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Thread: Radial arm vs miter saw

  1. #1
    Join Date
    Feb 2006
    DFW, TX

    Radial arm vs miter saw

    I have an opportunity to get a gently used 10" radial arm saw and was thinking about using it to replace my current 12" (non-sliding) miter saw.
    Any pros / cons of doing so?
    It's never too late to have a happy childhood.

  2. #2
    Join Date
    Mar 2016
    Elmodel, Ga.
    I don't own a radial arm saw, but some will tell you that it takes up too much real estate in the shop. I'm of the opposite opinion. A "miter saw station" takes up more wall space than a radial does, although most do have storage. Another thing I really like about a radial is that you can turn the head sideways and rip long boards with it. Not so with a slider.
    I've heard others talk about kick-back on a radial. Have you ever witnessed one a a miter saw? It can happen. There's pro's and con's to both. Other than the portability of the miter saw, in my opinion, a radial is fine.

  3. #3
    I've had a Craftsman 12" radial arm saw for about 30 years and wouldn't be without it. As Steve said it's great for ripping if you need to as well as crosscutting. As for the "danger" some people like to talk about, maybe I'm just lucky but I've never had any kickback in 30 years. If it's set up and used properly with the anti-kickback pawls in place I don't see any danger.

  4. #4
    You will get better angle accuracy out of a miter saw than you will from a radial arm saw. Radial Arm saws don't stay tuned up and their preset stops aren't very accurate.

    Yes you can rip on a radial arm saw. I even managed to launch a board off the saw and through the wall once during a rip cut.
    Lee Schierer
    USNA- '71
    Captain USN(Ret)

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  5. #5
    Join Date
    Apr 2010
    Houston, Texas area
    Chris, A radial arm saw is useful for wider cross cuts and you can put a dado blade in one. A miter saw is more portable and in my limited experience is faster to set up cuts and can be more accurate if you compare two similarly priced saws.

    A few times my retired Craftsman radial arm saw (circa 1979) climbed up on top of some stock during a cross cut, and wow, that is an adrenaline producer. I think it is safer to push into the cut, I was pulling.

    The answer to "which one is better" probably depends on the exact saws in question. A HF miter saw probably won't outperform a $12,000 OMGA 1250/7 radial arm saw.

    I never ripped any boards on my radial arm saw. The only thing I miss about it is the wider crosscut ability although I could see a dado blade being very handy for cabinet building.

    I prefer my grossly underpowered green SCMS for everything I used to do on the Craftsman radial.
    Mark McFarlane

  6. #6
    Join Date
    Sep 2006
    Deep South
    Unless you specify what brand and model of saw you are contemplating, any opinions on the matter are nothing more than guesses. If you are talking about a Craftsman RAS and a Bosch dual bevel glide miter saw, my experience has been that the Bosch is a much, much better tool.

  7. #7
    Join Date
    Feb 2017
    Northern Illinois
    I owned a Craftsman 10" radial arm saw for many years, but never found it to be consistently accurate on 90 degree crosscuts no matter how many times I set it up square.

    Radial arm saws do take up a lot of floor space compared to miter saws.

    The dust collection, when connected to a dust collector or good vac was much better on the old radial arm saw (with a little tweaking) than on the miter saw.

    Whether the radial arm saw will work better for you than the miter saw depends on what you use it for. If you are only crosscutting 90 degrees, the radial arm saw will generally give you a little more capacity (although a high quality 12" sliding miter saw will give you just about as much). My experience has been that, in general, a good quality sliding miter saw will also be more precise and accurate that a radial.

  8. #8
    Join Date
    Aug 2013
    Princeton, NJ
    Blog Entries
    There is a fellow near me, does very fine work. He had a radial arm setup next to his miter saw. I thought that was a pretty neat way to setup. I’m moving away from SCMS to miter saw (neither sliding nor compound) and will likely add a Radial arm for long crosscuts.

    My experience with SCMS has been that they’re not sturdy enough to make a nice finished cut. There is simply too much room for minor deflection which creates a cut that is placed where you may want it but in harder woods the end grain surface will not be flat. This is especially irritating when you’re fitting something to a knife line, it can be tight and still show a line at the top (visible) surface.

    The trouble with having so many adjustments is that when you finally adjust it square you never want to take it out of square. I spent so much time setting up my Kapex that I tilted the head only a handful of times.
    Bumbling forward into the unknown.

  9. #9
    Join Date
    Oct 2013
    Northwest Indiana
    I'm on the RAS side of the fence--if it's a good RAS. My first was a 10" Craftsman/Emerson from the mid 1980's that i got square a few times--then i sneezed. On the other hand, my 1956 Dewalt GWI has been spot on since i set it up 3 or 4 years ago...even the presets. Also have an old (1946) Red Star turret that i need to do a little work on, but i think it will be another excellent machine. Both the RAS and miter saws work better and are safer with the correct blade--with miter saws seeming to be a little more forgiving in blade selection. RAS demands proper (negative rake, etc) blade to do its job well.

