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Thread: Radial arm saw or cross-cut sled?

  1. #1
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    Default Radial arm saw or cross-cut sled?

    Hi folks,

    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?

    --
    Cheers,
    Rob

  2. #2
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    Steve Morris

    Default Re: Radial arm saw or cross-cut sled?

    we all used radial arm saws in the trade years ago, now its chopsaws and small tablesaws

    in a homeshop, the preference these days is a tablesaw with a crosscut sled which takes up a lot less space than a tablesaw and radial arm combined, not to mention the cost

    radial arm saws are very time consuming to setup accurately compared to a tablesaw as well as being very complex

    so its tablesaw and crosscut sled for me for furniture, on the jobsite, its a mitersaw and small tablesaw when i do flooring and builtins
    my shop is a beaver lodge
    steve, sarnia, ont

  3. #3
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    Default Re: Radial arm saw or cross-cut sled?

    For a dedicated cross cut the RA saw works great. Notice that most of the Box Stores have one set up.

    I've had a RA saw, my only saw, for forty some years. It has served me well.

    If you are working in a small area they probably fit better than the bench saw as they can go along a wall.
    Egon
    from
    The South Shore, Nova Scotia

  4. #4
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    Steve Morris

    Default Re: Radial arm saw or cross-cut sled?

    yes, home depot usually has one set up cutting materials for buyers

    one big advantage of a RAS over a crosscut sled is that you're not changing blades in the tablesaw as often

    i use dedicated rip and xcut blades all the time, and if i have to rip another piece during a project for some reason, i do change to a rip blade, of course good planning will minimize this!!
    my shop is a beaver lodge
    steve, sarnia, ont

  5. #5
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    Default Re: Radial arm saw or cross-cut sled?

    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.

    BTW, Just MY .02
    Last edited by Rusty; 05-29-2010 at 09:25 AM.

  6. #6
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    Default Re: Radial arm saw or cross-cut sled?

    Bench saws come in different quality grades too!
    Egon
    from
    The South Shore, Nova Scotia

  7. #7
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    Default Re: Radial arm saw or cross-cut sled?

    Quote Originally Posted by Egon View Post
    Bench saws come in different quality grades too!
    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.

  8. #8
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    Default Re: Radial arm saw or cross-cut sled?

    My RA still holds it's position after 40 years.
    Egon
    from
    The South Shore, Nova Scotia

  9. #9
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    Default Re: Radial arm saw or cross-cut sled?

    Thank you gentlemen, that's the info I was looking for. A sled for the table saw it is, then. Well, I buy all those magazines, I guess it's time to actually build a project from one of them.

    --
    Cheers,
    Rob

  10. #10
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    Charles Anderson

    Default Re: Radial arm saw or cross-cut sled?

    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.

  11. #11
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    Steve Morris

    Default Re: Radial arm saw or cross-cut sled?

    a crosscut sled is easy to make, ive made many and have three in use right now

    one is a large capacity(24 deep) for kitchen cabinet work, a smaller one for hardwoods and a well worn one for dadoes
    my shop is a beaver lodge
    steve, sarnia, ont

  12. #12
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    Pefferlaw,ON
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    Default Re: Radial arm saw or cross-cut sled?

    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.

  13. #13
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    Default Re: Radial arm saw or cross-cut sled?

    For those interested in tuning their RAS as well as jigs for it, the exhaustive, step by step, well-illustrated 106 page guide by Canadian Joh Eakes is still available as a download:

    http://joneakes.com/learning-curve/radial-arm-saws

    I have a print copy (it orginally was published as a book by LV in '87) .... it also covers the individual tuning differences of Craftsman, DeWalt and Rockwell brands

    Some libraries may still have it on their shelves.

    BTW, Jon says on his website that while there are solid old RAS out there, some manufacturers still producing them to 'don't their their saws very seriously'.

    good luck

    michael

  14. #14
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    Bancroft area
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    Default Re: Radial arm saw or cross-cut sled?

    hi:

    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.

    Boulter

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