Radial Arm Saw: What is it Used For?

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In my extensive experience within the industry, I’ve witnessed the relentless pace at which machines and equipment are introduced, seemingly one after another. However, it’s important to acknowledge that every piece of technology, no matter how advanced, has a finite lifespan. 

In this context, the once-heralded durability of radial arm saws raises an intriguing question: What has become of these machines today? Read on to learn more! 

Radial Arm Saw: A Quick History

Unlike other woodworking equipment, the radial arm saw has a traced origin. Birthed by Raymond De Walt of Bridgeton, this woodworking machine can do almost everything and even became the most versatile stationary tool in the 1920s. Patented in 1925, this equipment easily became a popular choice for woodworkers due to its multipurpose functionality. 

Qualities of an Industrial Radial Arm Saw


Dedicated workshops can attest that any radial arm saw that sees light today is still as functional as it was back then, which shows how durable this machine is. 

radial arm saw

Unlike most machines that require incessant routine maintenance, the radial arm saw only needs to be wiped and wired correctly to maintain its performance.


Radial arm saws are definitely a wise choice for most woodworkers, brought about by their many uses. This stationary tool can perform the six basic woodworking cuts: crosscutting, bevel crosscutting, ripping, bevel ripping, mitering, and bevel mitering. 

It’s almost similar to table saws, but it cuts precisely and can make different types of cuts.  


Investing in radial arm saws has proven to be one of the most ideal choices in the past, and even now, many previous owners regret selling their machines when they realize how versatile and user-friendly they are.

RIGID radial arm saw

It can do a lot of work and still offer excellent performance regardless of the type of cut you intend to.

What is a Radial Arm Saw Good for?


Crosscuts are operated for cutting stock to any desired lengths. When using this machine for crosscutting, you’ll expect a few minor cuts at the sacrificial tabletop. 

To utilize a radial saw safely when cross-cutting, ensure that the stock is firm against the fence. Never cross your arms in the way of the cutting blade. Keeping enough pressure on the material you’re cutting can also help you get in control of the speed.

Miters & Bevels

Creating precise angle cuts with radial arm saws is also possible. Miter and bevel cuts only differ in angle. 

radial arm saw miters and bevels

Clamping levers should always be tight on the saw before cutting to assure that the right angles are met depending on the preferred cut. Bevel cuts are sawed at 90 degrees but only in one direction. However, miter cuts can be adjusted whether left or right, but only at 60 degrees.

Dadoes & Rabbets

Crafting a dadoes and rabbets cut is quite complicated when using regular saws. These types of cuts are for fitting shelves and creating tenons or slots. 

With this woodworking machine, install a dado set and re-attach the blade guard to your table when cutting dadoes and rabbets to secure proper direction.


Another uncommon function of the radial-arm saw is ripping stocks. To achieve the desired rip, make use of the saw’s anti-kick assembly. The riving knife and pawls come with the assembly and are shaped to prevent the stock from messing up with the blade. 

person operating a radial arm saw

Safety Tips and Reminders

The only drawback to using radial arm saws is that it’s more dangerous and accident-prone than regular saws. So, here are the detailed tips that will prevent accidents when using your radial saw. 

  1. Always wear protective gear. The pitch and intensity of the saw can damage your hearing, while the dust can cause unknown objects to hit your eye. This is why it’s always recommended to suit up with safety glasses and hearing protection [1].
  2. Pay attention to the blade guard. Secure the blade guard in place before turning on your machine to keep the blade above the table base. It should be lifted easily when the saw is in operation and returns easily when released. 
  3. Install the unit in a slight backward slope position. This will help prevent accidents which usually happen if the saw accidentally slides toward the user. 
  4. Do not overuse the machine. Cutting more than one piece at a time won’t give you your desired cut and can cause blades to slide off. 


What is a radial arm saw best for?

Radial arm saws are best for crosscuts. Using this traditional saw creates better accuracy rather than table saws. 

Can you still buy a radial arm saw?

Yes, you can still buy a radial arm saw. At present, there is one company still producing this machine, the Original Saw Co. 

Is a miter saw better than a radial arm saw?

A miter saw is better than a radial arm saw in crafting accurate miter cuts. It’s also safer, especially for novice users. But if you need something more serviceable and versatile, radial arm saws are better compared to miter saws


In conclusion, I firmly believe that within the realm of woodworking tools, there exists a treasure trove of vintage instruments, such as the radial arm saw, which often outperform their modern counterparts. 

While it is true that mastering these time-honored devices may demand a higher level of dedication due to their learning curves, the rewards reaped from this investment of time and effort are undoubtedly substantial.

Robert Johnson is a passionate furniture maker & carpenter, sought after for his knowledge on the craft.
You've probably seen his down-to-earth wisdom in USA Today, Bobvila, Family Handyman, and The Spruce, where he has shared commentary and guidance on various woodworking topics.

Robert is the brain behind Sawinery, where he aims to share tips, tricks, and a passion for all things carpentry.
Robert Johnson
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