To own a radial arm saw or not to own a radial arm saw?

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Forum topic by lumberdollys posted 12-20-2019 03:03 AM 2727 views 0 times favorited 61 replies Add to Favorites Watch
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7 posts in 2017 days

12-20-2019 03:03 AM

Topic tags/keywords: humor question

Which radial arm saw is better?
Dewalt vs Delta?
Both are early models, back when tools were meant to last. That time period.
Is a radial arm saw worth the space it takes up in a small hobby shop?

—CrossGrain Wood Products,

-- CrossGrain Wood Products,

61 replies so far

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89 posts in 724 days

#1 posted 12-20-2019 03:21 AM

I’ve got a sweet Dewalt Powershop 7770 in my shop. Too bad I never use it. Last time it was used was when I built my hot tub gazebo abut 12 years ago. I’d sell it, but you can’t hardly give them away…. I see decent RAS’s not sell at dirt cheap prices, $50 or less…. If you do a lot of work with dimensional lumber, then an RAS might be useful. YMMV

-- "My greatest fear is that upon my demise, my wife will sell my tools for what I said I paid for them."

View KTNC's profile


180 posts in 1271 days

#2 posted 12-20-2019 03:50 AM

Hi lumberdollys:

About a month ago another lumberjock had a similar question. I made extensive comments there – reply #5.

In addition to the saws mentioned in that other post, I just finished restoring a 1950s DeWalt. Wonderful machine.

regards, Kerry

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3460 posts in 921 days

#3 posted 12-20-2019 04:59 AM

I had an old Craftsman from the 60s that worked well. I used it quite a bit until I got my 12” SCMS. Its basically a more dangerous version of the SCMS. I tried using the various attachments, including the scariest machine known to man – the RAS with the molding cutter installed. After getting my SCMS, the RAS became my longer dado machine. Eventually i got sick of how much space it took up, whereas the chop saw could be stowed away in my cabinet. I tried selling it on CL for months. Was about to try to give it away, but finally some sucker took it off my hands for $20(listed for $25 for several weeks)

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118161 posts in 4593 days

#4 posted 12-20-2019 05:34 AM

Hi LJdollys, A lot of people have replaced their Radial arms saws with sliding Miter saws because of they take up a lot less room, there are some advantages in owning a Radial arm saw versus a sliding miter saw, one is that you can install a dado blade on a radial arm saw and you can rip boards with them, I don’t usually recommend ripping wood with a RA but it is possible. Some of the old deltas are pretty solid saws.


View therealSteveN's profile


7259 posts in 1590 days

#5 posted 12-20-2019 09:33 AM

Having had them all at one time or another I would much prefer a TS with a good sled, and a Miter saw to make rough dimension cuts. The TS with a good sled can make more precise cuts, so unless you are mostly doing dimensional lumber chopping for lawn and garden pieces, it will take your woodworking farther, faster, and safer.

-- Think safe, be safe

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Fred Hargis

6850 posts in 3509 days

#6 posted 12-20-2019 11:25 AM

I’ve had one for 35 years or so in my shop, except for a few years I went without….that won’t happen again. I don’t see them as being the only tool in the shop, and they certainly are second to a table saw…but they are incredibly useful. Much more than a miter saw (IMHO). But it does have to be one of the older cast iron arm Dewalts (I’ve had 5 over the years) or the Delta turret arm models…I see them as equally good in construction…and the turret arm might be more handy for angled cuts. So, if you have the room it’s a really valuable tool….if not, you can get by just fine. BTW, there is another RAS I covet…a Northfield Unipoint; but those are generally not available and certainly out of reach for most hobbyists.

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

View MPython's profile


338 posts in 828 days

#7 posted 12-20-2019 01:02 PM

My father bought a Rockwell 990 radial arm saw back new in the 1950s. I used it a lot and inherited it when he passed away. Back in the day, radial arm saws were promoted as the one-tool answer to a woodworkers many needs. It is not. Some of the operations that are do-able on this machine are terrifying. I know; I’ve done many of them. Some I wouldn’t attempt on a bet. But it has its uses. I have mine set up as a dedicated crosscut saw with a long bench. It excels at breaking down long stock in my tiny shop. It is also good for dados and similar cuts. I’ve considered replacing mine with a modern sliding compound miter saw; but my set-up works well for me, so it stays. Most radial arm saws are not capable of consistent, accurate, square cuts. They require constant adjustment. Some are. The older, heavy DeWalts, Walker Turners and such, and the turret type machines are more stable than the single arm Sears Craftsman style saws. Mine is a turret style saw and is capable of accurate work, but I use it almost exclusively for rough stock breakdown and rely on my table saw for finish dimensioning. I don’t rip on my saw at all; I find ripping on it scary. In my opinion, if you think of a radial arm saw as the Swiss army knife of saws, you will be disappointed. If you adjust your expectations and narrow your goals, you should be happy with a good radial arm saw.
My $.02.

