Biggest Surprise at IWF 2016

If you’ve ever eaten crow, and who hasn’t (I’m talking figuratively, of course), then what you’re about to read will not shock you.

A few years ago, I received a couple of messages from woodworkers who wanted more information on radial-arm saws. Woodworkers, as a group (myself included), are often slow to adopt new thoughts, ideas and tools, so I balked at the requests. Hell, radial-arm saws were what my grandfather used and what my dad grew up using and then immediately moved from when he had the opportunity. These were old-school machines that I surely wouldn’t need to follow.

RASWhat I discovered while in Atlanta at IWF was that the two or three woodworkers who contacted me may well have been ahead of the curve, not behind. Why? Because at IWF, we walked past The Original Saw Company booth and in it sat a radial-arm saw, front and center. I was shocked.

Yes, it’s been a while since I spent time looking at all the tool and machine offerings for woodworking. (I’ve had my head down plugging away helping to build 360 Woodworking.) I know that The Original Saw Company has been around since 1990, but I didn’t know that small-shop radial-arm saws were still available. Did you?

We didn’t take the time to study the saw, but I wish we had. It would be great to see what improvements have been made in the last couple of decades.

I’d like know your thoughts on these saws. I plan to contact the company for additional information (there is quit a bit online). If the interest is high enough, we’ll take a more in-depth look. It’s up to you!

— Glen D. Huey

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6 thoughts on “Biggest Surprise at IWF 2016

  1. I think the radial arm saw was the first piece of stationary machinery I ever used for woodworking. I grew up helping my father on wood projects with just a circular saw and a jig saw. I think that’s all we had. We even built a popular mechanics 8′ hydroplane with those two tools. My first employer had a radial saw in the maintenance department that I used from time to time. I loved it because of what you could do with it and feared it for what it could do to you. Due to a lack of any proper instruction on the machine I managed to put a 2×4 through an OSB sheathed wall. That’s an event I will never forget ! As a trim carpenter for about 20 years there was always a radial saw at the lumber yard for those times when all they had on hand was 16′ stock and you needed something a bit shorter. I still have an older Craftsman radial in one of my shops that is waiting for me to replace a split bushing and put it back into use. I still love my radial and respect it. With education and practice my fear has gone away.

    1. Brad,
      It’s interesting that you tell the 2 x 4 story. My dad and I shot a 2 x 4 out the basement door, up a concrete ramp and against the tire of his truck – loudest bang I herd other than a gun being fired. I, too, remember a large radial-arm saw at the lumber mill. It would swing out during a cut. In fact, that’s where I thought these saws were relegated. I stand corrected.

  2. Been considering dusting mine off and using it to crosscut slabs that a chop saw cant
    And… i have been using a trough jig and router to flatten slabs and think maybe a stakced head dado cutter on a radial arm might also do the job

    1. Bill,
      I can generally whack up to 12″ or so using my slider. Wider pieces are flipped and chopped twice. I think that’s the way I’d go. As for your idea on flattening a slab, I hope you’re an engineer because you’ll need to figure out where and how to level and stabilize the slab throughout the process. If you cannot get the piece over a jointer, I believe I’d turn to handplanes and winding sticks – for one face at least.

  3. I’m interested. Just. This past week I went online looking for the cost of a radial arm saw. But the cheapest was like the cost of a good chop saw plus a great table saw!

    1. Jim,
      There are many used radial arm saws available – a quick check of eBay had them beginning at $300. I, however, would hold off until learning how, and if, new radial-arm saws have changed. In my opinion, the older models were too difficult to hold square; accuracy in fine cuts was a problem. For rough work, any machine will do. Do a little investigation by reading what’s available on The Original Saw website linked in the post. I expect that we’ll delve into them a bit deeper.

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