All Replies on Radial arm verses Sliding miter.

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View Vern Little's profile

Radial arm verses Sliding miter.

by Vern Little
posted 12-18-2010 01:39 AM

28 replies so far

View davidroberts's profile


1027 posts in 4046 days

#1 posted 12-18-2010 03:12 AM

There are some here that use a RAS, me included, two of them. You may actually need more room in the back for a SCMS, although the new Bosch with the articulated arm is pretty cool. The older Dewalts with a cast iron arm and the elevating crank on top of the column, not on the arm, are considered most solid and stable. They keep alignment better. The older Deltas with their pivoting arm work well also. The RAS purist scoff at the newer Dewalts and Craftsmans. There are usually 20 Craftsman RAS at any one time on CL in my area. Sears sold a bizillion of them. My advice is steer clear of the newer Craftsman models. Too much thin gauge metal and plastic. Ridgid seems to sell a reasonable RAS. Depending on where you live, the older Dewalts appear a few times year on CL for usually $200 or less. They are well worth the money if the motor and ways are in good shape. You can spend a fortune on spare parts for an older RAS missing parts. The models you may want to look for is the MBF, GW, 1400, and 925 Powershops, built in the 50s and 60s. Don’t go under 3/4 HP and 1.5 up to 3hp using a 9” blade is really the perfect size range for a garage shop.

-- Better woodworking through old hand tools.

View Gregn's profile


1642 posts in 3543 days

#2 posted 12-18-2010 04:06 AM

Won’t say that I’m an expert on the issue, but agree with David on steering clear of the newer model Craftsman models. I have and older model that I have been very satisfied with. I also own a 12” SCMS that has its uses in the shop, but none near the uses of the RAS. If push came to shove I would give up the SCMS before the RAS.

-- I don't make mistakes, I have great learning lessons, Greg

View newbiewoodworker's profile


668 posts in 3387 days

#3 posted 12-18-2010 04:10 AM

Im no expert either. But One thing to remember. Radial Arm Saws tend to be a PITA to setup, and keep at 90o, if you plan on doing mitres. Mitre saws do not have that issue. RAS tend to be, though, more versitile, being able to run a shaper/moulder head, dados, sanders, even a planer, and drill press attachment..

It is really a matter of personal preferance. But I tend to like the mitre saw, more than the RAS, just because it can cut accurately.

-- "Ah, So your not really a newbie, but a I betterbie."

View Brian024's profile


358 posts in 3960 days

#4 posted 12-18-2010 05:02 AM

I have one, I’m not an expert either. My best guess would be if price and space are an issue go with a RAS. RAS’s need space in front of them, SCMS need space to the front and back of them. RAS’s can be a pain to keep accurate if you are changing things constantly, but if you use it for just 90* you should be fine. You can rip on one but I wouldn’t recommend it, table saw is a lot safer. Like other have said, stay away from the newer ones, mine is from 1978 and is made from light duty material, but after spending some time tuning it runs just right. Though I’ve been thinking about selling it since most of my finished pieces are within the capacity of my 10” miter saw. I also rebuilt my crosscutting table and realized how much room my RAS was taking up, I have an idea of putting it on a mobile cart with folding wings.

View Paul Mayer's profile

Paul Mayer

1081 posts in 3625 days

#5 posted 12-18-2010 05:29 AM

I’m an expert. Get the SCMS. :)

(Couldn’t help it on the expert comment; someone had to step up.)

I understand all the pro-RAS arguments, but I just never got comfortable with one. They feel clunky and dangerous to me, versus a SCMS which feels more refined, easier to control, simpler and safer.

I realize there are many valid reasons why a good RAS is a more versatile, and in many cases more accurate tool, but I was just never able to “tame” one, so I like the SCMS route.

So, I guess that means that I actually am not an expert either, but I know what I like. :)

-- Paul Mayer,

View Jim Finn's profile

Jim Finn

2763 posts in 3482 days

#6 posted 12-18-2010 06:06 AM

My ridged SCMS is a LOT more accurate than My OLd Craftsman RAS that I got rid of years ago.

-- No PHD just a DD214

View brianinpa's profile


1812 posts in 4283 days

#7 posted 12-18-2010 06:54 AM

I always like these posts because it brings out all the comments.

