Radial Arm Saw

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Forum topic by Duffman posted 10-16-2015 05:15 AM 1041 views 0 times favorited 16 replies Add to Favorites Watch
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66 posts in 1836 days

10-16-2015 05:15 AM

Hey guys,
So I’m thinking about getting a radial arm saw. I have no experience with using one. I’ve never really needed one and for quite a while bought into the idea that it was an antiquated (and dangerous) tool to have in the shop. Now I find myself considering the purchase, mainly because while I absolutely love my PM66, I find changing my regular blade out for a dado blade annoying. If I were to purchase one, its main function would be for cutting dados. There are gobs of these things on Craigslist, 90% are craftsman, are the older ones better, or should I avoid craftsman altogether and get a DeWalt or look for something else? Please, shed some light on the old tool. Do you find it antiquated or invaluable, or do you land somewhere in between ?

-- I'm not addicted to buying tools or wood... I can stop any time I want!

16 replies so far

View patron's profile


13654 posts in 3848 days

#1 posted 10-16-2015 06:32 AM

they are good tools
if used with care
just as any tool in the shop

here is my set-up for mine

and for dado work like you mentioned

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

View SirIrb's profile


1239 posts in 1738 days

#2 posted 10-16-2015 10:16 AM

I would not throw a craftsman at an enemy. On the CL in my area there is a $100 1950 Dewalt. All Iron. You would have maybe another $100 in it depending on if it needed bearings. But it would be a great saw. Yes, you can buy Craftsman all day long. There is a reason for that.

-- Don't blame me, I voted for no one.

View laketrout36's profile


200 posts in 2534 days

#3 posted 10-16-2015 10:38 AM

I sold my Crafstman RAS a year ago, I just didn’t it use much anymore for the work I was doing. Space was an issue and I since I very rarely used this tool it was a no brainer for me. In that space is going my next project, a workbench. I thought for a while that maybe I’d use my RAS for dado cuts but I never got around to it. Other projects came up and it sat there while I used other machines. I sold it to a friend who wanted one and it was a good deal. Mine had the free upgraded safety kit, mdf top, fence, brackets and a mobile base. If you have the space, will use it even if it’s for a dedicated station then go for it. You’ll find a good one with options. Probably one of the best deals for tools you’ll find out there.

View SirIrb's profile


1239 posts in 1738 days

#4 posted 10-16-2015 11:10 AM

Side note: I think a TS is superior for Dado cuts by far. More accurate. Ever think of having a dedicated dado TS for this? It would be more cash up front but I would think it would be worth it.

-- Don't blame me, I voted for no one.

View Fred Hargis's profile

Fred Hargis

5741 posts in 3001 days

#5 posted 10-16-2015 11:11 AM

I think what you want to do will work just fine. My 2ยข on the saw: skip any Craftsman models. Some of the older ones can be made to work, but then I had 2 that wouldn’t stay at zero for anything, why take a chance? Look for the older Dewalts (key thing is the solid cast iron arm) or any of the Delta turret arm models. I would also suggest (on the Dewalts anyway) get one of the models with a larger motor, 11 amps or more. The smaller ones will work, but they can be frustrating (slow and easy) with the 3/4 HP motor. The Deltas are all that common around me, but the Dewalts show up semi regularly. A well tuned Dewalt will always return to zero, and can be tuned to be very accurate.

-- Our village hasn't lost it's idiot, he was elected to congress.

View Tennessee's profile


2901 posts in 3022 days

#6 posted 10-16-2015 11:31 AM

In addition to the Craftsman units, I’d also skip over any B&D RAS from the 70’s on forward. I had a ‘76 Black and Decker RAS for a long time, and it was just a bear to keep aligned. Just too lightly built. Finally sold it for $75 to a framing contractor who wanted to use it for one big job where he needed a chop saw.

Most of the above info is great – if you must own one, go for the old ones, all iron.

For me, I’ll put my dado blade in my table saw, but I don’t cut them very often and sometimes do them on the bandsaw if dimensions allow. Radial’s take up a LOT of shop space, and make lousy benches, and also tend to collect things on the table. Just an opinion…

-- Tsunami Guitars and Custom Woodworking, Cleveland, TN

View Kaleb the Swede's profile

Kaleb the Swede

1906 posts in 2477 days

#7 posted 10-16-2015 11:45 AM

Just go whole hog. One of these bad boys is a dream saw for me.

-- Just trying to build something beautiful

View WoodNSawdust's profile


1417 posts in 1684 days

#8 posted 10-16-2015 11:59 AM

I have owned two Craftsman RAS and after proper alignment both worked fine. The trick is in the alignment. I would have no hesitation on buying an older model Craftsman RAS and as others have noted there are plenty to choose from on Craigslist.

I have used a dado in mine. Avoid the wobble type dado as it does not produce a flat bottom. After you cut the dado then make a second pass.

The only disadvantage is that a RAS takes a lot of space.

As laketrout36 mentioned most (all?) RAS have an upgrade kit to improve safety. I would either buy one that include the kit or make sure that you can get the kit. On both of mine I was able to get the kit for free.

-- "I love it when a plan comes together" John "Hannibal" Smith

View SirIrb's profile


1239 posts in 1738 days

#9 posted 10-16-2015 12:01 PM

Yep, this one would love you back.

-- Don't blame me, I voted for no one.

View dhazelton's profile


2839 posts in 2804 days

#10 posted 10-16-2015 01:21 PM

A DeWalt MBF. Nuff said.

View RogerM's profile


800 posts in 2906 days

#11 posted 10-16-2015 01:33 PM

Forget the Craftsman RAS. Although versatile they are inaccurate and dangerous.

-- Roger M, Aiken, SC

View SirIrb's profile


1239 posts in 1738 days

#12 posted 10-16-2015 02:05 PM

When you get you old iron beast make sure you get a negative hook angle blade or you will be in for a surprise. The negative hook keeps the blade from trying to run over the wood and shoot the carriage towards you. I am a fan of Forrest blades. Yes you will pay more for Forrest but this isnt a cheap sport.

-- Don't blame me, I voted for no one.

View Ocelot's profile


2354 posts in 3145 days

#13 posted 10-16-2015 03:26 PM

I use my RAS on every project. It’s the last tool I would sell – but that’s just nostalgia because it was my Dad’s saw.

I don’t understand why anybody would prefer cutting dado’s on a table saw. When building a 8’ bookcase, I don’t want to try to push an 8’ board sideways across the TS with a 2’ miter gauge. It just seem terribly awkward to me. Why move the wood when you can move the saw?

I’ve got an Incra stop rail set up on mine, so, after it is correctly zeroed, I can cut to exact length (every 32nd) and come back 3 months later and cut another exactly the same – without measuring, marking and trying to cut down the line. But any stop rail will do if you cut all your same-length parts in a batch.


View BurlyBob's profile


6497 posts in 2773 days

#14 posted 10-17-2015 12:37 AM

Duffman, as you can tell it’s one of those tools you either love them or hate them. I’ve got a 12” sliding compound Miter saw. I personally think the cut quality is far superior to a RAS. I do Dados with a straight edge and a router or at the table saw.

View Florida_Jim's profile


83 posts in 3385 days

#15 posted 10-17-2015 02:31 PM

I have a 1956 vintage Dewalt ‘MBF”. It’s my favorite machine, and gets the must use.
It’s a little under powered, but with little babying I can cut 8/4 maple, and also cut 3/4” dado’s in hardwood.

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