Radial Arm Saw versus miter saw

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Forum topic by SweetTea posted 03-30-2017 12:29 PM 5448 views 1 time favorited 18 replies Add to Favorites Watch
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478 posts in 1905 days

03-30-2017 12:29 PM

I would like to get some opinions on the subject of accuracy and repeatability in a miter saw versus a radial arm saw. I want to start by saying that I have very little experience with a RAS.

How do you guys think a good, well tuned RAS would compare to a standard miter saw for making straight 90 cuts in a shop setting? My old Dewalt Dw715 12” miter saw is starting to become troublesome and will soon need replacing.

I do not have any size or space limitations and what ever I go with, be it an older RAS or the Dewalt 10” (non slider) that I am looking at, it will not have to make anything but 90 cuts. I wish that I could afford a used up cut saw, that would be the best thing to use, but the cheapest one that I have come across is $1,500.00.

If I go with a RAS I will definitely pick up a book or two on how to tune them, and I will have an 8ft extension on each side (whether I go with the 10” Dewalt or a RAS) with a stop block and tape setup. What do you guys think about this?

18 replies so far

View Robert's profile


4744 posts in 2726 days

#1 posted 03-30-2017 01:28 PM

Sure than can do it just as well, but the question is for how long? All the consumer type RAS’s do not hold settings so stay away from them. The old iron is good if you can find them.

IMO they are one of the most dangerous saws in the shop and for this reason + accuracy miter saws have largely taken over that niche.

My suggestion is just replace the miter saw you have with one just like it.

-- Everything is a prototype thats why its one of a kind!!

View MrUnix's profile


8775 posts in 3444 days

#2 posted 03-30-2017 01:34 PM

Even compared to a slider, the RAS is way more versatile IMO.


-- Brad in FL - In Dog I trust... everything else is questionable

View 000's profile


2859 posts in 2145 days

#3 posted 03-30-2017 02:24 PM

I like my RAS. I keep it at 90 deg. I cut Frames with it all the time. It’s a 16” Delta 3ph. Pulls out to cut 26” and stays square. I can’t remember the last time I had to dial it in. I bought it from a Home Base Store that was closing down for $350.00. Been using it for 20+ years and it will probably go another 20, if I make it that long.

I also have, and like, my Hitachi 15” chop saw. Good for square cuts, stays true.
It also can cut up to a 6×6 with no problems.

It would be hard for me to choose between the two because the Hitachi is nice for cutting miters, but at the same time, I wouldn’t want to be without the RAS.

View JBrow's profile


1368 posts in 2166 days

#4 posted 03-30-2017 03:04 PM


I found myself in your situation about two years ago. I elected to replace my Used Craftsman 10” Radial Arm Saw bought in 1986 with a new Craftsman 10” Radial Arm Saw. The old radial arm saw started having problems. The used saw had been used by an aluminum siding contractor to cut aluminum siding. I elected to replace it with a new Craftsman since the old saw performed so well over the years. The new saw is very similar to the older saw and I expect the same length of service I enjoyed from the former saw.

Before buying new, I checked my local Craig’s List and saw a number of the Craftsman 10” Radial Arm Saws for about $100. I would suggest that you find a radial arm saw that has both the manual and a lower blade guard. The manual is indispensable when adjusting the saw to yield perfect crosscuts. The blade guard is just an added margin of safety.

I like the radial arm saw because once set and with a good blade I get accurate and consistent square crosscuts in material up to 13” wide. The radial arm saw accepts a number of attachments, although the only accessory beside a radial arm saw blade I have ever used is a dado blade. Since I prefer to use the table saw for dados, I do not install the dado blade in the radial arm saw very often, but it comes in handy for long workpieces which could be tricky to cut on the table saw. I do not believe the mitre saw is designed to accept anything other than a mitre saw blade.

I keep the radial arm saw set at 90 degrees and it makes consistently square cuts. I really dislike spending time resetting and adjusting the saw back to 90 degrees after making a carriage change. I made a 45 degree radial arm saw fixture that sets on the table. It allows me to set the workpiece at 45 degrees and thus no changing of the position of the carriage is required. For odd angles, I clamp a straight stick to the table to act as a fence set at whatever odd angle I need.

