Introduction: The Radial Arm Saw -- a Guide of Sorts

Picture of The Radial Arm Saw -- a Guide of Sorts

The radial arm saw is a very versatile machine around which a whole shop can be built.  It is one machine that allows a number of operations normally requiring different specific machines.  Unfortunately, electric miter saws have displaced the radial arm saw.  That is probably because many used a radial as only a glorified miter saw or cut-off saw.  This Instructable will pull together in one place a number of Instructables demonstrating various capabilities of a radial arm saw, as well as some dealing with wear and maintenance issues.  Just click on the hot links in the frames below.

Step 1: Aligning the Saw

Picture of Aligning the Saw

The radial arm saw has several adjustments that need to be aligned properly for accurate cuts.  These do have indexed settings.  The owner/operator must set these properly.  They include setting the tilt of the motor so the blade is 90 degrees to the table.  The arm can swing and must be set so it is 90 degrees to the table's fence.  The most cumbersome adjustment in my experience is getting the arm 90 degrees to the fence.  But, with a slight revision of the process outlined in the owner's manual and an addition to the table, it is not difficult at all.  In use vibration can change the settings of any saw a little.  The the saw needs to be checked occasionally to make certain the arm is still square to the fence.

Step 2: Cut-offs or Crosscut Sawing

Picture of Cut-offs or Crosscut Sawing

The radial arm saw is very handy for cutting pieces to length.  Most often these cuts are at 90 degrees to the length of the piece.  Sometimes they are cut at an angle, whether 45 degrees as shown in the photo, or something else.  Although the arm has an angle gauge and pointer, the safest procedure for accuracy would be to make a test cut on scrap.  Next best is to use a "T"-bevel square to set the blade travel on the arm. 

When cutting many pieces to the same length, some like to make a movable stop that clamps to the saw's fence.  While most of the Instructables linked in this Instructable are mine, this particular one is not. 

A radial arm saw normally requires swinging the arm to the right or left in order to make 45 degree miters.  A stationary miter sled makes cutting accurate miters more sure and much easier.

Step 3: Rip Cuts

Picture of Rip Cuts

Using a radial arm saw for rip cuts is very much like making rip cuts on a table saw, except that the saw blade is mounted above the table rather than coming up through the table.  When I first began to use a radial arm saw, I found I needed to pay special attention to brushing away sawdust and wood chips that gathered on the table at the fence.  As with a table saw, a splinter of wood caught between the fence and the work piece affects accuracy. 

The radial arm saw motor has an in-rip and an out-rip position.  Choose the one that is most comfortable for your job.  The in-rip position places the blade end of the motor closer to the fence.  The out-rip position places the blade end of the motor nearer to the front edge of the table. 

The front edge of the table can be used as a saw guide for special ripping operations, as when the edge of a panel needs to be made true.

Step 4: Eventual Wear That Ruins Accuracy

Picture of Eventual Wear That Ruins Accuracy

I once attended a radial arm saw demonstration by a representative of Black & Decker.  He said their saws were superior to my Craftsman radial because the motor carriage yoke on their saws is cast iron and it wears better than the aluminum alloy used on Craftsman saws.  The wear of which he spoke meant the in-rip and out-rip indexing holes would no longer be 90 degrees apart from the crosscut indexing hole.  In a few years I learned I had the problem of which he spoke.  Eventually, I developed a very good solution to the problem.  And it is not difficult at all to apply.

Step 5: Grinding

Picture of Grinding

After crosscuts and rip cuts, I most often use my saw as a grinder.  The 5/8" shaft accepts grindstones and cutting wheels of all kinds.  It is a very handy tool if you do not already have an electric grinder.  The one disadvantage is that you may need to change a setup you worked carefully to achieve so that you can grind for a few minutes, but that is very seldom.

