Document 26: Herman Hjorth on the Radial Arm Saw Home Craftsman Magazine J-F 1950

Herman Hjorth "HOW TO OPERATE YOUR POWER TOOLS", Home Craftsman 19, no 1 Janauary-February 1950, pages 18+

In the article posted below, Hjorth extols the virtues of the two models of Radial Arm Saws that were available in the late 1940s: respectively, Delta -- the Double-Arm Multiplex -- and Dewalt -- the Power Shop.

(Manuals on these machines did not appear until 1956: Robert Scharff's Easy Ways to Expert Woodworking New York: McGraw-Hill, 1956 and an anonymosusly-authored Getting the Most out of Your Radial Saw Pittsburgh: Delta Power Tool Division, Rockwell Manufacturing Company, 1956.)

Below are the oldest entries on radial saw in the Reader's Guide to Periodical Literature retrospective database.

Look at the dates with a little skepticism, i.e., 1952. Why? Because RG does not index  every article published in all the periodicals it indexes. Regardless, it is in the early years of the 1950s that the RAS saw is marketed to the homeowner. 

1.    Brown, S. Radial saw. Popular Mechanics v. 97 (April 1952) p. 218-23
2.  Andrus, J. F. How to use a radial-arm saw. Better Homes and Gardens v. 31 (October 1953) p. 296+
3. Francis, D. Saw that does 'most everything [radial-arm power saw]. Popular Science v. 164 (May 1954) p. 208-12
4. Pfister, H. R., et. al., Two ways of getting the most from a radial saw. Popular Science v. 173 (December 1958) p.
5.    De Cristoforo, R. J. Check your radial saw for accuracy. Popular Mechanics v. 110 (August 1958) p. 181-184
6. Oldest radial saw gets newest look. Popular Science v. 174 (June 1959) p. 174-5
7. Waggoner, W. G. Power lift for a radial-arm saw. Popular Science v. 176 (May 1960) p. 160   


In Hjorth's January/February 1950 article in Home Craftsman, a much younger woodworker than Herman Hjorth is pictured.  

delta double arm ras 1950

(The article is one of several Hjorth authored for Home Craftsman over about a 12 month period. Another Hjorth article is discussed in the entry, Shaper. Hjorth died in 1951, bringing to an end a long,distinguished career in woodworking teaching and writing that covers from the 1920s until the beginning of the 1950s. 

In a book dated 1950, the Associate Editor of HC, Milton Gunerman, published How to Operate Your Power Tools. With its index, this book is 224 pages longs, with 18 chapters. The chapters are in the same text as Hjorth's articles. Also puzzilng is the claim in the book's "Preface", 

...The preparation of the book was supervised by Mr. Harry J. Hobbs, editor and publisher of the Home Craftsman Magazine, following a suggestion of Consulting Editor Arthur Wakeling....




Author of Machine Woodworking, Operation of Common n Woodworking Machines,  Basic Woodworking Processes, etc.
THE radial saw, which is a relatively new form of the bench saw, is becoming more popular because of its versatility. This saw can be made to do all the operations that can be done with the bench saw as well as many operations that can be done with the drill press, shaper and router machines. As a circular saw its main advantage is found in the fact that such operations as crosscutting, bevel cross-cutting, mitering, compound mitering, dadoing and tenoning can be done by moving the saw while the wood remains fixed or stationary.

Radial saws can be obtained in bench and floor models as shown in Figs. 1 and 2. In both models the saw unit is of the same type. To convert the bench model into a floor model, a base can be purchased or made by the craftsman.

The various manufacturers have incorporated special features in their radial saws, but they are all alike in basic design and operation. The saw unit consists of a base to which an upright post is secured. This post carries an arm overhanging the base, to which is attached a yoke that cradles the motor. The saw blade is attached directly to the motor shaft.

One manufacturer has gears built into the motor so the shaft to which the saw is attached is below the center of the motor. This design permits the use of a smaller diameter saw blade without reducing the maximum depth of the cut.