I do not have a mitre saw, but I would think a sliding compound mitre saw would be a better choice than a non-sliding saw; just for the extra capacity. If it is a sliding compound mitre, a 10” saw would have an impressive capacity and less money would be required for blades. Since I do not have a mitre saw, I cannot access the accuracy or repeatability of crosscuts.

I would suggest that whichever you go, a good blade designed for over the workpiece cuts would give better rests. I found that cheap blades, like the one that came with the new radial saw make adjusting the saw for perfect cuts almost impossible.

Your idea for extension tables on each side of the saw is similar to my set up. Due to space limitation, the left side table is 8’ long and the right side table is 6’ long. I installed a T track in the extension tables. The T tracks accept adjustable stops. The fence does not extend beyond the radial arm saw’s fence, but the radial arm saw’s fence is about 48” long. If you go with a mitre saw, I may be worthwhile to extend the mitre saw fence at least a little onto the extension tables.

View Fred Hargis's profile

Fred Hargis

7236 posts in 3739 days

#5 posted 03-30-2017 04:03 PM

IMHO there are 2 stories to an RAS being better than a CMS (or SCMS). You will read a lot of “no way” about the RAS being as useful, almost universally they come from those whose experience was tied to a Craftsman RAS. They (Sears) almost single-handedly killed the category. They made saws that won’t hold their zero (or any other setting) and were sold as the one tool that does everything, when in truth they did almost none of them well. that’s the first story, the second is if you have one of the “good” Dewalts (more in a minute) or the Delta/Rockwell turret arm saws (like the one jbay shows) once tuned they are as accurate as any CMS, and they repeatable (always return to zero). The “good” Dewalts are generally considered to be the ones with solid cast iron arms. It them a few years, but after B&D bought the brand, they made them be almost as poor as the Craftsman. Some of the early B&D labeled Dewalts are still good, but the that was the start of the the downfall of a great saw.

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

View jimintx's profile


939 posts in 2830 days

#6 posted 03-30-2017 04:23 PM

Last year, I ditched my Sears RAS which I had bought new in the late 80’s. I was very interested in reducing its footprint, and I replaced it with a miter saw.

I lusted for and got a different type miter than you want, but the point is that with a great table saw, band saw, compound miter saw, and modern hand-held circular saws, I had zero actual requirement for the full size RAS.

Since you have already explained that you only want to do 90-deg cuts and do not need the added cut width capacity, I’d say do not spend your time and money on a used RAS. It will require a large and cumbersome cabinet of some sort, will probably have an even larger dust collection box around it, and will need to be tuned up upon purchase and over time, and maybe even need parts replaced (which are not always easy to find for an old RAS that has not been sold in a long time). I’m not even addressing any RAS safety topics.

I vote to go with the best 10” miter saw you can find, tune it up, and never look back.

-- Jim, Houston, TX

View MrRon's profile


6187 posts in 4489 days

#7 posted 03-30-2017 04:41 PM

I have to agree with Fred Hargis on RAS’s. The other reason for the unpopularity of RAS’s is; they are not as portable as a miter saw. The miter saw was developed as a portable job site saw; easy to move and use unlike the RAS which was heavy, required 2 men to move it and then build extensions for the table. The RAS was more versatile; you could xcut a 2×12, something you can’t do with a miter saw until the sliding miter saw came along. RAS’s are dead as far as the construction industry is concerned, but alive and doing pretty well with home owners. Used RAS’s are available everywhere at prices that are downright steals. I passed up a 7-1/2 hp, 16” RAS for $150 because it was 3 phase and way overkill for my shop. I have both types of saws in my shop. I used the miter saw for cutting 2×4’s when building my shop, but now that it’s done, my son now has the miter saw; I prefer the RAS. I think accuracy between the RAS and miter saw is pretty much the same, but I question how long the miter saw will keep that accuracy. I could design you a sliding miter saw that would be precise and stay that way, but you would not be able to afford it. The RAS follows that “precise” idea more closely IMHO.

View 000's profile


2859 posts in 2145 days

#8 posted 03-30-2017 04:56 PM

Interesting, just to share.

Back in the late 70’s I worked at a production cabinet shop. In the face frame department they had a swing arm saw.
It was shop made but resembled the pic below. It was perfect for cutting frames.

