New to Woodworking Advice on First Tools

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Recently moved to a new home and finally have the time and space to try doing some woodworking projects. Someone I spoke to about tools (he happens to do a lot of woodworking) suggested that with limited space, if I had to limit myself to one tool, he would get a radial arm saw. He said that you can most everything you need with that tool.
Any comments about that? I have some room in the garage but not extensive and just starting out I don't want to sink a ton of money into it. I am thinking - look for a used radial arm saw, and then getting a router.
I would appreciate any discussion, counter arguments/suggestions and any advice on getting started (ie good books, magazines...)
Thanks,
Fred
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Fred,
If I were you, I would go with a good Table Saw first. Much more versatile than a Radial Arm Saw in my opinion.
philly

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Have you ever used a RAS?
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In my limited space I would have in hindsight invested in a good circular saw, band saw and router first. I've used a RAS and they scare me, but they are very versatile but can be somewhat fussy to set up.
As for books, hie thee to your local library and peruse the stacks. For magazines, I'd suggest buying a few off the newsstand and getting a sense of how they fit with what you want to do. I currently subscribe to Fine Woodworking, Workbench, Shopnotes and Woodsmith.
djb
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FGG wrote:

Having started with a very old and very used radial arm saw (and made some decent furniture with it) and since replaced it with a very good Dewalt Compound Sliding Miter Saw I would say there is no contest between the two - go with a Compound Miter Saw instead of a Radial Arm Saw. A miter saw is very easy to move on or off your bench top so if you have limited room then you can use the same bench for multiple purposes whereas the RAS is pretty much a fixed piece of equipment.
However, instead of either CMS or RAS, I would start with a good 10 inch table saw if you want to do serious woodworking. You can do so much more with a table saw with a lot more precision than with a CMS or RAS. If you have the floor space (mobile bases are good if you can't keep your set up permanent) I would strongly recommend a table saw.
TWS
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FGG wrote:

When I built my house, needed to determine most useful tool....bought a 10" radial arm saw, dado & molding head, (all from Sears 1977), was able to make just about everything needed.....also handy for framing (similiar to miter saw now)..
Ed A.
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On a limited space budget (like I had when I started), I'd look into these (depending on the project list):
* router * circular saw * hand tools (hammer, drill, chisels, planes, etc) * band saw or scroll saw * mini lathe (optional)
You can do a lot with that combination, and none of those really need "elbow room".
After that, start on the big tools - table saw, planer, jointer, lathe.
As for the RAS, I think compound miter saws have essentially replaced them these days. Smaller, more accurate, easier to use and maintain, safer.
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HE could do almost everything HE needs with a radial arm saw. That's very different than YOU doing what YOU need with a radial arm saw.
Most of the functionality of the RAS has been replaced, in today's shops, by a compound miter saw, and, perhaps, a table saw. Safer, more consistent, usually more versatile.
That still doesn't say what you need, or where you should start. Without a whole lot more information, you get the standard set of recommendations.
Find an adult ed or community college program, and take at least one class there. It's cheap. The people are absolutely the best in the world (well, they are a lot like you, anyways.) You get to use their tools. They teach you the parts you don't know, or forgot from shop class oh those many years before. They point you to the places to buy things cheap. They post notices about used tools. They swap 'learning experiences', so you don't have to learn the hard way, at least not so often. They offer first aid when you screw up. They sometimes bite their tongues when they see your project completed. Not always, though. They commiserate when your home projects turn into the long, hard, winding road. Sometimes, if you're really lucky, they come over and help save your backside.
At least they do for me, and I, for one, am grateful to have these folks as my friends. I hope you are so fortunate.
Patriarch
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wrote:

the heart of a cabinet shop is the table saw. the heart of a furniture shop is the band saw. the heart of a framers kit is the skilsaw. the radial arm saw is *almost* obsolete.
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FGG wrote:

Fred...
I started out with a 10" radial arm saw, a 12" band saw, and a full-size drill press - and waited about five years to buy a good table saw. Somewhere in between I added a 6" jointer to the shop. I've never owned a miter saw.
My suggestion would be to start with the best 10" table saw you can afford. Follow that with a good router and band saw, then add a drill press, jointer, and a planer.
The radial arm saw is more flexible than the table saw; but I never liked ripping on the RAS (felt really unsafe) - and I never got the precision and repeatability from the RAS that I get from my table saw.
The band saw allows cutting (and sanding!) curves - which neither RAS nor TS do. The drill press provides huge precision advantages in hole placement and squareness, and can be used with a mortising attachment and sanding drums. Jointer and planer provide major control over quality of parts.
I'd also suggest a Kreg pocket hole drilling jig. I know and like the guy (whose name is Craig) who invented it; and dragged my feet for years because I felt it was overpriced. Stupid me - it's one of the most used tools in my shop. Bite the bullet and buy one, you won't regret it.
Get paper catalogs from Lee Valley Tools, Grizzly Tool, and McFeely's. Just looking at the pictures and reading descriptions seems to help in developing "process think" abilities. Ask your woodworking acquaintance to let you watch him work in his shop.
--
Morris Dovey
DeSoto, Iowa USA
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FGG wrote:

My very first "big" tool was a Craftsman RAS. At the time I didn't know any better but I now do most of my cutting on a table saw. I still have the RAS but it mostly just collects dust.
Aside from the RAS being picky to set up, I've known it to bind; something that has never happened with my table saw. Also, ripping operations on the RAS were a bit scary. It's also quite a bit noisier. YMMV.
--
Mortimer Schnerd, RN

snipped-for-privacy@XXXXcarolina.rr.com
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wrote:

What sort of thing ? Freee-standing furniture, or house trim ?