I am not an expert, get rid of the SCMS… I cut my teeth with a RAS and wouldn’t do without one. In the end it comes down to what you are comfortable with: for me that is a RAS and for others it is a SCMS.

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

View dbhost's profile


5777 posts in 3792 days

#8 posted 12-18-2010 07:13 AM

I picked a SCMS over a RAS due to portability concerns, as well as availability. Maybe where you live there are decent larger RAS’, but around here the ones on the used market are either small, totally trashed, or very expensive…

My SCMS is the HF 12”, and while not a super saw, test cuts so far have proved to be very accurate. It just needs some adjustment out of the box, and a decent blade…

I think a lot depends on what your needs are. Just one thing to keep in mind. There is a reason that you don’t see new radial arm saws on the market, at least not like they once were…

-- Please like and subscribe to my YouTube Channel

View TopamaxSurvivor's profile


18741 posts in 4236 days

#9 posted 12-18-2010 08:09 AM

I think it depends what you are doing. Crown molding is compund miter saw territory.

-- Bob in WW ~ "some old things are lovely, warm still with life ... of the forgotten men who made them." - D.H. Lawrence

View Vern Little's profile

Vern Little

103 posts in 4097 days

#10 posted 12-18-2010 06:47 PM

Thanks everyone for the comments. No concession but good points of view. Space is a big consideration for me now as well as cost is. I have located an older DeWalt as is indicated, could just grab it, as the sliding miter will be available in the future if I want to go that route.
But to tell you the truth, even though all of you have made good points. The water may be a little more muddied at this point.
The main use would be for cross cuts and miters. not much in the way of crown molding. Just boxes and furniture building.

-- Earth first, we'll drill the rest of the planets later. Vern

View Delta356's profile


463 posts in 3414 days

#11 posted 12-18-2010 06:57 PM

GO RAS hands down….. You get that nice big cutting table and a nice long stroke on the arm,what else could you ask for. The SCMS have too little cutting area.

Thanks, Michael Frey
Portland, OR


View Loren's profile


10477 posts in 4208 days

#12 posted 12-18-2010 07:12 PM

An advantage of radial arm saws is they can do a nice job with
dados. Only very large saws have enough capacity to do a
finish crosscut on a 24” deep cabinet side. No SCMS can make
that cut, but it’s a cut you’ll have to do a lot if you make
kitchen boxes.

A big radial arm saw is mostly a tool for breaking up solid wood
lumber to usable length. That is, arguably, what the saw was
designed for and it’s certainly the way they are used in factories
and lumber yards.

Radial arm saws can be tuned for doing some precise joinery work.
I would stay clear of the Sears ones and look for an older Delta
or Dewalt – these saws take and hold settings much better.

SCM saws are fun to use. No doubt about it. I don’t think you’ll
get cabinet-making accuracy from a 12” model, but such a saw
is great for building decks and things like that.

I have a 8 1/2” Dewalt SCMS and it’s a pretty accurate tool due to
the smaller blade and reasonably tight build-quality. Blade flutter and
play in the head isn’t a big problem with the smaller blade. It is
accurate enough for crosscutting and furniture-grade butt joinery
in wood that isn’t too thick or tough. The Hitachis are said to be
good too, but all these saws are really portable tools for doing trim –
they are a far cry from the heavy cross-cutting miter saws used in
industrial settings like picture frame shops.

I own Festool stuff and the Dewalt SCMS and the only machine I trust
to cut accurate tenon shoulders is a table saw or a tight radial arm
saw. Even the Festool work table setup has too much play to be reliable
for this application.

View PhineasWhipsnake's profile


77 posts in 3608 days

#13 posted 12-18-2010 07:17 PM

I used a Montgomery Wards RAS for twenty years before getting my Jet cabinet saw. Since it was the only big power tool I had, I made do, but was never really happy with its performance. Ripping was a disaster waiting to happen, but crosscutting and dadoes were its forte. Now that I have a shop full of nice stuff, I can see a use for them if you have the room. The saw I had was REALLY loud, and needed constant attention to keep the arm in calibration. I tried unsuccessfully to sell it, finally gave it away.

