Radial arm saw


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29 Jan 2023
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Hi guys, I was thinking of getting a 2nd hand radial arm saw. I have a nice sliding mitre saw but I thought it would be nice to have one in the workshop. I have seen a guy on YouTube use his to cut more intricate Japanese joinery, he used it horizontally in some cases, do they all have this function or only some and if the latter which models should I look out for?
Do you mean he uses it with the blade parallel to the ground ? :eek:
Ultra dangerous, blade guard superfluous , how to be severely injured, or did he turn his camera sideways to film it.
link ?
Do you mean he uses it with the blade parallel to the ground ? :eek:
Ultra dangerous, blade guard superfluous , how to be severely injured, or did he turn his camera sideways to film it.
link ?

You can do lots of things with a RAS if you are feeling brave (the second video is where it gets scary)!

I have a Wadkin BRA 350 and it’s one of the most used things in the workshop.

Quickest thing to set up for short runs of tenons, grooves, angle cuts. I occasionally rip timber with it when up to 8” deep rip needed (in two passes), but you must get a riving knife for doing this.

It’s a very messy machine as dust extraction is hard to design for the range of blade positions.

Here’s an advocate:

And a fascinating account of how useful they are, with some shaky safety practices.
It was the second video scenario that I was thinking of, then again I've done sillier things with hand held angle grinders and chainsaws, so ....Off to youtube to see what scaryness can be done with yet another tool, I have a radial big angle grinder*, and a sliding mitre saw.

edited... I originally typed radial saw, But realised it is in fact an angle grinder ( which I have 8 in assorted sizes, fixed and hand held ), still going to look at those ytube videos though..thanks :)
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For their time the radial arm saw was a revelation. They were designed to allow several stations to be set up on mass production lines with each performing a set separate task allowing a much faster through put of material giving a multiple fold increase in productivity. They were introduced though at a time when sub decimal digit workers were far more commonly acceptable as a consequence of the production process. Best left to that time period although it is not to say that they cant be used both safely and efficiently in a modern shop given enough knowledge and experience.
I've had a Wadkin and a DeWalt RAS, they could both be used with the blade horizontal but I never did.

I had a trenching head for the Wadkin which I used for door casings etc but that was as adventurous as I got with it.

The DeWalt came with a moulding head and a few cutters but I didn't use that.

They are very versatile machines but as said the adventurous stuff is certainly only for the experienced, there is a lot of blade on show at times!

If you hunt around you will probably find an old 3 phase Wadkin BRA for £300 or less which is an absolute bargain considering what they are capable of but there is a reason they are out of favour.
that's what I want to know 😁
Yes, they can.

With a proper jig, there’s no reason those cuts can’t be made perfectly safely. A table saw with sled would also do the same job.

However, I would hesitate in taking woodworking advice from a grown man with a backwards baseball cap and ‘soul patch’ beard, doing a 1 minute video.
Ive got one but purely have it for crosscutting and trenching. Its an elu 1251 powershop ( same as dewalt ) and on mine, anything over say 30mm thick, it can grab quite aggressively.
Blade selection is important, needs to be a negative rake.

Edit to add: you cant be too safe, just dont bother taking chances, it simply isnt worth it
I had one, scared the hell out of me every time I tried to use it. Gave up in the end and passed it on to a friend. It’s still gathering dust in the corner of his workshop
If you are going for a used RAS check for wear along the length of the arm that the head runs in. If this is excessive at any point the blade will tilt there and the cut will not be square vertically.

Many years ago I bought a DeWalt industrial RAS with this problem and the cost of replacing the arm was more than a new RAS.
I wouldn’t say a RAS is inherently more dangerous than any other saw.

Like any other power saw, you should study how to use it. Much of the fear, I think, is from amateurs buying one and having a go without anyone showing them how to.

Because they climb cut, you need to learn the ‘stiff arm’ technique of controlling the pass. The hand holding the wood should be 6” from the cut. In fact you can, in theory, not hold the piece at all, as the blade tends to push it down and into the fence. Best not to, though.

Contrast this with the popular sliding mitre saw, which works the other way and tends to pick up the workpiece unless you hold it down firmly. I’ve had a couple of ’grabs’ happen to me. Carelessness on my part.
The trouble I had with the RAS I bought 25 odd years ago was the lack of depth of cut on the motor side of the blade, photos always seem to be taken from the others side. I can’t remember the model but if I was in the market for one I’d check it’s not got a big old motor that impedes the depth of cut.
I had a 1251 and then traded it for a 1751 for it's 24" crosscutting capacity. My first disappointment was that De Walt's dado blade could not be fitted to the 1751 due to EU regs. I then read Nigel Voisey's book ' Wood Machining ' where he suggested that all the ancillary functions were really a ploy by DeWalt to entice novice buyers. In fact he suggested that any RAS should be left for crosscutting only and that adjustment should be by a bespoke table with adjustments.
Mine's in storage now due to lack of space but that's what I intend to do in my ' next workshop'. !
^^^ as I understand it, EU regs don’t prohibit dado blades. Certainly not for private users, and for industry it was the general requirement for the blade to stop within 10 seconds.

I’d also say the ’crosscutting only’ advice is a bit harsh. Crank the column up and you can cut housings, tenons and lap joints.