R: RAS annex
Arm Saw (RAS): A saw -- with the blade and
motor mounted on a track, above the work surface -- used primarily for Crosscutting
i.e., cutting Grooves across a board's
Grain. Now largely replaced by the Compound Miter
Saw, a saw in group of saw models often characterized as "Chop
Saw", the RAS still has a cadre of supporters, from the ranks
of "old tool enthusiasts", such as the
Old Woodworking Machines web-based group.
Dewalt RAS History 1920s - 1990s
a little bit about radial arm saws.
The radial arm saw (RAS)
stands out in stark contrast with the more widely used "table saw".
The reason for this contrast between
these two tools is how differently they operate: for
the table saw, the operation consists of workpieces cut by
moving them over the rotating blade; for the RAS, the
operation consists of workpieces cut by pulling the rotating
blade over the workpiece, which makes the cutting operation fully visible to the operator.
Operations Possible With the Radial Arm Saw
in particular, is one operation that separates this saw from its
competitors, especially the Tablesaw. In Dadoing
with any saw, such as a Tablesaw, where
the Blade extends upward from below the Table,
the Dadoing operation necessarily is completed on the
bottom-side of the workpiece, out of sight of the woodworker.
Not so with the RAS. In Dadoing with a RAS, the workpiece
sits motionless under the motor and blade, where -- as the
blade cuts the Dado -- the action is in full sight of the RAS operator.
These and other operations in wooddworking are featured in a 1930
article by Klenke
The RAS has suffered from a "bad
(I am indebted to Roger A Hill's pdf for
these items.) This bad rap focuses primarily on two issues:
first, that because of inadequate training by distributors and
salesmen, the radial arm saws purchased by consumers were
never set up properly, implying, sadly, that never were the
RAS used in the ways for which they are designed.
Second, the radial arm saw developed an
undeserved reputation as unsafe; today, the saw continues to
be grossly under-appreciated and much maligned. (However, I
have a strong reseveration to Wallace Kunkel's claim that the
RAS is safe for rip cuts. The RAS is not safe for
rips cuts; and, for me, this is one place where the table saw
is the only choice.)
The Concept of a Tilting
invention of the
radial arm saw heralded a variation the concept of a tilting arbor.
(Tilting arbors have been used in table saws since around 1910.)
simply called "radial saw," it's a saw with the blade and motor mounted
above the work surface and used primarily for crosscutting and dadoing.
Today, it is largely replaced by the Compound Miter Saw. Many owners,
if they have the space, continue to use this saw, though, because it
excels at dadoing.
Patents held by E. J.
Fager (March 20, 1923, 1,449,3170 and Raymond DeWalt (March
03, 1925, 1,528,535, and so forth)
held by Dewalt tools:
the browser, Internet Explorer, click on the link below for the Patent
record on DatAmp:
Who Put the "Radial" In
Radial Arm Saw?
In submitting their
patents, neither E. J Fager, nor Ray Dewalt (patent #
1,528,535) for the saw in 1925, used the term "radial", but instead
a label for the
RAS, "radial" did not appear until the 1940s -- please note: this is
not rocket science. My searches of the Newspaper Archives
database shows no hits before 1940, then -- between 1940-1950, 136, all
in classified ads in the newspapers digitized by the
Newspaper Archives database. The first "hit" in the
New York Times is Oct 7, 1956,
and in the retrospective Reader's Guide to
Periodical Literature, the first occurrence seems
to be 1953. Have yet to search my files of Home
Craftsman magazine and am just about to start
looking at volumes of Popular Homecraft.
Table-Saw vs Radial-Arm
What is more
interesting about the appearance of the radial arm saw in the 1920s is
that evidently it was not seen as a "tilting
arbor" circular saw, as in Table-Saw. Why? Maybe
because observers detected that the operations of each type of saw are
different in a vital way: on the Table Saw, the wood is
pushed into the blade, -- from the infeed table to the outfeed table --
with the cutting operation taking place on the under side of the wood,
out of the operator's sight; on the RAS, the wood remains unmoving
while the motor and the rotating blade moves across it, in full view of
the RAS operator. This is all speculative, of course, but I would like
to know a little more, just to learn what sort of thinking -- if any --
occurred on this topic.)
Below I have posted Wallace Kunkel's hyperbolic
rant about the RAS "superiority" over the Table-Saw. (I selected the
phrase "hyperbolic rant" intentionally, of course, not because I
dispute Kunkel's claims -- no, his claims are solid -- but because of
Kunkel's inclination to exaggerate by putting words in UPPER CASE
LETTERS and by using bold text, thinking
that without this sort of emphasis, the reader will fail to understand
the intensity of his passion for championing the RAS.