-- Gene T

View Beginningwoodworker's profile


13345 posts in 4233 days

#14 posted 12-18-2010 07:25 PM

I dont see a problem with owning both, you can never have to many tools!

View TheOldTimer's profile


226 posts in 3646 days

#15 posted 12-18-2010 07:43 PM

I also agree with David, I have had a RAS for too many years to mention and use it in my shop all the time for cross cuts and cutting dados. I also have and use a miter saw. My table saw is used for ripping material. Properly set up RAS is a very nice tool to have in the shop as long as you have the room. I would not part with mine for anything. There is however many who hate the saw and would not own one. I guess that this Old Timer is set in his ways and just too old to change. All the tools in my shop are of old vintage, I keep them going year after year and they have served me well. I would like to have some of the new stuff but the price they are getting on some of them is completly out of range for me since I retired. A 8” jointer would be nice, but I buy all my stock and just keep using my 6” jointer and laminate the material together for wider stock. This is the way I was taught when I was a youngster. It works for me so why change.

-- TheOldTimer,Chandler Arizona

View Chris's profile


27 posts in 3409 days

#16 posted 12-18-2010 08:02 PM

I love this debate. To me its like comparing apples and oranges. What it comes down to is your needs, what will you be using the saw for. I have both, actually 4 RAS’s and 5 Miter saws. I am a contractor that finishes custom homes and also has a cabinet shop. The RAS’s stay in the shop and the miter saws are both at the shop and out on the job. A miter saw is the perfect tool for cutting moldings, while a RAS is more suited for cabinet building. There are thing each can do the other can’t.
As for accuracy they both will need some attention eventually (never wait until its obvious).
Don’t by a newer RAS unless you plan on spending a $1000 plus. The newer saws (the affordable ones) are to cheaply made and compromise safety and accuracy. All mine are DeWalts- 2 are 925’s and 2 are GWI’s (one of each are for sale:)).
There are a lot of excellent miter saws, look for a good sale. Some of the bigger vendors will have tool shows periodically, great time to buy.
Good luck.
P.S. I paid around $100 for each of my 925’s. The cheaper of the 2 couldn’t have had more than 10 hours on it, looked like it just came out of the box. Keep your eyes on Craigslist.

-- Chris, Hubertus, WI

View Pop's profile


433 posts in 4506 days

#17 posted 12-18-2010 10:15 PM

Ok I’m an expert too, LOL My 1st. power tool when I got married around 45 years ago was a Craftsman 10 in. RAS. The way it was designed it would NEVER hold even 90 degrees without slipping. I used it for ripping & everything else. To rip with a RAS requires a death wish. I replaced it with a Delta 10 in. contractor style RAS about 20 years ago. It holds an angle. About 2 years ago I bought a Bosch 12 in. CMS for the angles. It’s a fantastic tool.

Personal observation: Having sold power tools for several years & woodworking since the 7th grade ( I’m 70) I feel that the SCMS likes the stability of the RAS. For angles however I use either the CMS or my table saw.

-- One who works with his hands is a laborer, his hands & head A craftsman, his hands, head & heart a artist

View dbhost's profile


5777 posts in 3792 days

#18 posted 12-18-2010 11:30 PM

I certainly think that there is a place for both in a woodworkers shop. Due to space and finances though, for me and my specific needs, the SCMS won out, I think that at least in the overall market, that is the general consensus… I think over time, with some good engineering in hand, I bet the advantages of both can be mashed together in a superb package… I am however, not an engineer… I just hope I live long enough to enjoy using something like that…

-- Please like and subscribe to my YouTube Channel

View ducky911's profile


237 posts in 3349 days

#19 posted 12-18-2010 11:46 PM

I sold my sears radial arm saw on craigs list… Had to sell it for 60 dollars and threw in a wheel set and book…craigs list is full of them they are hard to sell. I got rid of it for the space and i like a chop saw better even though a chop saw cannot do as much.


View miles125's profile


2180 posts in 4565 days

#20 posted 12-19-2010 12:41 AM

RAS’s are 300lbs places to lay your jacket. Get the compound miter.

-- "The way to make a small fortune in woodworking- start with a large one"

View rance's profile


4271 posts in 3720 days

#21 posted 12-19-2010 04:34 AM

Two different tools, two different functionalities. Buy what fits your woodworking needs, maybe both.

