Why do I need a radial arm saw?

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Forum topic by Aubrey posted 08-08-2007 04:48 PM 3493 views 0 times favorited 15 replies Add to Favorites Watch
View Aubrey's profile


43 posts in 4210 days

08-08-2007 04:48 PM

Topic tags/keywords: radial arm saw

I am about to embark on the construction of my new greenhouse/potting shed. It will be 95% recycled materials including siding boards which are up to 16” wide.

I will begin posting pics shortly of this project. It will be my first attempt at a blog here.

Right now I am in the materials gathering phase. My wife calls it my “Sanford and Son” phase and she and the children actually hum the theme music to that TV series when I roll in with another truck load of soon to be recycled treasures.

Oh well. I just ignore her and remind her how much money I am not spending at the lumber yard.

Sorry for that long intro. Now to the original query:

I’m currently trying to figure out and justify to the boss (my wife) why I want a radial arm saw.

I want it because, well, because it is another cool tool for my shop :) but I really need more of a reason than that.

What is the intrinsic value of this tool?

I understand that it will cut wider boards than my miter saw, but I can do that with my circular saw.

So, tell me ladies and gentlemen, what are the reasons that I can use to justify this purchase?

-- Jesus was a Jewish carpenter.

15 replies so far

View RobS's profile


1334 posts in 4545 days

#1 posted 08-08-2007 05:11 PM

I have a radial arm saw that I earned/inherited from my wife’s grandfather and I certainly use it all the time, but I have to tell you, if it goes out, I’m fairly certain I would replace it with a nice sliding compound miter(chop) saw. I currently don’t have a power miter saw, so my radial arm saw serves as that at times. I do like the fact that I can raise the blade to cut dados; I can also quickly clamp a stop block to the fence for making multiple cuts of the same length, without having to re-measure. I have to imagine that it is safer then a circular saw and makes more accurate, cleaner cuts. I also cut a lot of free form wood with it, wood straight from the back yard and sometimes I’ll even cut along the length of a small log, to make one side flat, it works well for that if you are careful.

Are you looking to buy new or used?

-- Rob (A) Waxahachie,TX

View Aubrey's profile


43 posts in 4210 days

#2 posted 08-08-2007 05:24 PM

Thanks for your thoughts Rob.

I am looking to buy used. I have located several different ones on Craigslist which are within a reasonable price range as well as reasonable distance from me.

I do like the idea of being able to use it for cutting small logs. That’s one selling point.

Safer than a circular saw. There’s another. :)

-- Jesus was a Jewish carpenter.

View WayneC's profile


13800 posts in 4336 days

#3 posted 08-08-2007 05:34 PM

I’ve been debating this for a while as well. I have a nice sliding miter saw and I belive the only think I could not do is make repeated cross cuts with dado set on long stock. Stock that because of length woud be difficult to move across a table saw. Seems like there would potentally be a lot of these types of cuts if your going to use half-lap joints in your green house.

Also, it can do some cuts that you would normally do on the table saw, so you could have both the RAS and table saw set up for different operations simliar to if you had two tablesaws.

-- We must guard our enthusiasm as we would our life - James Krenov

View Dick, & Barb Cain's profile

Dick, & Barb Cain

8693 posts in 4538 days

#4 posted 08-08-2007 06:44 PM

I had this old Wards Powercraft since 1965, & I burned out the motor on it two years ago. I built a lot of things with that old saw, even my kitchen cabinets.

I sure miss that old buddy of mine!!

-- -** You are never to old to set another goal or to dream a new dream ****************** Dick, & Barb Cain, Hibbing, MN.

View MsDebbieP's profile


18618 posts in 4399 days

#5 posted 08-08-2007 07:36 PM

safety – just print out all of the table saw injuries (pages) and then the injuries from your desired, no – needed, tool (none) and voila. It’s in the bag.

I do believe Robin Lee’s favourite tool is a sliding compound mitre saw. If it’s good enough for the president of Lee Valley, it is good enough for me.

-- ~ Debbie, Canada (, Young Living Wellness )

View WayneC's profile


13800 posts in 4336 days

#6 posted 08-08-2007 07:40 PM

I would bet Robin owns a RAS….

-- We must guard our enthusiasm as we would our life - James Krenov

View Kaleo's profile


201 posts in 4378 days

#7 posted 08-09-2007 11:57 AM

I believe that the radial arm saw is an extremly dangerous machine. It is the only machine that you pull towards you as it cuts. Meaning that aas it engages with the timber it has the ability to take off and come towards you. Seeing how the blade is running towards you. Unlike a sliding miter saw, they act the same way, but the correct way to use them is to pull the blade towards you and then plunge it down and push it through the work.

