Tool of the past or is a radial arm saw awesome?

mdbuntyn

Matt
Corporate Member
Oddly enough, a video on RAS has been recommended to me for the past few weeks. I haven't watched it yet, so maybe this thread is a sign that I should
 

Dee2

Gene
Corporate Member
You will find this book helpful:
How to Master the Radial Saw by Wally Kunkel (a.k.a., Mr. Sawdust).
As Kunkel says, it is more of a manual than a book.
I believe you have to order it from the family.

I have a 12" Original Saw. And there's a story behind it I'll share some time. I rebuilt the table per Kunkel's guides.
 
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JpHess

Pat
User
You will find this book helpful:
How to Master the Radial Saw by Wally Kunkel.
As Kunkel says, it is more of a manual than a book
I believe you have to order it from the family.

I have a 12" Original Saw. And there's a story behind it I'll share some time. I rebuilt the table per Kunkel's guides.
Always enjoy a good story. Love to hear it
 

bob vaughan

Bob Vaughan
Senior User
Like many here, I started with an early 1970s Sears 10". Good saw. As the years went by the Sears saws got lighter and lighter. Devolution. the problem is track wear. A 40 year old saw was a great saw but after that time, the bearings need replacement and the iron track is likely in need of re-machining. The later models were lightweights but had replaceable rod ways. The Delta 10" saws varied in quality. My favorite is the 1960s 30C with the hardened adjustable ways. The Delta 40C is a good 12" saw. I would prefer it to the Dewalt 12" GP model I have now, but I had my medium length arm re-machines so it is plenty good for my needs. I'd prefer a long arm to use but not to really have. They stick out from the wall too far for my shop space. The modern version of the 40-C 14" radial arm saw was $4K or more when they quit making it. Spend that much on a sliding miter saw and you'll have something.
 

TBoomz

Ron
User
When I first started making stuff in my Dad's workshop, I was so intimidated by the tablesaw. I'd read all the bad stories of ppl losing fingers, getting yanked into the blade, kickback, etc.
Dad once said, "If you're afraid of a machine, don't use it". So, it was years before I did.

In the meantime, I learned to use his RAS, and found it to be all that I needed [at the time]; and, I've always felt comfortable using it. These days I use it primarily for cutting long stock down to size, dadoes, and half laps.
Rip using the TS.

I think a lot of it is just mental. Think about how easy it is to get a "paper cut". No one would consider a notepad to be dangerous.

That said, when I started ripping, I figured that the blade would be less likely to throw a board back if I "buried" the tip.

I would cut a slot in a piece of 1" plywood panel. Set up blade for ripping. Orient piece against the fence and side blade into slot. Clamp board to table. This way, @ least 1" of tip is NOT pushing back at board.

If I were to do it now, I'd sticker the panel ( or build shallow box) to raise "table" enuff to bury the tip 1.5" - 2". This way more of the teeth are pushing "up" and,... less "back." O'course, I'd still use the anti-kickback pawl.
** With a box setup, a vacuum hose could be fitted in to clear dust.
 

JpHess

Pat
User
When I first started making stuff in my Dad's workshop, I was so intimidated by the tablesaw. I'd read all the bad stories of ppl losing fingers, getting yanked into the blade, kickback, etc.
Dad once said, "If you're afraid of a machine, don't use it". So, it was years before I did.

In the meantime, I learned to use his RAS, and found it to be all that I needed [at the time]; and, I've always felt comfortable using it. These days I use it primarily for cutting long stock down to size, dadoes, and half laps.
Rip using the TS.

I think a lot of it is just mental. Think about how easy it is to get a "paper cut". No one would consider a notepad to be dangerous.

That said, when I started ripping, I figured that the blade would be less likely to throw a board back if I "buried" the tip.

I would cut a slot in a piece of 1" plywood panel. Set up blade for ripping. Orient piece against the fence and side blade into slot. Clamp board to table. This way, @ least 1" of tip is NOT pushing back at board.

If I were to do it now, I'd sticker the panel ( or build shallow box) to raise "table" enuff to bury the tip 1.5" - 2". This way more of the teeth are pushing "up" and,... less "back." O'course, I'd still use the anti-kickback pawl.
** With a box setup, a vacuum hose could be fitted in to clear dust.
I give all my tools the respect they deserve. Spent 6 years working in an ER and the most common tools that caused injuries were nail guns and hammers. I think I’ve pulled more nails out of people than some people have put nails in wood.
 

