radial arm saw

B. Newman

SGF, Supreme Grumble Framer
Sep 5, 2001
Kodak, Tn. USA
I did a search but didn't find much - does anyone use a radial arm saw for cutting moulding?

We've gotten one for another part of our business and I was just wondering about double-duty...
I've used one for 28 years for nearly everything. My chopper cuts fillets and not a lot else.

Don't try to cut miters by swinging the arm, though. I have a miter attachment made by Barton or something similar. The radial arm is fixed in position and the moulding is moved. You can adjust the angles to cut octagons and such. And you can cut metals with the appropriate blade.

You need a large space because the moulding doesn't feed through in a straight line.

I have a miter saw with a bench and I went back to the radial saw pretty quickly.

Double duty could be tricky. To get accurate miters, there is some setup and adjustment needed. Once you do that, you're not going to want to remove the miter attachment to cut other things.

I have a table saw to cut other things.
I haven't tried it yet but I've inherited my father in laws RAS. He always cut mouldings on it and did a nice job. It looks a little intimidating to me but may be very useful on very wide profiles I'm thinking.
In the beginning...
We once used a radial arm saw...many moons ago. Probably one of the most dangerous woodworking tools ever designed. Any time the blade rotates in the same direction as the cutting stroke you risk the blade "climbing" up the material.
Aside from the safety risk, the saw would need constant adjustment. Ours was locked into a single position and we had 2 fences to accomplish mitering. If you use the machine for any other purpose, the set up time alone to get decent miters is prohibative.
Dedicated mitering saws are much better than a multi-tasking tool. Though the radial arm saw can do many different jobs, IMHO it does none of them well, and frankly they scare the H*ll out of me.
Once I got the power miter box, I unplugged the radial arm and allowed it to turn to rust.
I have used one in the same manner as Ron has mentioned. As a dedicted frame mitre saw you will see wonderful results. The Barton mitre jig is great and will allow for multiple angles. Using the attachment makes everything so simple and safe. The clamps allow for the operator to use the saw without any need to hold anything by hand. Great piece of equipment (as long as the saw itself is quality) when used for framing as its dedicated purpose.
Probably one of the most dangerous woodworking tools ever designed. Any time the blade rotates in the same direction as the cutting stroke you risk the blade "climbing" up the material.
Amen to that. The radial arm saw has been pretty much completely displaced by the motorized miter saws in the trades because they are safer and more accurate.

You can do many things with a radial arm saw - most of which put your digits in harms way. Just the though of ripping or running a molding head on a radial arm saw is enough to make break out in a cold sweat.

Peter Bowe
Saline Picture Frame Co.
Have owned and used my radial arm in the ranges of "Left 60" to right 30" and much inbetween especially that single cutting line of "-1/0/+1".

I have NEVER gotten it to truthfully stay on a pure 90 degree cut without wander... But it also is not a 900lb Powermatic 16" Pro.
I use a radial arm saw to rough cut everything. My approach is to mark the molding and then cut off the mark by an 1/8th of an inch. I then take the moulding to a Lion chopper and make the final cut. Comes up with a corner cut that is as smooth as glass.
Oh, that's about what I 'spected... :D

By the way Ron, could you send me a photo of your mitre attachment? I've been looking for a website for Barton, but haven't found anything yet.

The saw will not be truly "double duty" we will be using it for building the house for a while. I was thinking more of using it for frames later.

I actually like the diverse answers. That gives me a lot of views to consider.
Betty, here's an old photo of the setup. I'll get you a better one the next time I'm in the workshop.

The miter attachment is from Barton and it's at least 25 years old. I don't know if the company exists any more. They are also the ones that published the multi-angle cutting guide book that some of us use.

The furniture maker in the next shop, who cuts all my moulding, uses a 40 yr old radial arm saw with his custom made oak mitre jig. It gives perfect cuts, better than anything I've gotten from any supplier.
He's let me try it several times. Just clamp the moulding, pull the handle with the saw back, cut, push the handle back. Always use eye and ear protection. No problem.
Hey Betty
I have a Barton unit to sell that attaches to a Dewalt 12" miter saw if you are intersited. I can email you some photos if you are intersited.
It can set in a corrner because the moulding comes in to it at a 45 to the blade. Great if you don't have 20 feet for a chopper. Really quick clamps on it also.
I don't use it any more because I bought a larger saw.
Drop me a note if you want some more info.