98% of the crosscutting I do (depending on the size with my CMS, crosscut TS
sled, or with a guide and a circular saw) is 90 degrees in both directions.
I understand that RAS can be fussy to set up, but if set up properly will
they do decent 90 degree cuts? Or are they just inherently inaccurate? I
don't mind spending an extra 10 minutes on the rare occasion I want to do
something more exotic; especially since it would take much longer to do it
now (at least on stuff bigger than my CMS).
I have my eye on a 2 year old craftsman that was barely used. Sure would be
nice to be able to do 16" crosscuts without a lot of fuss; but if it won't
be accurate, then it would just be a waste of room and money.
It's only a matter of time before Rumpty weighs in with the reasons why
a RAS is THE tool to own. From what I've heard, a 2 year old Craftsman
would be one of the worst choice in RAS you could make. That's not MY
opinion, as I've never owned one, but I've read plenty about them and it
ain't pretty. :)
Being an actual owner of a RAS for the past 20 years or so, I find it to be
very useful. I will admit it takes a tune up every so often and probably
more often than many of my other tools (TS for example) but it's really
quite easy to set up. I use it all the time to rough cut my wood. I've
ripped on it a few times but since I've gotten my TS, I do that operation
there now. I can't really talk to the recent craftsman's but mine (20
years old +) is just getting broken in. Before discounting the old ones,
check to see if they are truly worn. How? I'm not quite sure as I haven't
had to look into purchasing used but there are many here that can tell you
what to look for. Personally, I'd run it through all of it's motions
looking for any excessive play and go from there. Good Luck,
Depending on the model, older ones are also quite possibly much more
solidly built (but probably need to be more like 30 to 40 yr old rather
than only 20 as by the 80s a lot of the cheapening of Craftsman was
already well under way. I think a specific model number would be all
important as there were so many different Craftsmans as well.
For the general question, a _quality_ RAS is fully capable of being set
up and keeping its precision, but the inexpensive ones aren't that tool,
whether Craftsman or B&D or whomever. I use the RAS as the rough cutoff
tool when prepping material and the TS for final work of manageable
size. If the piece is long enough to make the handling on the TS
problematical, I then go either to the CMS or back to the RAS if the
piece can't be handled on the CMS. But, in general, I keep a rough cut
blade on the RAS so a final cut entails a fair amount of setup there
before it can happen, thus ensuring I rarely use it for that purpose...
Buy the saw. Find a copy of Jon Eakins' book on radial arm saws. Enjoy.
You'll need to tune it, check the tune every so often, and it will
probably wear out in 20 or so years, but what the hell.
I don't like them for ripping, but for wider crosscuts, they're great.
I grew up around radial arm saws. Now everybody acts like they are going to
get a disease from it or something. If you have a healthy respect for
tools. You observe some basic safety rules. You tune the thing now and then.
It should give you long service.
But if you do not respect the beast, it will bite you. I used to work in
insurance. And a lot of stupid people hurt themselves on this thing. I read
But I have worked around these saws for about forty years. And I have all
fingers and toes. And I have built a mile or two of bookcases with them
too. Not that long ago, almost all houses were built with these things.
I don't know when the exact point was that this saw fell into disfavor. But
I woke one day to discover a tool I grew up with has now become the great
satan. Probably about the same time that good old US of A became a land of
wimps and whiners.
Or a group that took too much for granted too often, thus couldn't get
the best out of the RAS, or a group that was in a big rush too often
and couldn't get the best out of the RAS. I can't quite see where
wimping and whining have much to do with it.
How do you figure? Framing has been done with circular saws for as long as I
can remember. Prior to the advent of chopsaws, trim was done with manually
operated mitre boxes. In my experience, the RAS has been a shop tool 99% of
As recently as 20 years ago, many job sites had an RAS there to do the
cutting of heavier timbers, trim and similar parts. That particular
tool use in my experience goes back into at least the middle '50s when
I started bending nails. My brother, who contracted aluminum, and then
vinyl, siding always preferred one on the site.
