The Radial Arm Saw Question

Recently I learned that Craftsman has a recall on 8″, 9″, and 10″ radial arms saws sold between 1958 and 1992 as well as 8 1/2″ radial arm saws sold between 1990 and 1995.

Needless to say, that’s lots of saws and mine happens to be one included in the recall.

In short, the recall focuses around the fact that these machines were sold without a full blade guard.  A replacement guard is available, but it only fits certain saws. Mine is not one of those saws.

The option available for a Craftsman RAS that can’t take the replacement guard?  Ship the carriage and motor assembly to the recall people and they will send you $100.  (If you want more information about the recall, just go to http://radialarmsawrecall.com/ for all of the details.)

Similar to my radial arm saw.

Similar to my radial arm saw.

This leaves me with and interesting choice: Keep a perfectly functional saw without a full blade guard or fundamentally sell the motor and carriage for a guaranteed $100. (Leaving me with a lot of machine parts I have to dispose of somehow.)

For some this isn’t worth spending any time thinking about.  A certain number of the woodworking population would just as soon take all existing RAS’s and push them over a cliff into a very deep canyon.   Getting $100 for the thing would just be gravy.

Many RAS’s in the home shop have been replaced by sliding miter saws and other machines. Tom McKenna, senior editor of Fine Woodworking, wrote a short blog entry back in 2010 about the disappearing radial arm saw, and there are lots of good reader responses as well, both pro and con towards the usefulness of this machine.

Why all the negative feelings?  In my opinion, the overriding reason is woodworkers see it as a one-trick pony that takes up too much shop space.  The only use most people seem to get out of one is crosscutting.  If that is all a person wanted from a machine, I would agree that a miter saw is a better choice (especially given a new radial arm saw these days costs over $1000).  The majority of work done with mine was simply crosscutting, mostly because my miter saw couldn’t handle the width of the laminated flooring I installed a few years ago.

Average Amount of Clutter on My Saw

Average Amount of Clutter on My Saw

I have to admit, however, that I haven’t gotten much use out of it lately.  I’ve since bought a table saw and built a crosscut sled for it, which I use often because it’s easy to switch from ripping to crosscutting.  Worse, it’s location in my garage (against the back wall) makes it easy for it to fall victim to clutter.  Even when I want to use it, it’s typically easier to pull out a different machine.  That’s no fault of the usefulness of the RAS, just my laziness.

I’m hesitant to cash in on the recall offer is that RAS’s are incredible multi-taskers.  Beyond crosscutting, they can miter, rip, bevel, and perform compound cuts of various types.  Because of the reach of the saw, it can crosscut multiple pieces at one time.  Dado and molding heads can be used on this machine.  With the purchase of a chuck (which is still available for my saw model and only costs around $12) it can be turned into a shaper, router, horizontal drill, disk sander, drum sander, buffing wheel.  I won’t even get into all of the various joinery that can be cut.  All of that potential usefulness is worth more to me than $100.

So for me, even though it’s more of a catchall right now, my answer to the question “Keep or Recall?” is Keep.

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