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Thread: Is a RAS a necessary Shop Component?

  1. #1

    Is a RAS a necessary Shop Component?

    Hello Creekers,

    I read a lot of posts about a RAS and just wondered what your thoughts are about building a shop and what place the RAS has in it?

    I have the following:

    • a Delta Unisaw with a 72 inch fence
    • Jessem router table, soon to have a 7518
    • 6" jointer, I know... I need to go to at least 8"
    • 12" Dewalt Compound miter, that is planned for a cutoff station
    • bench drill press
    • Performax 24" drum sander
    • Shopsmith 5 in one tool
    • Shopsmith 12" planer
    • Delta 14" bandsaw
    • bunch of hand tools, power tools, multiple routers
    • Clearvue cyclone

    Do I need a RAS? I have never used one so I don't know, but I am organizing a wood shop in my 2 car garage, and after I get the stuff arranged, I am thinking I won't want to move it around, although I am planning on french cleating everything on the walls so there will be flexibility later.


  2. #2
    Join Date
    Dec 2003
    SF Bay Area, CA
    For those of us who don't have one, we don't need it.

    For those of us who have one, we couldn't live without it.

    For me, the table saw, bandsaw, planer, and jointer are the main horses. A pony to those beasts might be a router table and a good workbench and a power miter saw.

    If I ever build my dreamshop, however, I'm likely to get one.
    Wood: a fickle medium....

    Did you know SMC is user supported? Please help.

  3. #3
    I don't have one. I wouldn't mind having one if I had the room, but on the other hand I really don't need one and would have a hard time justifying it. Where I personally think it shines is cabinet making. If you're cutting lots of drawers, and things like that, it makes it ridiculously easy to very rapidly cut a bunch of planks to precisely the same dimension. Though you can do this other ways (cutoff saws, table saws, etc), none is really as fast and convenient as a RAS. That's my opinion, and if I was making 50 drawers and 10 cabinets a week, I would have one in my shop. Also, if someone gave me one for free, I'd take it

  4. #4
    Join Date
    Feb 2008
    Northwestern Connecticut
    Do you need an ras? I can say no to that question about basically every machine in the shop. I'd ask you to describe what you make, and how you want to make it to best organize your production method. I work with lots of 8/4 stock that comes rough and gets cut to lengths first. For memthere is no better tool to handle this than a RAS period. But methods vary widely, so your needs may vary too.

    The question is what is the best way for you to make the cuts you need for the work you do, and you are the best candidate to answer that accurately IMO.

  5. #5
    Join Date
    Dec 2006
    Toronto Ontario
    I don't have one, nor do I have a mitre saw. I have a sliding table saw.

    It can crosscut far larger panels than a RAS, with better accuracy and safety, rips far better etc.

    A RAS would be handy if you do a lot of timber work, either a 12 or 14" model probably.

    Regards, Rod.

  6. #6
    Along the lines of what John said, I think the RAS is most useful when doing alot of repetitive crosscutting where setup time needs to be minimized, as well as where dust collection isn't as much of a priority.

    Seems to me that the closer you are to a hobbiest, the less benefit you get out of a RAS vs. a TS or even BS...

  7. #7
    Join Date
    Sep 2010
    If you DO need one, it seems to me that every fourth or fifth listing on Craigslist under "tools" is a Craftsman RAS

  8. #8
    Join Date
    Nov 2006
    Trussville, AL
    I just don't like the look and feel of the modern Craftsman RASs. The aren't treated kindly in forum posts either.

    I'm not sure you can get much more accurate crosscuts than you can with a properly setup and operating Dewalt GWI. But there is a definite limit to the length of the cross cut compared to a sliding table. Being able to see where your dado blade is hitting the wood is a great feature too, but not unique to the RAS, a router and guide give you similar capability.

  9. #9
    Join Date
    Jan 2009
    We had a RAS at work. The only thing we ever did with it was cut off very long boards that were too long to manage on the table saw.

    I used to demonstrate the RAS at Sears during their Christmas season sales,and do all those trick( but mostly useless) cuts. I never liked RAS's,and never miss not having 1 at home.

    There was a great,old,like new 16" Dewalt for sale I saw a while back,for $500.00. I mean,it was el perfecto mucho!! I simply haven't the room,or the inclination for one.

    For making a large number of shop shelves from 8' boards, I got a cheap sliding miter saw from Lowes. It worked just fine for cutting off long boards.

  10. #10
    Join Date
    Dec 2005
    London, Ont., Canada

    I don't have a RAS in my shop, and have no plans to ever get one.

    But it all depends on what you do and how you like to work. Really, your original question is kind of flawed. IMHO, you can ask the question:

    Is a ______ a necessary Shop Component?
    And my answer would always be the same: No.
    It all depends on what you do and how you like to work. I don't think there is any "necessary" shop tool.
    "It's Not About You."

  11. #11
    Join Date
    Jan 2005
    University Place, Washington
    I would have a hard time getting rid of mine. Nothing better for cutting stakes for whatever, cutting rough boards to a manageable size, and at one time I even did my ripping on it! It also only takes me a minute to clear the table to use it I have had it for about 30 years and was the first major tool I bought, might have something to do with it, I have used it a number of times in the last few weeks. If I did not already have would I need one? Maybe not, but I would want one.
    Sometimes we see what we expect to see, and not what we are looking at! Scott

  12. #12
    Join Date
    Aug 2010
    Orlando, FL
    Here is what I've found from my research, I'm by no means an expert.

    A radial arm saw excels at cross cutting wide boards to length. A miter saw also excels in the same manner, a sliding miter saw even more so (you'll see many people who have both build them next to each other into the same table system)

    Things a radial arm saw can do that a miter saw can't
    Crosscut 10''+ (depending on your miter saw) width boards.
    Dado cuts (assuming the RAS supports a dado blade)

    I can't think of anything else really (I could be missing something). Your table saw can do both but not as conveniently.

    There is a lot of overlap with tools, focusing on the tools that excel at what you're trying to do is your best bet.


  13. #13
    Join Date
    Jun 2005
    Trinity County California
    RAS saws have one purpose: to cut really long timbers. If you aren't a carpenter and don't work with 16-feet of 2x4s, consider the disadvantages of an RAS.

    1) It climb cuts --- meaning that the saw wants to pull the wood (and you) into the blade. The accident rate was much higher than a table saw.

    2) Keeping it aligned is a nightmare. That's the single most important reason Sliding Compound Miter saws were invented and marketed.

    3) if you do cut those longer boards, the saw requires 3 feet of infeed and outfeed tables to the left and right. Has your shop got room.

    4) somebody in this thread mentioned lots of repetitive cross cuts. To do that, get a SLCM saw. Much, much safer.

  14. #14
    Join Date
    Sep 2009
    Atlanta, GA
    Quote Originally Posted by Dean Ousterhout View Post
    ...Do I need a RAS?.......


  15. #15
    Join Date
    Apr 2010
    The Garden State
    I have two RAS's in my shop. I have a 16" Dewalt GP which I use for crosscutting and an MBF which I use for trimming & dados & such. I think they're both better for that than a table saw.

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