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Radial arm dangers

7845 Views 35 Replies 27 Participants Last post by  chriswright
What is it about radial arm saws that are so dangerous? I have read several articles in the various magazines that elude to the danger but never get specific. I have a place in my shop that would be perfect for one and 2 local on craigslist for 50 bucks. But I done want a corvair in my shop.
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never cut crossarm ,
always " strong arm " the cairrage ,
if it jumps out at you ,
you are moved back first .
make a table that comes out enough that the saw
fully extended is all in the table area .
some that come with them ,
are to narrow and have the bottomfront curve of the blade
exposed .
also make table long enough to suppurt board after the cut ,
so it does'nt lift up by blade .
What Patron said, BUT ALSO, DON'T TAKE THE GAURD OFF. I've been using RAS all of my adult life and I've never had an accident. Always fearfully respect the saw, as well as any power tool. Now, a swing saw??? That's a different story!
Are they dangerous?? Sure they are…so is a hammer. But I have used one for years and I think they get a bad rap. Mine is one of the work horses of my shop…used daily. I think as long as everything is in proper working order…and a person uses "common sense" when using one…they are a very useful addition to the shop….If mine went down tomorrow…I would buy another the next day, thats how useful and needed it is in my shop.
I have used radial arm saws for more years than I care to remember. In my production shop, I have yet to see an accident with one. Yes, there are dangers. Aren't there always. (I've been stabbed by a Yankee screwdriver!) The worst thing I see is the tendancy to grab and pull toward you, usually bogging down the saw., jerking the wood up, or both. (Get a grip) Yea you can get hurt, be careful! David also gave good advice.
That said, some manufacturers sold their saws as a do all machine. I would not use the saw for ripping, routing, etc. I think that's where the danger tends to be.
Though many don't use radial arm saws, I would certainly miss mine.
Unless you already have a talbe saw, I'd get it first.
I recently was given an old Dewalt RAS. It was in decent shape, but needed some refurbishing. One way to minimize the tendency to grab the wood is to use a negative hook blade such as this.
This is a crosscut blade, but that is all that I plan to use the RAS for. I know that it can do lots more, but I use it to crosscut rough lumber before I mill it.
It did take a few cuts to get the feel of how to feed the blade into the wood.
What everyone else said, but also be aware of the quality of the particular model you are looking for. I own two RASs. One crappy one, a low end Craftsman, and a 5 hp 14" Delta Rockwell made in the 1950s. There is a HUGE difference in quality. Of course in my case the big one isn't operational yet, but I have used similar machines.

It's also about the setup. The cheaper models just don't stay tuned as well as the better ones. If a good quality RAS is tuned well, even ripping isn't any more dangerous than ripping on a table saw.

What was said about having tables at both ends of your saw is also true…if you look at my shop picks you will see catch tables on both ends. I know a few guys who have RAS's in their shops with no tables….trying to cut a 10ft plus board on a RAS with nothing to hold up the ends is a big no-no and a good way to eat some wood. (The tables also make for great storage)
I like Corvairs, think they got a bad rap by a self absorbed political wannabe, but that's for another thread. I have had some scary moments ripping with my RAS and don't use it for that anymore. Keep a strong grip when crosscutting and u will get much use out of this great tool.

Make sure if u get a craftsman that you get the recall upgrade. Do a search on ras recall to find the site. The original guard would not protect u from kickback as well. Good luck $50 seems cheap make sure it's in good/safe condition.
How do you rip on one? Turn it sideways and push the board down the table? Looks like the only way to me. sounds a bit scary:-((
TopamaxSurvivor, that's exactly how. The head swivels and locks sideways but I tried it once just to see how well it works and I didn't like it at all.
Got to agree with John on this….yes the RAS can be used for ripping, routing, as a shaper etc etc etc. But I only use mine for cross cutting and for cutting dado's. Many people say cutting dado's on a RAS is dangerous….but as long as a person takes their time, and does not try and dado it all at one time…it is great. IMO it is MUCH easier AND safer to several dado slots in a 8ft long board than trying to do it on a table saw.

As far as ripping…not me !!! I have a friend who is a GREAT cabinet maker, and only uses a RAS for all of his cutting…does not even own a table saw. And I must admit…he can slap a sheet of 4×8 on his saw and rip it as fast if not faster than I can on my cabinet saw. I help him once and awhile in his shop and have done it a few times…man what a strange feeling…just could not get comfortable doing it. But he feels the same way using my table saw, guess it all depends on what your used to and grew up using.
I was hired by a cabinet shop to replace a guy who had cut his fingers off on the RAS. Thought it was talk until I saw that they couldn't clean the blood off of the table. The guard was in place, it can't tell the difference between wood and flesh. I think people just get too relaxed around some machines, like the RAS.
It's all too easy to get complacent doing things we do every day, including working circuits hot ;-))
I swear by these saws, Cutting long stock and making tenons on table rails and dado,s for bookcase shelves are a piece of cake on one of these. Trick is not to try and cut too much in one pass on thick stock especially on Dado,s. Otherwise they are safe enough and a great tool for fast repeditive cuts. For ripping however use a table saw, it,s just easier.
i think the biggest reason many folks say their dangerous is their are some operations that you can do on a RAS that are very dangerous but like most owners of RAS mine is used for mostly cross cuts and cutting dado's as kiwi said and never for ripping like the manual will tell you it can do. many manufacturers tried for years to sell these as the only tool you needed in your shop. and that was were the danger is.
Any tool can be unsafe if used improperly. Thanks for the advice.
Here's the link for the recall - they send you a new guard assembly including riving knife and and complete new set of MDF table inserts - it's a big heavy box, it's free and it arrives in about 4 days…
I agree with what has been said. I think the main issue is watching your fingers…it is very easy to have your fingers on the board in the way of the blade when you pull the saw across the stock. Another danger is reaching under the arm to pull a piece of wood out after you have cut it with the blade running. As for ripping on a RAS, I have done this but like others have said its scary and I quickly found I didnt want to use it for that.
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