View SweetTea's profile


478 posts in 1905 days

#9 posted 03-31-2017 12:40 AM

I like my RAS. I keep it at 90 deg. I cut Frames with it all the time. It s a 16” Delta 3ph. Pulls out to cut 26” and stays square. I can t remember the last time I had to dial it in. I bought it from a Home Base Store that was closing down for $350.00. Been using it for 20+ years and it will probably go another 20, if I make it that long.

I also have, and like, my Hitachi 15” chop saw. Good for square cuts, stays true.
It also can cut up to a 6×6 with no problems.

It would be hard for me to choose between the two because the Hitachi is nice for cutting miters, but at the same time, I wouldn t want to be without the RAS.

- jbay

It is interesting that you mentioned your Hitachi 15” miter saw because I just came across one in a local pawn shop for $150 and looks to be in good condition. How do you like it? Does it stay accurate with 90 cuts pretty well? I have been told that these old Hitachi beast are very good at staying accurate, more so than newer models from the likes of Dewalt and others. Is this true? I recently tried a friends Bosch glide and it was terrible. At full extension I could wiggle the arm back and forth almost 1/8” with little to no effort. I wonder if these Hitachi saws are really a bargain to someone who needs a no nonsense chop saw that will spend its entire life making 90 cuts on 2” wide material?

View 000's profile


2859 posts in 2145 days

#10 posted 03-31-2017 12:56 AM

150.00 in good condition is a steal.

I just replaced my old one with a new one that was in the 800.00 range.
The one I had before I had for at least 20 years (or longer) and I never adjusted it once.
Stayed true until my friend killed it cutting 45 deg miters in 4×4’s, .... but it was getting up there in age…

It might be a little large to be using constantly, but for 150.00 it’s worth getting just to have and keep looking for something else to work for your everyday frame cutting.

View eflanders's profile


339 posts in 3096 days

#11 posted 03-31-2017 01:09 AM

I don’t believe you mention maximum cut depth or cut width desired? Those answes might help in your decision.

View greenacres2's profile


378 posts in 3414 days

#12 posted 03-31-2017 01:36 AM

Had a late 1980’s Craftsman RAS—way too finicky. It was okay, but as Fred said—didn’t do anything well. Replaced it with a Dewalt SCMS on a portable stand. When folded up it saved a little space over the RAS, set up about the same footprint. With the Bosch stand, does a great job for construction cuts (2 decks and a shed a few years ago)—but didn’t buzz me for woodworking.

Last spring I picked up a 1958 Dewalt GWI and Wally Kunkel’s book, changed the bearings and built a table for it. Adjusted, cuts within .0015 across 12”. Have 0 to 50 degrees, returns to 0. I haven’t touched a setting in a year, still checks good. Running an Amana -5 hook TCG so no real climbing. I’ve got $350 in it including stainless jack bolts for my leveling system (which was the one thing I really had to reconfigure to get right. I am not fond of ripping with it, but have done so successfully. Really nice for ripping a straight edge (on ragged ply or rough lumber) by clamping a long straight edge to the stock and running against the front of the table. Dust collection in ripping is awful though.

Right saw, right setup, RIGHT BLADE=right saw for me.

View Roy Turbett's profile

Roy Turbett

177 posts in 4825 days

#13 posted 04-03-2017 02:26 AM

+1 on what greenacres2 has to say. I’ve had the exact same experience and there is no comparison between the 1980 Craftsman RAS I ended up giving away and the 1956 DeWalt GWI I replaced it with.

I also have a 10” Bosch SCMS that sits in the corner on a portable stand and only gets used when I take it on the road. It is not as accurate as the RAS and doesn’t produce as nice a cut. It also has a larger footprint than the RAS and is not as versatile because it doesn’t accept a dado blade and can’t be used to rip.

View RogR's profile


113 posts in 2111 days

#14 posted 04-03-2017 02:58 AM

Your situation is different than most in that you only need to make 90º cuts. I would think either tool would be durable under that scenario because once dialed, it will never be altered. The weaknesses of most saws come from the mechanism that makes it adjustable or versatile, and you don’t need either.

My experience with RAS is they take a comparatively long time to spin up and wind down, so if you need the blade to stop between operations it might slow you down. OTOH for repetitive cuts with a stop block, the ergonomics probably weigh in its favor.

View Rrrandy's profile


212 posts in 1725 days

#15 posted 04-03-2017 04:06 AM

Well dialed in miter saw is always the best.

-- Y'all need to locate a sense of humor. Borrow one if you can't find yours...

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