Radial Arm Saw as alternative to table saw and track saw? - Woodworking Talk - Woodworkers Forum
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post #1 of 58 Old 09-20-2019, 11:22 AM Thread Starter
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Radial Arm Saw as alternative to table saw and track saw?

A good safe table saw or a good track saw seems to cost a fortune. (e.g. Sawstop & Festool).

What about a used Radial Arm Saw instead? I see they are sold fairly cheaply. I could make the benchtop for the radial arm saw to be parf mft so I could clamp the pieces I was cutting down to the table. The saw doesn't have kickback and the piece is clamped.. you can stand to the side and simply slide it over the wood. Seems so very safe.

What are the drawbacks to a radial arm saw? Are the cuts not as clean? Could I do box joints and dados well with the radial arm saw?
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post #2 of 58 Old 09-20-2019, 12:52 PM
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You have been around here for seven years and we are supposed to take this post seriously?
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post #3 of 58 Old 09-20-2019, 02:24 PM
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For many home shops, that's all they use(d).....

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Originally Posted by woodgeekess View Post
A good safe table saw or a good track saw seems to cost a fortune. (e.g. Sawstop & Festool).

What about a used Radial Arm Saw instead? I see they are sold fairly cheaply. I could make the benchtop for the radial arm saw to be parf mft so I could clamp the pieces I was cutting down to the table. The saw doesn't have kickback and the piece is clamped.. you can stand to the side and simply slide it over the wood. Seems so very safe.

What are the drawbacks to a radial arm saw? Are the cuts not as clean? Could I do box joints and dados well with the radial arm saw?

A RAS is great for crosscuts, dados, even making moldings with the proper cutters and guards. It was marketed as the "One tool does it all" woodworking machine back in the '60's and '70's. I own several of the older Craftsman 12" versions, almost the same as the 10" models, but the motors have more power. I keep mine set for crosscutting only, not ripping because my table saws are better for that.


No need to clamp the material being crosscut against the fence. The way the teeth enter the work causes it to tend to rise up at first, but it is easily controlled with downward left hand pressure.


There are some who abhor the radial arm saw for various reasons, but there are a few million out there in use.


You CAN safely rip on a RAS, but it's a matter of following very specific safety precautions. This video demonstrates all the different ways a RAS can be used:


A pretty good explanation of the safety aspects involved in ripping on the table saw. Of course this is just one person's take on it, but his points are definitely worth watching:
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post #4 of 58 Old 09-20-2019, 04:56 PM Thread Starter
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You have been around here for seven years and we are supposed to take this post seriously?
I signed up 7 years ago, maybe was on the forum for a month and I didn't talk about stationary power tools then.

Since I seem to annoy you every post I make, how about not replying at all to my posts. I don't need the negativity.
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post #5 of 58 Old 09-20-2019, 05:00 PM Thread Starter
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I see a Dewalt 203607 radial arm saw from 1960-62 which is only selling for like $150. Looks like it is in good shape.

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post #6 of 58 Old 09-20-2019, 05:14 PM
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The second tool I bought about 50 some years ago was a Delta/Rockwell 12 inch "turret" radial arm saw, they were pretty much over engineered and if set right were easy to switch from cross cut to rip cut, I built tons of furniture with it, and never had any problems, just remember to always feed the wood into the rotation of the blade when ripping, and keep the anti kickback pawls on the wood, and be super careful cutting short small pieces, I would always cut them long then trim the to length



But I always wanted a table saw and onetime I went to an auction, I was a little late getting there it was a cabinet shop selling out, and as I walked in the auctioneer was saying "I can't believe no one will bid $50 on this heavy duty table saw" So with out looking at it I bought it. It was a Wallace, super heavy, but the bad part is it was a gear drive saw and the gear box and gears were missing, I was saddened by that LOL


It was long before the internet so I was pretty much on my own, got a piece of 3/4 thick cold rolled steel plate from a customer I did HVAC work for, and had a friend at the Moose Lodge who was a machinist, he build a shaft for it and I got it running used it for a long time, until in 2002 a Dr told me I had terminal cancer. I told my wife I was going to buy a Unisaw, because I had always said I would have one before I died


Thankfully the $14,500 test that said I was terminal gave false positives 40% of the time (WTF), and after chemo and radiation I am still kicking fine, just not a high LOL
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post #7 of 58 Old 09-20-2019, 05:30 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by woodgeekess View Post
I signed up 7 years ago, maybe was on the forum for a month and I didn't talk about stationary power tools then.