    I'd also agree with Steve's comment on footprint, and have built storage under both RAS. My miter saw (12" Dewalt SCMS) lives on a Bosch gravity rise stand, in the upright position--and stored the floor space is probably half of my GWI with a 40" wide table. No question that a good set-up and blade on a miter saw can get the job done--but in my shop i'll take the quiet smooth power of an induction motor and a cast-iron solid feel of my old RAS. I rarely rip with my RAS, but have at times done so (totally different blade. It is nice to clamp a straight edge to a sheet of ply and reference from the front of the RAS table and i feel more comfortable than muscling it on a table saw--but i don't do much sheet goods.

    Good luck in your decision--both can work so it's a personal choice.

  10. #10
    Join Date
    Dec 2010
    I have an old Delta GWI RAS. It runs rings around my CMS, in every regard - capacity, accuracy, plus you can put a dado stack on it. Just look at the construction of the two; it's very obvious which is the more robust machine. If I could only have one, the CMS would be gone. To me the only advantage of a miter saw of any type is portability, and the only reason I own one.


  11. #11
    Northfield unipoint. Best of both worlds.

  12. #12
    Join Date
    Mar 2016
    Exeter, CA
    I have both, with that said, I actually bought the RAS long after having a 12" miter saw for over 15 years. Both have their strong points. I rip on my unisaw, dado and crosscut on my RAS mostly. You also have to know that I read a lot. I throughly rebuilt my 54 year old DeWalt RAS (and a 15" Delta planer and 15" Rockwell Delta drill press, etc) and read a zillion posts about using the RAS along with a couple of books on setting it up - that's just me. Most people would not do that, I enjoy it. A RAS can be dangerous if you don't understand the dynamics of what you are doing. But so can a table saw or miter saw. I set up my RAS with a dial indicator and it has been dead on ever since - at least in cross cut mode. There's a lot more to dialing in a RAS than a miter saw, a lot more. If you're the type who doesn't like to read instructions (or follow them), stay away from a RAS. For pure ease of use, a miter saw hands down. Randy

  13. #13
    Join Date
    Oct 2009
    Pacific Northwest
    I worked in a door and window shop when I was much younger and learned how to use a RAS daily. Yes they need tuning once in a while...most tools do. I have mine set up with a Krieg rule and stop for accurate and repeatable cuts. My compound miter saw is set up on the same bench, same as it was set up almost 30 years ago when I was working in the door and window shop.

    I do not rip with it but used to notch, rabbet etc. with it for door jambs and other projects. I am comfortable with it's use and adjusting it when necessary. Really do not know a better way to cross cut accurately and repeatedly, or rough size project parts. An absolute must have for me.

  14. #14
    Join Date
    Jul 2005
    Eastern Iowa
    I had aDeWalt ras since '78 when I inherited one from my dad.
    Started with a 7740, then about ten years ago, moved to a more robust 7790.
    I also have a Unisaw. If I could only have one, it would be my ras.

    The 7740, like many Craftsman saws, has a spring loaded indent for 90's and 45's.
    I first started using it with my dad in '73. My dad was one that thought instruction manuals were for the timid. He set the table and the fence and then moved the saw to 90 and locked it down. Always cussed it for moving.

    After his death I disassembled it to transport it from Indiana to Iowa. To reassemble I checked out a couple of books, one was a book by Jon Eakes. Found out we had been doing it all wrong. Our original setup had been a few tenths degrees off. that spring ball bearing indent had been fighting us the whole time. We would lock it down with the indent 80% engaged, then clamped tight. Every bounce and jiggle, the spring would work to try to seat it completely.
    Following Eakes's methods I was able to dial it in to within a couple thou or so over a 14" crosscut, and it always returned to this. The 7790 doesn't suffer from this.

    I didn't get my unisaw till about 2005 (friend said $300) till then I did all my rips on the ras. Never a problem.
    Rips, crosscuts, angles, bevels, compound miters, dados.

    As mentioned, study, read, and take the time to set it up right and it is a very accurate, repeatable tool.
    Last edited by Charlie Velasquez; 01-26-2019 at 2:22 PM. Reason: format
    Comments made here are my own and, according to my children, do not reflect the opinions of any other person... anywhere, anytime.

  15. #15
    Join Date
    Jan 2013
    Pittsburgh, PA
    I have four (gasp) radial arm saws at two locations (3 Craftsman and one Ryobi), and one cheap HF 12 SCMS. Frankly I would not be without each. I faintly remember ripping on the RAS in the distant past, but use my table saw exclusively for ripping now.

    Both the RAS & SCMS are useful. I would not dump one for the other. For me they are complementary tools.

    That being said, I suppose I would keep the 4 RAS over 1 SCMS. But if it were 1 to 1 choice, I would keep both. I would not dump one in favor of the other.
    Too much to do...Not enough is too short!

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