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3021 posts in 2423 days

#8 posted 12-20-2019 02:45 PM

I have 4 right now and I’m debating keeping them all or just a couple. I definitely would recommend one or two :-)

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17242 posts in 3634 days

#9 posted 12-20-2019 03:13 PM

The right one, yes. Like an older (pre-60s) DeWalt. And they can be had pretty cheaply ($100 or less) if you’re patient.

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

View controlfreak's profile


1805 posts in 617 days

#10 posted 12-20-2019 03:19 PM

Why is it that RAS fell out of favor? Safety?

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15051 posts in 2000 days

#11 posted 12-20-2019 03:24 PM

my vote is absolutely,ive had a craftsman ras for about 28 years now,this is my second one and it gets used every time im in the shop,id give up my miter saw before id give up my ras.many stay away because they say there dangerous,ive been using one since i was 12 and have never been injured yet.

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

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5953 posts in 3367 days

#12 posted 12-20-2019 03:33 PM

Why is it that RAS fell out of favor? Safety?

- controlfreak

I had a RAS for 30+ years in my shop. It was a 70’s vintage Craftsman that I used for crosscutting 90° only. I replaced it with a miter saw, not for safety reasons, I wanted a saw with a smaller foot print. I haven’t regretted the switch.

-- Bondo Gaposis

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6419 posts in 3226 days

#13 posted 12-20-2019 03:43 PM

Is a radial arm saw worth the space it takes up in a small hobby shop?

- lumberdollys

Like many woodworking questions, the answer is . . . it depends. For the work I do and the size of my shop, no, a RAS is not worth the space, a sliding miter saw handles anything I need nicely and is more compact. If you are doing a lot of crosscutting of wide boards, then it might be worth it. Only you can decide if it’s an appropriate tool for your shop.

Growing up, a radial arm saw in my dad’s shop was used for everything. He didn’t have a table saw, so we crosscut, ripped, mitered and dadoed all with the RAS. If I had a large shop and could dedicate the space for one, I’d probably get an old cast iron beast and build it into a long bench along with a sliding miter saw. Use the RAS for 90 degree cuts and dados and the miter saw for angles. With a very small shop, I just don’t have the space.

-- - In theory, there is no difference between theory and practice. In practice, there is.

View Madmark2's profile


2323 posts in 1604 days

#14 posted 12-20-2019 04:11 PM

When I started apprenticeship at 10yo the shop had a Craftsman 10” RAS that scared the crap out of me until I mastered it several years later. One of the few times I ever saw the old man have a saw accident was as he ripped down a foot square piece of 1/4” ply on the RAS. Fortunately he only lost a few layers of skin and we had to pull the work piece out of the wall. Also saw a guy at the lumberyard lose a couple of fingers on an old 12” DeWalt RAS. Safety difference is that a TS can be set for a shallow (non-amputation) cut vs the RAS has full blade exposure (amputation risk) 100% of the time. This is esp true on old RAS’s without even rudimentary guards. SCMS’s are much safer. Haven’t had one in my shop and can’t say I miss it.

-- The hump with the stump and the pump!

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Fred Hargis

6850 posts in 3509 days

#15 posted 12-20-2019 04:57 PM

Why is it that RAS fell out of favor? Safety?

- controlfreak

I’ll offer my opinion. Sears starting touting the RAS as a one-machine-does-it-all tool. At eh same time they incorporated a different manufacturer (Emerson Electric) to build some conveniences into the saw that compromised the design. Out of all this they marketed a saw and attachments that worked extremely poorly (if at all), and even by itself the saw was a piece of crap. Once the word was out the broader story condemned all RAS machines as junk and sales fell off the cliff. Sears also had some aggressive pricing and were (probably) the market leader, making the impact greater than it should have been. In the meantime, B&D had assumed control of Dewalt and did their form of cost engineering that ruined a good solid design in the saw, just to compete with sears and the Craftsman line. So, in a nutshell…I blame it on Sears; but that’s just the way I see it. There were quite a few other contributors factors to support the decline, but that’s by far the largest reason (again, IMHO).

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

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