Was - RE:Looking for a SAFE way to rip thin strips on a Radial Arm Saw

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Forum topic by parkerdude posted 05-11-2009 11:43 PM 5298 views 0 times favorited 14 replies Add to Favorites Watch
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182 posts in 2869 days

05-11-2009 11:43 PM

Topic tags/keywords: ras thin cuts secondary fence jig

Hi All,

I wanted to thank everyone for their input. I hadn’t had the time in the last few days to work on the “ripping thin strips on a RAS” problem but with your help I came up with this.

Stile & Rail rip

Using the E. Emerson Tool Co. “All in one” guide clamp for my fence, I set the RAS up for an “out rip”, that got my hands out of harms way and gave me a clear view of my work area.

I can’t honestly understand the notion that RAS are inaccurate and hard to set-up, I bought this saw new from Sears in 1986, and took my time setting it up. It has not been or needed to be re-adjusted in that time and has been moved to different shop locations 3 times.

As long as the wood is wide enough to handle safely and I make sure to hold the stock down completely through the cut, there is no excitement or scary issues at all.

I have made a couple of set-up sticks to allow quick alignment with the saw’s fence. The cut-off just falls away from the blade just like a table saw.

Set-up blocks

Here’s an experiment to see how thin cuts could be made…

Really thin ...

That thin piece on the bottom is .070” thick…

Thanks again everyone.

-- dust control

14 replies so far

View Gary's profile


8965 posts in 2850 days

#1 posted 05-12-2009 12:16 AM

Congratulations for keeping all your fingers and figuring it out.

-- Gary, DeKalb Texas only 4 miles from the mill

View a1Jim's profile


115167 posts in 2995 days

#2 posted 05-12-2009 12:29 AM

I didn’t get on the original post obviously you can rip thin strips on a radial arm but should you. My opinion is absolutely not , I tell all my students not to use radial arm saws to rip at all because they are very much prone to kick back because of blade alignment is not always good on radial arm saws and they tend to flex when ripping.

-- Custom furniture

View hokieman's profile


173 posts in 3171 days

#3 posted 05-12-2009 01:46 AM

I lover my RAS and I think it is one of the most under-rated tools in a shop. But for ripping materials, I would NOT use a RAS. It is too dnagerous. Just the way the blade turns it tends to raise the stock up off the table and makes it susceptible to kickbacks. Use a table saw.

View kimball's profile


323 posts in 2715 days

#4 posted 05-24-2009 05:07 PM

Hey pokerdude,
Personally, I think ripping on a RAS is inherrantly dangerous. That being said, the farther (further?) you keep your hands from the blade, the better.
There is a mag. on the market now called “Essential Shop Made Jigs” from Fine WoodWorking (Taunton Press). On page 8 is a jig that may save a finger or two. Additionally you may want to modify it to straddle the fence and place your precious fingers even further (farther?) from the blade.
Good luck,

View NorthGaMan's profile


73 posts in 2779 days

#5 posted 05-25-2009 01:32 AM

i’ve had a Radial Arm Saw for over 30 yrs and what you did, I would not do. Radials are great for lots of cuts but thin strips is a no go in my shop. Glad you got it done and still have 10 to count with.

View DocK16's profile


1178 posts in 3504 days

#6 posted 05-25-2009 02:19 AM

You don’t love your fingers enough. You should kiss each one of them tonite before you go to bed. There are much safer methods to this end.

-- Common sense is so rare anymore when you do see it, it looks like pure genius.

View zecarles's profile


2 posts in 1219 days

#7 posted 06-20-2013 01:22 AM

I rip on a Dewalt RAS all the time including 1/16th strips out of 3/4 poplar boards for banding or shimming. proper methodoly includes going in rip, against the fence, with a push board and with the anti kick back pawls properly adjusted and secured. the RAS is properly adjusted.

a kickback will only occur when the board is pulled rather than pushed through with the pushing board or when the blade is not clean or dull.

yes I have my 10 fingers unlike my Dad who lost one on a table saw rabbeting with the blade buried. I parised the RAS for its versatility and the fact that you always see the blade.

View Smitty_Cabinetshop's profile


13569 posts in 2036 days

#8 posted 06-20-2013 04:35 AM

+1 for personally ripping safely on the RAS. Much fearmongering out there…

-- Don't anthropomorphize your handplanes. They hate it when you do that. -- OldTools Archive --

View zecarles's profile


2 posts in 1219 days

#9 posted 06-20-2013 05:00 AM

notwithstanding the fact that with the blade guard nose lowered onto the workpiece during in-rip operation it is IMPOSSIBLE for the fingers to come in contact with the blade working from the front pushing the piece through with the push stick. even if you remotely had a kickback, the worst that can happen is you hit your belt buckle, versus a kick back on a table saw in a similar operation you can lose your face as the board usually goes flying upwards. please read:

for the exact % of kickback resulting in facial and neck lacerations

View MrRon's profile


3891 posts in 2661 days

#10 posted 06-20-2013 03:41 PM

My first saw back in the late 50’s was a Craftsman 12” radial saw. It was a pain to keep it in alignment, but once set and observing the proper safety, I ripped 4×8 sheets of 3/4” plywood without a problem. I used it for 2 years until a divorce separated me from the saw. Since then, I have had 2 other RAS’s; the latest being a B&D 10” saw. Great saw, but I use it only for crosscutting now; a cabinet saw does the ripping.

