Cheap radial arm saws on CL - worth their salt?

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Forum topic by nickbatz posted 11-07-2019 12:17 AM 1140 views 0 times favorited 22 replies Add to Favorites Watch
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625 posts in 1050 days

11-07-2019 12:17 AM

Topic tags/keywords: tablesaw

Is there any value in picking up a cheapo radial arm saw for $50 or so?

There are always lots of them on Craigslist, usually Craftsman, and I was thinking one might be useful… but not if they’re just going to be frustrating (which could be why there are always so many for sale).

I do have a compound sliding miter saw, table saw, very nice Makita circular saw, very nice Bosch jigsaw, bandsaw, scrollsaw… but I was thinking the increased capacity of the radial arm saw might come in handy.

22 replies so far

View teejk02's profile


504 posts in 2095 days

#1 posted 11-07-2019 12:57 AM

RAS was my primary tool for years when money was tight. Every now and then I wished I had one again when notching posts for mailboxes/benches.

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1222 posts in 881 days

#2 posted 11-07-2019 01:22 AM

Do you have the space for it, or would you be removing the sliding miter saw. Are you dissatisfied with your current sliding miter saw. If you have plenty of room why not, you can always sell it for what you paid for it. You may find out you like it over the sliding miter saw, and sell the sliding miter saw. Of all the radial arm saw I’ve seen, I like the larger platform work area to sit the pieces your cutting.

View nickbatz's profile


625 posts in 1050 days

#3 posted 11-07-2019 01:30 AM

I sort of have space for it, and I’d definitely keep the sliding miter saw. It’s great.

The larger platform and capacity is what I was thinking about, specifically when crosscutting desktops down to size at their ends. It’s not like I need it – the circular saw w/straight edge guide works really well – but they’re very cheap.

Are so many people selling them to buy miter saws?

View Phil32's profile


1242 posts in 874 days

#4 posted 11-07-2019 02:15 AM

The shop at my home was built by the previous owner. It has a long workbench, recessed for a RAS and wired for 220V. Although I’m an active woodworker I’ve never found enough interest in a RAS to fill the space.

-- Phil Allin - There are mountain climbers and people who talk about climbing mountains. The climbers have "selfies" at the summit!

View KTNC's profile


178 posts in 1226 days

#5 posted 11-07-2019 03:16 AM

Hi nickbatz:

Seems like most here on Lumberjocks hate radial arm saws and I’m sure they will soon be commenting! I love them. I’ve purchased and restored/repaired several lately and I use them for cross cuts, rips, bevel cuts etc.

Just to set your expectations correctly. Almost any of these old RASs that you bring home will not be ready to be used without some work. Many will be in a condition that is outright dangerous.
- almost all need new table, fence(s) and back table
- some have the column loose so that the end of the arm will move about
- some have several of the motions frozen from lack of use
- many are missing the anti-kickback device
- many come with old rusty steel blades (not carbide)

You should count on needing to make a new table/fence and disassembling/lubricating/repairing to a major or minor amount as needed. You’ll likely need to replace the bearings (readily available) in the motor. Most other repair parts are not available from the manufacturers. The good news is that the older saws have almost completely metal parts so they don’t break easily and the old RASs are cheap enough that you can buy two of the same model just in case you need some parts.

If all this doesn’t dissuade you from getting a radial arm saw, I can give you some more pointers.

Here are pics of the RAS I’ve repaired/restored: 1960ish craftsman (total restore including paint), 1990s craftsman (just minor repairs needed) and 1970s Wards Powr kraft (major repairs but no painting).

View Fred Hargis's profile (online now)

Fred Hargis

6733 posts in 3463 days

#6 posted 11-07-2019 11:40 AM

An RAS is a valuable addition to the shop, but my experience with Craftsman (I’ve had 2, older models) will have you cussing the day you heard the acronym “RAS”. Go with an older Dewalt (the solid cast iron arm models) or a turret arm Delta and you have a tool that will easily earn it’s keep in the shop. But please note…much as I love the RAS, I still don’t see them as a replacement for a table saw.

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

View hairy's profile


3191 posts in 4502 days

#7 posted 11-07-2019 01:09 PM

Here’s my $50 RAS from craigslist.

It’s a buyers market, but some parts of the country are much better than others.

