Are Radial arm saws a good choice

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Forum topic by Medickep posted 08-24-2013 08:31 PM 1464 views 0 times favorited 18 replies Add to Favorites Watch
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574 posts in 1978 days

08-24-2013 08:31 PM

Topic tags/keywords: tablesaw miter saw

I’ve recently been bit by the woodworking bug and have been knocking out projects for the last six months. Now that I’m getting into more, I find that my non sliding chop saw isn’t meeting all of my needs. I’ve been considering getting a radial arm saw or a table saw, as I really don’t care for using a SKIL saw (got okay skill with it). It seems like a lot of people consider the RAS to be an antique and replaced by the chop saw. My chop saw is good for about 8” and most RAS have a reach of 24-25”.

The only reason why I’m leaning towards a RAS as of now is that my father is ready to donate his 10’ RAS table he made around his old Craftsman RAS, but without the saw! I grew up watching him rip plywood on his large table with the blade turned 90 degrees. A feature some seem to not know about the radial arm saw.

I suppose I’m wondering if the RAS can be as accurate as the table saw. I do feel like a table saw would take up more space as far as degrees, where the RAS can be up against a wall. I tend to leave my tools in a “working” position in my three car tandem garage. I have my chop saw on a rolling cart extended out, up against the wall.

I’ve heard some refer to the RAS as not be good for accurate cuts, so I’m not sure if the 550.00 dollar Rigid table saw would be any more accurate! I feel like I need accuracy, but I’m not a professional, just a hobbyist making furniture for around the house!!

Thanks in advance for any help!!

-- Keith

18 replies so far

View firefighterontheside's profile


19625 posts in 2096 days

#1 posted 08-25-2013 01:15 AM

I used to used to use a RAS when I was a kid to make bird houses. It was OK, but now that I have a TS, I wouldn’t trade it for the RAS. Some on here use one for crosscuts and that’s it. I never did ripping with one, but I know it can be done. I have read that it can be dangerous. In my opinion the most dangerous thing about it is that the saw pulls itself thru the board, so if something goes wrong the saw is coming toward you as opposed to the board coming toward you on a TS. I would rather deal with a run away board than than a saw. I think if i had the room I would have both, but I dont . So I have a TS.

-- Bill M. "People change, walnut doesn't" by Gene.

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3367 posts in 3349 days

#2 posted 08-25-2013 01:59 AM

The radial arm saw is nowhere near as accurate as a table saw. In my experience, a good guide is better for ripping sheet goods, using a circular saw, if you don’t have a table saw to do it. YMMV.

-- Random Orbital Nailer

View TheDane's profile


5575 posts in 3903 days

#3 posted 08-25-2013 02:00 AM

I have used a RAS (in a tech school shop where I took classes) to break down long stock. Never liked using it, and have never seen the need for one in my shop.

I have a tablesaw and a 12” Hitachi slider. Haven’t run into anything yet I can’t do with one of those saws so I don’t see a need for a RAS.

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

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Rick Dennington

6351 posts in 3434 days

#4 posted 08-25-2013 03:43 AM

Check out what people say on here about table saws vs. radial arm saws…...There are dozen of threads about iit on LJs….........

-- " At my age, happy hour is a crap and a nap".....!!

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150 posts in 2241 days

#5 posted 08-25-2013 04:20 AM

You couldn’t give me one.

-- I cut it twice and it's still too short!

View TCCcabinetmaker's profile


932 posts in 2595 days

#6 posted 08-25-2013 07:31 AM

They are totally different tools. Table saws are much better for ripping longer lumber, and have quite a few uses other than the one.

Radial arms can be set to rip longer lumber, but I don’t consider it a safe thing to do. Yes they have a decent cross cut range, but you will find with a good 12” sliding compound miter, you can simply flip the stock over, line up your cut and you have the same length, or slight longer cut. Most of the radials I’ve used actually have had about a 38 or so inch cut. Radial arm saws are good for cutting dados on long stock, but then, a sliding mitre can do this as well.

As for squaring up a radial arm. Most I have used were older, and therefore contancorously difficult to square up. They seem to take very little get out out of square, not that mitre saws aren’t difficult to square up, but they seem to take a lot more before needing to resquare.

But really we are comparing apples and oranges here. The three tools are different tools, and all have their pros and cons. However, I’d but the table saw before getting a radial arm, and I don’t think that’s just me.

-- The mark of a good carpenter is not how few mistakes he makes, but rather how well he fixes them.