IMHO, no way.
RAS are just about usable if they're >20 years old, well made and in good condition. Even then they're not safe for ripping, and if they're anything other than perfect they're a nightmare to use, with a tendency to inaccuracy.
I don't know an affordable modern RAS that couldn't better be replaced by spending the same considerable cost on other machines instead.
I would _definitely_ start with a table saw. At low cost, the Ryobi 3100 is well thought of and it seems very similar to the Axminster BTS 10 that I started with (and I'd recommend if you're in the UK). Above that there's a bit of a gap where more money doesn't buy much more, then you start to get into the serious machines. Although buying old 2000 industrial machines for 500 is my favoured suggestion.
If you're going to be doing house trim, get some sort of compound mitre saw - prefereably one that slides and has a depth stop so you can use it to cut dados. They don't have the reach of the RAS, but for narrower timber they perform the same operations.
I'd also suggest a cheap 1/4" router, followed up by a good 1/2" router when you want to start using it in a table. The cheap router will still be useful when you want something lightweight and portable.
--
Smert' spamionam

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wrote:

If your end goal is fine furniture using a lot of hand tools, start with a good 14" band saw.
For everything else, and most general woodworking, a good 10" table saw, such as a Delta, Jet, General International, or Powermatic contractors saw is the centerpiece of a starter shop. Grizzly can work out OK, but you might be better off with the support of a good local dealer right now. The beauty of either of these saws is resale value. Down the road, you may decide to upgrade, or you may not continue. GOOD contractor's saws can return a significant portion of the original price. If you can find a good condition used model, you'll do even better.
Don't cheap out on the router, either. Since you're probably going to have one router for a while, I suggest the Bosch, Porter Cable, or DeWalt kits that include both a fixed and plunge base and variable speed motor. Either of the three will run you about $200 for the kit. All three are well-respected, and all three can be your only router for a long time.
The RAS is pretty much obsolete, and can are seriously "buyer-beware". They are not all created or maintained equally. <G>
Barry
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A table saw is so important in a shop, although you need space to work and perhaps one fitted on wheels so you can roll it out the way. A bandsaw is generally more useful than a radial arm saw. You need to think about the kinds of projects you plan to build.
wrote:

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Or make a melamine or hardwood top to fit over the saw and turn it into additional bench space.
Barry
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Fred, A Radial Arm Saw(RAS) is the most dangerous power tool in a small shop and caused the worst injuries according to a FWW study some years back. It was the first tool I got rid of after I purchased a table saw and jointer. Start out with tools where the cutting edge does not move like a router table, band saw, table saw, hand sander. Buy lumber pre-finished and you can get by without a jointer. I would not get a hand circular-saw to start out with, maybe a saber saw, it is to dangerous for beginners. Take some classes, join a WW club, be really nice to someone with a lot of tools. Jack, 40 years of WW. Start cheap, it makes you appreciate the good stuff.
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Yes, you can, but you still need to feed wood through it.
It is MUCH harder to make a good RAS than it is to make a good table saw. You have a heavy motor mounted on a cantelever arm, which just BEGS to fall out of alignment.
An RAS is also much harder to get into alignment. A good RAS will cost you more than a good TS or a good BS.
While some guys swear by their RAS, I've found ripping to be WELL outside my comfort zone. OTOH, I love it for crosscuts and mitres.
If I had to choose, rather than inherit, I'd have a TS with an SCMS. If I was allowed just one, I'd choose a TS.
I wouldn't buy any RAS made nowadays that was cheaper than the 12-inchers the Big Box stores have. You can buy two contractors saws for what that'd cost you, or even better, a contractor saw and a band saw.
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here would be my suggestion in order cheekyortant 1: a good Table saw (the $99 Delta at home depot dosen't count)
2: a random orbit sander, I have the cheepy Rybi and it works great, (got it as a temp until I could get better and haven't needed to)
3: a dual base router, don't look at anything that dosen't have 1/2 collet, the skill dual base for $100 looks like a good beginers model, WOOD ranked it very high, and make sure it has a locking spindle, the 2 wrench models are pain
4: compund mitter saw FGG wrote:

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wrote:

[[[[[[[[[[[[[[[[[[[[[[[[[[[[[[[[[[[[[[[[[ Looking back 40+ years to the early 60's and I was in the same boat...(kind of nice boat however because the house was a lot better then the appartment)...
I DID buy a Radial Arm saw as my first "machine" and to be honest I did some pretty good work using it... but it required a lot of "tuning" to keep everything "set"... I still use the saw as a cut off saw in my current shop and it has not been moved off a 90 degree cut in years...
It did not take me very long to buy a Table Saw and a then a Jointer & Band Saw ... but my point is that the Radial Arm saw will work, although I always hated ripping on it...
Bob Griffiths
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On Fri, 10 Sep 2004 14:07:02 -0400, Bob G.

A workshop near me has a long bench with three identical DeWalt RAS mounted on it. One fixed at 90, one at 45 and one at 45 vertically. If you never change the settings, they're not so bad.
--
Smert' spamionam

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