I have a chance of buying 1 of 3 saws at a sale . A miter saw, radial arm,
or a 12" sliding miter saw. My question is, will the sliding miter saw
replace a radial arm saw and give me the best of both world's, such as a
combination of having a chop saw and a radial arm saw all in one? I am new
to woodworking and would appreciate your opinions. Thanks
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It will have many uses, but it can't do many things a RAS can--ripping
being the easiest to envision.
I'd not suggest against that as a purchase only that it isn't a RAS (or
a tablesaw or a bandsaw or...)
What would be the best choice would depend on your intended usage and
what, if anything, you already have or intend else to get (the TS and/or
BS would be the two highest items on most lists, undoubtedly, the
specific one being more user-dependent).
Actually, as to what/which/whether to purchase would depend
significantly on just what each tool is--make, model, apparent
condition, etc. There are some of each that are real finds, some just
ok, and some you might as well leave there irregardless...
OTOH, ripping on a radial arm saw causes shuddering among most who have
done it. It's one of the most dangerous operations you can perform on a
I'd better duck now - the RAS faithful will be here shortly :-).
Intelligence is an experiment that failed - G. B. Shaw
In what way is it dangerous? The worst that it can do is sling the board
back in the direction it came with very limited lift , and it is far more
likely to just jam up and stall the saw. Even that is only going to happen
if you screw up badly in setting it up.
I find it inconvenient since it means moving the work across the saw from
side to side, but I've never felt like I was in any danger from it.
See clarifier reply. (grin)
There are very few operations unique to a RAS. There are a few that are
easier on one. In general, I'd say a table saw and a miter saw (sliding or
not) are a better choice than a RAS alone.
Hmmm... a problem with tenses there, perhaps. Maybe it should say, "but
not operations that a table saw wouldn't cover".
It's possible to do rips with a RAS. It's possible to do dado's and
rabbet's with a RAS, shaping (with a shaper blade and changeable cutters),
and a host of other operations. Taper cuts *can* be easier with a RAS.
As to the orig. question, which saw is "best" is up to the operator and the
intended use (IMO, of course). I've done a bunch of sawdust generation
without having a RAS... but if I had unlimited space, I wouldn't mind
Radial Arm Saw Comments.
The first thing to remember about radial arm saws is that they are
politically incorrect. Even though most of the houses the USA were built
with them, it is considered very bad taste to even be on talking terms with
a radial arm saw.
There are many who are convinced that if you walk into a room with one of
these evil radial arms saws, it will grab you and begin to dismember you.
It had been demonized for some reason. I guess we all need to forget the
many years of useful service these unappreciated saws performed for us.
Whatever danger lurks in the radial arm saw also lurks in many other tools
as well. Maybe there are just more morons out there who should never handle
I have used radial arm saws for many years. I grew up with them. Every
construction site I saw growing up had a radial arm saw on site. Many came
on trailers or had their own little shelter built for them. Kinda like the
basic shelter for a horse.
I have cut a few miles of dado grooves with a radial arm saw. I don't do
much of that any more. I use a router now. But for production runs on
standard width lumber, you can't beat the old pull the saw head torwards you
radial arm saw.
I also used to work a lot with two by lumber to make various rustic
furniture. I doubt if one of those little, puny miter saws could handle very
much of the big stuff. I used to go out ofter dinner and fill a garbage can
full of sawdust and shavings from a radial arm saw. It is work tool. It
works and gets the job done.
Those little miter/chop saws do have limited utility. I have a hitachi I
bought to install moulding. It excelled at that. It was fast, accurate and
made the job much easier. It doesn't work so good on anything over a 1 X 6
board though. And no dados either.
I understand the space requirements. Which is why I do not have a radial arm
saw now. The garage is too small. But as soon as that situation changes, I
will get another radial arm saw. A big one this time. An old Dewalt or
something similar. I miss it.
<wipes tear from eye>
That is all I am going to say about radial arm saws.
I am with you buddy. My dad and uncle built everything with a RAS.
So, when I bought my first house that is the first tool I bought. In
1979 I bought a used Dewalt/B&D. I too, used it for everything,
including an official Dewalt drum sander attachment. But, over the
years as I added other tools including a table saw and compound miter
I began to use the RAS less and less. Last weekend, due to space
limitations, I tore the RAS down and packed it under the miter saw
table I built. I can't bring myself to get rid of it. If I find a
need for it, I promised the RAS I would build it a brandnew cabinet
with drawers and built in dust collection. Until then, my old friend
is stored away for hopefully another day.
For one, accurate crosscut dadoes comes to mind - and, IMO, better
than a table saw for that operation.
Don't think I'd want to try putting a dado head on a miter saw and
even if that would work, I don't think the depth stop is precise or
stable enough to make a good dado.
RAS will make rip cuts, but I'm happier doing those on a TS. Miter saw
in all it's variations is crosscut only.
I find that for making small boxes an RAS is wonderful--with stock of that
dimension you can both rip and crosscut against the fence, use the cheap
plastic version of the Incra jig easily to get precise positioning, and not
have to fuss with safely handling small stock--just clamp it down and
cut--when it doesn't have to move, holding it gets a lot easier. I should
point out that the Incra jig or its various competitors are as happy
companions for the RAS as they are for the router.
The big thing it has trouble with is box joints--you can do them by setting
the blade horizontal and either raising it the required amount each time or
making a set of blocks to raise the workpiece a fixed amount each time
(you'd make up a special high fence to provide backup) or by setting the
blade vertical and clamping the stock between the front and rear tables, but
any way you do it it's pain in the butt.
No way does a sliding miter saw replace a radial arm saw. Personally
I do not like sliding miters because of a decrease in accuracy and
increase in cost. A simple chop saw will stay tuned longer than a
slider. I like my 12" DeWalt miter after doing 600 feet of 8"
layered crown molding. The DeWalt has a generously high back fence.
You will also want to make a miter stand with extended supports, a
stop, and support. Whatever you decide, get a quality name. Bosch
and Makita are very good choices too.
All other things being equal...
They each do things the others can't do very well (if at all), so it depends
on your applications. For the functions that overlap, a radial arm saw is
much more accurate than a miter and a miter is much easier to use. If you're
building cabinets, go for the radial; if you're building houses, pick the
I'd say which is more accurate is far more dependent on the individual
tools' quality (reflected in, but not guaranteed by, price) relative to
As for the function, in most ways I'd think I'd choose the opposite way
(altho I have all three plus TS + bandsaw and wouldn't want to part w/
any :) )
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