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893 posts in 2916 days

#7 posted 08-25-2013 11:25 AM

Yea, they’re great – if someone gives it to you
and you have a lot of room for it
and you already have a table saw and a slider.
and you make a lot of deep wide dado cuts in 4×4s
and you don’t have to use the flimsy craftsman legs
and you have this weird affection for them cause you made a 3 ft. bookcase with it once in high school shop.

dude, buy a table saw, it’s time.

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23 posts in 1983 days

#8 posted 08-25-2013 11:44 AM

+1 for all the comments above and also don’t forget that with the addition of really simple to make home made jigs, your table saw can make extremely accurate and repeatable cross cuts on sheet goods as well as regular stock. I’ve found over the years that I use my chop saw less and less and the table saw more and more. I’m not entirely sure why even, its just an intuitive preference. I can never seem to get decent dust collection on the chopsaw either, thus whenever its used there’s a veritable cloud in my shop!

One thing I haven’t treated myself to yet is one of the top of the range mitre fences like the Incra et al. I believe that would then render my chopsaw redundant because I could then guarantee accurate mitres. In the UK there’s no doubt that chopsaw’s rose to popularity with site based carpentry because of their portability and versatility. But site based carpentry is a considerably less exact science than cabinet making so for a fixed setup, my preference would be a decent quality cabinet saw over either a RAS or a chopsaw.

-- Cheers - Rob

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521 posts in 2490 days

#9 posted 08-25-2013 12:15 PM

I have an old Dewalt 18” RAS just sitting in my shop collecting dust. I agree and prefer a table saw, it is much more accurate, more productive, and has a lot more uses. Just my 2 cents!

-- list your handcrafted treasures @ for free!

View fredj's profile


186 posts in 2058 days

#10 posted 08-25-2013 12:33 PM

Table saws are much more accurate and much safer for ripping. Even cross cutting a RAS can cause nightmarish injuries. I’ve seen a RAS snag and break the arm, then run 20 feet across the floor. A co-worker had his arm cut half off when the blade and motor jumped over the stock he was cutting. I have a RAS but I only use it for rough cross cuts, however, I have a sliding table on my TS that makes very accurate cuts. If I had to pick one, I’d go for the TS, and the biggest one I could afford and fit in my work space. For me it’s a two car garage with a Delta Unisaw and an Excalibur slider on side. Takes up most of the shop, but it does much of the work.

-- Fredj

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23 posts in 1983 days

#11 posted 08-25-2013 02:22 PM

I would “yes and” the post about the quality and size of the TS too. The problem with buying small and inexpensive (thinking you’ll get away with it) is a false economy. You think you’re saving money but in a year you’ll be so disappointed with the performance that you’ll be back to the market for an upgrade….except now you’ve lost the depreciation of the cheap saw.

This happened to me. My first table saw cost circa £450 (about $700) and sure enough after I repeatedly had to correct faults it caused, in the end I bought one for £1100 (about $1700) and that’s about good enough. To be fair, I would still prefer one more upgrade for about another $500 and that would last me for life. So the moral of the story is… cheap….buy twice. If I had that time back I would wait till I’d saved the money for the better saw before I bought. I would also seriously consider 2nd hand because good quality cast iron that has been reasonably well maintained is indestructible.

-- Cheers - Rob

View unbob's profile


810 posts in 2143 days

#12 posted 08-25-2013 02:58 PM

I found the old Dewalt RAS great for miters and straight cuts.
They have a solid cam or wedged in overarm locking device, rather then a small spring loaded pin on most saws. If used correctly will repeat straight and miter settings exactly.
The problem I think most have, is overall alignment of the machine. Multiple adjustments that must start with a flat table trued or leveled to the swing of the overarm. If that is not done, the other adjustments are pointless. The blade will heel, the miters will be off ect.
The blade will want to climb the work, if it has a positive tooth rake, negative rake blades wont do that. Many do use positive rake blades, but you have to stiff arm it “your arm” to control the climb problem with those positive rake blades.
They are not for everyone for sure, pretty handy and valuable to me.

View Howie's profile


2656 posts in 3163 days

#13 posted 08-25-2013 03:17 PM

While there are a lot of people that would disagree with me I think the only reason RAS’s are not used more for boat anchors is because they are an envoirmental hazard.
Go for the Rigid TS.
Just my $.02

-- Life is good.

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51276 posts in 3376 days

#14 posted 08-25-2013 03:48 PM

Is the Radial Arm Saw on its Last Legs?

-- Rick

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893 posts in 2916 days

#15 posted 08-25-2013 03:50 PM

Hey, don’t get me wrong…. I love my Craftsman RAS.

It’s that dusty thing folded out of the way, behind my slider.

BTW – the Makita slider was recently replaced with a new Dewalt 10” slider with a laser and I couldn’t be happier. My apprentice loves the old Makita.

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