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In this article, we will be discussing the question about Radial Arm Saw vs. Miter Saw. Most often, people ask this in wondering if there really is a difference between the two.
Alongside the more popular Table Saw and Miter Saw, the Radial Arm Saw is probably one of the most recognizable Power Saws out there. They used to be extremely common and very useful, which is why so many professionals and DIYers made sure to have a radial arm saw in their workshop.
Having the right saw for a project can change your woodworking game completely. That said, you don’t need every saw or tool for your home improvement efforts. Even advanced woodworkers keep a handful of versatile tools that help them complete their projects smoothly and cost-effectively. Making the right choice means knowing what each saw is capable of and what purposes they serve. All in all, making knowing the difference between Radial Arm Saw vs Miter Saw more valuable.
However, despite being incredibly popular and useful, many people don’t know exactly what role Radial Arm Saws fulfill in a workshop or work shed and how they differ from the other kinds of saws we’ve already discussed.
If you’re a complete beginner or even a seasoned worker- you would agree that the selection of tools can be an overwhelming process.
So, this article is to keep things simple for yourself. Let’s look at tools on a thorough comparison to know whether they are the right fit for you—starting with this Radial Arm Saw vs. Miter Saw Guide.
Short Version / TL;DR
Don’t have time to read through the article? Don’t worry, we get you – here’s a brief rundown on our Radial Arm Saw vs Miter Saw guide:
The main difference between a Radial Arm Saw vs Miter Saw lies in the cut’s depth, cutting capacity, versatility, and safety.
The Radial Arm Saws have a significantly higher cutting depth to keep things simple – allowing it to cut through thicker wood, whereas Miter Saws are not made for cutting thicker wood. Radial Arm Saws cannot be shifted around, as its positioning is fixed and needs a station with enough space for operating. Miter Saws, however, are portable, and you can bring them around where ever your project or work is.
Lastly, Radial Arm Saws can achieve multiple cuts, more than what a Miter Saw can achieve.
With Miter Saws, they typically offer 4 cuts and work best for angled cuts, and offer better accuracy and repeatability.
To note, however, having a Compound Miter Saw – you can achieve virtually the same cuts as a Radial Arm Saw.
Here’s a comparison table for Radial Arm Saw vs Miter Saw to easily tell you which is which:
|Features||Radial Arm Saw||Miter Saw|
|Versatility:||Trimming and Angular Cuts||Trimming and Angular Cuts|
|Cutting:||Rip, Cross, Miter, Bevel, Compound||Cross, Miter, Bevel, and Compound|
|Method:||Straight Cutting Blade Moving along the workpiece||Pivotal Blade – Fixed Base|
|Accuracy||Very Precise||Very Precise|
|Best On:||Carpenters, Woodworkers||Frame Work, Trim Work, Base Molding, and Crown Molding|
|Best For:||Exercise Caution – Not suitable for beginners||Carpenters, DIY Enthusiasts|
|Safety:||Moderate – Caution: Abrasive Wheel Breakage may happen||Relatively Safe|
Don’t have time To read? No worries!
Below are our top picks for your convenience
Dweller Power’s Best Pick
Best Mid Range Miter Saw in the Market
- Designed for Accuracy
- Precision Oriented
- Angular Cutting
- Bevel, Miter, and Compound Cutting
- Safety Assured
Radial Arm Saw (Phased Out)
- More Choices of Cuts
- Higher Cutting Depth
- Occupies Less Space
What is a Radial Arm Saw?
This was one of the staple motorized Power Saws that was once far more popular in the market. But due to technology with Power Tools evolving- it has fallen out of favor in major ways. It has a similar appearance to a Miter Saw thanks to the circular blade and sliding arm on the surface.
The Radial Arm Saw’s specifics are seen with its versatile way achieving a wide range of cuts. One thing to mention is that it is quite powerful and can cut through thick, stubborn pieces of wood with ease.
Another notable feature with a Radial Arm Saw is that it is relatively small in overall size which makes it simpler to attach to a station even when you have little room to work with.