Barry W

Co-Director of Outreach
Barry
Corporate Member
A couple of years ago I bought an eighties - era (I think) DeWalt RAS for a specific project requiring a number of half-lap joints in ancient 4" x 6" stock. I had shopped on CL and found a number of non-Craftsman saws and settled on this one because it was nearest to me and the price was right. I bought a CMT 80 Teeth 4/30° ATB+1TCG Grind blade for it. After help from a fellow NCWWer with setup and adjustments, we found it cut accurately. Unfortunately, it now serves as a catch-all in my shop and needs to be put to use.

This forum may be of interest:
RAS Forum
 
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lastgoodusername

New User
lastgoodusername
Just picked up a 50's Dewalt nine inch. Really nice little saw for it's intended purpose. I've had a 14 inch back years ago, but sold it. When I was first out of the service, the lumberyard I worked at had a 14 or 16, can't remember for sure now. We used it to both crosscut and rip. It had a super long table. Ripping a 1 1/2 thick piece of soaking wet redwood. 16 foot long was a standard use.Any back to current times. I put a Freud 8 1/2 negative rake blade on it, cost more than I paid for the saw, very, very sweet cut. A great type machine if used within it's limits.
 

SteveColes

Steve
Staff member
Corporate Member
Could someone please explain why the RAS is dangerous. That is NOT a sarcastic question. It seems to be a given, but I don’t understand. I have never used one. Thanks.
 

Rwe2156

DrBob
Senior User
Pat, true, this is one of those subjects you're going to find different camps and different opinions.

Sliding miters have largely replaced the radial arm. Its also a reason why not many are made anymore. If you check the major machine companies, I'm pretty sure you won't find a RAS carried by any of them. That said, the "old iron" saws or the good ones like Red has are very good saws but also very hard to come by and often as expensive as a quality slider.

The issues with the homeowner type RAS's are accuracy, holding settings, and power. You definitely have to keep a sharp blade on them, as well as the proper type blade.

Yes, they can be bought for next to nothing, but frankly that's about what they are worth. That said, it does have a place in my shop, as I'll explain. I've owned a Craftsman (sorry but a real POJ IMO) and an old iron DeWalt 9" which was a great saw, but unfortunately the motor died. My current saw is a Rigid - not much better than a C'man.

I also have a miter saw (non slider). In my shop, 90% of RAS use is rough cross cutting dimensional lumber (boards), period. I am not that concerned about maintaining exactly 90, but I will say this is the biggest issue with the common homeowner type RAS's (again, with the exception of the old iron like Red's). One bump on the arm and you're in for a realignment session. They also seem to mysteriously loose their setting just from normal use, so plan on doing an alignment check at least every few months.

In my shop, the miter saw for is the "go to" for cutting miters, especially to an exact angle (try dialing in 22.5 on a RAS). Again, unless you're dealing with a high caliber RAS, if you do cut a miter, you'll have to check/reset for 90 every time you change it. This puts a cramp on the work flow.

So this is why I would advocate passing on a RAS and go with a slider, and you'll probably never see a need for a RAS.
 

bowman

Board of Directors, Events Director
Neal
Staff member
Corporate Member
Could someone please explain why the RAS is dangerous. That is NOT a sarcastic question. It seems to be a given, but I don’t understand. I have never used one. Thanks.
When cross-cutting, the blade spins in a clock-wise direction, towards the operator. The motor pulls itself into the work, so you have to hold the motor back from running towards you. This is why the proper blade designed for RAS is a necessity.

When turning the motor assembly for rip operations, there is a large potential for injury as your hands get nearer to the blade. With rip operations, you are pushing the work into the blade, much like you do with a tables.

My dad had one when I was growing up, so I got comfortable in using one, I got a newer one when I built my shop 3 years ago.
 

SteveColes

Steve
Staff member
Corporate Member
When cross-cutting, the blade spins in a clock-wise direction, towards the operator. The motor pulls itself into the work, so you have to hold the motor back from running towards you. This is why the proper blade designed for RAS is a necessity.

