Very few woodworking tools are as versatile as the radial arm saw. Although they are primarily used for crosscutting, they can if needed, be used to rip lumber and create the standard array of joints such as dadoes and rabbets that cabinet makers most often need. The radial arm saw functions basically as a common circular saw mounted on sliding arm, but instead of pushing the saw across the stock, the operator pulls the saw by a handle across the wood to cut it.
By its nature, the radial arm saw is ideal for cross cutting and has its advantages in that regard. The direction of the saw blades rotation causes it to hold the stock against the perpendicular fence fixing it in place while cutting it. This is in contrast to how a circular saw works where the operator has to exert force to hold still the stock while at the same time pushing the saw forward.
The radial arm type of saw requires little to no effort to keep the stock from moving around and the track of the arm keeps the blade moving in a straight line across the stock. This allows for near-perfect accuracy when cutting compound miters, and is the reason that the radial arm saw is the tool of choice for craftsmen working on picture frames and doorways.
Your Different Types And Options For Radial Type Saws
Unlike so much other power equipment you own, there won’t be much to decide on when you consider the different kinds of saws you can choose from. There are no bench-top radial arm saws. They are all stationary, floor-standing machines. There are not that many different manufacturers, and there are not that many models to be considered among those makers. In essence, there are just a few elementary decisions you need to make, and that revolves around your own needs.
For the most part, all radial type saws weigh in at 200 or more pounds and are not portable. Like table saws, they are built to be used in a fixed position with your workshop. The size of a given radial arm saw is generally described by the saw blade diameter, with 10 inches and 12 inches being the norm. Be advised that 12-inch saws will in the main have more cutting capacity (process thicker stock) than 10-inch saws, but there will be a step up in price as the cutting capacity goes up.
How to Use a Radial Arm Saw
As with any of your woodworking tools, take the time to thoroughly read and understand the owners manual and operating instructions that come with the machine before you undertake to use your radial-arm saw. Be sure that the machine is set up properly and according to the manufacturers’ specifications. Always familiarize yourself with any unique features of the tool before you begin work, and never try to deactivate any of the safety equipment that comes with the unit.
Cross-cutting wood stock with a radial arm saw is its easiest and most natural function. Set the saw blade depth just a hair below the surface of the table. If your saw is new, you will very likely need to cut some shallow grooves into the table itself in order to permit the blade to be drawn back easily during future cuts.
Never try to free-hand any kind of cuts on a radial-arm saw as it is not designed for that, and always use your free hand to hold the wood stock firmly against the fence. This won’t be difficult because the rotation of the blade is away from you, and it will assist you in holding the stock while you are cutting. It will also tend to drive the sawdust, chips and waste away from you which is good, but keep in mind that as you draw the saw toward you, the blade is turning the opposite way and if you do not hold on tight enough, the saw can lurch forward away from you as you cut.