Sorry to rain on your parade just don’t let the wife read my comment. ha ha ha

-- Kaleo ,

View Sawdust2's profile


1466 posts in 4326 days

#8 posted 08-09-2007 12:37 PM

I, too, had a radial arm saw that I had inherited from my dad. He had a real space problem so it was OK for him.
I now have a compound sliding chop saw that does most everything the RAS did and I feel far safer with it than I did with the RAS.
I have two friends that currently have RASs and we don’t do anything with them that I can’t do with my chop saw. It is a lot easier to cut miters with the chop saw then if ever was with the RAS.
My $.03

-- No piece is cut too short. It was meant for a smaller project.

View DustyDave's profile


70 posts in 4186 days

#9 posted 08-09-2007 01:05 PM

I have a Dewalt RAS from the early 70’s. It was my first major tool. I have since acquired a table saw and sliding compound mitre saw. I just finished a dedicated table for the SCMS. (Will post some pics)

I find that I rarely use the RAS any more. Just this past weekend I was toying with the idea of getting rid of it. But, I think I have some attachement to it. The battle continues.

To your question, today, I think I would go with the sliding compound miter saw instead of a RAS. Portability being a big plus. And, as I said, you can build a nice station for it while it is in your shop.

-- Dave _-^-_ Baltimore, MD

View Jchon Paradise's profile

Jchon Paradise

68 posts in 4190 days

#10 posted 08-09-2007 04:09 PM

I’m about to pick up a RAS from my dad within the next month or so… (it’s just been sitting around rotting away for years). The only reason I’m taking it is becauase (aside from being something I don’t have) it’s free. If I had to make the choice between purchasing a Radial or a sliding compound – I’d spend the money on the sliding compound miter saw.

-- Jchon - Denton, TX

View gizmodyne's profile


1780 posts in 4328 days

#11 posted 08-09-2007 04:11 PM

I will second Kaleo, the RAS is one of the most dangerous tools. If you are building a shed you just need a good circular saw, maybe a nail gun too. Time to upgrade to a worm drive circ saw?

If you really need good reasons. one is that they don’t require that much rear clearance,( though some of the compound sliders don’t now either).

-- -John "Do I have to keep typing a smiley? Just assume it's a joke."

View Don Niermann  's profile

Don Niermann

219 posts in 4211 days

#12 posted 08-10-2007 03:40 AM

I have a RAS. Yes it can be dangerous if you don’t use correct. So can any other tool be. I find it can cut wider piece than the miter saw, which I consider a plus. I would not trade it for a miter saw for anything. I may add a miter saw for cutting trim, but the RAS will stay. Itys been with me for 36 years.

-- WOOD/DON ( has the right to ones opinion but not the right to ones own facts...)

View dennis mitchell's profile

dennis mitchell

3994 posts in 4553 days

#13 posted 08-10-2007 03:46 AM

Hum…lots of tools on the list before a RAS. It takes up al lot of room too.

View Ryan's profile


4 posts in 4180 days

#14 posted 08-11-2007 02:44 AM

To offer a somewhat contrasting opinion to others mentioned here, I have an old DeWalt RAS made in 1957 that I wouldn’t trade for the finest sliding miter saw on the market today. It is quite a bit more versatile and every bit as accurate as a miter saw. Some points to consider: (for after your greenhouse project)

1. it will accept a dado blade (great for cutting dados across the width of long pieces, like the sides of bookshelves)
2. many have a greater cross-cut capacity than sliding miter saws

A properly tuned RAS with a negative hook or 0 degree hook blade is not dangerous for a competent operator. We all hear horror stories about RAS because many people do not understand how to properly tune a RAS to make it a safe machine that will not climb in the cut or bind in the cut.

One this is for sure though, they don’t make them like they used to. Used saws show up on craigslist and local classifieds all the time and can be had for $100 or less. An excellent bargain for some of these old saws.

View Eric Olson's profile

Eric Olson

17 posts in 4189 days

#15 posted 08-11-2007 06:40 PM

I’ve got a Delta turret arm 10” RAS made in ‘52. The thing is built like a tank. I agree with all of the comments about how dangerous an RAS can be. So is a tablesaw. The number one priority on any machine is safety. I ALWAYS triple check the placement of my fingers on the stock before I pull the carriage toward me. The only times I’ve ever had a problem is through my own stupidity and/or being in a rush (which is equivalent to stupidity). Suffice to say: I love my RAS. I wouldn’t part with it for one made in the last 20 years for any amount of money. The old DeWalts are the kings of radial arm saws. If I didn’t already have my Delta, I’d be on the hunt for a DeWalt 12”. I use my RAS primarily for crosscutting long stock down to sizes I can manage better on the TS or my miter saw. And, in my mind, there’s nothing better for for cross-cutting dados in wide, long, stock (like the sides of bookshelves). I would say that my RAS gets equal cut time with my table saw.

-- Eric Olson Springfield, MO Rock Creek Designs

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