When turning the motor assembly for rip operations, there is a large potential for injury as your hands get nearer to the blade. With rip operations, you are pushing the work into the blade, much like you do with a tables.

My dad had one when I was growing up, so I got comfortable in using one, I got a newer one when I built my shop 3 years ago.
Thanks
 

zdorsch

Zach
Senior User
Steve,

Another issue is that the RAS doesn't seem as intuitive as other machines.

For example, you have to turn on the RAS using one hand, then grasp the handle whilst holding the work piece--compared to a miter saw that you turn on with one hand holding the handle while holding the piece with the other hand.

I have one of the cheaper Craftsman saws that I find myself making multiple movements with that are different from miter or sliding miter saw: I find myself lining up the piece of lumber and checking blade alignment. Then I hold the handle with one hand while unlocking the carrier with the other and then turn on the saw. After the saw is running I then firmly hold the work piece against my fence. A lot of movements for a simple cross cut, but I already had the saw and I don't have the budge for a sliding miter saw at the moment. I can see how folks would have cut themselves or reached into the blade, so I tend to be cautious when using my RAS.
 

Pop Golden

Pop
Corporate Member
I've addressed this conversation several times. A lot of RAS got bad press on maintaining accurate cuts. You may recall the Craftsman saw. I bought one when I started housekeeping and needed to make furniture. The straight cut was ok, but angles were a different. The device with the angle detentes was a cast iron quadrant the problem with the design was slots were the bolts attached to the saw. These were for adjusting, but they device slipped right to left when pressure was applied. I now have a Delta. Angles no problem, but I still use for straight cuts. I have a miter saw for those. My miter IS NOT a slider. My experience over the years is the supporting sliding arms will allow horizontal side to side movement. That cast iron arm on my RAS isn't going anywhere. As far as danger, all saws are dangerous. I have always felt the dangerous in the shop to be the band saw. The multi-tooth fast moving blade coupled with our fingers so near the blade makes for problems. Next time you're near a butcher shop look back there behind the glass. See that bandsaw. Meat + band saw can be translated into fingers + bandsaw. NOTE: the blade on either a sliding miter or a RAS should ALWAYS be a negative 5° tooth angle. I had to work for years before I found out that tooth angle was making the saw chase mt fingers.

Pop
 

cobraguy

Clay
Corporate Member
I have a RAS over in my dad's old shop. I plan to move it to my place once I get the space. For me, it will augment, but not replace, the TS and sliding miter. For example, when cutting dados in a long piece, the wood remains stationary eliminating the awkward struggle to keep things square and on track. As for safety concerns, just like any machine, know and understand it's perils before use. Never had an issue. I just respect it.
 

JpHess

Pat
User
Update:I was given an RAS by a member (big thank you to llucas) I’ve gotten the saw set up in my garage in it’s temporary location unit I can reorganize it’s staying put. I’ve very much enjoyed using it and have found it to be really efficient. Im still tinkering with it for accuracy but as of right now it’s cutting really well. Been a big help for my wife’s bath tub Tray I’m making her for Christmas. Pictures to follow as I finish up the project.
 

JimD

Jim
Senior User
A negative tooth blade really helped my old Ryobi be less prone to climb feeding itself. I use it occasionally for 90 degree crosscuts wider than my 12 inch CMS can make (it is not a slider). I have to bias the rails a little to the left but when I do it is accurate. I also used to use it to make tenons on long stop - with a dado blade. Now I just insert the tenon using my Domino to make the mortises in both pieces.
 

Gotcha6

Dennis
Corporate Member
My Junior High shop teacher was also my neighbor. I bought his RAS at his estate sale. He had it set up with a cable attached to the motor head which went back to a pulley behind the upright and down to an old window weight. It created enough pullback that blade climb was minimal, and the saw always returned to the rear of the carriage. I don't think he had the option of negative rake angle saw blades and did the best he could with what he had.
 

Pop Golden

Pop
Corporate Member
I didn't find out about negative rake angle blades until long after I had a RAS. I taught my boys when they started using my shop "you 'gotta hold this machine back it will come after your fingers". You don't have to pull it it'll do that on its own.

Pop
 

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