I use my radial arm saw to sharpen my lawnmower blade to a very uniform cutting angle.  One of my favorite tricks is to grind something on my radial arm saw while it is chucked and spinning in an electric drill.  It is a type of improvised lathe.  See step # 2 in this Instructable.  Sometimes I make a special wooden jig to hold something just right so I can grind it rather precisely.  (The photo with this step of this Instructable is part of the Instructable linked in the preceding sentence.)  I improvised a way to cope metal tubes for welding at a right angle.  It uses a cutting wheel on my radial arm saw and a small wooden table I made to elevate the work so it is nearer to the level of the motor's shaft.  While my method worked for me, since I have learned about another Instructable that would be easier and even better for the same task.  I also use my radial arm saw when I use a special jig to sharpen drill bits.

Step 6: Sanding Drum Operations

Picture of Sanding Drum Operations

After grinding with my radial arm saw, the most useful thing I do with it involves a sanding drum.  The back end of the motor shaft on my saw is machined to receive 1/2" x 20 thds. attachments.  I have a Craftsman sanding drum that screws onto the motor shaft. 

I do not have a planer/joiner, but learned of a way to use a sanding drum and a fence to joint wood so precisely that the eye has a difficult time finding the glue line.  I use the sanding drum and the small wooden table mentioned in step 5 for thicknessing wood to a precise dimension.  Whereas my sanding drum's face is only 3", the pieces I thickness almost need to be no wider than this size.  This process may not be quite as good as if I had commercial machinery designed for just this sort of thing, butit has allowed me to glue up panels, as you would for a tabletop.

Step 7: Concentric Drilling

Picture of Concentric Drilling

The back end of the motor shaft also accepts a 1/2" Jacob's drill chuck.  This is handy for drilling or for grinding small items. 

I developed a way to do concentric drilling on my radial arm saw.  I have not needed this often, but it has come in very handy a couple of times, and the results were very precise.

I have also done some precise drilling by using the little table shown in previous steps and clamping a fence guide to it.  The choice is the user's as to whether to pull the motor into the work or push the work toward the motor and the bit.   

Step 8: Cove Cuts

Picture of Cove Cuts

A radial arm saw can do cove cuts to make bowls or picture frames.

Step 9: Pin Router

Picture of Pin Router

Once I needed a pin router setup and made an attachment for my radial arm saw and router.

Step 10: Curved Molding

Picture of Curved Molding

I also developed a way to make curved molding on my radial arm saw.

Step 11: Rotary Planer

Picture of Rotary Planer

Craftsman sold a rotary planer attachment for the radial arm saw.  It fastens to the blade end of the motor shaft and uses the blade retaining nut.  It was sold for reducing the thickness of a piece of wood.  You can do that, but it leaves deep circular rings, especially if the work jumps a little in use.  Leave a little extra thickness and do some work with a belt sander to get the piece ready for finishing.  I needed to tilt the motor so I could use the rotary planer to shape a bevel on the end of a piece of plywood for some special car ramps I needed.  See step # 8 of thisInstructable.  I also used the rotary planer in step # 16 of this Instructable.

Step 12: Replacement Switch

Picture of Replacement Switch

I have had my radial arm saw 38 years.  During that time I have worn out one set of motor bearings and three motor switches.  There came a time when the factory switch was no longer available, so I adapted a switch from Radio Shack.

Step 13: Missing Table Clamps?

Picture of Missing Table Clamps?

If the table clamps are missing from your saw, you can make your own.

Step 14: Adapting Blades to a Sawsmith

Picture of Adapting Blades to a Sawsmith

During the 1950's and 1960's the Sawsmith radial arm saw had quite a following.  Many are still devoted to it, but it uses an unusual blade size.  The arbor hole is 1 1/4" instead of the more usual 5/8" one sees today. I adapted a 5/8" arbor blade for a friend with a Sawsmith.  You might be interested in this in case you would buy a Sawsmith at a sale one day. 

Because radial arm saws are no longer as popular as they once were, you can find some really good deals on them at sales, on eBay, and on Craigslist.  They make a great main tool for any workshop.