Since I seem to annoy you every post I make, how about not replying at all to my posts. I don't need the negativity.
Sorry, we had a character on here a while ago that was leading us down the garden path, obviously you have legit queries so I humbly apologize.

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post #8 of 58 Old 09-20-2019, 06:01 PM Thread Starter
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No problem FrankC, sorry for the misunderstanding. I'm just a dumb newbie woodworker wannabe lol. Trying to somehow keep things affordable, yet doable and have some sort of quality to the projects I make.

Back seven years ago, I was going to do the hand tool route and I found it wasn't enjoyable for me because it took so much longer to get things done. However I will incorporate a few things I learned from handwork into what I will ultimately do. Like I intend on using card scrapers instead of sanders.. seems to make more sense to me, less dust and is quicker. I still might use my hand plane for now to joint one side of warped wood before running through table saw or thickness planer, at least until I get a jointer.

(Actually I recall why I gave up on the hand woodwork, the shooting board I made along with the Veritas low angle jack, was causing intense pain in my fingers and in my shoulder.. got frozen shoulder after that.. has to do with my diabetes.. glycation of ligaments or whatever causing the joints to glue together.. physical therapy took care of that after a while. I was going to cut things by hand or with a circular saw then shoot them with the veritas low angle jack for nice clean square cuts -- this was to avoid getting table saw because I feared them back then to be honest.)
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post #9 of 58 Old 09-20-2019, 06:48 PM
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Whoever told you RAS's dont have kickback was either lying to you or owns stock in prosthetic manufacturers...

Now, some of the RAS safety concerns are overblown, in some cases massively so, but that does not make them 'safe'. Its still a rapidly spinning blade and will maim you if you arent careful. Kickback is a very real concern as the normal operation of a RAS has you pulling the carriage in the same direction as the blade is spinning. What this means is its possible for the saw to self-feed and send the blade somewhere the operator wasnt prepared for it to go. The geometry of the cut also means that theres a risk of the sawblade lifting the workpiece off the table unless care is taken during cutting operations, again giving a chance of kickback.

Now, RAS's can be extremely useful tools that are no more dangerous than a table saw, but that requires careful planning and use, same as anything else. Personally, i quite like RAS's, and i wish they were more common, but i would strongly suggest doing some more reading on use and safety precautions before thinking about using one, because honestly, the idea of any saw not having kickback is misguided at best
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post #10 of 58 Old 09-20-2019, 07:32 PM
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A RAS will cross cut quite well but is a poor choice for ripping. Yes, I'm going to catch hell for that comment, but I stand by it. My first saw was a sears RA. My first use of it was to make a big picture frame. I set it up according to all the instructions. Started ripping a piece of walnut to width and immediately discovered That even with the factory hold downs it was a really shaky operation. The blade is rotating so it lifts the board off the table. Bad idea! Next I installed the Sears "molding disc/head." I had all the hold downs in place and slowly fed the work in. Just as the work entered the cut it chattered, broke the end of the board, threw it into my head and knocked me to the floor with a nice big stream of blood pouring out of my head. It broke the cast aluminum blade guard. I now have a very old, 40s, DeWalt 16". It is only used for making rough cross cuts.

I think you would be a lot better off with a table saw. If you can possibly swing it, a SawStop. There are no second chances with a sawblade!
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post #11 of 58 Old 09-20-2019, 08:32 PM
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I learned woodworking on a radial arm saw decades ago. That radial arm saw was used by me and others to build a lot of furniture, a kitchen, a room addition, and a large house, among other things.

Radial arm saws are cheap because they are old and few people want them. Only fringe manufacturers are making them now. I consider them more dangerous than table saws or track saws, but every saw has its dangers. If you are injured, it doesn't matter which tool did it, right? I agree with Larry about the challenges of rip cuts on a radial arm saw.

