Radial arm verses Sliding miter.

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Forum topic by Vern Little posted 12-18-2010 01:39 AM 2800 views 0 times favorited 28 replies Add to Favorites Watch
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Vern Little

103 posts in 4071 days

12-18-2010 01:39 AM

At first I was starting to form my opinion that the 12” sliding miter would take the place of a radial arm saw. But after reading all the reviews on the sliding miter saws, I’m not so sure. It seems as if you want a sliding miter that is accurate you must shell out in the neighborhood of $500-$700. You can pick up a radial arm saw on craigslist for +- $100 up to $300 for one that is mint. The radial arm isn’t as easy to transport but mine would stay home anyway. The radial arm is proven itself many years ago. It doesn’t take up but maybe another 10”-12” over a sliding 12” miter saw station. And you can crosscut up to 18”, you can cut dadoes as well as rip with a radial arm.
Anybody want to profess their expertise on this subject?

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

28 replies so far

View davidroberts's profile


1027 posts in 4020 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 3517 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 3361 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 3934 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

1078 posts in 3599 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

2753 posts in 3456 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 4257 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


5772 posts in 3766 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


18703 posts in 4210 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 4071 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 3388 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 4182 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 3582 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 4207 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 3620 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

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