Edoten (author)2017-10-26

I got my last RAS from a friend and I cannot get it to go up and down. I used break free and loosened the bolts and screws in back of the shaft and it will still not go up and down by turning the handle in front. Please help. It is driving me crazy. thanks. Ed

Phil B (author)Edoten2017-10-27

I am assuming you have a Craftsman saw like the one in the photos. As you know, the crank turns a shaft that goes to a set of gears to turn a threaded shaft inside the column. If the arm is already too high, the screw threads will disengage from the arm, but I doubt that is your problem. Are your gears stripped? Is a pin connecting a gear or the crank to the shaft sheared? To my mind it has to be one of those things. Also, make certain the wedge assembly that eliminates side to side movement of the arm is not too tight.

CGullNet (author)2017-10-22

Do you see any problems with installing a wire brush wheel "8 inch dia." onto my 10 inch Dewalt PowerShop radial arm saw? I want to raise the grain on 1 x 3 inch cedar boards. This would be done in the rip position.

Phil B (author)CGullNet2017-10-22

It should work. Wear eye protection. I heard an eye doctor talking about trying to remove wires thrown by a wire wheel from someone's eye and how painful the embedded wires are. Maybe experiment with holding the wood to the wheel by hand. The first wire wheel I had was well balanced. Years later I had to replace it with an import that was badly out of balance. Try to get a good wheel. The bad wheel caused the motor carriage to knock on the saw arm and left a rough spot that causes other problems.

ErikO6 (author)2016-10-05

I love my RAS. My dad had one that I learned to use growing up, guess I never learned to fear it but instead learned to respect it. ;)

windswept4 (author)2016-09-24

Great thread! You gave me the courage to tear into my craftsman vintage 1970 (113.29441) to un-freeze the bevel adjustment. Here are some photos of the handle, handle parts and yoke parts that pertain to the bevel, bevel adjustment, bevel pre-sets and bevel brake. My handle was stuck/frozen to the motor yoke. I dismantled it to clean & sand the corrosion from all the moving parts. Fresh lube and reassembly and it works as good as new. Thanks again for the great info contained in this guide.

Phil B (author)windswept42016-09-24

What you have posted may help someone with a similar problem. Thank you. Enjoy your new saw. It is a great tool.

firsts0urce (author)2016-01-31

Good morning all. I have a Craftsman RAS model 113.29410 and am having a bit of trouble. According to the manual, the arm should automatically lock at 0 degree. 45 degrees and 90 degrees. Mine does not. It freely swings when I have the knob loosened counter clockwise. If I turn the knob clockwise, it will engage the brake. This saw if from the late 60's I am told. Very little use. Part number 34 is the lever, arm latch. It moves very little when I try to apply pressure. Guessing it is stuck in the 'open' position. I have disassembled but just do not see where it is going wrong. HELP Steve

Phil B (author)firsts0urce2016-09-17

Did you see step 12? I described how I fitted a push button switch to my saw.

Phil B (author)firsts0urce2016-01-31

I am not much help to you. I have never disassembled anything in the arm or its lock, save changing the switch a couple of times when it failed. One other commenter took his apart and had quite a time getting it to work properly again. I am not sure if he commented on this Instructable or on another, though. I am including the drawing of the arm components from my manual.

grinell (author)Phil B2016-02-04

Here's how I got mine unstuck. I'm detailing the re-assembly to describe how to get the shaft, locking pin, and brake pin assembled and working properly. The problem is that without doing something like the steps below, you can't get the collar on the shaft seated in its slot in the locking pin AND over the brake pin at the same time. So:

1. Take the arm all the way off the tower (part #45 in the above diagram). It's easy: remove the cap, remove the two 9/16 bolts on the inner tower shaft, and use a car jack to gently push it off the tower. Don't drop the bolts into the tower!

2. Two parts will come free inside the top of the tower when you do that: the miter lock stop guide (# 51) and the brake shoe (#52). Note which way the brake shoe goes in so you can reinstall it right, because it's not symmetrical.