All machines like firearms are dangerous in the wrong hands. The RAS is no more dangerous than a table saw as long as safety is observed. I have had only 1 or 2 kickbacks in my 50+ years using machines and they were with a table saw and they were caused by operator error.

View Straightlines's profile


70 posts in 1311 days

#11 posted 07-04-2013 02:58 AM

Duh, part of why we work in the shop instead of going out and buying or paying someone else to make things for us is that the operation lies outside what we normally do in life, and that includes the peril of using very sharp metal that is often gas or electrically powered—there is inherent risk that our project will fail or we will get hurt or worse. Am I advocating profligate risk-taking? Of course not, but in truth, we must all acknowledge that that is part of the lure.

I own and use both the TS and the RAS, and as a producer of 1-offs, I vastly prefer the RAS. Yes, both tools have their own safety concerns that are comparable, so let’s just drop the finger-pointing at the RAS—I would be very happy if someone figured out something like a SawStop for the RAS (fer sure, the existence of the SawStop points out the dangers of the TS).

Ripping/dadoing/rabbeting on the RAS is a piece of cake. Yes, I rip w/ a 1” dado head too, and I am 100% intact, and I haven’t had any kickbacks. Oh yeah, it’s really fast and easy to setup and execute too. The other sad news for the naysayers is that my 14” RAS only takes up 4’x4’ of precious shop floor, and that’s up against the wall instead of in the center of my floor, and the RAS shares in/out-feed w/ its next-door neighbors. HELLO! It’s a great tool.

-- Cut twice, measure once ... DOH!

View bondogaposis's profile


3969 posts in 1769 days

#12 posted 07-04-2013 03:48 AM

I used to do a lot of ripping on my RAS, but once the table saw moved in I haven’t done a rip on the RAS in 30 years. All I can offer is, yes, absolutely you can rip on one, but if you do it often enough eventually something scary is going to happen.

-- Bondo Gaposis

View Straightlines's profile


70 posts in 1311 days

#13 posted 07-04-2013 03:54 PM

Bondo, sure, eventually we will all face that with each of our tools. Yes, I have drilled myself more than once whilst doing carpentry, I’ve stapled my finger tip whilst trying to undo a jam, knives … let’s not talk about those, knuckles and disk or belt sanders are close friends, no need to discuss hammers or screwdrivers, the TS has spit many pieces of wood at me with the guard on and off, the TS fence has given me blood blisters whilst adjusting or R&R’ing it, and lastly, my RAS is old enough that it has no blade brake and I managed to graze my finger against the spinning down blade. Yes, the RAS experience scared the pee-pee out of me, but I am now motivated to track down guards that will fit my saw, as well as a brake.

The truth is that as frightening as the expansive tool injury list is, each of us is far more likely to die in a car accident, yet we all continue to climb into those death traps. This brings up an interesting idea: A Sticky for tool injuries! Hey, this is as much a part of LJ time as sharpening is!

-- Cut twice, measure once ... DOH!

View parkerdude's profile


182 posts in 2869 days

#14 posted 07-05-2013 08:34 PM

I’d like to personally thank these “fearless” woodworkers for their understanding and support of “with great power comes great responsibilities” concept inherent with powered tools.


Heck, I’ve been cut many more times from the “not yet” broken edges of boards freshly jointed, (I use handplanes), than from tools, powered or otherwise, they are amazingly sharp.

To those more timid around sharp / power tools, I can only say that I don’t have some death wish or desire to hurt myself, but if you don’t intimately understand the problem, you can’t figure out the solution.

If I had the funds, I would probably buy a good, ($1000 – $1500), bandsaw.

I have more uses for re-sawing and ripping than crosscutting.

By attraction, I tend to build small, 1 off, projects, and hand fit the joints, trying to attain a high quality fit.

Eyeglass case

If you want to talk about scary, try shaving a 1/16 or so off an almost finished piece with a multi-horsepower router or tablesaw that’s smaller than your hand.

I only use power tools for safe cuts where I can extract good to high precision on large parts, and / or when a project exceeds the production level of hand tools or precision isn’t held to tight tolerances.

-- dust control

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