My dad gave me my grandfather’s radial arm saw a few years ago. I loved it then and I love it now, but for different reasons. I loved it then almost exclusively because it belonged to my grandfather. I hadn’t done much woodworking, but I remember it being in Grandpa’s shop. It reminds me of him and the good times I had being with him. Funny how an object can remind you of something only peripherally related to it. My fondest memories with Grandpa have everything to do with fishing, not his radial arm saw.
Why I love it now
In addition to my Grandpa-related reasons, I’ve had an opportunity to use that radial arm saw. It’s awesome! I’d recommend it for anyone who has a shop, especially if there is limited space. It really is virtually a one-tool shop. With a bit of reconfiguration, I can use it for crosscuts, simple miters, compound miters, and rip cuts (LONG ones!). That’s all without removing the saw blade. If I change the blade, I can cut metal with it in all the same configurations above. If I put in a dado blade, I can cut dadoes. I would put it in the category of “must-have”” tools.
When I attach the chuck to the other end of the motor shaft, I have a drill press and a router table.
There are specialized attachments to do other jobs: moulding cutters, planer, saber saws, just to name a few. Mostly, you have to get these second-hand. Most of them aren’t manufactured any more.
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I know – a lot of people don’t like radial arm saws and consider them inherently dangerous. They have a point, but an incomplete one. If you don’t follow the manufacturer’s safety instructions, you can seriously hurt yourself or someone else. The same is true for your car, your weed whacker, your lawnmower, and your stove. You don’t get rid of those – you use them within the bounds of safe operation. ‘Nuf said.
*Editor’s note: any comments advocating radial arm saw recall sites will not be published. There are plenty of other ways to get to that information.
Creativity is key
I’ve considered a lot of uses for my radial arm saw and jigs I could make. I could build (and probably will):
- Belt sander powered by the motor and chuck
- Disk sander
- guitar fret-cutting jig
- beehive handle cutting jig
- duplicator to follow a pattern
- box-joint jig
The one thing I hadn’t thought of until recently, though, is cutting my carbon arrows. It took me about 10 minutes to knock together a jig that allows me to cut all my arrows to the exact same length, every time. Here’s how I did it:
- I got a piece of scrap 1×3 that was at least 36″ long (my arrows all come 31 inches long)
- I cut off a 2 1/4″ piece and cut a U-shaped notch 3/4″ deep exactly centered on the width. I glued and tacked this to one end of the long board.
- I cut about a 2″ piece off to serve as the nock-end rest. I set one of my existing arrows in the notch, aligning the fletching end of the ferrule with the outer edge of the notched board. This gave me the location for the nock-end rest. I glued this down and tacked it it place, too.
- Holding the arrow in place and centering the nock on the width of the board, I drove a finish nail that is the diameter of the arrow nock into the “U” at the base of the nock.
- Done! All I have to do is install the metal-cutting wheel on the radial arm saw and clamp the jig with the tip-end edge right alongside the wheel.
Now I can set an arrow on the nail and cut it to length. Takes me about 5 minutes to cut a half-dozen arrows to get ready for hunting season.
It would be great if the jig was adjustable so I could cut other arrow lengths. Other than that, I can’t think of anything else I’d do to it. What do you think? How else can we make creative use of a radial arm saw?