Radial Arm Saw "Table Question"

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Forum topic by scrap posted 10-19-2008 09:26 AM 18147 views 4 times favorited 17 replies Add to Favorites Watch
View scrap's profile


9 posts in 3772 days

10-19-2008 09:26 AM

Topic tags/keywords: question

Why is a RAS table made up of 3 pieses 4 counting the fence ?

Is the size of each piece important ?

Since this particle board tabel is swollen from absorbing moisture I am not sure of original size. Approximatley 3 3/4”, 6” and 17”.

I guess the 2 smaller pieces can be exchanged with one another to move the fence, BUT WHY ?

17 replies so far

View Tim Pursell's profile

Tim Pursell

499 posts in 4047 days

#1 posted 10-19-2008 01:48 PM

The thicker the work piece is the further forward the fence has to be. Otherwise the blade could not spin up to speed before the blade starts the cut. BUT moving the fence forward shortens the width of board you can cut.


View brianinpa's profile


1812 posts in 3988 days

#2 posted 10-19-2008 04:06 PM

On some models, moving the pieces allows the fence to be positioned further back on the table (or closer to the column) so that a wider rip cut can be achieved.

-- Brian, Lebanon PA, If you aren’t having fun doing it, find something else to do.

View Blake's profile


3443 posts in 4139 days

#3 posted 10-19-2008 07:01 PM

Radial Arm Saw tables are in four pieces: Two rear tables, the fence, and the front table. They are clamped into position with integrated clamps on the base of the saw.

Since every time you make a cut on a RAS, you make a shallow kerf in the table and through the fence. This ensures that you are cutting all the way through your workpiece. If you set up the saw for different cuts (Angled miters, bevels, dados, ripping, molding, etc) you get many different kerfs cut into your table.

When your RAS table gets too many kerfs in it, it is time to loosen the clamps on the table and either flip it over or replace it, as well as replace the fence.

If the fence was simply attached to the top of one solid piece of wood, you when you make your cut it would cut all the way through the fence. Since the fence is clamped between the two tables, the bottom of the fence never gets cut and it stays in once piece.

The reason there are two rear table pieces are to change the position of the fence for different operations. The fence will be further forward for most cross cutting operations so that when the blade is at rest it is all the way behind the fence. For ripping a wide board (which most people don’t do on RAS’s if they have a table saw) you would move the fence to the rear position.

Your RAS is set up in a way that make it easy to use and replace the fences and tables. Just get a piece of 3/4” MDF cut for your tables the same size as the originals and a piece of clear and straight-grained hardwood (with no twisting, warping or cupping) for the fence.

I learned a lot about RAS’s when I did this RESTORATION. Feel free to ask any more questions.

-- Happy woodworking!

View olddutchman's profile


187 posts in 4200 days

#4 posted 10-19-2008 09:19 PM

Also, The boards in the table are in different pieces so that when you turn the saw 90 degrees to the right, or to the left, to rip., the guage on the side will measure 0 to the fence So when you want to rip a wide piece of plywoof, you can read the lenght on the measure and be in the ball park. You can then finish it on your router table, to the exact width of the project.

-- Saved, and so grateful, consider who Created it ALL!!!

View scrap's profile


9 posts in 3772 days

#5 posted 10-20-2008 12:34 AM

Thank you all very much this helps me quite a bit. I had not considered the thickness of the wood in relation to the fence and the blade. Thank you. I went ahead and cut the first two boards. The fence is still in good shape so I will reuse it. I have an almoast 4’X4’ piece of 3/4 ply left over from some sub flooring I just replaced that I will use for the new table.
Now I will have to go check the measurement mentioned by olddutchman to see if I am anywhere close. This is the measurements on the arm rite? (as the light goes on inside my head why there are two measurements on the arm.)

View Teenangel's profile


-38 posts in 3378 days

#6 posted 01-29-2010 08:22 AM

Actually, most radial arm saws have 4 measurements. In Rip and Out Rip with the fence in either the fully forward or fully rear positions. IN RIP is with the carriage in the Rip position with the blade orientated between the carriage and the column. Out Rip is with the carriage between the column and the blade. Obviously this way you can obtain the maximum ripping width with the saw in the Out Rip position. Usually this is about 24” but on many saws this puts the blade off the edge of the table. Not very safe.. Probably the least desirable mode to use the RAS in.