Sliding compound miter saws have supplanted radial arm saws these days. If you search for "radial arm saw" on Amazon, all you see is sliding compound miter saws.

If I were @woodgeekess, I would drop the radial arm saw research; it is a distraction that won't go anywhere useful. If radial arm saws suddenly take the market by storm once again, then consider buying one in the future. Maybe new inventions will make them better, easier, and safer for general woodworking. You never know.

Some people will argue that radial arm saws are great, wonderful, versatile, perfect woodworking tools. I bet that they are all over 60 years old. The people for sure, and many of their radial arm saws too. :-)
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post #12 of 58 Old 09-20-2019, 09:08 PM
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If you do decide to buy a RAS, that one you posted is a great deal. The old iron are by far the better machines.
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post #13 of 58 Old 09-20-2019, 09:09 PM
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There are two types of kickback ....

The tablesaw is notorious for kickbacks where the workpiece comes away from the fence after passing the rear of the blade, rises up on top of the blade and rotates then is forcefully propelled back towards the operator.


Another type is where a thin rip is not pushed all the way past the blade and rattles around and eventually is propelled back towards the operator. This is easy to cure, just push the work past the blade using a proper push shoe.


Also when ripping without a splitter, the kerf may close at the rear of the blade and jam, stalling the motor. It may or may not kickback in my experience.


On a RAS, the workpiece is pushed between the fence and the blade when ripping. The blade's teeth are pushing down on the workpiece at the rear so, no rotational type of kick back. Warped material is likely to kickback regardless the type of saw.



A real kickback can occur on a router table if you feed in the same direction as the rotation of the cutter OR locate the workpiece between the cutter and the fence.


It is of prime importance to understand the physics of rotation when a cutter of any type enters the material. This article is helpful in explaining how kickback occurs:
http://www.waterfront-woods.com/Arti...w/tablesaw.htm
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post #14 of 58 Old 09-20-2019, 09:47 PM Thread Starter
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Thanks I printed out that waterfront woods article on kickback. I'll re-read it again after I read the safety manual of the table saw I get.

I guess I'll forget his idea of RAS.. isn't as safe as I thought it might be. A saw someone do rip with it and it looked a bit scary. Cross cut seemed pretty safe.. safer than sliding compound miter saw because you pull the blade toward you in RAS and away from you in sliding one.. which can kick the piece upwards at the fence. (Watched some RAS safety videos today.)

I'm starting to think I'll just get Sawstop JobSite Pro saw for $1399 because of the extra 2" in feed compared to other table saws, the fact it stores out the way very well.. and because I will only use table saw for small cuts. I'll rip sheet material with a track saw.. looks like I am gonna have to get a Festool TS 55 because it really does seem to be the best; e.g. it has riving knife and tracks which don't come warped (like Makita).
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post #15 of 58 Old 09-21-2019, 05:49 AM
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My thouhts on the track saw

I owned a Festool TS75, the "big one" briefly. I had the 55" track and the 120" one. I realized it was an impulse purchase and I didn't need the system since previously I use a saw guide and my circular saw to break down 4 X 8 sheets. For that I needed 2 sawhorses and four 8 ft 2 X 4's to support the plywood having one on each side of the cut line.
I did purchase a 2" styrofoam sheet to put under the plywood, but never used it..... yet. You need the material at a convenient height to pass the saw along without kneeling on the ground and still reach to the center of the width while standing. I worked outside when doing this, weather permitting. My shop is up 15 steps, on the second floor, so carrying up a 3/4" sheet was no going to happen. That was the entire reason for the track saw or saw guide.

About a RAS. I wouldn't have a shop without one. Here's why.
The table saw is the best machine for ripping various width material from 1/8" thick to 30" wide. Period. It can cross cut lengths reasonably safely and accurately up to around 4 ft. Longer than that, it's unweildy because the miter gauge even with an extended fence has to push the entire weight of the plank through and past the blade.
Cross cutting heavy planks of hardwood on a RAS is a snap. You now only have to move the saw carriage, not a heavy plank. It is also fine for crosscutting workpieces down to 3" or 4" long but after that it gets too short to hand hold them safely. So, back to the table saw with an extended miter fence or a sled.