3. Look in the tower-end of the arm and you'll see the locking pin (#25 - the top one, which is split to fit the notches in the lock stop guide) and the brake pin (#26). Push that locking pin out from the other end (the front), clean it well, and lube it up. I used a long dowel and a hammer to get it out. You'll note that it has a slot milled into it, into which the collar on the shaft (#24) fits. This allows the shaft to pull and push the locking pin back and forth along the axis of the arm and engage/disengage the stop guide.

4. With that locking pin out of the way, you can now use the shaft to spin the brake pin all the way down as far as it will go. SLide it into the arm, and fit the collar on the brake pin, just like a socket on a bolt.

5. With the brake pin seated all the way, slide the well-oiled and clean locking pin in from the back (tower end) so that the front end is sticking past the hex head of the brake pin by a good inch or so. Clean that hole it goes in as well. You want it to be easy to push back and forth.

6. Now the tricky part: slide the shaft into the front of the arm and fit the collar into its little slot on the locking pin. It's fiddly. Use patience. Once you've got it in the slot, push the shaft, making sure it stays in the slot in the locking pin until the shaft slips onto the hex head of the brake pin. You might have to spin the shaft slightly to get it to line up. You'll know immediately when you've got it right.

7. Put the spring, the front plate, and all those little washers and the knob back together, and the arm should be good to go!

8. Now, clean that lock stop guide, the brake shoe, the top of the tower, and the part of the arm that slips over the tower. I used 1000 grit wet/dry sandpaper and some honing oil.

9. Put the arm partway back on the tower, just far enough so that you can slide that brake shoe into place where it came from - and right side up!

10. Slide the lock stop guide in place as well

11. Lower the arm with the car jack until the bolt holes line up. This was fiddly - I found that snugging one down a bit helped line up the other.

12. Put the cap back on, square the guide on top so that it reads correctly, and you're done!

windswept4 (author)grinell2016-09-11

I set up the brake pin as well as the locking pin as you noted in step 5. Then at step six, I turned the arm upside down and rested it horizontally on the workbench. I then inserted the long drive shaft (with the collar at the far tip of the shaft) and easily positioned the collar in the locking pin 1/2 moon slot located at the tower end of the arm tunnel. As the arm was now upside down on the workbench, gravity and the weight of the collar and shaft made the job extremely easy to match-up the collar with the locking pin 1/2 moon slot. In fact, with the arm resting upside down, it was difficult for the collar to slip out of its proper position once placed in its 1/2 moon slot of the locking pin. The next step was to slip the shaft onto the hex head of the brake pin. It slipped right on. You can visually see, with the help of a flashlight beam shining down the hollow arm tunnel, whether or not the shaft is properly mated with the hex head of the brake pin. Also, with the arm in this upside-down position, it is very easy to confirm that the collar and hex are properly placed. Simply spin the shaft, which will spin the hex head, which will cause the brake pin to begin to disappear inside the arm (at the tower end of the arm), which will simultaneously cause the locking pin "gear tooth slot" to begin to disappear inside the arm (at the tower end of the arm). If both these parts (the visible portion of the brake pin and the visible portion of the locking pin gear tooth slot) freely move in and out, in sync with one another, by rotating the shaft clockwise and counterclockwise, then you have confirmed good placement of the shaft and good placement of the collar within its 1/2 moon slot. Thank you for your excellent step by step on rebuilding this part of the radial arm saw.

