radial arm saw vs table saw

New to woodworking? Looking for a saw that can tackle different types of wood cutting tasks? You have got a couple of options here. Miter saws, table saws, and radial saws.

Now, for a long time, the debate of radial arm saw vs. table saw has been a hot topic. Long story short, both of these saws have their own uses. Let me explain that in a different way.

A table saw might seem superior because all the woodworking magazines out there showcase their projects with a table saw required in their instruction. You will hardly see anyone mentioning a radial arm saw.

Why is that?

Here is a common scenario that might sound familiar. Back in the day, most carpenters would start their woodworking journey on a radial arm saw. There was no need to get an industrial model.

A basic model was enough to make 90-degree cuts. However, ripping wood with a radial arm saw is no fun because of the limitation of the saw’s capacity.

On the other hand, you can use a variety of jigs on a table saw. This means you can do a lot more that you were able to do on a radial arm saw. There is no doubt that a TS is superior, but for certain things.

Still, now, RAS has its uses because no other saw can perform crosscutting as a RAS can. If you don’t have the time to read through the rest of this article, my advice to you is to go for a table saw.

However, the pros use both. And that’s what I’m going to be discussing in this article.

Radial Arm Saw Vs. Table Saw – Working Mechanism

Because of the design, both saws have some inherent advantages and disadvantages. However, both of them can handle similar types of work. The thing that makes one better than the other is how the tools cut the material.

The blade on radial saw needs to be moved to cut a material, whereas on a table saw, you will need to feed the material. On a radial arm saw, the saw blade is situated above the work surface. You will need to move the radial arm to cut the material.

On the other hand, the blade of a table saw is fixed. You will need to move the material to make the cut. A table saw requires a lot more space to work while a radial arm saw can be used in a small space.

Radial Arm Saw

Raymond DeWalt, the man behind the invention of the radial arm saw, turned his company into one of the largest and most renowned power tool brands that we know today. This tool got invented in 1922, and since then, DeWalt has been a top choice for power tools amongst woodworkers.

Unlike a traditional saw, the blade of a radial arm saw is mounted on a radial arm and hangs from the top. The radial arm is a horizontally shaped arm that you can move forward and backward.

The push and pull mechanism of this saw makes it very easy to make rip cuts and crosscuts. The blade keeps on rotating and cuts everything in its path. This particular design requires some skills to use.

However, once you have mastered this tool, it can prove to be a very dependable and efficient machine. You can configure a radial arm saw to make bevel and miter cuts since different saws come with different precisions and settings.

While the tool does require some tuning and adjustments, the result is quite amazing because you can do some amazing stuff like routing and sanding. However, it’s been a long time since the invention of this tool.

And there are some limitations to it when it comes to cutting. For this reason, sliding compound miter saws are slowly replacing radial arm saws. However, these saws are still widely in use. And very likely to be still in use in the upcoming days. 

Advantage

Space Saver: The best part of using a radial arm saw is that you don’t need much space to cut woods. Instead of feeding the material, you simply move the blade over the material to cut it, thus saving you space in your woodshop.

Cutting Larger Wood Pieces: Cutting a heavy block is very easy with a radial arm saw since you don’t have to push the heavy material into the saw. You bring the saw over the woodblock to cut it. The woodblock will sit in one place while the saw does all the heavy cutting.

Versatility: With a radial arm saw, you are not limited to simply cutting wood. You can do more than that. For example, a radial arm saw can be used for horizontal boring, surface planing of your boards, drum sanding, and routing. With these many accessories, the possibilities are endless.

It’s also one of the main reasons why these saws are still in use. There are a lot of radial arm packages that provide different add-ons to accomplish multiple tasks.

Ideal For Cross Cuts: When it comes to making crosscuts, radial arm saws truly shine the most. While they are good for many things, this particular cut is what most woodworkers prefer this saw for.

With the top of the line models, you won’t have to bother with any setting adjustments. Once you have adjusted the angle and the rest of the settings, you can cut wider stock and rough boards with ease and great precision. 

Disadvantage

Since the moving blade is exposed and it’s not stationary, there are some safety risks. There are people that have mastered this saw and swear by them. However, since the learning curve is a bit difficult, more and more people prefer sliding compound miter saws.

These saws are easier to use and also very precise, and you don’t need to learn that many techniques in order to use them. Also, radial arm saws are too expensive for most novice woodworker to afford.

Table Saw

A table saw is considered as the heart of any woodshop. It features a stationary circular blade that is mounted underneath the workbench. You can adjust the cutting depth, but the blade remains in a fixed position.

To cut material, you will need to feed the workpiece into the blade. Table saw makes jobs like bevel and miter cuts a bliss. This type of saw is ideal for ripping wood boards too.

You can even make more complex cuts by precisely adjusting the blade’s depth. You can even bevel the blade to make precise angle cuts. The sheer comfort of working, speed, and ease of use make the table saw better than a radial arm saw.

Modern table saws feature some of the best safety mechanisms to make them safer to use. For example, an automatic braking system that stops the blade immediately when it detects conductive material like fingers, hands, arms, etc. 

Advantage

Safer Alternative: A table saw is much safer than a radial arm saw. In addition to the protective features, the blade is actually housed deeper inside the workbench, so there are fewer chances of accidents.

Very Precise: When it comes to making precise cuts, table saw takes the cake. Thanks to the design of the saw, it’s very easy to make and use jigs as well as other accessories.

Ease Of Use: The main reason why a lot of woodworkers prefer to use table saw is because of its ease of use. Using this saw comes naturally to them. You can quickly understand the mechanics without even reading the manual. However, I would encourage you to read that first before you use a table saw.

Disadvantage

The primary disadvantage of a table saw is the kickbacks. It’s preventable, but you will need to know your way around the tool to prevent kickbacks. Also, a table saw requires a larger space to work with.

Summary

In a nutshell, a table saw is the more versatile option. Not only can you do almost all basic cuts, but you can also include a wide array of jigs to make even more difficult cuts. The sheer versatility of a table saw makes it better than a radial arm saw.

In terms of safety, both of these saws are safe if used correctly. Generally, the safer option would the table saw, but then again, you will see a lot of accidents happening in the woodshop.

It’s a matter of how safely you use the tool. The tool itself isn’t the problem. I see too many people don’t even understand or read the user manual. They think they know it all until an accident happens.

If you take the time to read the manual and learn to use the proper techniques for both of these saws, you won’t have any trouble using them. You don’t want to do something goofy, get hurt, and blame the tool.

The short answer is that a table saw is a much better option for a normal woodworker. The reason is that it is an overall user-friendly machine to use, and you can do more with a table saw. It does all the things an average woodworker needs to do and does it well.

Final Word

The clear winner of this radial arm saw vs. table saw debate is… table saw. You guessed it coming. I mean, with the number of features now coming into most modern table saws, it’s pretty understandable.

Leave a Comment