How safe is a radial arm saw and is it a good addition to the shop?

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Forum topic by Alan72 posted 08-24-2014 04:20 AM 2155 views 0 times favorited 44 replies Add to Favorites Watch
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218 posts in 2274 days

08-24-2014 04:20 AM

Topic tags/keywords: question

I’am going to look a used Delta shop master Radial arm saw in the morning. I ask my brother if he wanted to go for a ride and take a look at it. He told me that I don’t need one and that they are dangerous! I never used one, and I would only use it for cross cutting and dados. I’m hoping if someone could tell me who uses them if it’s worth getting. I know every tool in the shop is dangerous but is the radial arm saw more of a risk, Thanks. Alan

44 replies so far

View Loren's profile


10477 posts in 3889 days

#1 posted 08-24-2014 04:58 AM

If you use them safely they are not especially dangerous.
Ripping is awkward and most users use another means
these days.

View mudflap4869's profile


1887 posts in 1700 days

#2 posted 08-24-2014 05:55 AM

I picked up a used RAS about a year ago. I wish I had bought a sliding miter saw instead. It just takes up valuable space and is rarely used. I can do a better job with the other tools in the shop. I learned the hard way.

-- Still trying to master kindling making

View AnonymousRequest's profile


861 posts in 1790 days

#3 posted 08-24-2014 06:01 AM

They are great for crosscutting and dados. Stay focused and don’t get in a hurry and you’ll be fine using one. I use mine for crosscutting wide, rough lumber usually. My miter saw is limited to the width it’ll cut.

View patron's profile


13641 posts in 3582 days

#4 posted 08-24-2014 06:17 AM

most of the ‘dangerous’ stories come from years ago
when contractors took them to job sites
just siting on uneven ground with the short tables that came with them
and 3 or 4 guys cutting different boards
and turning the arm or beveling with them
chewing up the back stop and table
with some care radial arm saws are excellent tools
for what they were made to do

in a shop setting with a longer table (to support the work)
and not changing the carriage back and forth for all cuts
they work just fine

strong arm the tool when you cut
in the event the blade does grab
and wants to jump out across the board
it pushes you back with it

here is how i set mine up
and some jigs made for it

for dados

use it safely
like any other tool

-- david - only thru kindness can this world be whole . If we don't succeed we run the risk of failure. Dan Quayle

View johnstoneb's profile


3072 posts in 2414 days

#5 posted 08-24-2014 11:26 AM

An RAS is only as dangerous as the person using it. I had one for quite awhile. Got rid of it. I only used it for crosscuts, it took up a lot of room, was a junk collector, when I did want to use it It was easier to use the table saw because I didn’t have to find a place for all the stuff piled on the RAS table.

-- Bruce, Boise, ID

View Fred Hargis's profile

Fred Hargis

5243 posts in 2734 days

#6 posted 08-24-2014 12:46 PM

My shop will never be without one again. It’s only as dangerous as the user…and does a ton of stuff really well, I did kick out the miter saw.A lot of discouraging input on the RAS from those who had the misfortune to buy a Craftsman saw…..if you have a good one (older Dewalt, Delta Turret arm, etc.) they really earn their keep..

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

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5155 posts in 2592 days

#7 posted 08-24-2014 12:50 PM

Be sure to get a blade specifically made for RAS or they have a tendency to over run the cut, which can be dangerous.

-- Bondo Gaposis

View Alan72's profile


218 posts in 2274 days

#8 posted 08-24-2014 12:59 PM

Thank you all for all the info. I’m not sure after all if I have the space in the shop for RAS. I’m still on the fence, but it’s seem to be a really good deal but the space is a big issue.

View timbertailor's profile


1594 posts in 1665 days

#9 posted 08-24-2014 01:44 PM

A RAS is a very versatile solution and do a whole lot more than just cross cuts. And they are so inexpensive, they make a great addition to the shop. I hear a lot of complaints about how much space they take up. Most swing out of the way, like mine, and provide an additional work surface when not in use.

