Instructables

Setting Up a Radial Arm Saw

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Several people have asked for various kinds of help with their radial arm saws. Many of these requests would be solved with a manual, but that has often been lost by a previous owner. This Instructable will take the reader through the steps involved in setting up a radial arm saw. Tools needed are: a couple of Allen wrenches, a couple of good squares, a screwdriver or two, a 7/16 inch, a 1/2 inch and a 9/16 inch wrench and a block. A hammer is also handy, but not absolutely necessary.

Power saws go out of alignment through the vibration that accompanies use. Also, radial arm saws do not like to be moved, and settings will probably drift when one is moved. But, a lot depends on how much precision the user is looking to have from his saw. If you plan to use the saw only to cut 2 x 4s to length, the accuracy you need is not the same as if you were doing fine cabinetmaking with the saw.
 
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Step 1: Assemble the stand

Picture of Assemble the stand
This is my homemade stand constructed of 2 x 4 pieces and plywood cleats. I made it to take down easily, so the brace pieces attach with corner brackets and wood screws. I made two tool trays that rest on cleats inside the frame assemblies of the stand. You want a stand that makes the table on your saw a comfortable height for working. Commercially made stands are also available. 

I like to have my saw away from the wall. For one thing, this allows me to hang blades and other fixtures on the back of the saw stand. It also allows me to walk around to the back of the saw rather than reach over the table for some set up and service procedures. And, I want to be able to put pieces of lumber eight feet long onto the table and take them off of the table from both sides of the saw. Workshop space is somewhat limited. Moving the saw out from the wall allows me to pass lumber in front of my workbench when things like my vise would otherwise obstruct.
Thank for this. I happen to have such an disassembly/reassembly to do and hadn't yet started thinking about how to tackle it. This will come in handy.
Phil B (author)  Jason Bedard1 year ago
The best of all worlds is to have the original manual, but that is not always possible. I am assuming you may not have a manual, or you simply appreciate seeing steps with photos. I tried to include some helps not in the manual which I learned by experience. I wish you well.
Often a manual can be located here:
http://vintagemachinery.org/

There is a recall for the Craftsman RAS sold between 1958 & 1992 following 300+ reported injuries (no comment). The retrofit anti-kickback/new guard kits still provided free and include a new fiberboard table top and fence.
http://www.radialarmsawrecall.com/
Phil B (author)  Shiseiji1 year ago
Thank you for the link. The recall you mention is based on the serial number of the saw. I checked the list and my saw built in 1972 was not included in those that can be fitted with the blade guard offered in the recall information. I am surprised that someone logged 300 or more injuries and would like to know more about how each happened. The recall site features a video that shows an operator planting his free hand on the saw table directly over the cut line. No one with any sense at all would do that. The recall asks those whose saws cannot be fitted with the new floating guard to cut the electrical cord and send the saw motor, which weighs 60 pounds, to the manufacturer in return for $100 in compensation. I am not about to scrap a perfectly good tool and then pay a large part of my compensation in mailing costs.

I have used this saw enough in 40 years that I had to replace the motor bearings several years ago. I keep my hands far from the blade and use pusher sticks whenever there is any doubt about the safety of an operation. I have never even received so much as a scratch from using this saw. I expect this recall simply offers legal liability cover for all concerned.
My pleasure on the link Phil, not sure how I missed this last year as I've looked at all your 'struables over the years. But till now didn't have anything that would contribute so stayed silent.

I figured anyone interested could go read the dirty details them selves and decide if the offer is to their advantage. I'm sure your last line is the "real deal." In a "Nation of laws." lawyers are inevitable, however I'm still amazed at what supposedly 12 rational people will accept as an argument. Then I'm also amazed someone would continue to serve coffee just under a boil even after many warnings. The count came from an article that came up when I went to find the link.

My C'man RAS is a '75 or so and was a gift, So far truing is all it's needed. I ordered the kit mostly just to see what would come. The best part as far as I'm concerned was changing the direction of the dust port to face the back of the saw.
Thanks Phil. Yeah, no manual. It's a Rockwell, circa late 70's. I'm not much of a manual using kinda guy anyway. Simply seeing someone else tear their machine apart first gives me a glimpse of what I can expect.
Phil B (author)  Jason Bedard1 year ago
I have known people who have a Rockwell about that vintage. Some of the parts are different, but there should be enough similarity in the overall structure that you will do well. If anything, my Instructable may save you some headaches because it outlines the steps for aligning one of these saws. If you were to follow a different order of steps, misalignment from an earlier step would make it impossible to get consistent alignment in later steps.
Bill WW1 year ago
Nice clear instructions, Phil. I have a miter saw; reading your Instructable makes me wish I had gone with a radial arm, or at least the sliding type miter saw.

I have to disassemble and adjust my miter saw each Spring. Why Spring? (I'm embassed by this)! During Winter, I keep my garage workshop warm with a wood stove. Most of our firewood is too long to fit into the small stove, so I cut it to length with an old blade in the miter saw. Does not help the precise alignment.
Phil B (author)  Bill WW1 year ago
Bill, In my teen years I had long wanted a bench saw or a table saw. As you know, power miter boxes did not exist then. One Christmas my parents gave me enough money to buy a good 7 inch circular saw. With inspiration from some similar articles in the DIY magazines, I developed some modifications and made a precise conversion to a table saw described in this Instructable. A couple of years later Sears brought out a model change and ran a 30 percent off sale on their older style radial arm saws. I bought one with my wife's approval because of the multiple operations of which it is capable. It is because the radial arm saw can function as more than one tool that I have one, and is also the reason why I do not have a power miter saw.

I have long thought it is a shame that many people bought radial arm saws back a few decades, but under-used them as a cut-off saw or a storage table for garden chemicals. Now many younger people do not even know what they are. I have been trying to change that. 
Phil B (author) 1 year ago
Osvaldo,

Here is part of an advertisement for the AMT radial arm saw from a 1967 Popular Mechanics magazine. I may have posted something like this for you earlier. I do not remember for certain.
AMT radial arm saw.jpg
Thanks, Phil. I remember, too, but I think was another model. Anyway, my design will be far more simple, for obvious reasons...

rimar20001 year ago
Welcome back, Phil, I did miss you!

Excellent instructable, as always. Every time you mention that type of saw, I get excited by make one for me, although it will be precarious. Now I have almost everything I need, I only need to decide to work. I am working (sometimes) in the motor pop-pop-Stirling, it will take some months.
Phil B (author)  rimar20001 year ago
Osvaldo,

When I was doing this Instructable I remembered that you said you want to build a radial arm saw someday. I thought the photos of the interior workings would give you a better idea of how it is constructed. Still, you will have a big effort ahead of you.

Once there was a US firm named AMT (American Machine and Tool) that marketed an inexpensive radial arm saw made from widely available materials. The arm was two square tubes. The motor was any available electric motor and used a belt drive. There were a couple of special castings, but you could make what you need by welding your own special fixtures. Perhaps I mentioned this to you before. It seems to me one of the home how-to magazines once did a review of it. If I can find that on-line, I will send the Internet address for you.
Phil, I was thinking to use directly my hand grinder as motor.

Yes, my idea is to use square tubes, too. At the rotary vertical hinge I think to use a wasted steel masonry cutting disc, to fasten the axis in its angle. When I will decide to make it, first I will draw a design, to avoid time loses (as always).

Thanks for your concern.
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