Making shelving or cabinets or a library ladder with a dado set in a RAS is a snap: https://www.woodworkingtalk.com/f27/...ing-ras-47095/
My RAS has an extended table to the left side for supporting longer planks:



A good discussion RAS VS sliding miter saw:
https://www.woodworkingtalk.com/f2/r...re-saw-159290/


I made this double miter gauge setup for more control cross cutting longer and heavier planks, BUT it also works great on short stock as well. It's a sled of a sort without the bulk:



Here's a build I did on a large sled with adjustable fences for miters:
https://www.woodworkingtalk.com/f27/...d-build-49218/
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post #16 of 58 Old 09-21-2019, 11:00 AM Thread Starter
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check out this beast for $185 -- available locally; looks like it originally cost at least $5000

https://tulsa.craigslist.org/tls/d/c...982766047.html
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post #17 of 58 Old 09-21-2019, 01:09 PM
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As swing saw in NOT a radial arm saw!

That saw is a high production unit for cutting planks to length. My buddy has one similar in his commercial hardwood door shop. He has lots of big stuff... 16" Porter jointer, 24" flat beltdrive paner, 3" wide resaw bandsaw, straight line self feed rip saw, 10 HP shapers, etc....


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post #18 of 58 Old 09-21-2019, 01:24 PM
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currently own two radial arm saws, would not be without one
DeWalt in garage I bought in 1984 brand new from local hardware, think they had it for a few years
first table for it was made out of 3/4 plywood, 6' top to the left, 2' top to the right, 8' bottom rest of the 4'x8' sheet was used for back and dividers, this set on 2 sawhorses and I was able to take it on jobs broken down as saw, table and saw horses
now permanently on a bench
Sears in basement main shop bought new in 1985 (worked four sundays in a row to buy it) this one is bolted down to bench with 8' of table to left, 3' to right. table is marked off at every foot left and right of blade (same blade used all the time) very handy for rough cutting to length
have ripped on the DeWalt and do not feel comfortable doing this, however sometimes when tablesaw is jigged up and I need to rip something it happens
I have a Safety Speed Cut (5' nominal) panel saw in the garage for sheet goods, rip or crosscut, only saw that has not thrown wood at me YET
have had wood thrown at me by table saw radial arm saw, miter saw and don't have enough time on a sliding miter saw (don't own one) to have wood thrown at me YET
I don't crosscut on a table saw or rip on a radial arm saw as my 1st choice

edit to add
In table saws started out with a saw from JC Penny with resin top, then Delta contractors saw, now a SawStop ICS with all options available at time of purchase. The resin top saw the blade would push sideways when in a bind. fence was crap, measured both ends everytime and DO NOT hit it once set. Learned alot from it
TRY different saws keep an open mind and find what you are comfortable with. While knowing your wants and needs will change as you age and gain experience.
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Last edited by evilboweivel; 09-21-2019 at 01:30 PM. Reason: add last paragraph
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post #19 of 58 Old 09-21-2019, 05:27 PM
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I don't have much to add, other than you need to know to buy SPECIFIC blades for a RAS.
They're not just "regular saw blades".
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post #20 of 58 Old 09-21-2019, 06:46 PM
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Quote:
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...Cross cut seemed pretty safe.. safer than sliding compound miter saw because you pull the blade toward you in RAS and away from you in sliding one.. which can kick the piece upwards at the fence. (Watched some RAS safety videos today.)
Not quite, as far as the blade physics go. In a sliding miter saw, youre pushing the saw against its direction of rotation. The blade cant really feed itself into the wood as youre forcing it to go in the other direction. The saw would have to ride up the workpiece and force your arm back

With a RAS, youre pulling the carriage in the direction of rotation, so instead of pushing against the saws movement, youre pulling with along with it. In that case, if something goes wrong you have to completely reverse the direction of your force, while the carriage is pushing against you. Picture trying to push someone out of the way and having them suddenly start moving the direction youre pushing

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