Craigslist has lots of radial arm saws (RAS) listed for very reasonable prices. I've been tossing around the idea of picking one up for cross-cuts that are too big for my compound mitre saw. Yet the magazines are full of articles about fabbing a cross-cut sled for the table saw (and nary an article on the use of the RAS!
Is the RAS inherently inferior to a well-made cross-cut sled on a decent table saw? For SPF and construction, I shouldn't think so. But what about for lumber that one pays by the board foot?
Use the sled. It's cheaper and you will get a better more accurate cut.
I used a radial arm for a long time when I was the carpenter in the maintenance department at the hospital many years ago. I spent most of my time resetting the damn thing. 2 or 3 cuts and it was out of whack again. It was an old saw and we finally replaced it with a real nice brand new RAS. It was a tremendous saw. The only problem was it cost $4000.00 in the mid 70's. I don't think those [pieces of junk] saws on Craigslist are quite the same.
I agree totally. That's certainly part of my point. If you have a real good Radial Arm Saw it's a great tool. Unfortunately the ones for sale usually aren't in that category. Radials are constantly going loose. On the other hand a table saw is almost impossible to knock out of whack and if the sled is 90 degrees to the blade it will cut great.
As someone pointed out, all the big box stores use a RAS but for shop use or on the job it's not very practical. The ones in the stores are huge 3 to 4 HP solid cast metal beasts used for one dedicated use. They're really nice and I used to like them a lot in the old days. All those ones you see on Kijiji for sale are those Sears Craftsman jobbies, a more terrifying version that I'm sure has been responsible for more "problems" than any other tool. There's a reason everyone is trying to sell off theirs.
I have a 70's 12" Craftsman RAS. Cost $400 used. Perfect for crosscutting to length. Holds adjustment well. So I pick out my material, lay it on the table (long) and cut to rough or finished length. Occasionally I'll dado too. And for 45's, I use the right side only do I don't cut up the fence. I can get about 14" crosscut I believe.
I use a chop saw for on site.
My table saw is for ripping; rarely any crosscutting and if so...usually some bevel cut or other.
Personally I don't have any use for a sled.
Just my opinion.
My only saw for about 20 years was a Sears RAS. It was in many respects better than my Sears table saw. I recently set up an almost identical RAS on (permanent?) loan from a friend, and so far I am not getting the same accuracy out of it. Not yet sure if it is a patience or tool problem.
Much of the time when cutting 2x4s and such, it is the condition of the stock, and not the RAS setup that is the limiting factor.
I think my shop is going to evolve to doing small accurate stuff on a table saw with a sled when I get around to making one, and large not fussy stuff on the RAS. In fact, I am selling the house where my original RAS lives, and will likely install it in tandem with the other one integrated in one long table and fence. Then I can leave 2 different blades, or two different setups or whatever.