However, the build of the Radial Arm Saw allows it to cut thicker pieces of wood and can be adjusted to a wide range of angled cuts –
- Ripping Cuts
- Cross Cuts
- Miter Cuts
- Bevel Cuts
- Compound Cuts
At a glance, the Radial Arm Saw would seem to provide more versatility. That said, before running off to buy one, there are a few more considerations that need to be looked at when it comes to the Radial Arm Saw – Mainly the issues that come with it.
There are a couple of issues that raise eyebrows, so it is not as popular as the Miter Saw. First, it needs a station to be attached to, which makes it less portable or mobile.
Second, you need to take extra precautions when using the radial arm saw. One issue is that when the blade starts to dull, it may kick out the wood at high speed. This can be dangerous, especially if you do not have proper safety equipment and, unfortunately, are in the flying
wood path. However, some fences and locks can minimize this threat.
Radial Arm Saw Safety Guide
Determined on getting a Radial Arm Saw to add to your Power Tool Arsenal? As we have said, using a RAS can be quite tricky, especially if you are a novice.
Here we’ve outlined the key steps to minimizing risk with using the RAS:
- Be sure to read the guide or manual provided.
- Always keep check of the power – turn it off and unplug the RAS when not in use.
- Safety Glasses are a must. A piece of wood or wood dust encountering your eye can prove to be a dangerous circumstance – You might even manage to cut yourself by just losing focus because of blinking due to your eye irritation.
- Adjust the blade guard close to the board.
- While ripping- make sure you are on firm ground to minimize the effect of kickback/recoil.
- While ripping- make sure to press hard on the material onto the table. There is a tendency that the wood may be dragged upwards and cause chatter markings, and pressing downwards avoids that.
- Invest in a dust collection system.
- Proper Overall Safety Equipment is a must.
Radial Arm Saw Pros & Cons
- More Choices of Cuts
- Higher Cutting Depth
- Occupies Less Space
- Not Portable
- Lacks Precision
- Safety Issues
- Almost Phased Out / Obsolete
Radial Arm Saw Tutorial for Beginners
What is a Miter Saw?
By definition, a Miter Saw, from the word ‘Miter,’ is to cut in angled positions. Miter Saws are used to make crosscuts and miter cuts in a workpiece or material. It is done by pulling a pivoted-mounted circular saw blade down onto the piece placed on a flat workstation.
This cutting style is stationary, as you bring the saw blade down onto a piece to cut it, rather than running the saw blade along with the piece. Think of it like slicing a carrot by feeding it towards the knife as you continue to make cuts until all you have left are circular pieces.
When using a Miter Saw, the workpiece is usually held against the blade’s fence, giving it a precise cutting angle between the blade’s plane and the plane of the longest workpiece edge. When cutting in standard position, the cutting angle is 90°.
Unlike most other Power Saws, it allows for greater precision and high-control through its hinged-pivoted arm and attached workpiece with a slit and a fence. Its blade is usually 8-12 inches in diameter, allowing for needed precision cuts.
For most users, the Miter Saw is useful for cutting smaller pieces to achieve a refined output. Depending on the type of projects you plan to undertake most often, a miter saw can be a valuable ally that significantly reduces your time spent cutting materials.
If you find yourself working on carpentry and woodworking projects a lot- where you need detailed ways of cutting and trimming – the Miter Saw is your best bet due to its design.
Unlike the RAS – the Miter Saw is commonplace, and it has different kinds which can achieve specific goals catered to whatever project you’re working on.
Kinds of Miter Saws
Dual Compound Miter Saw
With the case of a Dual Compound Miter Saw, you can tilt the blades of this saw at both sides from 0° to 45°. This fantastic feature allows you to do absolutely everything in cutting with this. Crosscutting, Miter Cutting, Bevel cutting, Compound cutting, you name it!
Sliding Compound Miter Saw
In the case of both Standard and Compound Miter Saws, you will see their blades as being attached to their arms, again their arms being attached to the base table of the saws. This limits their blade can only move vertically up and down, providing such poor cutting operation width.
The Sliding Compound Miter Saw variation allows the user to slide the blade forward and backward in addition to compound movements. Therefore, you would be able to cater to workpieces, mainly exceedingly long portions of wood pieces.