-- You can lead a horse to water, but you can't tie his shoes. Blaze Foley

View Robert's profile


4302 posts in 2451 days

#8 posted 11-07-2019 02:31 PM

As radial arms go, they are not very good machines, and that’s putting it nicely. You’ll probably do alright with an old iron saw, but be aware a 50 year old saw has a 50 year old motor and the motors are very expensive to rewind by hand.

I know lots of guys use them and swear by them, but that’s because they haven’t bumped the arm and spend the next 1/2 hour realigning it. So that’s my opinion based on experience. I’ve owned 3 (C’man & Rigid) the only one I could depend on to hold settings was a 50’s model DeWalt with a cast iron arm & motor went bad I couldn’t even find anyone who would rewind it. The Rigid is my current unit and it is decent, but again, do not ever bump the arm or change it from 90. Most of them are also woefully underpowered.

That said, they can be useful machines, it all depends on what you’re doing with it. I use mine to rough cut lumber when I’m breaking down parts. If I want true 90° I either use my miter gauge or sled on the table saw.

Just my 2¢ worth….............

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

View ArtMann's profile


1483 posts in 1786 days

#9 posted 11-07-2019 03:35 PM

I sold a guy a Craftsman early 1980’s radial arm saw in “good” condition for $75. I threw in a 6 horsepower non-working horizontal gas engine he expressed an interest in so I wouldn’t feel guilty I cheated him. That is what I think of a Craftsman RAS. I bought the saw new and never could keep it adjusted square.

View Ripper70's profile


1379 posts in 1879 days

#10 posted 11-07-2019 03:44 PM

If you can find a vintage DeWalt, it’s a worthwhile tool to have if you have the space. The machines manufactured in the 1950’s are virtually indestructible and can, often times, be had for a song.

-- "You know, I'm such a great driver, it's incomprehensible that they took my license away." --Vince Ricardo

View Smitty_Cabinetshop's profile


17119 posts in 3588 days

#11 posted 11-07-2019 04:26 PM

I paid $100 for my ‘56 DeWalt RAS over five years ago, it was worth every penny and then some. Can’t say I’d feel the same about the Craftsman saws make in the ‘70s and ‘80s. My dad has one of those, haven’t used it much at all. I second the suggestion to be patient and find an old Iron DeWalt.

-- Don't anthropomorphize your handplanes. They hate it when you do that. - OldTools Archive -

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13738 posts in 1954 days

#12 posted 11-07-2019 04:33 PM

i dont understand all the ras haters,ive been using one since i was old enough to see over the table,i use mine every time im in the shop,wouldn’t be without thing ill admit though is i only use it for 90 degree cuts because as some have said they can be hard to keep far as craftsman thats all ive ever used and have no complaints,my current one has been going strong for about 15 years or more.

-- working with my hands is a joy,it gives me a sense of fulfillment,somthing so many seek and so few find.-SAM MALOOF.

View GR8HUNTER's profile


8257 posts in 1683 days

#13 posted 11-07-2019 05:25 PM

i dont understand all the ras haters,ive been using one since i was old enough to see over the table,i use mine every time im in the shop,wouldn t be without thing ill admit though is i only use it for 90 degree cuts because as some have said they can be hard to keep far as craftsman thats all ive ever used and have no complaints,my current one has been going strong for about 15 years or more.

- pottz

I’m not per say a ras h8ter I am a craftsman ras h8ter I think if I had tons of space I would have got a better one when I purchased mine :<))

-- Tony---- Reinholds,Pa.------ REMEMBER TO ALWAYS HAVE FUN :<))

View woodetal's profile


92 posts in 743 days

#14 posted 11-07-2019 08:24 PM

I had a Sears/Craftsman RAS for years. 90 degree cuts and an occasional angle or compound miter were the uses. I NEVER used it for ripping. I sold the RAS for $50—it was in great shape—and bought a DeWalt sliding compound miter and have never regretted that. The DeWalt is more compact than the RAS in my now smaller shop area. I have the DeW on wheels with extension wings to accommodate the longer stock.
There bunches of RAS for sale and I laugh at the $500 for a 25 year old RAS. As always, your experience may differ given your needs and budget. Brian

View nickbatz's profile


625 posts in 1050 days

#15 posted 11-07-2019 08:57 PM

Okay, thanks for all the replies.

Bottom line, it sounds like you get what you pay for. There are people like KTNC who enjoy restoring tools, but I have to be honest and say that isn’t me.

This isn’t a tool I’d use a lot, since I have all the other saws, so I’d probably be better off using the time I’d spend tweaking a radial arm saw doing other things!

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