The amazing RAS

I think that the answer that people give depends on which radial arm saw that they had. If you had one of the 60's model Craftsmans with the terrible blade guard and antikickback device and slop in the main shaft then the answer would be that they can be very dangerous regardless of how good the operator is, especially for ripping type operations (I was cut once and smacked a few times). But if you had one of the really good models your answer would shift toward the other side.

For limited space and limited budget and if you had a good model they were great. I think that this is specially true when you consider how many tools it takes to replace everything that it could do. And ----------- this comes from a guy that had one of the crappy 60's model Craftsmans for well over thirty years. That shows you how smart I am. I did not know that there were much better radial arm saws out there.
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I don't own a RAS but I have used one in the past. I borrowed one from my brother back in 1974 and used it to make some furniture and it did involve both ripping and cross cutting. I didn't find it any worse for ripping sheet goods then doing it on my TS but then in the 70's I was a lot younger and could manhandle a 4x8 piece of plywood better then I can now. Today I own a Jet TS and also have a CMS so have no need for one but if I had the room I would look at owning one to use for cross cutting and DADOing. I didn't find it to be any more dangerous then anyother large power tool. After all it was the original guided circular saw wasn't it ?
Allen, excellent point! I think I mentioned this but not sure. I had two Craftsman in my shop at one time. The newest one was on loan from my FIL. I like the saw but the arm was sloppy and it couldn't be adjusted out. The saw was 10-15 years old and never seen enough use to be this bad. Just poorly made I think and hard as heck to adjust.

Second was my Dads he bought in the 60's. Carriage was tight and the adjustment were easy to access and adjust. But it just couldn't hold a 90 degree angle. Every time you moved the arm you had to reset it and then clamp the arm. The locator mechanism was poor design. Never could trust it. Those two were enough to turn anyone off on RAS.
i`ll agree 100% that comparing a 14-16" dewalt to a craftsman saw is like comparing a datsun to a peterbilt........both have tires.....tod
I have an old Dewalt/Black and Decker 14" with a 3HP motor (real) and a 1" arbor. I have a 12" Forrest Duraline High/AT blade with a negative hook angle on it and I use it only for crosscutting. I used the 5 cut method to set it and I locked the column down 15 years ago. I just redid the 5 cut test and it's still withing .001" after five cuts. I have the saw set between Biesemeyer radial arm saw tables with a Biesemeyer saw fence system. I can quick set any length (9 feet to the left, or 8 feet to the right of the blade with the hairline pointer and crosscut perfectly. I consider this configuration to be even safer than my bandsaw. One key is the right blade. The negative hook angle on the blade. This pushes the board down and against the fence. I've never had a board lift, move, or kick back.

Having said all that, this is a Really nice saw so there is no slop. Also, I would NEVER NEVER NEVER rip with a radial saw. I don't know how one would push the board at the end without reaching between the blade and the fence...joe
In a private message, Bart Leech asked me:

Frank what is it that scares you about the RAS ? No I am not trying to be funny just trying to understand. What did they do or not do that has you so scared of them?​
I figured it might be worthwhile to make my response public. Here it is:

My main source of discomfort is when using them for ripping with the blade coming down from above and (somehow) trying to avoid kickback. It's a long time since I did such an operation (about 30 years), but the only serious kickback that I ever experienced on any tool (in fact, the only injury) was on my neighbour's DeWalt radial arm saw while I was ripping a piece of maple. The maple flew back and hit me in the jaw and chipped two teeth. I had a sore mouth for about two weeks.​
Hey There Frank,
Thanks for sharing that info as I too was wondering why the distaste for the RAS. I believe if I had had that happen to me the RAS would have seen it's last flick of the switch, at least for a "rip".
That ripping thing is better left to the table saw with a wide table and downward pressure, IMO.
Wishing joy and safety in your working,:)
Have one and grew up using one. No more dangerous than any other power saw. Mine doesn't get used as much as it used to, but it can make cuts the CMS & TS can't even think of. As with any other saw, being aware of what you are doing goes a long ways!
I have used them in the past and was looking into getting one but came my Euro Slider. It can crosscut long & short pieces repeatably, I use it for dados (with my handy dandy router outfeed table), it can rip and straight line rip rough stock, can miter, bevel, compound bevel, can cut both solid & sheetgoods, I have used like a guided saw for quick odd angles etc, it can cut long angles, I know I am missing many more but I have also used it to give my kids slider rides :D RAS and Cabinet Saw's to me are a thing of the past