Radial Arm Saw - Do you have and use one?

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  • Radial Arm Saw - Do you have and use one?

    I've posted a few times over the years with reference to my Craftsman 10-inch RAS. It's undoubtedly one of my favored large power tools, which I purchased new back in late 1973. Last night I was looking for some information and discovered several video's on YouTube regarding Radial Arm Saws. I tell you,, there's a lot of images out there that I think is wrong and some of it looking like it comes from shop teachers. While I am quite sure that my practices are absolutely correct, it seems like others have different understandings. So, I thought it might make interesting conversation.

    Have you ever used a RAS, perhaps own one, love it or hate it or maybe even scared to death of the one you once saw. What's your take?


    CWS
    Last edited by LCHIEN; 01-14-2021, 02:27 AM. Reason: added tags
    Think it Through Before You Do!

  • #2
    I had my dad's old 8" B&D Dewalt RAS as seen in the linked thread, but it went to my niece who bought an old house and used it for a kitchen remodel from framing to flooring and trim.

    I first used it for a 4H project in elementary school and grew up thinking table saws were more dangerous. The reality is that both have numerous ways to injure you if you aren't careful and a few ways to injure you even if you are.


    Chr's
    __________
    An ethical man knows the right thing to do.
    A moral man does it.

    Comment


    • #3
      I was offered one a couple of times and turned it down. Too many tools and not enough room and I didn't see a real need for one between the 12" miter saw and BT3000 table saw.
      The big advantage I see to a RAS is seeing where your dados are going to be (and have been) cut... on the table saw its always hidden.
      The other good thing about them is that they go back flush against the wall. Unlike TS and sliding mitersaws which need a lot of clearance room in the back which eats up workspace.
      Last edited by LCHIEN; 01-13-2021, 04:56 PM.
      Loring in Katy, TX USA
      If your only tool is a hammer, you tend to treat all problems as if they were nails.
      BT3 FAQ - https://www.sawdustzone.org/forum/di...sked-questions

      Comment


      • #4
        I was given a Craftsman 10 inch RAS several years ago. It belonged to a good friend and former co-worker. After a medical issue cost him half a leg, his days puttering around in his garage/shop are over. Knowing I'd make good use of it - and take care of it - he gave it to me. When his grandkids are in town (they live in the Bay area) they - and grandpa - come to "Uncle Mike's shop" (not really an uncle...) for a day of fun. They're not big enough yet to safely use the RAS themselves but I've used it to cut stock to size for their projects; they know it was grandpa's saw so it makes the project have extra memories.

        When I got the RAS, I cleaned it up, re-aligned everything, and put a new/modern blade on it with negative hook teeth to reduce the self-feeding tendency. I also made a support for one of those plastic square-cone dust collection funnels and it has a permanent line to the dust collector... catches pretty much everything. The RAS works fine for me. I also have a Ridgid compound miter saw (CMS) on a MSUV stand but it lives stuffed into a corner of the shop and is a nuisance to get out and use. It has miserable dust collection too... so the RAS is used far more often.

        I received the Sears RAS manual with it - it shows many cut techniques that are well outside my safety/comfort zone. For regular cross-cuts - 90 degrees or at an angle - I have no qualms using the RAS. As with any of my tools - hand tools as well - not just power tools - I always take a moment to make sure the workpiece is properly supported, that I've checked the tools (e.g. router bit collet tight, depth lock tight, saw blade tight, fence locked down properly, workpiece solidly supported on the bench, in the vise, clamped, etc., bandsaw blade tensioned, chisels sharp) and they I've got my "escape plan" thought out if I feel something is going wrong. I don't think I'll ever do rip cuts on the RAS (that's what the BT3 is for, or a circular saw + sawboard for really big stuff) and I don't think I'll ever use the RAS with the blade horizontal either... a horizontal blade setup, with the RAS carriage locked at the full "pull" end of the arm so the blade overhangs the front of the table, is one of the techniques described to make cuts in sheet goods. You hold the sheet vertically, rubbing against the front of the RAS table while the lower edge rides in a slot cut into a 2x4. The picture of that in the Sears manual freaked out a few woodworking friends of mine. Me too. But for stuff that could be done on either a RAS or CMS, I have no reservations using the RAS.