Almost anybody can
operate a table-saw because he understands one thing: HE will have to
PUSH the board for every cut he makes.
This also means that he is completely
responsible for the results he gets. If his cross-cuts are a little
off-square or his miters have a little gap between them, he has no one
to blame but himself! The machine, of course, could have done it
perfectly — if only he were more professional.
And he accepts that as
Not so with a radial-saw. That machine is always assumed to be at fault
— never the operator. Oddly enough, this is not far from the
truth. But the real truth is that the operator knows too little about
his machine. And, over the past 30 years (specifically, since Black and
Decker bought it), there were too few places for him to go for
Long gone are the days when machine and tool manufacturers vied for
position and acceptance in front of the public — in an actual
win-or-lose struggle. Virtually gone is the dealer who can
professionally demonstrate a radial-saw (even a table saw!),
professionally align it, and guide the customer toward the satisfaction
for which he is paying. Equally unfortunate is the fact that over 20
different makes of radial-saws have come and gone (or should go!)
— each one sucking up little or large portions of the market
— and few of them deserving of a crumb.
to Master the Radial Arm Saw. page 24.
"first" tilting arbor patent, see
Arbor/Tilting Table in
Glossary T. In 1906, the Oliver Mitre saw, a model using a
direct-drive motor, introduced a tilting arbor mechanism. In 1927, J D
Wallace introduced a table saw for the home-shop market with a tilting
(checking on this 5-11-07)
my research on the presentation of the RAS to the quickly growing ranks
amateur woodworkers and do-it-yourself homeowners in the post WW II
era, it looks like the January-February, 1950, article in the Home
Craftsman, where an aging
Herman Hjorth -- one of the grand old men of the hey day of the
Industrial Arts era -- was the first major disclosure.
See the text and some images of the article here.
in the 1970s, I bought my first RAS, a second-hand a 1950s 10" "delta
multiplex", for $200.00. Scrawled in red crayon, on the top of
movable second arm, is the price charged by Bellingham Hardware: $240.)
the table saw, the results of a cut remain unseen until the operation
is complete and the workpiece turned over for inspection. For each tool, the range of cutting
operations includes dadoes, molding, and rabbeting, The RAS is capable
of boring, mortising, routing/shaping, sanding, grinding, buffing, and
-- with an accessory -- operating as a saber-saw. For more on RAS capabilities, click on link in box below:
# 46: The Radial Arm Saw: "Machine Sawing From On
Top" (under construction) In the shaded
box on the linked page, Mr William W. Klenke describes the
DeWalt radial arm saw, Model JR, that was released
on the market in 1929. In length, the article is a
mere two pages, but it describes how -- using a new
type of saw and shaper -- someone can build a
"built-in Colonial corner closet". (The author of the article posted , William H.
Klenke, was an instructor of
shopwork in the Central Manual Training High School, Newark, N.
J., a practicing architect, and
the author of Selected Furniture Drawings and many
other books on craftwork.)
For brief background on the development of the
radial arm saw in the 1920s, particularly the role
of Ray DeWalt's contributions, click here:
18: On the Origin of the Radial Arm Saw
(The author of the article posted , William H.
Klenke, was ab instructor of shopwork in the Central
Manual Training High School, Newark, N. J., a
practicing architect, and the author of Selected
Furniture Drawings and many other books on
In the mid-1920s it was
introduced as a production machine in the woodworking
industry. Its entrance into the arena of amateur
woodworking was later: post WW II, but it prevailed as a
major machine tool of choice only for a few decades. Today its
primary function -- as a cut-off saw -- is largely replaced by
the sliding compound miter saw.
Raymond E. DeWalt invented the
radial arm saw in 1922. His company, DeWalt, produced the
original model -- Wonder Worker -- for several years. In the mid
to late 1930s, the design was modified to include four
- a strong cast iron arm
rollerhead with four bearings
one-piece, double-sided cast aluminum motor
maximize the available depth of cross-cut,
a flat-bottomed motor
of the cast iron arm
necessitated that the support column and base also be very
hefty, just to support the arm. (The image below fails to illustrate
the shear heft of these tools.)
The saw was built
and sold in many different sizes over the years, ranging from the 1/2
h.p. MMB 8” model to the 36” Timber Cutter TC12.
(Wally Kunkel describes these models in his book.)
these old DeWalts, all of the arm and base castings were aged, and then
precisely machined to very close tolerances. The ancillary parts, such
as clamp arms, scales and the original tables were of similar high
In the 1930s and 1940s, for beginners to RAS, DeWalt
employed craftsmen -- experts skilled in using the RAS --
hands-on-training and demonstrate its tools.