windswept4 (author)windswept42016-09-12

I thought it would be helpful to post a few pix. The views are of the arm (that has been removed from the tower). We are looking at the tower end of the arm. The first photo just to the right of the power cord shows the visible ends of the "brake pin" (circular in shape) and above that is the visible end of the "locking pin" (cylindrical in shape with two vertical bars -- a cut-out into which the tooth of the "mitre lock stop guide" will mate. The next photo shows the placement of the brake shoe. The shoe appears to have 3 general sections (bottom, middle and top). As the shoe is not symmetrical, make sure when re-installing it, that the middle section aligns with the two "squared shoulders" of the arm that are located immediately to the left and right of the middle section of the shoe. This is the proper placement of the shoe. If the shoe is placed upside down, the middle section of the shoe will not align properly with the left and right hand shoulders of the arm. With the shoe resting in its place, then rest the "mitre lock stop guide" (that semi circle that has gear-like teeth in it) above the shoe so that the "locking pin's" sole female groove mates with the center/middle gear of the "mitre lock stop guide". With those two pieces resting in place (the mitre lock stop guide and the brake shoe), I lifted the arm onto the tower and aligned the holes that house the two tower bolts. Finally grease the exposed shoe and "mitre lock stop guide" before capping the tower and setting the power cord plate back in place.

DQuixote (author)2016-08-14

I have recently acquired one of these saws and the one thing that I can't seem to figure out is how to get the drum sander off. Its just like step 6. I have been searching the internet and cannot seem to find this one piece if info. Any help would be appreciated.

Phil B (author)DQuixote2016-08-15

I know the problem, even though most of the time I am able to wrap my hand around the sanding drum and unscrew it from the motor shaft. Sometimes, the rubber drum just slips on the metal core of the sanding drum assembly.

I made a special wrench as shown in the photo. Mine is just a little thicker than 1/8 inch. The opening is 3/4 inch. It slips between the motor and the sanding drum to catch a hex fitting on the end of the sanding drum.

MelquiadesE (author)2016-07-12

Thank you, Mr. Phil! Especially useful tutorial for an especially useful tool!

Phil B (author)MelquiadesE2016-07-12

I am glad it is useful to you. The radial arm saw deserves more respect and appreciation than it gets. Power miter boxes have replaced it, but they cannot do many of the things possible on a radial arm saw.

BlaineG3 (author)2016-04-25

I have had two Craftsman Radial Arm saws and recently purchased a used Model 7749, which works perfectly, EXCEPT for the life of me I can't remember how to release and pivot the blade to 0 degree rip position. Can't believe that I have become so senile!.

Phil B (author)BlaineG32016-04-25

I looked for a photo of a Craftsman 7749 radial arm saw. Both DeWalt and Black & Decker have a 7749 radial arm saw, but was not able to find a Craftsman. Could you post a photo?

JohnB61 (author)2015-04-16

I have the same saw as pictured. I have had it since the mid-80s and bought it from the original owner. I have really enjoyed it for deck building and other home projects.

In the last move the power cord was cut where it enters the body. I fixed that but now find that the arm will not release to pivot. I have opened up the arm but not removed it. Can't figure out how to free up the arm. Any suggestions?

Wehrs210 (author)JohnB612015-11-04

I know this is a long shot due to the age if the article. But im having the exact same issue with a recently aquired Craftsman RAS.

The aem will not pivot making mitering impossible.

Did you ever come up with a solution? I have a PDF of the owners manual, but after taking most of the arm assembly apart it still wont swing. I thought it may just be rusty or gummed up but i think something is locking the arm.

Phil B (author)Wehrs2102015-11-05

Be cautious about taking apart the internal parts of the arm. Some have had trouble getting the brake and release to work properly again.

It may be the cast iron head that fits on the column has rusted to the column. Remove the plate with the angles inscribed and apply some penetrating oil between the column and the head. I would use Liquid Wrench rather than WD-40.

Phil B (author)JohnB612015-04-16

How much of the arm did you dismantle? Did you remove the locking knob, the indexing rod, and the brake apparatus? Someone else did that and also had problems. He did get it to work again after a few false attempts. He downloaded a manual he found for a saw in this series. He had one small part out of place, if I remember. I have never taken the locking assembly on the arm apart, so I cannot speak from experience.

JohnB61 (author)Phil B2015-04-17

I removed the locking knob and indexing rod. Not sure what the brake apparatus refers to? I have been able to reassemble the parts. Either way the arm will not pivot. It seems locked (as it should be for use) no matter what I do.