-- Backer boards, stop blocks, build oversized, and never buy a hand plane--

View gb_ibmguy's profile


7 posts in 3339 days

#22 posted 12-20-2010 04:08 PM

I’m in the camp with having both.

I have a 1970’s C-Man that I got on CL that was still in the box and a new Makita 10” SCMS. Set them both up in a crosscut station – shared table and fence system. I like them both for the unique abilities each of them have.


View Canadian Woodworks's profile

Canadian Woodworks

702 posts in 3630 days

#23 posted 12-20-2010 05:00 PM

We use our RAS just for rough cutting to length always set to 90 degrees. We cut all our miters on the table saw using a shop made miter jig. I argue a table saw is even more accurate for miter cuts when using a dedicated miter sled. Although to do a compound cut you can’t beat a SCMS.

Miter sled

-- Paul Lemiski, Ontario Canada, Custom Wooden Rocking chairs and tables

View Raymond's profile


683 posts in 4287 days

#24 posted 12-20-2010 05:08 PM

I have a radial arm saw and my just bought me a sliding miter saw for Christmas. I think they both have a place in the shop.

-- Ray

View Dan's profile


3653 posts in 3440 days

#25 posted 12-20-2010 05:32 PM

I have an old Ryobi RAS that my dad gave me. I first used it when I was like 10 years old and I continue to use it now. For a smaller and cheaper RAS it has served me and my dad very well for the past 20 some years. I mostly use it for cross cutting rough lumber or wide boards but I sometimes set it up to do other things..

My RAS has a router/drill bit collet on the other side of the motor and can be used as an over top router or drill press. I have never heard of any woodworkers using the router attachment and I am sure most would say its not powerful enough but I tried it out and found it to work pretty decent for small things and detail work. Also with a straight router bit I can do dados as well as stopped dados. A little easier then doing on a normal router table I think.

-- Dan - "Collector of Hand Planes"

View rance's profile


4271 posts in 3720 days

#26 posted 12-20-2010 05:56 PM

In addition to my previous comment, yes, there is some overlapping functionality.

Dan, Mine has the same capability but I’ve never used it. I may try that feature out. Of course I’m guessing that the reduced rpm would factor into the usability mix. Maybe it would be good as a replacement for using the router to flatten stock. I’m guessing Sears would have collets to fit them still. Hmmmmmmmmm…

-- Backer boards, stop blocks, build oversized, and never buy a hand plane--

View Bob Kollman's profile

Bob Kollman

1798 posts in 3751 days

#27 posted 12-20-2010 06:26 PM

RAS I think will be around for a while, if you have one that cuts square and // their are to many usefull fast set ups. Norm had his in alignment with his miter saw on one bench, how great is that???? I wish I had one but I don’t have the space, reading thru this blog many LJ’s love there set up’s and I don’t blame them. As you mentioned Vern, there are many on craigs list for cheap. I think the RAS has been mostly replaced at the job
sight for rough/finish carpenters where the primary work can mostly be done with the SCMS. It seems to be more a cabinet makers tool for a dedicated shop.

-- Bob Kenosha Wi.

View Dan's profile


3653 posts in 3440 days

#28 posted 12-20-2010 07:26 PM

Rance – I think most woodworkers assume that the reduced rpm’s would make it useless and that may be why I never hear of anyone using it. My dad had the saw for about 20 years before he gave to me and he never used the router attachment. I however just couldn’t help but try it. I didn’t expect anything out of it, I just wanted to give it a try for fun. Mine can only take a 1/4 bit and YES the lower RPM’s do effect its use when compared to a router. However if your just rounding over an edge, cutting a shallow dado, or any other small or detailed work where you are not removing a lot of material it works just fine. Also keep in mind you can tilt the motor at any degree. I have not needed to do this yet but I could use it to cut beveled dados or slots, dados or slots at any angle, circles, triangles and so on and so forth. I should play around with it more.

I have used it to flatten stock as you said and it does work but its a longer process. I have also planed small boards down with it and it works great if you just want to remove a small amount of material. You would probably want a good bit that will leave a clean bottom though.

-- Dan - "Collector of Hand Planes"

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