Miter Saw Pros & Cons
- Designed for Accuracy
- Precision Oriented
- Angular Cutting
- Bevel, Miter, and Compound Cutting
- Safety Assured
- Made for Detail Oriented Projects
- Not suitable for larger material
- Not available for making rip-cuts
Miter Saw Recommendation –
DeWalt DWS715 12-Inch Miter Saw
One of our Dweller Power’s best recommended Radial Arm Saw vs Miter Saw; Miter Saw lineup.
This DWS715 12-inch Single-Bevel Compound Miter Saw is backed by a strong and reliable 15 amp rotor which offers an insanely fast speed of 4000rpms. This makes the tasks of molding, cross-cutting, miter cutting, and frame cutting very easy and quick to finish.
This bad boy has one of the best cutting capacities for the workpiece’s width and length. With its precision guide, super-accurate trim work is no biggie. You can expect your work to be detailed and precise, even if you are a beginner with this beast.
Design-wise- There are not too many Mitre Saws out in the market that you can say are sleek looking, but this blinds the eyes with just being in your workshop. DeWalt paid some serious attention to detail on every part of this Power Saw.
To top all of that, part of its safety design is the dust management tied to this Power Saw. It can manage large volumes of dust and can safely and swiftly deflect dust away from the cutting area to make it easier to watch where you are cutting through.
To be sure – you can check the mountains of reviews users showered this great Power Saw to be confident you will never go wrong with it. It’s not a must – but it’s definitely a worthy investment.
Miter Saw Tutorial for Beginners
Dweller Power Safety Tips
We hope this guide can inform you well enough to decide what type of Power Saw is best for you. Always take note of the brand, and take the product reviews beforehand to make a proper judgment.
Don’t forget to check the tutorials we’ve linked above. Doing all of this will surely prepare you to be on par with an experienced woodworker’s use of either Radial Arm Saw vs Miter Saw and show you the possibilities you can achieve.
Read the User Manual or Guideline
This is another piece of reading you need to do. This is part of your due diligence as a consumer and a professional. Knowing the ins and outs of your Power Saw is all in the User Manual or Guideline- having a fundamental knowledge of this will save you time and money from the possible errors that might happen with misuse.
Be sure to take all the precautions required for assembly before, during, and after usage. Taking your time to go through all the recommended methods mentioned in the User Manual is an important part of keeping yourself safe operating either Radial Arm Saw vs Miter Saw.
Do not forget about this. Power Saws are expensive machinery and are prone to wear and tear. But they can last for a very long time if you maintain them properly.
Pertain to the User Manual or Guideline for detailed instructions on keeping your Power Saw properly maintained. From the saw blade to the workstation – each has specific maintenance instructions that would be wise for you to follow to properly maintain either your Radial Arm Saw vs Miter Saw.
Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) is a Must
We’ve outlined a few good pieces of equipment that would be necessary when working with Power Saws. No matter how easy or quick a project is- it doesn’t matter if you’re working in your shed. Always have gloves, headgear, and eyewear protection on.
Don’t mix and match blades
The User Manual or Guideline has provided a list of proper blades compatible with your Power Saw. It would be wise for you to follow that and not mix and match blades. Mishandling of blades can result in a kickback that can higher the risk of injury.
Part of this is allowing the blade to stop completely turning before you work with any objects on or near the workstation. Be sure to turn off the switch and unplug to make sure. Also, ensure all parts of your body is away from the machine.
Cleaning & Workplace Maintenance
Even if you have the DeWalt DWS715 with its dust collection technology, dust will still be scattered around your work area. No woodworking project is complete until the dust has been cleared up, blades stored away properly, and the workstation is wiped clean.
Radial Arm Saw vs Miter Saw Available Cuts
This is the standard cut that slices across the grain direction of any wood piece; this is wherein you cut across the grain. Oftentimes- it is the most common cut you will be making for any of your projects.
While virtually all Hand Saws and Power Saws can be used for crosscutting, the Miter Saw definitely makes it much easier, swifter, and accurate. There’s no need to use a scale or clamps because you can position the base’s workpiece and bring the saw down.
