Thursday, January 9, 2014

V5.2 - The mysterious Radial Arm Saw

OK, let’s get back to the task of learning more about our many shop tools and machines. This week, we’ll take a look at one of the most versatile machines, but also one of the most dangerous.

The Radial Arm Saw. Sometimes, the very words can make a grizzled woodworking veteran recheck his hands to make sure he still has all of his fingers and thumbs. This machine requires THAT much caution when using it.

But, as with most machines, if you respect it and realize what it can do to you in a heartbeat… you simply must be careful.

Just so that we are all on the same page, let’s outline a few parts of the saw.

The “head” is the part of the saw that holds the “sawblade” and slides fore and aft on the “track”. The “track” is the “arm” of the saw that holds the “head”, which is sometimes also called the “carriage”. The “fence” is the barrier that the workpiece is held against while laying on the “table” which references the workpiece, prior to being cut. The “off” position of the head/blade is when the head is fully retracted towards the rear of the saw, behind the fence.

Alright, now let’s take a look at one of the more frequent questions that I’ve been asked: “Should I pull the blade thru the wood, or push it through?” While I am sure that I may get some pushback, I will state my case and the reasons that I believe as I do. In my opinion, the blade should be pulled thru the workpiece. Here’s why.

First, when the blade and head are at rest, they are retracted behind the fence, away from the operator. That is a good position to then start the saw up, without it being hung out in space next to the operator.

Second, the proper blade rotation is over the top towards the operator, and down and under and away from the operator. Given this, if the head is retracted behind the fence and turned on, then pulled into the wood, the first contact the blade has with the stock will be pushing the stock down into the table and towards the fence. That places all of the cutting force downward towards the table, and rearwards towards the fence – both are very good things because they properly brace the workpiece.

If the blade were to be pushed into the stock, the first blade contact would tend to lift the workpiece…NOT good.

Next week, we’ll tell you more about the Radial Arm Saw.

Send your questions or comments to: and we’ll see what we can do to help you

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