sliding compound miter saw question - Woodworking Talk - Woodworkers Forum
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post #1 of 7 Old 09-19-2016, 03:13 PM Thread Starter
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sliding compound miter saw question

Radial arm saws in decent shape are offered on craigs list around here frequently for less than $80.00. Been torn between a used radial arm saw and a sliding compound miter saw. I only do trim work infrequently, and the hobby work I do, is mostly small stuff meaning less than a couple feet. I can rip flat stock on my table saw. I cut small pieces and appreciate th really smooth cuts I can get from both. Some of my cutting is so small, the pieces fall down past the blade in my table saw (and get gouged as they do) I think I can avoid this with a radial arm or miter saw.

Is there anything a radial arm saw can do that a miter saw cannot and vice versa?

How much travel is there on a sliding miter saw. I don't see any amounts in the specs from the stores. Is it enough for the blade to clear the back fence?

Thanks in advance
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post #2 of 7 Old 09-19-2016, 04:13 PM
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There are many things a radial arm saw(RAS) can do that cannot be done with a sliding compound miter saw(SCMS). However, from my reading of what you intend to use it for there is no advantage. It takes up more space, and in my opinion is more dangerous to operate. (others will dispute that last)

How much travel depends upon the saw that you buy. Have you gone to your local stores and looked at the various offerings. That would be the first thing that I would suggest that you do. There is nothing in the printed word that can substitute for personal observation.

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post #3 of 7 Old 09-19-2016, 04:41 PM
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I have both... RAS and miter saw.... Miter saws are much safer due to better blade guards...
They are portable and take up much less room, even on a stand....
My Craftsman RAS will cut a 13 inch piece of stock .... Miter saw about 8 inches....
For cross cuts, I always use the RAS ....
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post #4 of 7 Old 09-19-2016, 04:51 PM
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Originally Posted by holtzdreher View Post
I cut small pieces and appreciate th really smooth cuts I can get from both. Some of my cutting is so small, the pieces fall down past the blade in my table saw (and get gouged as they do) I think I can avoid this with a radial arm or miter saw.
Have you tried making (buying?) a zero clearance insert for your table saw? That will prevent the small pieces from falling through.

I don't have an RAS, but I do have a very nice SCMS. I use it frequently and love it. I spent quite a bit to get the one I really wanted, and it was worth it.

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post #5 of 7 Old 09-19-2016, 04:53 PM
where's my table saw?
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They are not the same in several ways....

The sliding miter saw and the RAS have about the same crosscutting capacity, more or less about 15". A 12" RAS and a 12" sliding miter saw, would compare to a 10" RAS and a 10" RAS. within an inch or 2" in capacity. I have both, a 12" RAS and a 12" sliding miter saw, and a 10" RAS and 10 sliding miter saws. That said ....

I use my sliding miter saws more for "on site" work because they are easier to move around AND because the sliding miter saw can be easily changed to miter at any angle with no loss in accuracy. The RAS stays set at 90 degrees in the shop and is best for cross cutting anything from a 10 ft long board to a 3/4" X 6" X 12" piece. The cutoff pieces do not fall into the hole like on a table saw, BUT the best solution to that is a zero clearance throat plate. No table saw should be without one! Having said that ......

The cost of an older Craftsman RAS is very reasonable compared to a sliding miter saw.

You can make dados on a RAS, but not on a sliding miter saw...easily. Some have a depth stop and you can make multiple cross cuts to accomplish a few dados if you need to do that.

The RAS blade can be tilted for bevels, it can be angled for miters, it can be rotated so the blade is horizontal, it can be used with a molding head or a dado head in any position. It is more versatile, but requires more attention to set up. Some RAS do not hold their positions well and may have worn carriage bearings or be out of adjustment. That issue is easily fixed, adjust it and replace the bearings. If the bearings are indeed "worn out" the saw was not well maintain OR used in situations where abnormal wear and tear abused it.

The Danger Factor of the RAS, always comes up in these discussions. If you have the replacement Safety Recall Guard installed, the blade is enclosed for the most part and is a safe as any type of saw. If you still have the original factor blade guard, they work fine when properly adjusted. Safety comes into play when working with very small pieces and the safest way for cutting those is on a table saw with a cross cut sled OR a miter gauge fitted with an extension. An exposed blade is always a danger no matter what type of saw you use, you just have to keep your fingers clear and stay focused on where they are and what you are doing.

Ripping is done best and most safely on the table saw with a push stick and a proper riving knife or splitter. Kickback is a less reported injury than amputations, but it can be avoided almost entirely with a splitter or riving knife. Ripping on a RAS, is best left to very experienced woodworkers who know how to adjust the blade guard to hold the work flat on the table and who use a push stick when approaching the blade. Ripping is not possible on a sliding miter saw UNLESS the pieces are 15" or less in length, and I don't recommend it.

The answer to your question will only be as detailed and specific as the question is detailed and specific. Good questions also include a sketch or a photo that illustrates your issue. (:< D)

Last edited by woodnthings; 09-19-2016 at 04:59 PM.
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post #6 of 7 Old 09-22-2016, 10:19 PM
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As far as room they take up and crosscut capacity on ras's, my Dewalt MBF is 18" wide. Table can be as wide as you want.
My Dewalt 7790 12" saw with a 10" blade, crosscuts 3/4 stock 17' wide. A few inches more if you lift the end of the wood up.
It will crosscut 1 1/2" stock 15" +2" or so.
Wouldn't want to be with a ras in my small shop.
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post #7 of 7 Old 09-22-2016, 10:57 PM
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The RAS is considered a stationary saw. Yes, it can be moved or thrown into a truck, but most are set on a stand and kept in the shop. They are heavy and bulky and get knocked out of alignment when moved.
Most sliding compound miter saws are considered portable. And yes they can be built-in for more permanent use, but their lighter weight and smaller footprint makes them much easier to transport.
The SCMS is made to move the angle on your cuts easily and quickly.
The RAS can be moved to any angle but it a much slower process and the angles cannot be changed nearly as quickly as the SCMS.
For cross-cutting boards at 90 degrees in the shop, nothing works much better than a RAS.
For cutting a lot of varying angles, nothing works much better than a SCMS.

If you don't have time to do it right the first time, when will you have time to do it over?
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