Ripping, is the same as Crosscutting but you cut parallel through the workpiece. This helps to cut pieces in length, instead of against its width
An angled cut across the width of the wood is typically known as a miter cut and is used for essentially creating a corner, most often a 90° degree angle. It’s typically used for making frames work and crown molding, therefore, making it a pretty essential slice.
The Miter Saw is naturally great for making such cuts given the saw can pivot to various degrees and provide stability through its hinged handle and fence.
Similar to Miter Cuts, bevels are also angled cuts. Compared to a Miter Cut where it’s strictly for 90° degree cuts, the Bevel cut is cutting through all degrees of angles except the 90° degree angle. it goes through the thickness of the wood. Its typically used to join two pieces of molding to cover up seams with a touch of finesse.
A bevel cut needs to be angled horizontally on the plane of the work material. In this case, the bevel changes the angle of the edge board unlike the process of creating a miter cut
A Compound Cut is a combination of a Miter and Bevel cut. This kind of cut is easily achieved with using a Dual Compound-Miter Saw – allows the head to rotate when angled on both the left- and right-hand sides. This means all angles are achievable without repositioning the workpiece.
Dadoes and Rabbets
When it comes to Radial Arm Saw vs Miter Saw, they can both achieve Rabbets and Dadoes.
Rabbets are L-shaped cuts along the edge of a workpiece. Dadoes on the other hand are U-shape cuts across its width. The cuts may come in handy as joinery within projects.
Radial Arm Saw vs Miter Saw:
What to Keep in Mind
Probably the most crucial factor when looking for a Radial Arm Saw vs Miter Saw. The driving power, motor-wise, is a crucial factor that determines cutting efficiency and capacity. It is advisable to purchase a saw with high power capacity so it can help you cut through multiple blocks workpieces and finish the project swiftly.
Depending on whether you’re buying new or second-hand, you might want to upgrade your blades to keep in mind the needs of your ongoing or future projects. The size, shape, and number of teeth can all make your results vary- so you might want to research blades while you’re at it. The User Manual or Guide has a good list of compatible blades.
Be careful with purchasing blades, as with all kinds of power saws, even for Radial Arm Saw vs Miter Saw – some blades are only compatible for a specific lineup of models from particular brands
Some Power Saws come with their safety measures inbuilt while others need external accessories to make them more secure. Having time to research on the model of the type of Power Saw you’re going with will clear this up. Different brands will provide different features and technologies, so compare properly and take your time because your safety is at stake.
When it comes to Radial Arm Saw vs Miter saw, it is commonly known that Radial Arm Saws need more safety precautions in order to be used properly.
The Miter Saw, for example, offers higher precision due to its blade diameter than the Radial Arm sSaw. Some saws have built-in Laser or LED guides. Some models have clear blade guards and safety lock mechanics which can add to precision. But all that depends on your project’s specifications and personal preferences in the end.
When it comes to brands – one of the leading consumer research organizations, lifestoryresearch.com found out in 2020 who America’s top 13 Most Trusted Power Tool Brands are. For the first five, in proper order would be DeWALT, Craftsman, Milwaukee, Makita, and Bosch.
Trusted by time and by consumers, these top brands will never fail to deliver a Power Saw that’s worth for your money.
If you are trying to save a few bucks, you can buy second-hand, but make sure the brand comes from any of those 13 Most Trusted Power Tool Brands. Also, don’t forget to physically check the saw before purchasing. This all helps to ensure that your saw is appropriate for your ongoing and future projects. Not to mention you know it will last
Radial Arm Saw vs Miter Saw:
What Should You Get?
Here’s the tricky part.
Now to be completely fair to you – For the majority of your home improvement and renovation projects, the Miter Saw will ultimately be your Power Saw. It will provide you with all the wood cutting you’ll need. From creating picture frames to door frames to cupboards or cabinets for your bathroom renovations, to even styling your dining table set, the sky is the limit with what you can do with it.
Meanwhile, a Radial Arm Saw is a powerful tool that provides more variety, but it comes with a price. It’s not for beginners with woodworking or carpentry. A Miter Saw, which provides ample safety mechanisms and versatile enough cutting options, can be great enough for a novice. Because of the learning and safety concerns, Radial Arm Saws ultimately become the lesser choice.
