Radial arm saw usability

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Forum topic by Slabguy posted 07-25-2013 02:10 AM 1561 views 0 times favorited 26 replies Add to Favorites Watch
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31 posts in 1737 days

07-25-2013 02:10 AM

As a fairly new woodworker I’m trying to build up my woodshop with the proper tools, etc… I found an old dewalt radial arm saw for sale on craigslist in my hometown for what I think is a good price. I’ve never used a radial arm saw before but have researched them. Is a radial arm saw a handy tool in the woodshop or is it something that’s not really needed? Thanks.

26 replies so far

View toolie's profile


2120 posts in 2598 days

#1 posted 07-25-2013 02:58 AM

i have one and wouldn’t be without it. i only invested $60 in it, total. it si not an absolute necessity in a shop as a miter saw will do just as effective crosscuts, only not quite as wide as a RAS. they were once touted as a “shop in a box”, and while it can do a lot of things, there are other shop tools that perform those same operations, like ripping, safer and more accurately.

if it’s < $100, it might be ok if you have the room for it. i wouldn’t invest more than that in a saw that ONLY does 90° crosscuts in my shop.

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

View Slabguy's profile


31 posts in 1737 days

#2 posted 07-25-2013 03:16 AM

They’re asking 65 and said it works fine. I figured I would offer $50.

View BBF's profile


143 posts in 1808 days

#3 posted 07-25-2013 03:25 AM

I would say buy it for that price you could always clean it up and sell it for more if you decide you don’t need it. I have one that I restored that was being thrown away by a neighbor. I use it for rough cutting my stock and for all kinds of projects around the farm.

-- I've never been disappointed buying quality but I have been disappointed buying good enough.

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10280 posts in 3617 days

#4 posted 07-25-2013 03:46 AM

They are most useful if you have the space.

View shampeon's profile


1775 posts in 2152 days

#5 posted 07-25-2013 03:58 AM

Depending on the model, the old DeWalt’s are the best kind of radial saw to have. Cool looking things, too. Get a negative hook rake blade for it and you’re golden.

-- ian | "You can't stop what's coming. It ain't all waiting on you. That's vanity."

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5811 posts in 2261 days

#6 posted 07-25-2013 04:12 AM

I’d buy it if it is a 10”, but pass if it’s a 9” or smaller. Personally, I’m a RAS fan, but I’m probably in the minority. To be honest, I use my TS whole lot more. I grew up with a RAS and just have a weakness for them despite their many faults.

P.S. Use it only for crosscutting as ripping is just too scary.

-- John C. -- "Firearms are second only to the Constitution in importance; they are the peoples' liberty's teeth." George Washington

View Slabguy's profile


31 posts in 1737 days

#7 posted 07-25-2013 01:17 PM

Thanks guys. I’m checking it out at lunch today so we’ll see.

View Lee Barker's profile

Lee Barker

2170 posts in 2819 days

#8 posted 07-25-2013 01:35 PM

Something to look for, Slabguy, is a cast arm and bearings that run within. You can see up there and see if the bearings are turning (good) or just sliding (not so much).

I’d check to see that things feel fairly tight. Then I’d look at the adjustments that are required to make it square and true. If the screw slots are stripped or there are any other signs that it has been treated carelessly, I’d walk away. (To access these things you might need a flat or phillips screwdriver to remove an access plate.)

I got rid of mine (an excellent DeWalt with three blades, finally sold for $35 locally) when we added a Jessem sliding table to the Powermatic 66. It is a preferable arrangement IMHO.

If you do get it, plan on getting a blade stabilizer. It’s a spiffy upgrade.

Accessory sliding tables and sliding compound miter saws are, it just occurred to me, making the RAS obsolete.



-- " 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 muleskinner's profile


896 posts in 2406 days

#9 posted 07-25-2013 02:38 PM

For many years a RAS was my primary saw. Used it for crosscutting, miters, dadoes and, yes, ripping. When I got a decent table saw a few years ago the RAS was relegated to crosscutting and miters only. Then about a year ago a friend gave me a nice sliding compound miter saw. The RAS is now pushed off in the corner waiting for the son-in-law to come take it away.

If I had a large shop I’d probably keep it but with a table saw and a SCMS, I find the radial arm saw mostly redundant.

-- Visualize whirled peas

View Fred Hargis's profile

Fred Hargis

4956 posts in 2462 days

#10 posted 07-25-2013 03:24 PM

A GOOD RAS is indeed worth it’s weight in gold (IMHO), but a bad one will make you cuss the day the first the acronym RAS. The older Dewalts are among the best, but others would be the Delta Rockwell turret arm, and a handful of lesser known names. Someone above mentioned it, but if that Dewalt has a solid cast iron arm (as opposed to the later models that had an arm made like a ladder box, with a cover on top) it can’t probably be turned into a real performer. These saws, once tuned, aren’t limited to 90º cuts, mine replaced the miter saw I used to have. That said, I do not consider them a replacement for the TS; but a complimentary tool. I’ll never be without one again.

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

View Don W's profile

Don W

18686 posts in 2537 days

#11 posted 07-25-2013 03:32 PM

Its definitely one of the most used power tools in my shop. I’d say third to the table saw and bandsaw.

-- - Collecting is an investment in the past, and the future.

View TorxNut's profile


58 posts in 1866 days

#12 posted 07-25-2013 03:36 PM

I like my RAS. I’d get it if I were you, follow Shampeon’s advice and get a nice, negative hook angle blade for it (Freud makes a winner) and use the saw for crosscutting and angle cuts. Ripping is a job for the TS and to risky on the RAS, IMHO. Depending on how old a DeWalt it is, a 9” may be a fine choice.

RAS’s are great for crosscutting rough lumber before milling. They also are good for crosscuttong long stock that is awkward to do on a TS. Lot’s of guys like cutting dado’s on them as you can see the cut (you can’t use a dado head on a slider, as far as I know. Below is a picture of a couple of 10’ ladder uprights I made recently. I cut 18 dado’s at about a 15 degree angle. The only other tool I can think of that would do this would be a router with a jig.

There is a book on RAS’s by Wally Kunkel (Mr. Sawdust) called “How to Master the Radial Arm Saw”. He was the authority on the DeWalt RAS.


View exelectrician's profile


2327 posts in 2396 days

#13 posted 07-25-2013 05:29 PM

Why waste money on an old obsolete design when sliding chop saws are available!

RAS are climbing into the cut – Just plain dangerous.

Think before you spend.

-- Love thy neighbour as thyself

View TheDane's profile


5405 posts in 3632 days

#14 posted 07-25-2013 05:41 PM

There is a reason so many radial arm saws can be purchased so cheap.

If you have never used one, I’d forget about getting one. For a beginning woodworker, there are a lot of other tools that you’ll need first.

I have used a RAS, recognize there are things it can do very well, but still wouldn’t have one in my shop … I never felt safe using it.

-- Gerry -- "I don't plan to ever really grow up ... I'm just going to learn how to act in public!"

View TorxNut's profile


58 posts in 1866 days

#15 posted 07-25-2013 05:42 PM

I taught shop for 36 years and we had RAS’s at both the HS and middle school levels. I only remember one serious accident with a RAS and that was when a 9th grader cut part way through his index finger. The big rule is never place a body part in line with (or near) the blade and never rip with one unless your really, really know what you’re doing. I think table saws are much more dangerous than a RAS.

Sliders are fine for construction work but every time I extend one out all the way and push sideways on the saw, I get side play. Once you get a good RAS locked down, it’s accurate.

Plus. as I said above, sliders won’t take a dado head.


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