Didn't see this specific question in the FAQ. There are several types
saws I know of: table saw, radial arm saw, compound miter saw,
compound miter saw, and portable circular saw. Ignoring portability
circular saw, can you do basically everything you need with 2 of the
and if so which 2? I suppose technically you can do everything with a
saw. But assuming the great ease of doing miters with a miter saw or
potential benefit of crosscutting long/narrow pieces with a radial arm
wouldn't a table saw plus sliding compound miter give you all you'd
I'm not a fine furniture kind of guy and these won't get a ton of use,
when I want 'em I'll want 'em, so I'll be buying used, or
something like that. At those prices I figure I can get 2 saws, but
definitely don't want to go overboard here, TIA
Your answer is going to depend on what type of work you are doing and
how you learned to do it.
Framing carpenter would possibly pick a miter saw and a handheld
portable circular saw.
a Furniture maker might go with a radial arm saw and a bandsaw .
If you are cutting a lot of timber to length , then a miter saw is
excellent . Buy one that can handle 2 x 4 and you probably cover 90%
of the home repair needs.
Since you were apparently asking exclusively about power tools:
Just to offer an alternate view (assuming most of the responses here
will factor a TS highly into the mix), I do almost all of my cutting
with a 18" bandsaw (ripping and most curves, some shorter angled
crosscuts) and a handheld circular saw (crosscutting, made very
accurate with a cutting guide or sled).
I also have a handheld jigsaw, and a router which I use for some
operations which might be considered cutting (mostly truing up
circles, cutting with templates, etc.).
For an even MORE alternative view, I frequently use a few Japanese
pull saws, which cut very cleanly and are much quicker than plugging
in and setting up a power saw for a single cut or two. Each
individual side of the Ryoba is especially impressive for its
respective cut. I haven't practiced enough yet to get perfectly
consistent and square cuts with these, but if it doesn't matter or I'm
willing to fix it with a plane, it's a nice (quiet) change of pace,
and sometimes a timesaver.
On 6 Feb 2007 13:11:06 -0800, " email@example.com"
Personally I'd get one good saw of any type rather than two poor ones.
Be _very_ careful buying a used or inexpensive radial arm saw--even a
good old cast iron deWalt in good condition takes some time and
knowledge to set up properly and needs to be checked periodically--one
that is not well made or is in poor condition will have you hating the
breed in no time. If I knew then what I know now I'd have gone with a
table saw, not a radial arm saw--I spent the better part of a decade
cursing that thing before I finally learned how to tune it properly.
Now I have a love/hate relationship with mine. I love what it can do,
I love being able to make a mark on the board and nudge the that mark
right up to the blade while I watch, I hate having to check the
alignment in three axes every time I change the setup.
If you are seriously consdering a radial arm saw then get the Jon
and the Mr. Sawdust book
and read them cover to cover about three times, then if you still
think you want one you'll know what you're looking for.
Rather than two saws with circular blades, IMO you'd likely be better
off with a table saw and a band saw--the band saw can do things that
the table saw can't and significantly extends your capabilities in
ways that an SCMS or a radial arm saw won't.
Really depends on what you plan to do though.
Nope. There are a lot of things that a band saw can do, that a table saw
IMO, the minimum needed to properly equip a woodworking shop with power saws
- table saw
- one of: radial arm saw, compound miter saw, or sliding compound miter saw
- band saw
- handheld circular saw (for rough-cutting boards & panels to approximate
Doug Miller (alphageek at milmac dot com)
Thanks for the tips. I've done a little more reading wrt price and
quality and I can see the problems that might result from cheap
equipment. Thinking about what I'll be doing most, I'll get a nice
miter saw now and add more later as I need and can afford.
Jeff ... you can find good used Craftsman table saws for not much money.
Usually $150 and less. It is NOT a brand new cabinet saw, but you can
get a lot of good work out of one while you are saving for a 'top shelf'
saw. If you get good with the Craftsman, you may find that you A) are no
longer interested in a fancier saw or B) much better qualified to get
your moneys' worth out of the fancier saw. When you later sell the
Craftsman to make room for the newer saw, you will find that it's still
worth about what you paid for it ... the darn things just never seem to
Make yourself an honest man, and then you may be sure that there is one
rascal less in the world.
