Radial Arm Saw or Sliding Miter Saw or something else?

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Forum topic by rolandstronghammer posted 01-15-2016 08:40 PM 1505 views 0 times favorited 13 replies Add to Favorites Watch
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49 posts in 1665 days

01-15-2016 08:40 PM

Good day,

Unfortunately, I broke my chopsaw. I want to replace it and thought that I would better appreciate a sliding miter saw for longer cuts which I often do. Then I researched and found them to be quite expensive. A friend of mine has a craftsman 10inch radial arm saw that he’d let me buy for only $80. Initially this seemed like a great deal but as i did my research I learned that radial arm saws tend to go out of alignment pretty easily and have some inherent dangers do to the design.

What should I do?


13 replies so far

View Jim Finn's profile

Jim Finn

2839 posts in 3724 days

#1 posted 01-15-2016 10:11 PM

Get a sliding miter saw. I now have a Bosch and still have my old DeWalt that I used daily for 16 years. IT is true radial arm saws are dangerous and not very accurate. (In my experience)

-- No PHD just a DD214 Lubbock Texas

View Pointer's profile


453 posts in 1914 days

#2 posted 01-15-2016 10:43 PM

Before I had many tools of my own, I used my brother-in-law’s radial arm saw. I was trying to make some cuts that were not through cuts and the results were terrible. Even the through cuts left a lot to be desired. I bought a sliding compound miter saw when they went on sale and it has served me very well. It is much more versatile than a radial arm saw. Mine is a Rigid with a larger than normal table top. I have no regrets getting it.

-- Joe - I am not entirely worthless, I can always serve as a bad example.

View gfadvm's profile


14940 posts in 3493 days

#3 posted 01-16-2016 01:13 AM

A decent tablesaw sled and miter gauge will serve you better than the RAS or miter saw. At least id does for me. I use my RAS to rough cut long stock to length. I got my miter saw out of my shop and up to the sawmill to cut stickers.

-- " I'll try to be nicer, if you'll try to be smarter" gfadvm

View eflanders's profile


326 posts in 2653 days

#4 posted 01-16-2016 09:54 PM

The determining factors are: cost, length of cross-cut, flexibility to do other types of cuts and the accuracy of the cuts made. Safety is entirely up to the operator with any saw.

Radial arm saws sold under the Craftsman name are usually not the most accurate for very long. I have one and still use it extensively but for mostly cutting stock to rough length. There’s just too much slop for much anything else. But they can be very versatile and they can make the widest cross cuts. Older saws made by Delta and Dewalt are usually good finds.

A good slider is usually more accurate for a longer time frame than a radial arm saw. They are far more portable and are quite costly. Some brands do wear-out just like the Craftsman radial saws do. If you buy a slider, make sure it’s a quality made machine by a time proven maker.

View Ghidrah's profile


667 posts in 2025 days

#5 posted 01-16-2016 11:28 PM

I have an old Crapsman RAS, as mentioned by others accuracy isn’t one of its qualities. It hasn’t see much work in over the last decade +, however where it does shine is dado work, some project parts are just too large and unruly to attempt to push over a TS bed. Trellises, arbors, anything long and or heavy with bridal joints and half laps RAS.

-- I meant to do that!

View TheDane's profile


5829 posts in 4465 days

#6 posted 01-16-2016 11:59 PM

I have a Hitachi 12” slider … been using it for 2 or 3 years and couldn’t be happier. Wouldn’t have a Craftsman RAS for the reasons stated above … there is a reason you see so many of them so cheap on CraigsList.

-- Gerry -- "I don't plan to ever really grow up ... I'm just going to learn how to act in public!"

View devann's profile


2250 posts in 3495 days

#7 posted 01-17-2016 12:28 AM

It depends on what you need a saw for. Given the choices you’re faced with I’d go for the sliding miter saw. Radial arm saws are large,cumbersome and require more space to set up properly and lack portability. A radial arm saw does have more impressive cutting capacities than the sliding miter saw.

