Does anyone use a radial arm saw?

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Blog entry by Joe_M posted 04-17-2012 11:43 PM 14107 reads 0 times favorited 30 comments Add to Favorites Watch

I may have an opportunity to purchase a used radial arm saw soon and wanted to gather opinions on whether or not I should buy it. I have a decent table saw with a reliable sled and also a good compound miter saw. My shop is in my 3-car garage and it can be a little tight in there. The saw is a craftsman and appears to be in good condition. Pricing would be $100-150, I’m guessing. My first thought is to pass simply because I haven’t seen a real need for one yet. My concern is that maybe I’m missing something that I’ll stumble upon after this opportunity has passed.

For those of you that have a radial arm saw, do you ever use it? If so, is it set up for a special purpose that’s frequently used in your shop? Would you purchase it again?

For those of you that don’t, are you jones’n for one and, if so, for what?

In most of the larger shops I’ve seen, the radial arm saw sets in a corner collecting dust. I already have enough dust collectors in my shop! :)

Thanks everyone!

30 comments so far

View Bigrock's profile


292 posts in 3445 days

#1 posted 04-17-2012 11:55 PM

I still use mine all the time. It’s location makes it nice for cutting stock to workable pieces. I only use it for cross cutting. The Finish cross cutting is done on the table saw.
It is quick to use, but I have to check it for square more often.

View sawblade1's profile


754 posts in 3509 days

#2 posted 04-18-2012 12:08 AM

I owned One and loved it unfortunately I couldn’t get parts due to a recall but if given the funds/ opportunity I would have another one :)

-- Proverbs Ch:3 vs 5,6,7 Trust in the lord with all thine heart and lean not unto your own understanding but in all your ways aknowledge him and he shall direct your path [email protected]

View Don W's profile

Don W

19315 posts in 3050 days

#3 posted 04-18-2012 12:09 AM

I wouldn’t be without one.

-- - Collecting is an investment in the past, and the future.

View John 's profile


255 posts in 3885 days

#4 posted 04-18-2012 12:15 AM

Mine sits on my back patio completely covered up and protected cause it dosen’t fit in my small and cramped 2 car garage shop. I installed a Dado blade on it and use it for most of my Dado needs as well as Half Laps. It’s not used regularly like my Table Saw or my Miter Saw but I wouldn’t part with it for nothing. I bought it from the original owner who bought it to do a room addition on his house in the 70’s and then let it sit in his warehouse where it was rarly used. Turn it on and check the bearings in the slide arm. If it’s in Primo shape and you can get it under 200.00, it’s worth it.


-- John

View Dusty56's profile


11852 posts in 4171 days

#5 posted 04-18-2012 12:41 AM

I see them on Craigslist all of the time.
Seems like they are seldom used and take up too much real estate according to the ads.
Unless you have an immediate need and the space for one (figure at least a 4×12 foot space to make it useful) , I would look around for a band saw first. : )

I would love to have an old DeWalt RAS , just for a toy to admire , but I don’t have the space or the need.

-- I'm absolutely positive that I couldn't be more uncertain!

View crashn's profile


528 posts in 2948 days

#6 posted 04-18-2012 12:55 AM

I’m considering selling my compound miter saw and getting a radial arm saw, just need to make room in the shop.

-- Crashn - the only thing I make more of than sawdust is mistakes

View Tootles's profile


808 posts in 2984 days

#7 posted 04-18-2012 03:05 AM

I work in a school workshop where the table saw is, to say the least, a bit dodgy and really quite dangerous. As a result, I use the radial arm saw extensively. It’s the first time I have ever had access to a radial arm saw and I am really enjoying having it.

That said, I have also worked in a different school workshop where they had a compound mitre saw (CMS) instead of a radial arm saw, and I don’t see that the radial arm saw gives a great advantage over the CMS. Perhaps only the width that you can cut, but then the radial arm saw that I have is actually a bit restrcted in that regard anyway.