        I tried doing dados on the RAS a couple of times. Getting the depth just right is tougher on my RAS compared to using the BT3. On my RAS, the height adjustment - moving a lot of weight - is difficult to use when I need to make tiny adjustments. Plus, if the workpiece moves at all or has any sort of bow in it the depth won't be constant and usually ends up too deep in some spots; opposite what I've experienced on my table saw. Plus, my dado stack does not have negative hook teeth so it really wants to self-feed. For rabbets along the long edge of a board - such as a rabbet for a cabinet back panel - my RAS would have to be used in "rip cut" mode to have sufficient travel - I'm far more comfortable doing rabbets and dado cuts on the BT3.

        mpc

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        • #5
          Hmmm mpc, you just cured me of thinking the RAS are good for dado cuts.
          Loring in Katy, TX USA
          If your only tool is a hammer, you tend to treat all problems as if they were nails.
          BT3 FAQ - https://www.sawdustzone.org/forum/di...sked-questions

          Comment


          • #6
            I had a Sears 10", the one that had a major recall in the late '80s or early 90's. However the motor on mine gave up the ghost just months prior to me moving to Japan in '86. My dad gave it to me in the late '70s and I learned to do many things with it. I did not know anything about "safety" back then - except to be extremely careful and plan my cuts before I cut them. I think I ripped as much as I cross cut. And all kinds of cuts, miters and bevels! When I did cross cuts, I squeezed the handle with all my strength EVERY time and pulled slowly. I did not want it to get away from me. I was scared of it, but I was sure happy I had a tool to make something. I made numerous things with it, but never took a single cut for granted.

            I think I had 1 accident or kickback that I can remember - and that was to pull the saw all the way out and try to cross cut pushing it back in instead of pulling it outward. I was scared of it potentially grabbing and it would come running at me, so I tried the other way of cutting - only once. It took the board I was going to cross cut, lifted it some and threw it back. I never did that again.

            My dad acquired a used 10" Dewalt while I was overseas and I used it sparingly when I was home on furloughs. I still have it but I do not use it. I keep thinking I will tune it up and use it for something.
            Hank Lee

            Experience is what you get when you don't get what you wanted!

            Comment


            • #7
              I used a RAS when I took shop classes at a community college. When I got a bigger shop, I was convinced I'd restore an old one so I found a used one on Craigslist, but after several years of taking up a lot of floor space, I sold it.

              Personally, with my limited experience with the RAS, I'd only use it for cross-cutting. I got by with a 10" CMS and panel sled for TS, but some day...

              Comment


              • #8
                Thanks for everyone's comments.

                At present, my RAS is sitting in my 12 x 20 shed, everything perfectly aligned, lubricated and working great. BUT, I've come to the point where I use it for cross-cutting only. When I purchased it in 1973, it was my only stationary power tool and I loved it. Built some benches, remodeled the house, cut trim, even made a few Christmas presents over the years and of course I built my 18 x 25 ft deck. I did a lot of ripping on my RAS, with the only gripe being that feeding stock put me way too far from the shutoff switch. To remedy that, I put a switch box out near my feed point. I've only had one jam, and not once ever have I had a kickback. The jam scared me though and that is when I put together the remote switch.

                In the early 80's, work got in my way and my RAS sat in my damp basement for almost twenty years. I had coated the column and other bare metal parts with some metal shield spray that our shipping dept. used for international shipments (heavy, multi-ton compressor equipment) and then covered things as much as possible. After retirement I decided to get back to woodworking and bought a few newer tools, including my BT3100. I completely took the RAS apart and spent several days cleaning and lubricating the entire assembly including the motor.

                I've told this story before, but when I was a kid I used to go with my Dad on the various 'extra jobs' he had to do, nights and weekends, everything from plumbing and heating to carpentry. I learned a lot. But one night in the summer of 1958, just after my 14th birthday, I witnessed his table saw accident. In a flash, he lost two fingers and seriously damaged a third while using a molding-head on a table saw. We were making kitchen cabinets in a newly constructed home. It was just Dad and me working late for a local guy who built houses on his farm land. I can still hear that 'harrrmmppf' and my Dad yell, "We've got to go home, NOW! He grabbed a rag, wrapped it around his left hand and ran down the stairs and out the basement garage door to the car, with me running after him. Our house was about a mile away and he made it home and ran into the house, directly to the bathroom. Trailing him, I told Mom what had happened. Fortunately, my Dad's cousin had stopped by and was waiting for us to get home. He drove my parents to the hospital, twelve miles away.

                I told my two younger sisters that everything would be okay and then called the guy we were working for and rode my bike over to meet him at the house. Surprising to me, there wasn't a lot of blood, but you could definitely follow a trail of drops. But the next morning when I went out to the car, the entire drive's side of our white 56' Mercury was coated with blood. It made me wonder how Dad made it that far home without passing out. He was just one tough guy, I never heard him scream, just "we gotta go home!".

