A radial arm saw can do anything that a table saw can do and somewhat more. At least, it can do some things easier than a table saw. What a radial arm saw does best is what it was invented to do. It can make very accurate crosscuts on long pieces of lumber. Radial arm saws can be used to do most jobs requiring a miter cut. This has made them a popular item for finish carpenters for many years. The miter saw may be a little better at this task today, but the radial arm saw is still a good choice for a utility saw with excellent miter capabilities.
Making a square or mitered crosscut is an easy operation with a radial arm saw.
Slide the piece of lumber of trim onto the deck of the saw. Set the angle of the cut to the desired level. The wood can either be clamped to the surface of the saw deck, or it can be held in place by hand. Once it is secure, start the saw and push the saw back along the arm until it has completed the cut. Turn the saw off and remove the wood. In order to cut completely through the thickness of the wood, you will need to make sure that the blade is set low enough.
For making standard square crosscuts, just set the saw perpendicular to the wood.
This is the most common cut on a radial arm saw. It can be used to make a square cut that is ready for use without having to square up the end for a good tight fit. Make sure to allow for the thickness of the blade when making the cut so that the board will not be cut off too short for the task. This type of cut can be made quickly and several can be rapidly completed if the board or boards are marked and ready for cutting.
By turning the arm mounted saw sideways, the radial arm saw can become a rip saw.
If you have been making a lot of fine cuts for finish work, you may want to change saw blades to a rip blade before beginning to rip lumber unless you only have one board to rip. Use the fence to steady the board as you slide it through the locked saw. The stationary blade will do a great job of ripping as long as you can hold the plank firmly against the fence to keep your line as straight as possible.
Extra caution needs to be taken when using a radial arm saw to make multiple crosscuts.
If you are holding the wood in place with your hand, you need to pay careful attention to the path of the saw blade. Most carpenters push the saw as rapidly as possible through the lumber. By doing this, the sharp rapidly spinning blade can cut through flesh as easily as it does a board. Keep fingers and thumbs well away from the path of the blade. If needed, make a tool to hold the wood in place or use a clamp.
By elevating the blade slightly, specialty cuts can be made with a radial arm saw.
Slots and various cuts for helping to joint wood together can be made with a radial arm saw if your skill level is high enough. Several different types of joints can be achieved with proper cutting technique. You may want to consult your owner’s manual for the capabilities of your particular radial arm saw. Upper end saws have many capabilities that may be missing in lower end models.