I don't understand the locking mechanism and can't see the last part without breaking things down more. I will try to find a manual online, I guess at Sears?

Phil B (author)JohnB612015-04-17

I am sorry you have the problem you are having. I have my original manual, but also found an electronic version by searching for Sears radial saw manual. The knob on the front of the arm near the operator turns to tighten a brake band that keeps the arm from even slight movement on the column. It turns the other direction to release the brake band. It is spring loaded and sets an indexing pin at 0 and 45 degrees right and left. Again, I have never taken mine apart. The fellow who took his apart eventually got it back together so it all works as it should, but he took it apart several times before he got it right. Oh, the aluminum cover on the arm slides off of the front end near the operator to reveal several ports on top through which you can reach in to access parts.

JohnB61 (author)Phil B2015-04-17

Now I understand about the braking mechanism. I suspect it may be the indexing pin that is stuck and does not release when I remove pressure.

Thanks very muc. I will search for a manual. I don't want to see the saw end up in the scrap heap!

Phil B (author)JohnB612015-04-17

I wish I could be more help. The other fellow did get his back together and working again. I am sure you will, too. I have had similar experiences. They are frustrating, but eventually you see what the problem is and it works again. Sometimes you need hands half the size of a normal hand and three of them with eight fingers on each.

CharlesM52 (author)2015-09-29

underground carpenter (author)2014-05-28

Phil, as always, your Instructables are (or at least should be) required reading. And since my shopmates and I are currently restoring and setting up an old Delta RAS, we will be using your insights and other Ibles to get it running to its full capacity.

Johndstewart (author)2014-03-07

Phil, thanks for the serious efforts you have made to present the RAS here on Instructables. With the vast amount of fluff on the site this is real help for the shop. Please keep it up.

I am installing an old RAS into a new long workbench I am building and your RAS Instructables are printed out and will be right there. Thanks.!

Phil B (author)Johndstewart2014-03-07

Thanks. I am indebted to the guide book I bought for my radial arm saw published by Craftsman, as well as various articles in magazines like Popular Science and Popular Mechanics. Over the years I have seen a lot of good radial arm saws in home garages propping up paint cans and garden tools. It seemed someone ought give a hint about what these saws can do.

TCrinstam (author)2013-11-15

Hey Phil,

I have to admit, when I first saw this instructable (the first I ever saw of any of yours), I chuckled. Seriously, who needs a guide for a radial arm saw? I started using one when I was a kid, both at a home shop and at school.

I sure am glad I read it anyways, because not only did I learn more then a few things from it, you present it all in a great fashion.

As one of those odd coincidences that sometimes happens, I first saw this instructable the other day (by random), shortly after I had answered an ad on a local classified site for a radial arm saw. The ad didnt say anything about it other then it was old, worked great and they wanted $50.00.

It was just dropped off a few minutes ago... It's a sears craftsman 10".

lol, first thing I looked for after making sure it worked was wether or not it had the nut on the backside of the motor... which it does.

So I had to come and say thanks for this instructable, as well as the rest that I will be watching over the next while as I set up my new saw.

Phil B (author)TCrinstam2013-11-15

Thanks, Tom. One thing to watch for is unequal elongation of the yoke indexing holes. You will notice it if you carefully align the saw and it works fine for crosscuts, but heels on rip cuts, or vice-versa. The solution I described in one of the Instructables listed in this "guide" works very well and is not too complicated.

Smithadon (author)2013-04-16

Superb and quick help again Phil, thanks so much!
I will install the fence such that the blade is clear of it and toward the column at the end of a cut.

As for the ripping scales - it seems very odd for the product to pass through the production tests with such a flaw?! I was thinking of installing two metal rulers once my fence is in place so that I can rip without marking the wood before hand.

Thanks again for your help and advice - I really appreciate your time.