                So, that left me a bit scared of table saws and while I started high school a month later, I opted for metal shop, instead of wood and it wasn't until my senior year that I ran out of options and was forced to take woodshop. My teacher noticed that I was staying away from the big power tools and asked what my problem was. He was quite understanding, and he guided me over to the DeWalt, with, "Let me introduce you to a safe saw."

                Of course it wasn't, and of course I got a lot of cautionary instructions, but the one thing that was obvious what that blade was right there where could see it and you could see what it was doing, and with your hand firmly on the grip, you could feel what it was doing. On the table saw, except for through cuts, things just weren't that obvious. As the teach said, pointing to that DeWalt blade, "You'rw nor going to be dumb enough to get your hands anywhere near that thing, are you? And so, over the course of the school year I had had an opportunity. We built desks and even a small house, fabricating everything in our school shop. I learned great respect and affection of the RAS.

                I got married in 1967, and wouldn't you know, my FIL, was the manager of the local Sears' hardware dept. Loved that guy and he knew everything about the tools he managed. In 1973, I took a job with Ingersoll-Rand and we move to Painted Post. We were barely settled when my FIL called me, he had just returned from a tool marketing seminar in Chicago and he was calling to let me know that if I wanted to buy that RAS that I had been talking about forever, "now is the time". The 1974 models were going to have a fabricated column instead of the cast iron and so if I wanted the "last of the cast iron column saws" he had only two left. It was Saturday, and we jumped in the car and headed to Binghamton!

                So, over the years I've had a lot of, sometimes heated, discussions about using the RAS. I've seen so many questionable practices that it makes me wonder sometimes and the other night, looking at some of the self-promoted experts on YouTube, I thought this might be a good place for such discussion and maybe a learning experience.

                Like for instance:

                How high do you keep your table? (I see a lot of tables with guys almost leaning over on their elbows) with the RAS arm barely above their waist.)

                Do you cut predominantly with your left or right hand?

                Is your waste piece on the left or right side of the blade?

                Do you still rip on your RAS?

                Do you ever run with the blade horizontal (ouch!).

                Lot's more questions and practices.

                Thanks,

                CWS

                Think it Through Before You Do!

                Comment


                • #9
                  My answers to CWS' questions:
                  How high do you keep your table? My RAS included a tall metal box stand which I then placed on a mobile base. The stand was part of the original RAS package - it wasn't an add-on by the original owner. Net result is the RAS arm is about the same height as my face; the table is about elbow height. I don't have to lean over at all to use the RAS.

                  Do you cut predominantly with your left or right hand? I'm right-handed so I generally hold the workpiece against the left-side fence with my left hand, using my right hand to control the carriage and power switch. However, the RAS table is wider on the right side so, if the workpiece balances better that way, I will reverse and hold with the right hand, working the saw with the left. I do NOT "cross my arms" using the RAS.

                  Is your waste piece on the left or right side of the blade? Either. It's often dictated by which edge of the workpiece is straight enough to go against the fence as my RAS is frequently used to crosscut long but not S4S material into manageable segments. When cutting long stock, I position the workpiece so the longer post-cut piece will be on the right side of the RAS table since that's wider on my saw. If the board is really long, I may clamp both ends to the table and/or get out the Ridgid "FlipTop" stands.

                  Do you still rip on your RAS? No. I had the BT3 long before the RAS so the BT3 is where I've always done rip cuts. Rips on the BT3 are a known/comfortable and well-practiced task... on the RAS I'd be starting over as a rookie doing rips. I have long infeed and outfeed tables for the BT3 as well if/when they are needed. For really large workpieces I often use a circular saw + sawboard with the work supported on a 4x8 foot Centipede Sawhorse outside the shop.

                  Do you ever run with the blade horizontal (ouch!). NO.

                  mpc

                  Comment


                  • #10
                    How high do you keep your table? Mine was right about 37". It had the OEM stand and after leveling it and the table that's about where it ended up.

                    Do you cut predominantly with your left or right hand? Even though I'm left handed, I use the RAS with my right hand.

                    Is your waste piece on the left or right side of the blade? Either, it really depends on what I'm cutting and more on how I was holding it when put it on the table.

                    Do you still rip on your RAS? Rarely, but I have a couple of times in recent years when the tablesaw had a dado blade in it and I was too lazy to swap it out. That is simply a failure to plan ahead on my part.

                    Do you ever run with the blade horizontal (ouch!). F@#$ NO! I've seen this done in pictures and think it requires a special kind of stupid, and you'd have a difficult time convincing me otherwise.

