Radial arm saw vs. sliding compound miter saw

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I've got a friend that is contemplating the purchase of a radial arm saw vs. a sliding compound miter saw. Most of the work will be around his home as he's doing "home improvement" type work. I don't have a clue about a radial arm saw but have used a sliding compound miter saw some. Could you all please give some advantages/disadvantages or compare the two?
Thanks,
Chris Nail
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On Thu, 10 Feb 2005 07:46:38 -0800, Chris Nail wrote:

SCMS less expensive new more portable than RAS less setup and tuning than RAS
RAS Able to rip as well as crosscut able to do fixed height operations such as dados as well as dado stacks, can use molding heads, drill chucks and more has wider crosscut capacity than (some) SCMS
- Doug
--

To escape criticism--do nothing, say nothing, be nothing." (Elbert Hubbard)


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Doug Winterburn wrote: ...good comparative points between RAS and SCMS...
I'd only add that to get anyways close to the precision of a decent miter saw in a RAS will entail getting a much more expensive RAS. They're really two completely different animals for differing purposes. While some functions can overlap, choice of which to get should be driven by need/usage.
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On Thu, 10 Feb 2005 10:21:40 -0600, Duane Bozarth wrote:

Again, I believe that your point is corrected by proper setup and tuning of the RAS. I'm on my second relatively inexpensive RAS in 34 years. The first was a Monkey Wards PowrKraft that went 33 years before all the smoke escaped. I believe it cost in the neighborhood of $179. Last year, I had to replace it and bought the Searz Craftsman $550 saw. I hear constant criticism of the RAS in general, and Craftsman in particular, but with proper setup and alignment (which I don't have to redo but every few years), both these saws are/were dead on accurate with repeatable accuracy even after changing bevel/miter/height and rip/crosscut settings. Anyone who follows the Jonathon Eakes RAS book for setup and tuning will have similar results. Even the fabled DeWalt RAS will have problems if not setup and aligned properly.
- Doug
--

To escape criticism--do nothing, say nothing, be nothing." (Elbert Hubbard)


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Doug Winterburn wrote: All the inexpensive ones I've seen (including my own) simply aren't rigid enough nor precise enough in the locking mechanisms to be all that repeatable. Yours apparently is at least enough to satisfy you for what you use it for...
As usual, ymmv, imo, $0.02, etc., ... :)
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On Thu, 10 Feb 2005 11:57:21 -0600, Duane Bozarth wrote:

Yup, accurate and repeatable satisfies me :-) As Eakes puts it:
"Things that move must move smoothly and firmly." "Things that should not move, must not move."
- Doug
--

To escape criticism--do nothing, say nothing, be nothing." (Elbert Hubbard)


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Doug Winterburn wrote:

I like that... :) Sorta' like Einsten's "Things should be as simple as possible, but not simpler."
I've just not seen one of the cheaper Sears or my old inexpensive DeWalt/B&D that was the first "woodworking" tool I bought in about '79 or '80 that would actually satisfy the second of the two criteria. Fine for light work but just not sturdy enough for heavy. I use it now almost exclusively for cutoff saw as it's too underpowered for much of what I otherwise used to use it for when I had no choice. When (read <IF> :) ) I get the shop moved up to the haymow so if have the room, I intend to get an Original Saw Company behemoth if I can eventually locate one for a reasonable price.
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wrote:

Duane.. I'd agree with your statement, except that the OP was asking about a SLIDING CMS.. I've heard lots of complaints about the sliding saws regarding accuracy and "twist" of the saw..
OTOH, the RAS took me a lot more getting used to and had more to learn than the CMS.. it still feels weird to have the work on the bottom and the blade on top, moving.. but both of the above do that..
mac
Please remove splinters before emailing
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mac davis wrote:

...
My comparison was basically on the relative cost of the two for roughly equivalent "precision" (for lack of better short description)--my experience has been the RAS will be significantly more expensive to get similar performance than the CMS--not that there aren't junk CMS's. The number of RAS being made now makes some of my past experience not so applicable though as there aren't as many on the low end. I tend to write off Craftsman stuff any more so theirs <could> be now more substantial than I think. As noted, I keep watching for an Original for a price, but they're not many of them anybody lets go! :( Of course I've seen quite a number of large older Delta/Rockwell/other, but w/ integrable motors the 3-phase is a pita as I really don't want to go the converter route (expense, almost exclusively).
Using either CMS or RAS is, indeed a different beastie! As in all, care and most of all, thinking of what one is doing are crucial. W/ time, like w/ any other activity, it becomes much more natural. Having mine for 30 years or so now, I've become quite accustomed to it although I no longer use it for everything as I did initially.
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Kinda like comparing a Corvette and an 18 wheeler. They will both cut wood, but the Radial Arm Saw will do basic functions that a sliding compound miter saw will never do. Like rip a board. If you need to make boards narrower and accurately forget the slider.
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I have both in my shop. My chopsaw is nice because it is portable if necessary and changing angles and bevels is fast and accurate.
I like the ras because it will crosscut (which is my primary use) up to 14". My chopsaw will only crosscut 8". I'm just the type of guy that needs both. SH
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Hi, Chris,
IMHO, the other posters have pretty much hit the nail on the head. The only thing that I would reinforce is to consider the RAS/CMS in conjunction with the other tools in your friend's shop. If he has limited space and doesn't have room for a table saw, then the RAS will be much closer to the Holy Grail of the "Universal Machine", since it can rip as well as crosscut.
As other posters have indicated, the RAS is pretty much "Jack-of-all-Trades (no diss intended, Theo!) -and-Master-of-None. It's more hassle and less safe than a dedicated table saw for ripping. It's bulkier and less-portable and - in the cheaper sector - than a CMS for crosscutting and transporting. OTOH, you can use it for dadoing, tenoning etc, so it's more versatile. Some models you can remove the blade, fit a router bracket so you can have radial-arm routing. CMS's, however, are (generally!) more accurate and more predictable for straight-forward crosscutting and mitring.
I have both, as well as a decent table saw for ripping.. If I want my RAS to have ultimate accuracy, then I have to check the settings very frequently - they do wander (I have a DeWalt 720). It gets used for mainly cross-cutting and tenon shoulders or housings in the shop. The CMS (actually, SCMS) gets used for cross-cutting and mitring on site work. I don't have to worry too much about the set-up. It seems to keep its accuracy however much abuse it gets in transit.
Having said that, there's a price point to everything - if you buy a cheap Chiwanese CMS from a large pile-'em-high, sell-'em-cheap (thinking of B&Q in the UK!), then all bets are off. Some of the kit is great (or at least adequate) and other stuff is entirely wasted money. It might be cheap, but it will let you down in some respect every time, there will be no pride-of-possession, and you'll hate it. Whatever your friend goes for, RAS, CMS or SCMS, tell him to do his homework on the particular brand of machine. As we often say here on the "Wreck", if you buy a good tool, you only have to cry once. If you buy a poor tool, then you cry when you buy, then you cry when you have to replace the POS for something that will actually do the job.
If God said to me that I could only have one or the other, then it would have to be the RAS from a versatility viewpoint. But I would sulk. There's room for both, unless you are limited for space, or dosh, or both.
My tuppence-worth.
Cheers,
Frank
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wrote:

=================================I am another guy who owns both ....although my CMS is NOT a sliding CMS... and my Radial Arm saw has not been moved off a 90 degree cut in the last 10-15 years that I can remember...
For home improvement work etc... my choice would be a regular CMS.. (I have not found any real need for the sliding feature) ...at least Not that I remember.... the reasons I bought the saw as of course trim work and portability...
If I was a young man and was just setting up my woodshop I most likely would forget about the RAS and go with a SLIDING CMS....but honestly just to save space...I find the RAS required almost an entire wall in my shop...
In my shop...I do use my RAS ...as a cut off saw.. or an ocassional dado etc.. and I Never pull out the CMS just no reason to ..
Hope this helps your friend ... it really all comes down to what he really needs to use the machine for... sorry but for doing a few picture frames I still go straight for my Tablesaw..for cutting the miters
Bob Griffiths .
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Chris Nail wrote:

If it's going to be the only saw in his shop and those are the choices then the RAS, no question--it's a general-purpose saw, not specialized for one cut--it can do most of what a table saw can do, most of what a SCM saw can do, and has a few tricks of its own, but to get it to work satisfactorily will take some effort in the initial setup and regular monitoring to make sure it hasn't gone off adjustment. If on the other hand, he's looking for something specifically for miters and other angled cuts and already has a table saw then the SCM will likely be a better bet for him--since those are all it does the design is optimized for the purpose.
If he does go with the RAS, though, make sure he gets the Jon Eakes and Mr. Sawdust (just google those names and you should find them quickly enough) books on the RAS. Lots of good advice there.

--
--John
Reply to jclarke at ae tee tee global dot net
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My dad bought a brand-new 12" DeWalt RAS which was eventually offered to me when he passed and I turned it down. It was too big for my needs, and frankly I was always tentative with that animal. Can any of you guys remember when DeWalts were painted a speckled mint green, had a metal stand and had handles for lugging it around? That's the baby. We had it semi-permanently located with fixed 8' benches on either side of it, each bench obviously having a "fence" that matched the DW and there was a garage door at one end and about 6' of dead space to the back wall at the other end. Great cross-cut tool, but I never liked ripping with that blade where it was. I think the saw was about 36" wide itself.
I have a 10" TS (Sears) and a 8" SCMS (Hitachi) that can cut 12" if I need it. I love the Hitachi because it works so well, is soooo portable, and stores easily. I can honestly say that if I hit the jackpot and wanted to re-equip, I'd never by a RAS. But that's just me, plenty of others here love'em. BTW, most times I'm either bearing down, or pushing the SCMS into the cut... rather than pulling it thru like I did with the DW.
As many here have said, his decision will be based on a lot of variables including space, money, quality, type of work, safety, and more. Whatever floats his boat.
Mike
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I have a Craftsman RAS, circa 1980, which has been a good worker for 25 years. My shop is my garage, so the RAS, which hugs the wall, fits better than a table saw. I agree that ripping with the RAS can be scary, especially on hardwood, but many times I need to rip pieces less than 36" long. I made an auxilliary fence that clamps to the regular fence at right angles. It can be quickly clamped in place at the right distance, trued with a square and clamped at the other end. Then I can rip with the end against the regular fence with no problem and no fear of the piece binding and shooting at me. On the other side of the saw from me is a window - I have never shot a wood projecile at it.
When I have to rip a longer piece, I use my bandsaw first.
Steve

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Anything but a RAS. I just can't see any reason to have a blade whirring away on the end of a wobbly arm, looking for a piece of material to grab and zing it across the shop.... including an arm. Too damned dangerous for my liking. I have always hated RAS's. I have used many over the years... I am cautious around all tools, but I only fear one...the RAS....radial ARM saw.... I turn it on... it ramps up to speed and looks at me...I know it wants a body part.... Everybody, at one time or another, has their mind drift away from the task at hand. The RAS will take full advantage and shred your flesh as it crawl up the length of your arm...making sure NO plastic/neuro surgeon will ever put any of that back together. Did I mention that I don't like RAS's?
00
Rob
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=======================Even though I have owned a RAS for over 40 years and that I still use it.. I can not say that it am in any way in love with the saw...far from it ...it works with enough accuracy for the tasks I assign it...
BUT ... I do think your comments are a little overboard,, Bob Griffiths
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[snip]
The way I look at a RAS and the way I describe it, is an obvious embellishment used to illustrate a point. (I really haven't had a RAS actually 'look' at me...) I try to keeps things 'light'. There is enough heavy shit going on all around us. I appreciate your calling my comments a 'little' overboard. Others aren't that kind.
0-
Rob
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============Nothing wrong with keeping things a little lite.... and I did honestly think your comments were offered "tongue in cheek "...
Bob
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