A bitch to tune up, yes. Go out of adjustment easily, yes. But, if you
got good at it, fast to adjust back into tune, lighter than a good
table saw, and more versatile in some ways (many 10" RAS models used to
run router bits, some had flexible shafts, etc.). Even today, I think
cutting dadoes is preferable on an RAS. Even grooving is somewhat
easier, if you know what you're doing.
Circular saws came into common use with carpenters some time after
WWII. The guy I started with wouldn't have them on the site, felt they
were both inaccurate (those early ones were), and dangerous (and he was
right again). Power miter boxes changed a lot of things, after the
circular saw made the major changes in the early '50s. SCMS have
changed a lot more things. But there is still much that an RAS will do
that is more easily done than with any other power tool.
How recently? My brother was using one in '68 in Westchester County,
through about '79 or so when he went to CA, from whence he came to VA.
I don't know if he used one in California, but I know for sure he used
on in NY and VA. They were popular on almost all construction sites in
and around Westchester and up in Albany back in the mid-60s through '72
when I left to go to Wisconsin. From about '73 to '77 I saw many around
Orange County, Sullivan County, etc. In '77 I moved down here, and not
long after that the power miter box started to take over, though RAS
sightings were still frequent. I don't recall seeing one on a job site
in 20 years, though, here or elsewhere.
Part of that may be the fact there are now only two makes out there. In
the bad old days, B&D, Craftsman, Delta, Monkey Ward, and others had
one or more models, and 20 years ago there were several little 8 or
8-1/2" versions from Ryobi, B&D and, I think, Craftsman. Today, the
only ones I see are Craftsman and Delta. Somehow, I have it in my mind
that Emerson made a Ridgid for Home Depot for a few years, but that may
Of course, there are still the old, old DeWalts, the Original Saw and
the big Delta saws, but none of those are portable. IIRC, my buddy's
Delta 14" weighs about 700 pounds, which definitely takes it out of the
job site category, while another friend has the 12", lighter but not
light enough for travel.
<<Somehow, I have it in my mind
that Emerson made a Ridgid for Home Depot for a few years, but that may
You are correct. They did. I recall seeing them in the stores as recently
as last year but it appears the Borg no longer stocks a Ridgid RAS. The
only two RAS models they sell now are Deltas and those are available only
through their catalog or online, not in the stores.
To e-mail, replace "bucketofspam" with "dleegordon"
I started working part time about 1971. Framers here (LI) tended to work
light. Everybody didn't own a truck or an SUV in the 1970's and individual
carpenters would usually arrive in a car. Contractors had trucks but there
was usually no room for a RAS. In most cases a tool like that would not be
left on an insecure jobsite anyway. IIRC Rockwell came out with a chopsaw
way back, which my boss had, although it was probably out of reach for many.
Carpenters were expected to be able to make pretty precise cuts on the site
with a circular saw. Later, in the remodeling business, I bought one of
those Ryobi's, thinking it would be a great timesaver, but with the
exception of cutting soffits, it was a disappointment. The best carpenters
I've seen come to the job with a few basic tools and still run circles
around anybody else. Those were usually the old time union trained guys.
If they use them for framing they are wasting time. A chop saw or RAS may be
useful for repetitive cuts on 2x4's or 2x6's, but cutting rafters, joists,
etc. is most efficiently done on the stack. By the time you move the lumber
into position on the saw a good framer would have it cut. I guess if you are
employing semi-skilled labor to feed cut pieces to framers the economics of
the situation might change.
I'm not in the habit necessarily of driving around town looking at what
contractor's are using (although that is usually a good indication of what
works!) and I'm in an area that has little construction going on (Corrales)
but it seems what I have seen, is most are using the SCMS's. I still
agree that a RAS has it's place and is still a versatile tool. And you are
right, Semi-skilled....to say the least!
HomeOwnersHub.com is a website for homeowners and building and maintenance pros. It is not affiliated with any of the manufacturers or service providers discussed here.
All logos and trade names are the property of their respective owners.