The arm can be raised and lowered in the post to vary the depth of the cut. This arm can also be swung in a horizontal plane in order to permit crosscutting at any de-sired angle. The motor, which is cradled in the yoke, can be rotated from a horizontal position to a vertical position, passing through a quadrant of 90° to permit the cutting of a bevel within this range.

The radial saw shown in Fig. 1 is designed so that the motor yoke travels in a horizontal plane along a track, while the one shown in Fig. 2 is secured to the forward end of an arm that can be moved forward and backward.

Crosscutting. When crosscutting on a radial saw as shown in Fig. 3, the track or ram must he set at right angles to the table fence. The bevel scale, which is found on the yoke where the motor is cradled, should be set for a zero position. The supporting arm should be raised or lowered until the teeth of the blade just clear the surface of the wood table.

When crosscutting, always use the front fence. The motor is pushed to the back of the unit, then the stock to be cut is placed on the table and held firmly against the forward fence to avoid shifting. The power is turned on and the motor given sufficient time to attain top speed. Then the motor is pulled forward with a steady motion until the cut has been completed. After the cut has been made, return the cutting head behind the fence.

There are several precautions that must be kept in mind when using a radial saw. Never allow the saw blade to walk through the work too rapidly. Never attempt a cut by pushing the saw blade back through the work. Be sure the edge of the stock that is against the fence is straight, other-wise the angle of the cut will not be ac-curate. Line up the location of the cut with the saw blade before turning on the power.

Bevel Crosscutting. Bevel crosscutting shown in Fig. 4 is similar to plain cross-cutting. Set the track or ram at right angles to the front fence, then revolve the motor in its yoke to set it at the desired angle. Hold the stock firmly against the front fence during this operation. The blade guard will have to be removed when making a cut of this type.

Mitering. Mitering, shown in Fig. 5, is the same as crosscutting with the exception of the setup of the arm or ram. Instead of the arm being set at right angles to the fence, the arm or ram is revolved on a horizontal plane to the angle of the miter. As with crosscutting, the stock to be cut is held securely against the forward fence. When mitering, the stock has a tendency to creep toward the saw blade, resulting in an inaccurate cut. To pre-vent this, the work should be clamped to the table or fence with a handscrew or Compound Mitering. Compound mitering, shown in Fig. 6, is a combination of bevel crosscutting and mitering and is accomplished by setting the arm or ram at the desired angle of the miter, then rotating the motor in 'the yoke to the desired angle of the bevel. As with mitering, the work should be clamped to the fence or table to prevent the stock from creeping.

Ripping. When using the radial saw for ripping stock, it will be necessary to swing the motor at right angles to the fence so that the saw blade will be parallel to the fence. On radial saws of the type shown in Fig. 2, this is done by swinging the motor yoke 90°. On the model shown in Fig. 1, it will be necessary to swing the track in order to produce this setup.

Whenever possible, the front fence should be used as the guide for ripping stock as shown in Fig. 7, but the rear fence can be used as the guide for wide ripping. The saw should he set to rip to the required width by using the scale provided on the arm or ram or by actually measuring the distance from the fence to the inside point of the saw tooth. After setting the saw, all parts should be locked in place, as an operation of this type requires the moving of the stock rather than the motor as is done in crosscutting.

The stock to be cut should be fed into the saw against the direction of rotation. This may be either from the right or left depending on the relative positions of the saw blade and motor when the machine is set up for this operation. When the motor is in back of the saw blade as shown in Fig. 7, the stock is fed from the left to the right. On some models the position of the motor for this setup is in front of the saw blade. With such a setup the feed must be from the right to the left.

Bevel Ripping. Bevel ripping requires a setup similar to that of plain ripping with the exception that the saw blade and motor is tilted at the angle desired for the bevel. This is done by rotating the motor in the cradle. Figure 8 shows this operation being done on the radial saw. As with plain ripping, always feed the work with a smooth, steady motion against the direction of the saw teeth.

Dadoing. Dadoing on the radial saw can be accomplished with much greater ease and more precision than on the bench saw. The reason for this is found in the fact that the layout and saw cut are visible at all times.

