Table Saw vs. Radial Arm Saw: Which is Better?

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If you’re just starting out, it’s easy to lump table saws and radial arm saws into the same category. But, having spent a considerable amount of time with both, I can tell you they serve distinct wood-cutting purposes. Plus, considering their price tags, not everyone’s wallet allows for owning both.

So, let me break it down for you – a side-by-side comparison of the radial arm saw vs table saw, to help you decide which might be a better fit for your workshop.

The Differences Between a Radial Arm and a Table Saw

Uses and Functions

Table Saw

If you observe how table saws work, you’d know that its blade moves by pushing forward into the material. Because of this, users can expect more accurate cuts when using this type of power tool compared to a radial arm saw.

A typical table saw has the basic functions of a woodworking tool. So you can rely on it to handle materials like wallboards, panels, and plywood. It will also fare well when used in trim work and furniture-making projects.

hybrid table saw

Besides that, you can mount molding cutters and dado blades into this equipment, depending on the type of special blade cuts you want to achieve. 



Difference from Other Saws

Table saws include a fixed blade in the front of the equipment, underneath the work surface. Given the location of its saw blade, straight cuts won’t be that difficult to make. 

Compared to radial arm saws, this tool produces lesser dust[1] particles. Thanks to this, it’s easier to clean than most options.  

orange table saw

Additionally, one clear advantage of table saws is the ample work surface they provide compared to radial arm saws. If you’re planning to handle large sheets of wood or other materials, investing in a table saw with a spacious workbench insert is the way to go. 

Radial Arm Saw

True to its name, a radial arm saw includes a movable arm in its design. It operates by pulling the blade down the raw materials, making it a convenient tool for cutting longer pieces. 

And because the radial saw blade is located above the table, it can deliver high-quality cross-cuts. It can also execute ripping cuts very well. 

And from my hands-on experience with both tools, the radial arm saw definitely has an edge in the maintenance department. Thanks to its quickly aligning blade, it’s more straightforward to maintain compared to a table saw.



Difference from Other Saws

Unlike other tools you use for cutting wood, a radial arm saw has a blade attached to a pivoting arm. 

cutting with radial arm saw

And because you can control where the spinning blade lands, radial arms are known to offer more flexibility. 

Design and Build

Although both table and radial arm saw tools are designed with a table-like construction, the way their blades are mounted is different. Although the blade is part of the table saw built, it can be lifted and lowered as you work on the wood pieces. 

Meanwhile, the radial arm saw has its blade on the arm-like attachment. While it can pivot at different angles, the radial arm saw blade is restricted above the table. 


Both power saws can cut wood accordingly as long as you properly align their blades. However, a radial arm saw does not need as much space as a table saw when making rip cuts into the wood. 

Its horizontal arm only needs right and left spaces, unlike a table saw that also needs front and rear areas during ripping. 

RIGID radial arm saw

Some table saw units are also not compatible with non-cutting attachments like sanding. On the other hand, radial arm saws allow accessories for routing, planing, and sanding to be hooked into its design. 

Safety Features and Considerations

Since radial saws have their blades exposed on top of the unit, you’ll have to impose extra safety measures when using this machine. Another reason why it requires extra caution when used in ripping is that its blade spins in a direction that lifts the material off the table. 

In contrast to radial arm saws, table saws keep their blades fixed in one position. The consistent spinning action of the blade helps stabilize the material being cut.

Radial arm saw

But, a word of caution: this setup can sometimes cause wood to kick back towards you during operation. So, always wear safety glasses to protect your eyes. Safety should always be a top priority.


Table saws come in a broad spectrum of prices, depending on their features, sizes, and the brands behind them. Having explored and used many of them, I can confidently tell you that there’s likely a table saw out there that aligns with your budget. 

On the other hand, radial arm saws tend to be more expensive. The reason for this is its limited market range. 

My Top Recommendations

1. SKIL SPT99-11

As a table saw that runs with a 2.17 Horsepower motor, you can expect SKIL SPT99-11 to operate as fast as 3,650 RPM. You can get 3-5/8 inch cutting depth and 30-½ ripping capacity through its advanced worm drive gear. 

What really stood out for me was the silky-smooth fence adjustments. I must admit, this feature genuinely made precise cuts much more straightforward than I initially anticipated.

I also find it convenient that this option has safety devices like a miter gauge and blade guards. 

What We Like

What We Don't Like

2. Dayton 49G998

dayton radial arm saw

Although Dayton 49G998 only has one Horsepower motor, did you know that the unit can cut as fast as 3400 RPM? Not only that, this radial arm saw can execute different cutting techniques such as crosscuts, rip, and miter cuts. 

Depending on your cutting requirements, you can attach 10-inch or 12-inch blades to this power saw. 

What We Like

What We Don't Like

Which is the Right Saw For You?

When weighing between radial arm saw vs. table saw options, you must assess your project needs first. 

If you’re handling more versatile projects that require not-so-basic cuts, radial saws are great choices to consider. However, a table saw should be on the top of your list if you value safety and ample workspace. 

No matter your choice, ensure that your cutting machine is equipped with a blade guard. It will also be less risky if it features an automatic blade brake to avoid undesirable accidents when you encounter any mishaps. 

On top of that, your equipment should have a riving knife to lessen the chances of a dangerous kickback. 


Which saw type is better for novices?

Table saw options are easier to use, so they’re the better saw type to recommend for beginners.  

Can a radial arm saw be used on metal?

No, a radial arm saw cannot be used to cut metal. Its features only allow it to slice through wood and plastic. 

Which saw is easier to clean and maintain?

It’s easier to maintain and clean a table saw than a radial arm saw because it produces fewer dust particles during cutting operations. 

Will I be able to cut wood that’s wider than the blade on a table saw?

No, you should never use blades that do not align with the size of the material you’ll be cutting. If you do this, it can result in mishaps or inaccurate cuts.

Will I be able to cut wood that’s wider than the blade on a radial arm saw?

Yes, radial arm options can cut wood even if it’s wider than their blades. It’s also why it’s more flexible than its table saw alternatives.


It’s easy to assume that these tools are largely similar in both function and design. However, having extensively used both for countless of projects, I can confirm they each have their unique sets of risks and benefits.

To avoid ending up with a tool that’s ill-suited for your specific projects, it’s essential to consider the types of cuts you’ll be making and your own skill level. Take it from me, tailoring your tool choice to your individual needs is paramount.

robert headshot

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.

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