Home>Discussions>TOOLS & PRODUCTS>Radial Arm saw or Sliding Compound Miter; which is safer for h.s. kids?
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jcfalc01
Radial Arm saw or Sliding Compound Miter; which is safer for h.s. kids?
jcfalc01

I am the leader of a team of folks that help build for the local high school theater programs. We work with high school aged kids from all walks of life. The theater shop has an old radial arm saw that cavitates a lot when cutting 2x lumber. I have purchased a sliding compound miter saw. Which saw would you recommend for use by these young adults? I know that in my high school days (back in the 70's) the radial arm was GREAT. Our Radial Arm saw can only make 90 degree cuts. Thanks in advance for you help!

A. Spruce
Re: Radial Arm saw or Sliding Compound Miter; which is safer for h.s. kids?
A. Spruce

Both have their uses as long as they are mechanically sound with safeties in place with educated operators. If any one of these things is not present, then that item shouldn't be in the shop - PERIOD!

Chop saws, even sliding ones, have limits on the cuts they can make, usually at around 8" - 10", whereas a RAS is able to cut up to 24".

Where choppers excel is with miter cuts. They're quick to set at any angle and back to zero. Where a RAS excels is with longer crosscuts and dados on long boards.

The shop at my local theater, where I've spent a great deal of time, has both saws, set up on the same plane. One super long bench + both saws = easy cutting of any length material

Fencepost
Re: Radial Arm saw or Sliding Compound Miter; which is safer for h.s. kids?
Fencepost

Keep in mind the direction you move the saw (either model). It's always safer to push the saw into the work than pull it. When you pull the saw, you risk the saw grabbing the workpiece and being forcibly driven toward the operator or flinging the workpiece.

If you use a radial arm saw using the "push" method, you must pull the stopped saw head toward you, align the workpiece, turn on the saw, and then move the saw into the workpiece. The danger here is of the saw head moving between turning it on and grabbing the handle -- very likely since the coiled cord acts as a spring exerting tension on the head. During that time, the head is uncontrolled, unless you hold the head with one hand while operating the switch with the other.

Overall, I think the sliding compound miter saw is safer, quicker, and easier to use. For ripping materials, a well-equipped tablesaw is superior to the radial arm saw. For crosscutting short but wide pieces, a crosscut sled on the tablesaw is better. Crosscutting long, wide pieces is where the radial arm saw shines. (Of course, for every rule there is an exception.)

Above all, safety is not a device but a mindset. You cannot expect safety without the user being fully aware of all the dangers of the equipment, knowing how to use the equipment in a safe and correct manner, being free from distractions, wearing proper gear, and being able to ascertain that the tools are in good working condition. Even the safest tool can be dangerous when not used in a safe manner.

jcfalc01
Re: Radial Arm saw or Sliding Compound Miter; which is safer for h.s. kids?
jcfalc01

Thanks! And I DO understand that safe training is an ongoing necessity! My concern is that we are experienced users and the students are very naive.

Jack
Re: Radial Arm saw or Sliding Compound Miter; which is safer for h.s. kids?
Jack

I think the radial arm saw is the most dangerous and unforgiving saw you can have in a shop.

Jack

Condoman
Re: Radial Arm saw or Sliding Compound Miter; which is safer for h.s. kids?
Condoman

It takes a very disciplined mind to use any power tools. And of course not everyone will think that way. Where young adults are using tools I would not permit any under 18 to operate any power tool. Next, I would be sure they are trained on the correct use and danger with all power tools, let alone the finger gone in a blink kind.

I have been a long time table saw and miter saw user and most recently added a slider to the mix. I have used but never liked radial arm saws. My rules for myself are simple.
• Do not allow any distraction. That means my spouse will listen for no power tool sound before engaging me
• Sure you can have a beer at lunch, but you are done with power tools for the day
• Be aware of getting tired because it leads to sloppy and unsafe work

jcfalc01
Re: Radial Arm saw or Sliding Compound Miter; which is safer for h.s. kids?
jcfalc01

All comments are really appreciated!

I too have the way of life that when I am planning to work in the shop, it is a 0 alcohol day until I'm sitting in my recliner winding down with no where to go!

There are so many students and so few of my team that actually understand the Radial Arm saw and its safe use. It has been resurrected into use by a new teacher who is used to professional shops and not high school students from all years.

Thanks again and please keep commenting with your opinions!

Mastercarpentry
Re: Radial Arm saw or Sliding Compound Miter; which is safer for h.s. kids?
Mastercarpentry

Go with the slider. A decent RAS will have lots of power and less to restrain wood which gets grabbed as it's pretty open. You can still get hurt with a slider but the risk is much lower. With novices that matters a lot!

Phil

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