Figure 9 shows the radial saw being used to cut a dado at an angle other than 90°. In this same photograph can be seen two dadoes that have been cut at right angles to the edge of the stock. Setting up the radial saw for dadoing is identical to the setup required for crosscutting or mitering.

A dado head of required width is mounted on the arbor in place of the regular saw, then the entire unit set to cut at the depth required. Straight dadoing or dadoing at an angle of 90° to the edge can be done without the need of clamping or securing the stock to the table. Whendadoing at an angle other than 90°, it is advisable to secure the stock to the table with a clamp in order to prevent the creeping of the stock as the cut is being made.

Grooving. The operation of grooving or making a slot with the grain can also be done on the radial saw by using a dado head. This operation is shown in Fig. 10. The motor is revolved in the cradle or yoke until it is in a vertical position with the saw blade at the lower end. The motor unit is placed behind the forward end with the blade projecting beyond this fence equal to the depth of the groove.

Plowing a groove, either straight or beveled, on wide pieces of stock can be done as shown in Fig. 11. The setup for this operation is identical to that of straight ripping or bevel ripping with the exception that a single head is used in place of the regular saw blade. With this setup the depth of the groove is controlled by raising or lowering the entire unit.

Rabbeting. Rabbeting can also be done on the radial saw with the aid of a dado head as shown in Fig. 12. This photograph shows a rabbet being cut at an angle. For this operation the motor is set up in the same manner as was described for grooving. To cut a beveled rabbet, it will be necessary to tip the motor to the required angle, while for straight rabbeting the motor should be in a vertical position.

Routing. The versatility of the radial saw is found in the fact that it can be used for purposes other than sawing. Figure 13 shows one of these operations. In this photograph the radial saw is being used as a production router. For such a con-version, some form of adapter will have to be used to take the router bit. The manufacturer of the particular saw can supply the necessary part for this conversion. The operation requires the setting of the motor in a vertical position as shown in the photograph, then adjusting the height of the unit to produce a routed groove of the depth required. By swinging the track or ram to whatever angle the groove is to be made, no difficulty will be found in producing a clean, straight cut.

Because it can do so many different types of work and can handle long boards and heavy planks as well as light work, the radial saw is gaining popularity as a home workshop machine. It is a money saver in profit shops and a great aid to the man who is building his own home or doing any important construction work.

Since all radial saws are constructed so that the power unit can be moved in any direction on a horizontal plane, it is possible to do freehand routing by following an outline marked on the work and taking light cuts. In freehand routing the ram or arm is not locked; in all other operations, however, it must be kept tight.

Molding. Another use to which the radial saw can be put is that of molding. Such a conversion requires the use of an adapter and a molding cutter head. Figure 14 shows such a setup. The motor is placed in a vertical position behind the for-ward fence while the stock being molded is passed in front of it.

The three-wing cutters familiar to most home craftsmen and used on the spindle shaper may also be used for cutting moldings on the radial saw. Such a setup will require an adapter of some form. The particular adapter will depend on the machine that is being used and can be supplied by the manufacturer. The adapter may consist of a threaded arbor which is fastened directly to the motor shaft, or it may consist of a three-jaw chuck which is placed on the motor shaft in which an auxiliary spindle adapter to take the cutter is inserted.

Molding operations on thin stock which will require the placement of the cutter near the surface of the table must have a space provided in the fence. A setup such as this will also require the cutting of a hole in the surface of the table in order to provide for passage of the arbor or spindle on which the cutter is placed.

Another molding operation that can he accomplished on the radial saw is that of panel raising or the cutting of fielded panels as shown in Fig. 15. This operation requires the use of a panel knife while the motor is set at an angle slightly off the vertical.

Boring. At least one manufacturer of radial saws has designed a drill-press attachment that can be set up on this machine for the purpose of boring holes. Figure 16 shows such a setup. This setup permits the boring of holes at any angle as well as in any direction. Since the motor and drill-press unit can be rotated through a quad-rant of 90° on a vertical plane while the arm which carries the motor can be rotated in a quadrant of 90° on a horizontal plane, any operation that can be done on a standard drill press can also be done on a radial saw that is provided with a drill-press attachment.