                    Lot's more questions and practices
                    Here's one that that most people freak out when they hear. If I'm crosscutting something large or doing dadoes, I start with the motor at the end of the arm near me and push the blade through the cut. It eliminates the chance of the motor running at me. I also have a hold down on one side or the other so I'm not concerned about the piece lifting up. My brother in law nearly had a heart attack the first time he saw me do that, told me how unsafe it was etc. and then did exactly the same thing on his SCMS. He's one of those people that believes there are gangs of radial arm saws running around neighborhoods at night maiming innocent woodworkers and children. He can't believe I ever had one in the shop.
                    Chr's
                    __________
                    An ethical man knows the right thing to do.
                    A moral man does it.

                    Comment


                    • #11
                      How high do you keep your table? (I see a lot of tables with guys almost leaning over on their elbows) with the RAS arm barely above their waist.)
                      About 36inches

                      Do you cut predominantly with your left or right hand? Right Hand

                      Is your waste piece on the left or right side of the blade? Left side

                      Do you still rip on your RAS? Haven't used it in 20 years, but it still works.

                      Do you ever run with the blade horizontal (ouch!). I did it once, just to see it. Turned it off and made the resolve never to use it that way.

                      Crosscut Start: Pulling outward and holding tight.
                      Last edited by leehljp; 01-15-2021, 09:06 AM.
                      Hank Lee

                      Experience is what you get when you don't get what you wanted!

                      Comment


                      • #12
                        What's all this Radio Alarm Stuff, anyway?
                        :-)
                        Last edited by LCHIEN; 01-15-2021, 08:03 PM.
                        Loring in Katy, TX USA
                        If your only tool is a hammer, you tend to treat all problems as if they were nails.
                        BT3 FAQ - https://www.sawdustzone.org/forum/di...sked-questions

                        Comment


                        • cwsmith
                          cwsmith commented
                          Editing a comment
                          I don't see a 'smiley' so just want to make sure I haven't violated some unknown forum protocol, are we okay with the subject?

                      • #13
                        I was offered one - and turned it down. .

                        The RAS is slightly more capable than a sliding miter.

                        That said, they take up too much dang space.

                        Comment


                        • #14
                          I have a "vintage" Rockwell/Delta that needs a good bit of rehab before I can use it. It weighs a TON (OK, more like 300 lbs) and is super sturdy. It came with the stock stand, too.


                          Glad to be back on the forum!

                          g.
                          "Be excellent to each other."
                          Bill & Ted

                          Comment


                          • #15
                            Great answers from everyone. Originally I had my RAS on a steel-legged Craftsman workbench, but sitting in that damp basement the legs didn't fare too well. When I moved here I built a stand for it and the table top is 39-3/4 inches, at that height, the arm is right at my shoulder and the grip puts my arm at 90-degrees and parallel to the table. A comfortable stance for my height as I don't have to bend at the waist.

                            I generally operate with my right arm, as my particular model has the on/off switch right at my thumb. Later models moved the switch up on the end of arm, which I could never quite understand. I have of course used my left hand but generally don't like the practice as I prefer to use the left to hold the waste end of the stock and my finished cut is on the right of the blade where I have my stop set up on the fence.

                            My outfeed side for crosscuts is only about five feet before I his the wall, but I'm thinking about cutting an access with a door as I finish off the walls. Really I don't have too many projects where a finish piece would be longer than five feet.

                            On the infeed/ left side, I have almost fifteen feet, and I have my RAS aligned with my drill press where I can also adjust it's fence and table as necessary, beyond that I do have additional supports.

                            Since I bought my BT3100 back in 2005, that is where I do any ripping. A much smarter, safer and more efficient tool for that process. While I do have a CMS, I primarily use it for trim where I can carry it to the particular room. The RAS is far more accurate, and more versatile for angles, especially compound angles, but I don't do a lot of that anymore. For smaller stock, I actually have made a large 45-degree triangle that I clamp to my RAS table. Beats having to cut up my table surface and fence. As it is now, I mostly use my RAS of straight crosscuts, a task where it works perfectly and I don't have to fuss with adjustments other than depth of cut.

                            One of the reasons I am looking for other opinions is that my grandson's have expressed an interest. Up until now they were more interested in the things kids do, but now tney are young men and as soon as this Covid pandemic is under control, I think we'll be getting together a lot more often. We all learn things over our years and while I think I know all the 'right' operations, it's good to see how others work. I don't want to be passing on 'poor practices', so I thank you all for your help.

                            CWS

                            Think it Through Before You Do!

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