Sounds like a good plan, if that's what you think you'll use most -
I'd just suggest getting a good blade, no matter what quality of miter
saw you get. One of my friends has the el cheapo Delta "shopmaster"
miter saw, and he found accuracy improved a great deal with the
addition of a Dewalt blade from the borg. You COULD spend more for
the blade than for the saw at this low-tier quality line, but if you
start with a cheap saw, you should also get a better blade at the same
time (maybe $25-50 for the blade?), and I'd bet you'll be happier than
staying with the stock blade.
To give you a reference point for my opinion I have used or own:
Circular saw, jigsaw, miter saw, sliding miter saw, tablesaw, hand
saw, coping saw
I have built some furniture and done a lot of remodeling so I am
basically a DIYer that is moving into woodworking.
Tablesaw has a huge amount of flexibility and can do many things
especially with the right jigs. However if most of your work will be
home repair/remodeling it won't see nearly as much use as a miter saw
or circular saw.
Miter saw is a great tool and a sliding miter saw (usually) has a
longer reach and more accuracy. I have the standard type because I
couldn't justify the expense of a good sliding miter saw.
Probably my technique but I can't make precise cuts with a jigsaw.
Even Norm "leaves then line" when using a jigsaw so I don't feel too
Circular saw can do many things a tablesaw can do but not nearly as
accurate. Again jigs and technique go a long way, my brother can
follow a scribe line and miter crown molding with a circular saw, I
need a speed square to cut a 2x4.
Having bought my TS new I probably wouldn't do it again. Even a
contractor style TS is built like a tank and you can safely buy a used
one if you check it out first. Craigslist is a good place to look for
used tools. I wouldn't buy one off of ebay unless you could check it
out before bidding.
Even though I get from the group and other places a radial arm saw is
extremely versatile I would put it second behind a bandsaw.
When considering my post and others remember "opinions are like a$
$holes, everybody has one and they all stink".
Only the table saw and the radial arm saw can both rip and crosscut.
The miter saws (sliding or non sliding) cross cut well but sacrifice
rip capability for lightness, rigidity and lower cost.
I suppose technically you can do everything with a
Either a table saw or a radial arm saw will do all the common
woodworking cuts and joints. These are the basic, do everything tools.
Either one can do everything the miter saws can do. Was it me,
starting out, I'd pick either a table saw or a radial arm saw, either
one works fine. I'd look on the miter saws as nice to have supplements
to the basic saws.
In favor of the table saw. It can make finger lap (box) joints.
Short of the walls of your shop, there are no limits on rip width or
crosscut length. It seldom needs alignment.
In favor of the radial arm saw. It needs less space in your shop.
Long boards face the same way for rip and cross cut so you only need
clearance in one direction. The machine works just fine backed up to a
wall. It is better at cross cutting long boards. Keeping a 10 foot
board at right angles to the blade using just the miter gage on a table
saw is difficult. The radial arm saw will rip straight without a fancy
after market fence. It can also double as a shaper, a horizontal boring
machine, a disc or drum sander and a bench grinder. You can raise
panels with it.
As you might guess, I have just a radial arm saw (an old Craftsman)
and it serves my simple needs well. The dreaded alignment procedure
isn't that much of a chore. You swing the arm back and forth noting
where the blade scrapes the plywood to make sure the table is parallel
to the arm. You use a carpenter's square to see if the arm is running at
right angles to the fence, and a combination square to check for the
blade being at right angles to the table. I check alignment only after
moving it, or making a new table. Takes maybe a half an hour. Mine
goes for years between alignments.
When shopping for used saws (a good idea, better than Harbor Freight)
look for cast iron. Cast iron will not bend or flex under load. It may
break, but it won't bend. Table saws ought to have big cast iron
tables. Radial arm saws want to have a solid cast iron arm, the column
should be steel and the collar that holds the column up should be a
casting. Avoid sheet metal stampings, they flex under load. Ten inch
is a good size. Radial arm saws need to be able to rip and cross cut
24" (one half the width of a 4*8 piece of plywood).
I see little difference in safety between table saws and radial arm
saws. Both machines will amputate body parts with the greatest of ease.
Both machines will kick back, hurling the work at you at frightening
speed. A good sharp carbide blade reduces the chances of kickback,
any used machine deserves a good new blade.
Good luck and happy woodworking
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