They sure do come in handy when working on long pieces of stock like baseboards, quarter round, and mouldings. They also are great for making quick, clean cuts when you do not want to fire up the table saw. And you would have to buy a pretty expensive Miter Saw to match the cross cut capabilities of the average RAS.

I would look for an older model. Mine has been running for 45 years and earns its keep.

-- Brad, Texas,

View Rick  Dennington's profile

Rick Dennington

6351 posts in 3435 days

#10 posted 08-24-2014 02:58 PM

I like my RAS…..Wouldn’t be without it, unless it dies of old age…..I bought it new in 1985, along with my table saw and chop saw…..All are Crapsmans, and are still going strong….That was when they built good Craftsman tools. Several years ago I built a chop saw and RAS station, did away with the old splayed legs, and added about 16-18 ft. of cutting length…..One of the best moves I ever made in the shop….You can view it in my workshop pictures, or on my Blog under Shop pictures #2…...If you want to…....

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

View a1Jim's profile


117421 posts in 3818 days

#11 posted 08-24-2014 03:08 PM

It’s like any tool those who have had a RAS for years have gotten use to using them,but like others have said they take up a lot of room,that’s why I got rid of mine. If you don’t have a big budget Then you might get one because they take so much room there’s a lot of them on the market so even top notch brands sell for $50-$100 in my area.
I discourage my students from using them to rip with. If you don’t take the proper steps with a RAS you have a strong possibility of kick back.

-- wood crafting & woodworking classes

View Nubsnstubs's profile


1435 posts in 1971 days

#12 posted 08-24-2014 03:23 PM

In the very early 70’s I worked for a custom shutter shop. They had about 4 RAS’s for cutting miters on the shutter frames, and next to that another 4 for regular straight cuts. Each saw had a lead weight of about 10 lbs attached to a string or rope and pulley that made the cutting operation extremely smooth without over running the cut. Also, it kept the saw back against the stop instead of creeping forward like most that don’t have anything to keep the blade behind the fence when not being used. I know, it should be level, but it always seems to go out. And, NO, I don’t own one and haven’t for the 35 years I had my business. Slideboards and miter saws were used instead. ...... Jerry (in Tucson)

-- Jerry (in Tucson)

View sawdust703's profile


270 posts in 1661 days

#13 posted 08-24-2014 03:53 PM

I have had mine for over 10 yrs, bought it used from a contractor that THOROUGHLY ABUSED the ol’ gal!! My shop couldn’t operate w/o it!! I had to do A LOT of work to it when I bought it, but I have it built into a bench made just for it. It is an older Craftsman, & works well!! Yep, like any other machine, they require occasional squaring, cleaning, lube in the bearings, motor blown out, etc. But if treated with respect, they will do anything ya ask of it!! I may ruffle some feathers here, but, I have a tendency to disagree w/the space issue as well. I had my shop in our basement for many years, in a 8’ x 12’ room. The saw swung out of the way to allow me to use my bench for other uses w/o bothering the saw. If I had it to do over again, the RAS would be the first saw I would purchase for a small shop. Simply because of affordability, and its adaptable to most ANY purpose. Yes, it goes w/o saying there are teeth in one end, so ya have to learn to use it! And as far as buying blades just for the RAS, I disagree with that too. But, everyone has their own opinions. I live in a small community, & have limited access to saw blades. I use mine for dadoes, cross cutting, miters, etc. I also own a table saw, miter saw, & many other saws. The miter saw collects dust!!! But the RAS is the most used saw in my shop. Just my two cents.

-- Sawdust703

View GT350's profile


370 posts in 2223 days

#14 posted 08-24-2014 03:53 PM

I have used radial arms saws back in the ‘70s but I don’t have one now. I find them less safe than a miter and table saw and I have never found a project where I thought I could do this job better, faster or more accurately with a Radial Arm Saw so I have no desire to get one.

View derosa's profile


1590 posts in 3077 days

#15 posted 08-24-2014 04:09 PM

Love mine for the reason others have mentioned, had to crosscut a wide, long heavy board, not safe for the table saw and impossible for the miter saw, easy on the radial. Also really convenient for having to cut a lot of the same dados. Wouldn’t get rid of mine.

-- A posse ad esse

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