinion: the crazy marketing of the RAS as a “one tool shop” in the 60’s/70’s doomed the RAS. They were sold with all manner of gadgets that mostly didn’t work, and the design was cheapened for mass marketing. All this was led mostly be Sears with the Craftsman name being popular. My first stationary tool was a C’man RAS, and I truly love them…but not the Sears models. I let my first one go to the recall, and missed it terribly. So about 8 years ago, I bought another…this time a Dewalt. It replaced the Miter saw in my shop (that was relegated to the shed for home improvement projects) and has been a mainstay. Another problem back in the day was we didn’t know about the correct blade for RAS use, most of us grabbed one of our TS blades and slapped it on….making it a little tough to handle at times. While I don’t see them as a replacement for the TS they are still an important addition to the shop (IMHO). I won’t be without one again.

-- Our village hasn't lost it's idiot, he was elected to congress.

View mountainaxe's profile


142 posts in 2528 days

#13 posted 03-27-2013 11:43 AM

The RAS is the shop focal point of my shop; I have two 70’s era Craftsman models. Keep them in tune and they provide great results…they take up minimal space and are fun to use, especially since you don’t need to position them in the middle of your shop or manufacture all those fussy TS jigs (which likely introduce error to your cuts). Most RAS problems/accidents result from sloppy maintenance and a simple failure to understand how they work. I doubt that anyone would demand a table saw (or any other large piece of machinery) to provide precision results without regular tuning/adjustment…how could anyone seriously think a RAS would work perfectly without an equal amount of knowledge/TLC? For those who don’t like or are nervous around RAS, fine…continue your tirades…keeps Craigslist RAS availability high and price low for those who do.

-- Jeff, "The things I make may be for others, but how I make them is for me."

View Tennessee's profile


2873 posts in 2537 days

#14 posted 03-27-2013 12:13 PM

I must admit, my first stationary saw was a RAS. But as time went by, I used it less and less until it was mostly a bench with a big arm sticking out of it. When I got to the point where all I was doing was rough cuts off planks, I knew it was time for it to go. Bought it for $175 direct from the Black and Decker Factory, (knew an employee) in 1975, sold it for around $100 last year and have NEVER missed it once.

-- Tsunami Guitars and Custom Woodworking, Cleveland, TN

View History's profile


399 posts in 2004 days

#15 posted 03-27-2013 01:42 PM

Nicky pretty much has the same identical saw as the one that I have. The reason that I bought the saw is the deal was too good to pass up, and I think that it will come in handy some days. It is there to do a quick multiple pass dado, or to crosscut a wide board that the miter saw can’t. It will never replace the table saw and miter saw that I own.

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