If your project calls for a Power Saw that needs the power and ability to cut through thick or multiple boards while also needs advanced shaping flexibility, only then would the Radial Arm Saw be the better candidate. All things said if you choose this method and you’re a beginner- it is highly recommended you take some classes from a mentor or a trade workshop first.
If you need to finish your project because of time constraints swiftly, the Miter Saw can afford you to create detailed cuts and prove its whole worth. Its cuts are quick and precise, which makes it a no-brainer choice. The majority of Miter Saws’ safety mechanisms will also shelter you from possible injury related to a Radial Arm Saw. Lastly, like the DeWalt DW715, the Miter Saw with other brands and models mostly come with a great dust-collection system making clean-up easier.
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)
Now that you’ve reached this part, it seems you are more informed when it comes to our discussion about Radial Arm Saws vs Miter Saw. To know a bit more, here are what other people most often ask:
Are Radial Arm Saws obsolete?
They are not Obsolete, but they have been sold less frequently over the years. Due to technology producing Miter Saws – the functions and issues in the Radial Arm Saws were addressed.
In short, the Sliding Compound Miter have taken the place of the radial-arm saw. With a blade diameter as large as 12-inches, top cutting capabilities, precision oriented design, and an ever-growing number of DIY’ers, Power Tool Enthusiasts and Do-dads, Professionals and Saw Fans has already switched to using this new improved version of Power Saw.
What makes a Radial Arm Saw dangerous?
Radial Arm Saws tend to bite people because the rotation of the blade could hog the saw into the work and toward the operator. The Radial Arm Saw pose risks of injury with their ability to cut off fingers, if not used with caution. Furthermore, if you’re dealing with a dull blade, it can grab your wood piece and kick it around the room.
Why Radial Arm Saws are dangerous to the user?
Generally, a radial arm saw contain fewer safety features than the other upgraded saw present in the market. However, you can purchase several safety items and can incorporate them into your saw to minimize the saw danger.
How to cut precisely with a Radial Arm Saw?
While you get substantial maneuverability with the radial arm, it can take away from precision. Therefore, it’s advised to measure out your requirements beforehand, make markings, and use appropriate fencing to get that clear cut.
Radial Arm Saw vs Miter Saw Final Thoughts
To summarize – Radial Arms Saws are cool, but they have fallen largely out of fashion. Way back before the 2000’s RAS were mostly sold as the do-everything replacement for a table saw. But there are some safety issues involved that raise many eyebrows and make proper, efficient use a little tricky.
With Radial Arm Saw vs. Miter Saw – Even if the Miter Saw was designed with accuracy and precision in mind- if paired against the Radial Arm Saw, then neither is inherently more accurate than the other. This is because accuracy, in this case, is largely dependent on skill and experience. Accuracy between the two also heavily depends on the proper setup and general quality of both Power Saws.
Miter saws are also much more affordable for woodworkers, with prices of the best miter saw beginning around $150. The radial arm saw certainly had its day to shine. It still has beneficial uses. For the modern woodworker, however, the time to upgrade to a miter saw is now.
Overall, Miter Saw WINS most of the time
Here is why:
- The Miter Saw’s offer Pivoting Sliding Arms (depending on model)
- The Miter Saw does not bite and has a low risk of being jammed.
- The Miter Saw has the ability to make tough angular cuts.
- The Miter Saw addressed the safety issues tied with the RAS, and it has an effective blade guard.
This ends our Radial Arm Saw vs Miter Saw Discussion.
With that, please always remember that you need a good set. And by ‘good’, a properly organized set of power tools, including power saws, will see you through the best projects. Nothing is impossible with dedication, practice, and patience, and better yet – choosing the right power saw.
We want you to be sure of what you plan to get, please don’t hesitate to ask for advice.
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Henry is a long time Trade Instructor at Dunwoody College of Technology. Henry has been teaching the trade of carpentry for over 15 years and is excited to share his knowledge with the next generation of builders. With his posts you will explore some general terms, tools, and techniques that are helpful for the beginning DIY Enthusiast!. He’ll also provide a list of all the best tips needed to start your building journey right away!