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Thread: Advice of buying an old Radial Arm saw

  1. #1
    Join Date
    Apr 2008
    Vancouver, WA

    Question Advice of buying an old Radial Arm saw

    I've thinking of getting an older Radial Arm saw, and they seem to show up regularly on Craigslist. Craftsman and DeWalt are common, and a Rockwell shows up now and then. Most are 10", a few are 8" or 9" and I've seen one that was a 12" wired for 220v. For those of you who have one, what suggestions do you have on what to look for, what to avoid, etc.?

  2. #2
    Join Date
    Oct 2006
    The Heart of Dixie
    I strongly suggest you avoid the Craftsman unless it is a model 100. While they made good saws they made a lot more cheap saws that are now worn out. I have had experiences with two Craftsman, I am not a Craftsman fan but neither am I Craftsman hater. But after my experience with those two, I NEVER want another!! I really believe that Craftsman saws have given RAS the bad name they have.

    The things to watch for are play. If there is any play in any of the moving parts it will never be accurate. Some things can be replaced or adjusted to remove the play but some can't. So you better off to pass if your not sure than buy a lemon.

    For example, I am a HUGE DeWalt fan. But even a old DeWalt with badly worn ways is not any good. It can be fixed but it is expensive to have the ways machined. More than you would want to spend probably.

    My suggestion is watch for DeWalts. Rockwell's and Deltas. (There are others that are good too) I am strong biased to the old cast arn saws. They just held up better than that new sheet metal and aluminum saws. Check the capacity. How tall and how wide can it cut? Does it meet you needs?

    When you find one, check everything that moves. Does it move smooth. Check for play in everything. Slide the carriage out and check for play at through the stroke. Thats the main problem. The next big issue is can you rotate the arm and lock in back accurately at 90 degrees? Is there play in the lock? Can be adjusted out or its it just worn out?

    If you have to realign the saw back to 90 each time you will never be happy with it. Some people lock theirs at 90 degrees and leave it. Thats fine but your loosing a lot of the versatility of the RAS by doing that. If it the carriage has play and can't cut a true straight line, same thing. You will never happy with it.

    Here is my saw. It is a DeWalt GP. I think this was the smallest of their industrial models. It swings a 12" blade. I LOVE this saw! It was the first machine I ever restored and I use it all the time.

    Last edited by Jeff Horton; 06-17-2008 at 05:46 PM.
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  3. #3

    IMHO Jeff is right on. We had (have) a DeWalt in the model shop where I used to work - very nice machine. It was kept well tuned and would even cut dados without a hitch. (stacked dado blades)
    Dad has a '70's vintage Craftsman which scares me to use due to the flex in the unit.


  4. #4
    Agree, the older and the larger, the better built it will be. Like most machine tools, buy them by the pound. De Walt, Delta, et al, are the best of the homeowner level RAS. However, I have successfully used a Craftsman for 35 years. It is one of the older models with the cast iron base mount and arm. It is plenty solid for the average homeowner and craftsman use. I see them for sale for $50-125 all the time. Most any RAS will need to have every setting verified before using with care and confidence.

    thnx, jack vines

  5. #5
    Join Date
    Apr 2008
    Vancouver, WA


    Thanks guys. I'll keep looking until I see one that's 50's vintage or older, and then check it out as you've suggested.

  6. #6
    Join Date
    Feb 2008
    Grand Rapids, MI

    Recent Purchase

    I recently purchased a Delta/Rockwell 14" Turret RAS. I agree what the others have said, though I have never used a really nice RAS before. I have been using an old Craftsman RAS, and I too find it a little iffy at times. But the new/old one, though not up and running yet, has huge heavy castings, and all the parts run as smooth as butter. (It's not running cuz I have to save up for a phase converter.) One thing to keep in mind with the old saws is that they do not have TEFC motors. After sucking up decades of airborn dust it may be in need of some TLC.


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