(apologies for the fresh post - the captcha wouldn't let me reply)

Phil B (author)Smithadon2013-04-16


Your Ryobi may have more sturdy indicators on the rip scales than my Sears Craftsman saw. The least bump moves the pointers. That saw also came with color-coded control knobs to make using it easier. The knob with the yellow dot in the center controls the angle scale with the yellow pointer. I always said if you need that kind of help you have no business owning the saw.

Enjoy your saw.

Smithadon (author)2013-04-16

Hello again Phil!
Please feel free to ignore this - I'm sure you are a busy man!
I am having trouble understanding the start points of the in-rip and out-rip scales in order to work out where my fence should be.  It is a hard question to phrase in writing and so here is a small (20mb) vid of what I mean.

Any light you could shed would be fantastic but please don't feel obliged!

Many Thanks,

Phil B (author)Smithadon2013-04-16


Thank you for the video. That helps to understand your dilemma. The in rip and out rip scales on the saw arm are virtually useless for most practical purposes. The only time I have used them has been when I was ready to rip something and wanted to test the position of the blade in comparison with where my mark was. If I found I needed to move the blade out or in three or five millimeters (I actually work with inches, but you get the idea.), I checked to see where one of the rip pointers was on the scale and used it to determine how far to move the saw on the arm in order to achieve the difference I needed.

But, your real question is where to locate the front of the table and the fence that rides against it. When you are making crosscuts, you want to be able to push the saw away from yourself toward the column so the spinning blade is forward of the fence. Then you can move one piece of wood off of the table safely and get ready for a cut in a new piece of wood, etc. That will mean positioning the fence so it is about 12 to 15 centimeters toward you from the near surface of he column. Also, your saw table will be wide enough to hang over the table supports at the rear of the saw (nearest side to you) so the edge of the table nearest you is about 4 or 5 centimeters beyond the outmost position of the blade on the out rip setting. I hope this helps. Let me know if I need to load up a photo.

Phil B (author)Phil B2013-04-16


I actually measured the distance between the column and the side of the fence nearest to the column. It is a little greater than I thought, that is about 20 cm. The blade on my saw is 10 inches, or about 25 cm.

Smithadon (author)Smithadon2013-04-16

I forgot to mention that I made the vid for my Dad and hence it starts 'hey Pop' !!

Smithadon (author)2013-04-06

Dear Phil B, thanks for the great information, I am about to purchase a ryobi version (I think it was made in the sears factory?). Could you help me with a burning question?

When ripping on a table saw, you make sure that you cut all the way through your work by ensuring that the saw is lifted above the top surface of the work. On a radial arm saw though, the saw blade would enter the table to get the same effect. This would (over time) destroy the table. I imagine that the aim is to only just skim the surface of the table? If this is the case then the majority of the cutting action of the blade is horizontal as opposed to vertical. This would give each tooth a longer time to cut and reduces splinter lift, but increases the likelihood of kick back dramatically. Could you let me know your thoughts on this? One solution I did think about would be to build a sliding fence and have holes in the table for the blade spaced at about 200mm?
Thanks very much for any insights,

Phil B (author)Smithadon2013-04-06


When you go to a radial arm saw after being accustomed to a table saw, some things are strange and just do not seem right. But, they do work just fine.

After you set up and align your new saw one of the first things you will do is to set the saw in the in rip position, start the motor, lower the blade about 1/16 inch into the table, and slowly drag the motor out away from the fence to make a shallow trough in the top of the saw table. You will want to stop the saw, raise the blade about 1/8 inch and swivel the motor to the out rip position. Move the motor so the blade is over the trough you have already cut. Lower the saw with the motor off until the teeth on the blade just begin to bind on the saw table. Raise the motor a few thousandths if an inch. Start the motor and drag the blade across the rest of the table to complete the trough. Whenever you rip a piece of wood, lower the blade until the teeth touch the table. The raise the blade until it spins freely by hand. Set your guards and anti-kickback paws for the thickness of the wood you are ripping. Start the motor and rip your wood. Use pusher sticks where safety is a concern.