-- I measured twice and cut twice and it was STILL too damned short! - Teenangel

View PASs's profile


595 posts in 3363 days

#7 posted 02-07-2010 02:29 AM

Anyone replaced the table on their RAS with Granite?
I’ve got a source for fairly cheap off-cuts from a stone company and I think I’m going to do a granite table.
I use a sacrificial top already so I’ll have a better, flatter surface for that if I go stone.
Thoughts, comments, commitment papers?

-- Pete, "It isn't broken, you just aren't using it right."

View Teenangel's profile


-38 posts in 3378 days

#8 posted 02-07-2010 03:47 AM

IF you put a sheet of 1/4” MDF or tempered hardboard on top of the granite and made your cuts into that—you might use it as a substrate, but you would need to attach it some way that would be removable for future replacement. If you EVER lowered your blade into the granite, you would probably ruin a perfectly good carbide blade. My table has a number of machined holes, which if you have a way of duplicating the recessed holes in the granite without chipping or cracking it, as well as the threaded holes for arm parallel adjustment ( I guess you could just epoxy in a brass thread insert ) it would certainly not be affected by moisture, etc. as is the particle board table provided by most manufacturers.

Might just work, just don’t try to lift that sucker around unless you’ve invited the incredible hulk over for lunch.

-- I measured twice and cut twice and it was STILL too damned short! - Teenangel

View patron's profile


13643 posts in 3606 days

#9 posted 02-07-2010 04:01 AM

here is what i did to my RAS ,
further down are some angle jigs ,
and some input from bicofluer about his .
then i made this dado jig for it . .

it’s a great tool ,
just work safe !

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

View caa60126's profile


5 posts in 484 days

#10 posted 10-19-2017 05:44 PM

Kinda new to woodworking but the three piece table and single piece fence have nothing to due with cross cutting or bringing the saw up to speed (saw should always be up to speed before ANY cut).

The web is full of out of date instruction manuals on these saws, google your specific model or a similar model.

The three piece table has to do with maximizing your RIP capacity, either in-rip or out-rip.

Love my RAS station set up for cross cut only with a solid one piece top and a square fence screwed directly to the top and I use a sacrificial disposable top as well. I leave the other cutting operations to my chop saw and table saw.

View MrUnix's profile


7174 posts in 2464 days

#11 posted 10-19-2017 06:04 PM

Kinda new to woodworking but the three piece table and single piece fence have nothing to due with cross cutting....
- caa60126

Ignoring the fact that this thread is over 7 years old… the above is not totally correct. The fence positions are useful for both rip and cross cutting operations and what type of stock is being used. Here is a typical manual entry briefly describing the fence positions:


-- Brad in FL - In Dog I trust... everything else is questionable

View BHZ's profile


21 posts in 1243 days

#12 posted 10-19-2017 08:19 PM

I’ve always replaced my table with oak stair tread. I find it more stable than the MDF.

View caa60126's profile


5 posts in 484 days

#13 posted 10-19-2017 08:30 PM

I guess I am speaking from my limited experience. LOL, I am finding that not much in woodworking is “totally correct” or “totally accurate”. But since I have a one piece top, the fence is squared to blade and fastened to that dead flat top; I will leave it at position “A” as indicated in my manual….

More or less position “A” that is.

Again, my set up is for cross cuts only and I have abandoned the thumb screws that originally clamped the table parts together.

View caa60126's profile


5 posts in 484 days

#14 posted 10-19-2017 08:40 PM

I ve always replaced my table with oak stair tread. I find it more stable than the MDF.


I like that idea.


View jazztrptaf's profile


6 posts in 726 days

#15 posted 02-12-2019 05:46 PM

I’m late to this thread but having to replace the table on my circa 1959 Craftsman RAS. I’ve done it once already and used MDF but it’s just not holding up.

I like the idea of using stair tread but have also been considering buying a bunch of oak 1”x3”, cutting to 30” length, then turning it on edge and gluing it up. I think that would give me more stability with the working surface. Also, it’s my only saw so I’m doing everything with it.

Open to everyone’s thoughts on this.


-- Kerry Moffit, Newport News, Virginia

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