But a sliding miter saw can offer a substantial cutting capacity compared to the radial arm saw and is easier to adapt for portable applications. You’ll have to determine if you need the extra capacity.

By portability I’m talking about using one of the collapsible miter saw holders. There are some that even have wheels that can be rolled around like a dolly and fold out to make a work miter saw work station.

Myself, I have both but only use one. I have a 60-70 year old DeWalt radial arm saw that’s a monster. It’s some old school iron made for industrial applications. When I had a chance to buy it I just couldn’t turn it down. It’s currently in my shipping container gathering dust. I know, shame on me but I don’t have room for it right now.

I’m currently using this…

It’s my second sliding miter saw since 1993-94. It serves me well for what I need it to do. Carpentry & woodworking is my stock & trade so it does get a lot of use. Everything from rough framing build up to finish trim, & furniture making.

-- Darrell, making more sawdust than I know what to do with

View Justinmnhall's profile


4 posts in 1663 days

#8 posted 01-17-2016 08:26 AM

Working with extremely long stock 16’ I like using an industrial grade ras. Small stock like the miter. Percision cuts miter.

View Kent's profile


351 posts in 2598 days

#9 posted 01-17-2016 07:06 PM

Sliding compound mitre saws are really good at quickly turning one piece of wood into two pieces of wood, but not much else. On the other hand, they are quite portable and can be fairly accurate. These traits make them a valuable construction site tool.

Radial arm saws are much more flexible, but they do not like to be moved and they can suffer from accuracy problems. The ability to set the saw up for a different cut and then to return to its previous setting is NOT one of its strengths. These are not Craftsman-specific issues but are the result of the design and physics, neither of which are easy to change. (See Jon Eakes book ).

The tasks most often performed on a RAS are just as often performed or set up more easily or accurately on another tool. However, there are a few very specific tasks that the RAS is the ideal tool for. It is also easy to design and make useful jigs for the RAS.

Both of these tools can be used safely or dangerously. The SCMS does one well-understood job, so it is better understood and so it is generally less often used to damage human body parts. But because the RAS is so flexible, people tend to use it for operations that they aren’t familiar with and this contributes to its bad safety reputation.

What type of woodworking you do, where you do it, how much space you have to do it when you’re doing it and how much space you have to store it when you’re not, and how much time you want to spend setting things up are all questions that should all feed into your decision-making process. So, are you going to get the RAS or not?

-- If I knew then what I know now, I'd have made a completely different set of mistakes.

View SirIrb's profile


1239 posts in 2033 days

#10 posted 01-17-2016 07:42 PM

1 post in 2 days about one of the most asked and argued topics. I’m out…I was never in. Heck, the OP is out. Won’t even comment
Hope I’m wrong.

Doubting Steve

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

View rolandstronghammer's profile


49 posts in 1665 days

#11 posted 01-17-2016 10:40 PM

Seems like I was right. I don’t want to deal with having to readjust the calibration. I think I’ll save up and get a sliding miter. Now i just have to find a reasonably priced one. Thank you everybody for your comments.

View dhazelton's profile


2839 posts in 3099 days

#12 posted 01-17-2016 11:31 PM

The Dewalt MBF is one of the most versatile tools out there. But I would get a sliding miter first, if only for the ease of changing cuts on the fly. Do NOT believe that a RAS is an outdated tool. It can do a lot that a miter saw can’t. And if someone has to keep adjusting it then something on it is worn and needs to be repaired.

View TheDane's profile


5829 posts in 4465 days

#13 posted 01-18-2016 01:24 AM

Not sure what part of the country you are in, but the Hitachi C12RSH 12” Sliding Dual Compound Miter Saw is on sale for $369.00 at Menards through the end of the month.

-- Gerry -- "I don't plan to ever really grow up ... I'm just going to learn how to act in public!"

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