The only time kickback is a concern is when the blade heels, the wood is gummy with pitch, or the edge of the work piece you are cutting is not true and binds between the fence and the blade. If you have kickback problems, something is not properly set up. In my experience, you can just about take your hands off of the work piece mid-cut and the work piece does not move even though the blade is spinning. I would not recommend doing this, but you could.

Enjoy your new saw. Respect it, but you need not fear it.

dpapas665 (author)2010-11-16

So, much has been made of the danger of this tool. But is it statisitcally any more dangerous than a table saw?

Phil B (author)dpapas6652010-11-16

The only way to be completely safe around machinery is never to buy it, or, if you do, never turn it on. (I know a guy who has had a used Lincoln "tombstone" arc welder for probably ten years, but he has never turned "on" because he is afraid something inside might be shorted, even though it almost certainly is not.) I know no one who injured himself with a radial arm saw, but I know at least two people who received bad cuts on a table saw. The fact the radial arm saw motor slides on a carriage while running probably spooks a lot of people. As I said in another comment, I have given mine fairly regular use, even wearing out a set of motor bearings and three switches, during 38 years without a scratch. (A few times I have come too close to a wire brush wheel I was using on my radial arm saw and scuffed skin on my fingers, but that hardly counts. It reminds me each time to wear gloves.) Thank you for your comment.

bike_geek (author)Phil B2011-11-07

Hi Phil;

You are obviously a good craftsman and I respect the time you have taken to pass on your knowledge.

However gloves should never be worn when using any power tool, that scuffed skin could have become a broken wrist or an amputated finger if you had been wearing gloves. Where skin will cut a tougher glove may catch and draw in.

One of the first lesson you learn at a trade school is when using power tools, no gloves, no jewelery, no rings.


Phil B (author)bike_geek2011-11-08

Thank you.

pfred2 (author)dpapas6652010-12-16

Well a Radial Arm Saw does have a tendency to self feed. And the blade moving as opposed to being fixed can present more of a hazard than a fixed blade does too. I run my RAS with no blade guard on it at all. I don't count on junk like that to protect me, and it gets in my way of seeing what I am doing. I can still count to 10 without taking off my socks ...

The day I'm not terrified of my shop machinery is the day I need to give them all away.

I've been using my table saw and radial arm saw for nearly 20 years, and they scare the hell out of me. Even my drill press has the potential to hurt me badly. This forces me to do one of two things: use them very very carefully or not use them at all.

Great write-up, Phil. I rarely use the radial arm saw outside of crosscutting because getting it square again is such a pain. Will try your stuff soon. Thanks.

Your best bet with an RAS is to square it up and leave it square and use axillary tables for any other kind of a cut. I think they put all them adjustments on RAS just to screw people up! Since I've gotten mine perfectly square I just leave it that way. And yes it was a pain!

My father-in-law had one of these Craftsman saws from the mid-1950's forward. When I bought mine he told me very little on it would be accurate or precise. But, I never had a lot of trouble doing accurate work with mine, and built some decent furniture with mine. Perhaps something was not properly setup on his. I do not know.

I never forget what could happen if my flesh gets in the way of a power tool, especially a power saw. A friend recently failed to use a pusher stick with a table saw when he should have, and now has a bad cut in the end of a finger. He says he knew better, but became sloppy.

shinju (author)2011-11-06

hello. well i would also like to help out on the blade choice for the ras. the best i found that works good is the woodwoker two blade by forrest blades. i use the 60 tooth triple-chip blade.also you can make 8 cuts with the ras.crosscut,miter,rip,blade tilted- bevel crosscut,compound mitre,bevel rip with the blade horizontal-two edge cuts horizontal for slot.tilted for raised bevel.hope this helps out.feel free to aks any more questions will more than happy to help.

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Bio: I miss the days when magazines like Popular Mechanics had all sorts of DIY projects for making and repairing just about everything. I am enjoying ... More »
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