Is the Radial Arm Saw on its Last Legs?
I just read this letter that came in to our editorial mailbox:
“I’ve noticed that your magazine and all other woodworking magazines virtually ignore the radial arm saw. I would like to protest and ask that you provide more articles to the radial arm. Come on, be a leader, do it. And a test article on radial arm saws would be magnificent.”
I understand why people like the radial arm saw. It’s a badass tool. It can crosscut and make miters, but it also can be set up to cut other joinery, like dadoes. But some folks think the tool is dangerous because the blade’s rotation (toward the user) causes the motor and blade to walk across a board-quickly sometimes. There are other issues, too. It can be finicky to set up and keep square. The machines can also be pricey. Though you can buy a used one on Ebay for about $100 to $300, depending on the size and condition, most new models retail for over $1,000. That’s a lot of dough to spend on a tool that has the footprint of a tablesaw but without the tablesaw’s versatility.
Fine Woodworking hasn’t done an article on radial arm saws since we reviewed a handful in August 2002. Why? Well, the honest answer is that most folks don’t own one; fewer tool makers are building and selling these tools. I’ve been traveling to woodworking shops all over the country for more than 5 years, and I have never seen one of my authors use a radial arm saw. As a matter of fact, I don’t remember ever seeing one in a shop I’ve visited. Seems like they’ve been replaced by the tablesaw, chopsaw, and compound miter saw.
So I ask, is the radial arm saw officially extinct from the workshop, or is it just an endangered species?