-- I may have lost my marbles, but I still have my love of woodworking

View Joe_M's profile


17 posts in 2736 days

#8 posted 04-18-2012 03:13 AM

I’m a bit worried that the quality wouldn’t be good enough for finish cuts and I can already do rough cuts on long pieces on my 12” compound miter saw. I saw one once in a shop that was set up just to do dadoes. I definitely don’t have the room for something like that.

View Dusty56's profile


11852 posts in 4171 days

#9 posted 04-18-2012 03:40 AM

Save your money and put it towards a more useful tool or tools : )

-- I'm absolutely positive that I couldn't be more uncertain!

View a1Jim's profile


117713 posts in 4060 days

#10 posted 04-18-2012 03:48 AM

Most Radial arm saws are being replaced with sliding compound chop saws just because Radial saws take up so much room. I tell my students not to use a radial arm saw to rip with because the are so dangerous used that way. The only thing a radial arm saw can do that a slider can’t is the can accept a dado blade. If you feel you have to have one I’ve seen them on CL for $25-$50.

View davidroberts's profile


1027 posts in 3969 days

#11 posted 04-18-2012 04:31 AM

I own one or two, actually a few. The current crop of sliding compound chop saw, ranging in price between say $600 to $800 for a usable one compares to the quaility of a 1950s to early 1960s Dewalt RAS. The most I paid for a Dewalt RAS, fully functional, is $150, but that’s because two other cars were pulling up to look at it, so I figured haggling was out of the question. The later models of Craftsman, so abundant on CL, are mostly door stops. Don’t waste your time. The older all cast iron Dewalts will show up on CL occasionally depending on where you live and how far you want to drive. They are mostly 1 to 1.5 hp and sometimes 3hp, true hp, not developed. With a guard they are just as safe as any machine with a swirling blade. They will do so much more than a sliding chop saw and actually take up less room. The new Bosch is the exception and I could get use to one of those quickly.

-- Better woodworking through old hand tools.

View a1Jim's profile


117713 posts in 4060 days

#12 posted 04-18-2012 05:14 AM

I agree with David that old Dewalt RAS are 100 times better the Craftsmen RAS
used sliders do not sell for what new ones sell for, they are in the $250- $450 range unless the’re made b Festool . There’s no contest as which tool you can buy for less,RAS hands down. Taking up less room ,I disagree about RAS.s they take up a lot more room Than sliders. RAS can be used safely but I would not recommend one for a beginner particularly using them to rip with. It sound like your a way out RAS guy David and I’m sure they work for you, but I guess we will have to agree to disagree on this one.

View Pete_Jud's profile


424 posts in 4236 days

#13 posted 04-18-2012 01:58 PM

I have a RAS and a sliding CMS as well. The RAS just sits, never gets used, it is a nice older Rockwell, back in the 70’s the RAS was touted as the “end all” piece of shop equipt. Kind of like a poor mans Shop Smith.

I thought about using it just for dados, but the table saw is more better for short dado’s, and the router is better for longer ones. Just my 2 cents.

-- Life is to short to own an ugly boat.

View BilltheDiver's profile


260 posts in 3368 days

#14 posted 04-18-2012 02:13 PM

I have a Dewalt I got new in the 70’s. It isn’t on of the old cast iron units, but I still use it all the time. I only cross cut with it but properly set up, it doesn’t require adjusting for square often at all. Many of the Craftsman units are still subject to a recall which will qualify you for a bunch of new parts free. If you decide to buy it, check out the recall.

-- "Measure twice, cut once, count fingers"

View dbray45's profile


3320 posts in 3259 days

#15 posted 04-18-2012 02:17 PM

I recently bought an old Craftsman RAS and cleaned it up. Works like a dream. There are some things that a tablesaw are just not good at – even with a sled. Gave my chop saw away, would not stay in calibration to save your life.

For finish cuts that are are not 90 degree cuts and small work, I use an old manual MF mitre box with a Craftsman brand on it.

-- David in Damascus, MD

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