Radial arm saw usability

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Forum topic by Slabguy posted 391 days ago 886 views 0 times favorited 26 replies Add to Favorites Watch
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24 posts in 392 days

391 days ago

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


1737 posts in 1252 days

#1 posted 391 days ago

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


24 posts in 392 days

#2 posted 391 days ago

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

View BBF's profile


141 posts in 463 days

#3 posted 391 days ago

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.

View Loren's profile


7386 posts in 2272 days

#4 posted 391 days ago

They are most useful if you have the space.


View shampeon's profile


1346 posts in 807 days

#5 posted 391 days ago

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."

View HillbillyShooter's profile


4475 posts in 916 days

#6 posted 391 days ago

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


24 posts in 392 days

#7 posted 391 days ago

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

View Lee Barker's profile

Lee Barker

2163 posts in 1474 days

#8 posted 391 days ago

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


667 posts in 1061 days

#9 posted 391 days ago

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

1711 posts in 1117 days

#10 posted 391 days ago

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, we sent 'em to Washington.

View Don W's profile

Don W

14821 posts in 1192 days

#11 posted 391 days ago

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

-- Master hand plane hoarder. -

View TorxNut's profile


58 posts in 521 days

#12 posted 391 days ago

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


1519 posts in 1051 days

#13 posted 390 days ago

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 (online now)


3716 posts in 2287 days

#14 posted 390 days ago

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 521 days

#15 posted 390 days ago

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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