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

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Newbies may think table and radial arm saws cater to the same woodworking projects. However, did you know that these power tools perform different wood-cutting actions? They’re also not that cheap, so not everyone can afford to buy both. 

Here’s a quick radial arm saw vs. table saw comparison curated by our experts to weigh which suits your workshop better. 

The Differences Between a Radial Arm and 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’ll 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. 

Pros

Cons

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

On top of that, it offers more work surface than radial arm saws. All you need to do is buy a table saw with a large workbench insert if you intend to work on large sheets of wood and other materials. 

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, trust our tool experts when we say it can deliver high-quality cross-cuts. It can also execute ripping cuts very well. 

Considering that its blade aligns quickly, there’s no doubt that a radial arm saw is easier to maintain than a table saw. 

Pros

Cons

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. 

Versatility

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. 

Unlike the previous option, table saws have their blades in the same place. The blade’s spinning action will maintain the stability of the material. 

Radial arm saw

However, it also risks wood flying back at you during the operation. Therefore, we highly advise wearing safety glasses. 

Pricing

Table saws offer a wide price range, depending on the features, sizes, and brands. Given its wide availability, our team can assure you that you can find one that fits your current budget.  

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

Our 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. 

During the hands-on tests, we were completely taken by its smooth fence adjustments. Thanks to this feature, making accurate cuts isn’t as hard as we thought it would be.

We also find it convenient 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 chainsaw 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. 

FAQ

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.

Conclusion

Although you may think these tools have similar functionality and design, it’s crucial to remember that they have different risks and perks. 

If you don’t want to end up with a product incompatible with your project, our resident woodworkers highly suggest considering what cuts you need and your skill level.

Robert Johnson is a woodworker who takes joy in sharing his passion for creating to the rest of the world. His brainchild, Sawinery, allowed him to do so as well as connect with other craftsmen. He has since built an enviable workshop for himself and an equally impressive online accomplishment: an extensive resource site serving old timers and novices alike.
Robert Johnson

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