Hi, I just started out woodworking. I am looking for a power tool which
is the most versitile of all. Some people recommended that I should buy
a table saw first, but others say that I can do more things, using a
radial arm saw. For example, a radial arm saw can be used to do both
cross-cutting and ripping. With some attachment, it can also be used as
a router. Since I can only buy one power tool at time, I am hoping that
somebody could give me a suggestion. Are the things that I said about a
radial arm saw correct?
Thank you in advance.
I possess both. I think it's probably fair to say that the RAS is more
verstaile than a table saw (although both can rip and cross-cut). However,
I would add that, at entry -level prices at least, the table saw is
inherently a more reliably accurate machine. If I had my purchasing time
again, I would drop the RAS, add some more money to get a better table saw,
and look to buying a decent CMS for dedicated crosscutting at a later date.
My tuppence worth, but I do feel that it's a fairly objective viewpoint. I
have the DW 720 RAS and a Record Maxi 26 universal, which is mostly used as
a table-saw. Neither are top of the line, but both are well above the
I suggest a table saw. With a crosscut sled, crosscutting on a tablesaw is
easy, plus you can crosscut wider material than with most radial arm saws.
Ripping on a radial arm saw is not nearly as safe as on a tablesaw. And as
far as using the radial arm saw as a router, forget it. Adjustment is crude
and the rotation speed is not fast enough for most router bits.
Unless you get an old DeWalt radial arm or one from The Original Saw
Company, radial arm saws are notorious for getting out of alignment
requiring frequent and lengthy realignment. That plus a table that can
warp, you have a saw that generally is not as accurate as a tablesaw. If
you look at professional woodworking shops, you will find very few that have
a radial arm saw.
Get a book such as - "The Tablesaw Book", by Kelly Mehler
"Tablesaw: Methods of Work" by Jim Richey
You will see how versatile a tablesaw can be.
Radial arm saws have their place, and if you get a high quality one, i.e.,
commercial quality, $1200++, they can remain accurate and are flexible. Home
shop versions however are nortorious for falling out of alignment, due
principally to their many moving parts which, paradoxically, provide the
flexibility in design and use. I have one, which I principally use only for
crosscutting rough lumber prior to planing, and for some dado head work. I
bought a used sears machine for $150 and fixed it up. In my view, that's about
all it is worth. I would not, and after the first time, have not, used a RAS
to rip boards. Very scary operation, and in my opinion, difficult to
accomplish with saftey. I have a very healthy respect for every power tool I
turn on, and I just don't think a RAS is all that safe for complex operations.
Others may differ in their opinion, but I have been working with wood on
stationery power tools for over 15 years now and still have all ten fingers,
and I would like everyone to have the same experience. Save your money and buy
the best table saw your budget, and space limitations can afford - you will not
regret it. And by the way, use the blade guards, splitters, and make yourself
some feather boards and push sticks.
Ripping is scary on a ras.
Rough crosscutting is easier than on a tablesaw. You hold the [10 foot
long] board still and move the saw, much easier.
I use a sled to cross cut wide boards on my tablesaw. you are limited to
about 16 inches of crosscut on a ras anyway.
Probably do well with a basic [cheap] mitersaw for rough cross cuts and
spend all you can afford on a tablesaw.
Oh, and buy a router, dont bother with the ras for that.
Got mine [old sears, heavy] for 125$ with a nice set of drawers underneath.
use the drawers more than the saw...
I started with a RAS 25 years ago and built most the furniture in my house
Yes it can be more versatile. I used mine as a hormonal boring machine,
Shaper, Planer and a saw.
It was a PIA to use it for any thing but a saw.
Eventually I got a table saw and that was basically the end of me using a
RAS. 3 years later it was good bye to the RAS and for the last 12 years I
have not once missed it.
You will probably eventually end up with a TS so get a good one to start
A few years ago we'd come off a pretty nasty project and the
president of the company wanted to acknowledge the hard work
we'd done. His secretary wrote up a nice memo to the effect
and in it was the line, "People of your caliper are hard to
find". Her response was, "It passed the spell check".
I love my 1950-something DeWalt Power Shop, but I would not give up my table
saw if I had to make a choice. Ripping is scary on a RAS. Crosscuts are
limited to about 14" on mine [10" model]. But it's so convenient for
cutting narrow boards to length and cutting dadoes. I build wood toys, so I
am using a lot of small pieces of wood. Cutting 100 pieces of 3/4x2 lumber
to exactly 3 1/4" in length is much faster with a RAS. But ripping it to 2"
in width is a job I would not tackle on the RAS; that's a job for the table
Here is my take on your query.
1. You really haven't indicated what your interests are so everything
below can easly be called into question.
2. I look at RAS as old technology that may still be useful in some
applications but has many modern replacements. A RAS DOES NOT HAVE A
PLACE in the shop of a wood worker starting out.
3. The decision as to which major piece of machinery one should purchase
is difficult to make. Many people would reccomend a table saw, but that
was not the route I took. The route you take may be totally different
from everyone else.
4. In my case one of the first power tools that I purchased was a CMS.
Not so much for my interest in woodworking projects but for the reality
that I was doing alot of trim work around (remodeling) the house. This
just points out that sometimes your purchase will be driven by a projects
5. Several year later I find myself buying not a table saw but a band
saw. The rational behind that purchase is specific to my interest.
First; there is no beter machine for riping/resawing rough cut lumber.
Second; I'm currently extremely limited in shop space, a permanently
installed table saw would take up to much space. Third a band saw, for
some operations, is cleaner and safer to use. Fourth any large panel typ
work that I may need to do I can still handle with my circular saw, on the
other hand a band saw can do things that I did not have a tool for.
So you see this is my perspective, for others it may be total garbage.
What you need to do is figure out where your interests are, how much space
you have and how much money you want to spend. In any event keep the
thought of a RAS out of your mind for now. That is unless you get a deal
at an auction or and estate sale, then all bets are off.
On Sun, 13 Jul 2003 00:48:14 +0000, takashi wrote:
Well lets see, A new radial arm saw that is any good would have to
be one of those made from old dewalt castings and they cost what
$2800? A good sliding compound miter saw costs what 6-8 hundered
dollars? The Radial arm saw is only portable if you mount it on a
trailer and takes considerable room in your shop. the cms or scms are
portalble and take up very little room in your shop. if you get a good
one they are reasonably accurate. The cms or scms will not rip which
you can do with a RAS but I would prefer to spend $800 on a scms and
use the $2000 change to get a good cabinet saw rather than buy the
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