Table Saw Vs. Radial Arm Saw: Which is the ultimate saw?

From amateur hobbyist carpenters to professional woodworkers, all of them realize the importance of saws in their projects.

Typically, a table saw and a radial arm saw can perform more or less the same kind of functions. Only a person who has a keen eye for woodworking will realize that they both come in different designs and are suitable for distinct types of wood cutting.

The question which arises here is which saw is better than the other? Well, this entirely depends on the type of cut you are looking for.

Both saws have considerable advantages and are immensely useful tools of power. A person who has enough space and money might choose to keep both to satisfy his different woodworking demands.

As not everyone possess the required knowledge, it is very important to know which saw is perfect for what kind of work. This will help in getting increased utility from each unit and making a choice between the two as per one’s own distinct requirements.

Let’s look at a Table Saw Vs. Radial Arm Saw.

What is a Table Saw?

Table saws are one of the most favorite tools of all woodworkers because of their accuracy and versatility. They come with a circular blade which is secure on an axis supporting it.

The blade is below the pieces and is powered by an electric motor.

The blade is stationary and the wood pieces are pushed through it, giving you exceptional cutting and a flawless finish. It is commonly used in furniture making because of its ability to deal with huge pieces and make joint cuts which are very common in the creation of different furniture items.

Operating it is quite convenient because even large pieces of plywood can easily be pushed on the flat, sturdy table which has a rotating blade attached to it.

A typical table saw will take more space as compared to a radial saw but it also has the ability to undertake larger tasks at hand.

What is a Radial Arm Saw?

In 1922, Raymond DeWalt introduced the radial saw which was nicknamed as the “Wonder Worker”. The success of this powerful tool turned the company into one of the best tool brands in the world.

Earlier, there used to be 23 different models of the radial arm saw, each coming with distinct settings and precisions, proving its popularity amongst woodworkers.

In a radial arm saw, the blade hangs from the top and is attached to the horizontal arm.

This arm slides back and forth horizontally, moving forward when pushed and backward when pulled. When the blade rotates in its full force, it can cut through anything which comes in its way.

Occupying limited space, its peculiar design makes it ideal for cross cuts, rabbets, dados, and half lap joints. It can also be configured to make miter and bevel cuts.

How Are They Different from Each Other?

Design and Manufacturing

The only design similarity between the two saws is that they are constructed as a table-like work surface with the blades being raised above.

In a table saw, the blade is mounted within the table and can easily be raised or lowered as per the requirement of the user.

Contrary to this, the blade in a radial arm saw is mounted on an arm whose height cannot be changed. While being suspended above the table, it can be moved forward or backward. So, the blade of a table saw moves vertically whereas that of a radial arm moves horizontally.

Basic Operations

Both saws have been designed to perform the basic function of wood-cutting but their distinct designs make them suitable for different kinds of cuts.

One can cut a piece of wood laterally with the help of a table saw which is used for ripping as well. While the blade is modifiable, you would need to move the wood to get the required cut.

A radial arm saw will prove to be suitable for cutting across the width of the wood. The blade will automatically cut the wood without any need of manipulation unless you require a distinct kind of cut.

Versatility in Performance

Both saws are favorites of woodworkers because of their accuracy in alignment. A table saw can do ripping if there’s enough space on the front and back, whereas by providing space on the left and right, it can be used for crosscutting.

In comparison to the table saw, the radial arm saw is definitely more versatile because of the placement of its blade.

By adding attachments to the blade, one can easily perform the kind of jobs which do not require cutting. Such tasks include drum sanding, surface planning, and routing.

Safety Requirements

While many people think that amateurs should never handle the table saw because of safety concerns, they fail to realize that these saws actually pose a lower safety risk as compared to radial arm saws.

The blade of a table saw remains in the same spot and is always concealed so there’s a thin chance that someone might get hurt. The wood mostly stays in place, but a table saw can throw it back at the operator so being careful is necessary.

The blade of a radial arm is always exposed which poses a higher risk for the user. The location varies along with the cut so if one is not careful while operating this tool, the consequences can be quite dangerous.  

Conclusion

Although more skill is required to use the radial arm saw as compared to the table saw, it is still an efficient and a dependable tool for smaller wood pieces.

When mastered, both tools can prove to be highly useful and versatile.

Radial arm saws are gradually being replaced by sliding compound miter saws but they’re still quite popular. However, table saws have a long way to go because of their immense utility.

Choosing between the two really depends on your workshop size, skill set, and magnitude of work. All you need to do is to stay safe!

Table Saw Vs. Radial Arm Saw: Which is the ultimate saw?
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