Around the 1960s, these teachers disappeared, marking the
end of the era of training of beginners to use RAS.
In 1948, DeWalt sold the entire
operation to American Machine and Foundry Company
(AMF). Under the AMF DeWalt name, AMF continued
to produce the radial saw line to the same high standards.
In 1948, AMF DeWalt began marketing directly to the amateur
woodworker. The company employed hands-on
craftsmen like Wallace Kunkel to demonstrate Dewalt's smaller
saws at home shows, local hardware stores, and even
on television. Wallace Kunkel's How to
Master the Radial Arm Saw is testimony to the short reign
of the RAS. Kunkel worked for American Machine and Foundry
(AMF) from 1948 to 1960, and was one of the craftsmen who
demonstrated AMF DeWalt radial arm saws to new users, and
provided hands on training to beginners.
Rockwell-Delta built their high quality 10” saw with a center
pivot two piece arm, but due to high manufacturing costs, this
saw was not really geared to the DIY market. (I have one of
Herman Hjorth's 1950 article on the RAS in the Home
In 1960, Black and Decker bought AMF
Dewalt. From the acquisition in 1960, until about
1965, Black and Decker continued to produce solid cast arm
saws at the Lancaster, PA plant.
Black and Decker was
geared to market to consumers through outlets. They also sold consumer
saws through Sears and Roebuck and Montgomery Ward, which had no staffs
for demonstration and training.
During the 1960s, competition drove
two things: reduced price and reduced quality. Sears
dropped Black and Decker
and sold a cheaper saw built by Emerson Electric.
Black and Decker -- in the wake of
losing their share the consumer market to Sears and
Montgomery Ward -- proceeded with significant design
changes in their consumer-grade saws. To emulate the Sears
design, Black and Decker moved the raising-and-lowering
crank from the top of the post to below the table, which
put the crank between the operator and the saw. As Roger Hill
notes, for customers, this design change was a “safety
feature” because it allowed adjusting the level of the
motor/blade without the necessity of reaching behind. On the
lower priced models, Black and Decker cheapened the overall
construction by changing the motor, yoke and clamp
Basically, the reduction in quality showed in every part of
the saw. I have heard it characterized by someone, once, as "a rush to the bottom".
While Black and Decker did continue to build solid-arm
saws, but -- because they were a much higher priced -- these machines sold
primarily to the contractor, lumber yard, and other rough-wood dimensioning outlets.
Black and Decker also changed the motor ratings.
was rated as “developed” h.p. This is the peak
horsepower a motor develops just before the circuit breaker trips from
overload. A 1-1/2 h.p. motor from a 1030K might have been capable of 3
“developed” h.p., but it would be the same 1 Y2
h.p. 17 amp. motor. They also put 10” and 12”
blades on the underpowered saws.
Finally in 1990 Black and Decker
stopped manufacturing the DeWalt radial arm saw. They kept the name DeWalt,
but sold the entire radial arm operation to Lancaster Saw
Company. A year or so later, Lancaster went bankrupt, and the
large arm and yoke casting patterns were acquired by The
Original Saw Company of Britt, Iowa. Original Saw continues to
produce high quality, round-top arm radial saws in the larger
sizes, identical to the old DeWalts, but they have never built
up a line of robust consumer saws like the old MDFs, GWs, 925Hs
produces their radial arm saws in China and Emerson builds
the RIDGID line sold by Home Depot. Delta makes a smaller 10”
consumer saw with a single cast iron arm. By comparison, considering
the low quality of the modern consumer-grade saws, and for the
price, a person would be much better
served by hunting down an old DeWalt and/or Delta RAS, and
professional woodworker and sometime editor of and contributor
to woodworking magazines, Sandor
Nagyszalanczy, captures well the origin, the impact, and decline of the
Rad1al Arm Saw:
saws have gradually been replaced by the portable and easier to use
(and often more accurate) cutoff saws [general called sliding compound
The radial-arm saws—as well
contemporary cutoff saws that have followed them—are based on
same idea: that the work remain stationary while the sawblade moves
over and through it.
It's an idea for cutting wood
predates even the radial-arm saw. Early crosscutting saws, with names
like the Vertical Column-Bracket Cutting-Off Saw and the Over-Hung
Traversing Gainer and Cut-Off Saw were cast-iron monsters with huge,
unprotected circular sawblades that cut well, but the saws were
expensive to build and very dangerous to use.
popularly credited with the invention of the radial-arm saw (woodshop
veterans often call their radials "DeWalts").
machine suspended a bladed motor carriage on a yoke, which slid along a
long horizontal arm.
yoke allowed the head to tilt for bevel cuts and to swivel for ripcuts.
Mounting the arm to a pivoting column allowed miter cuts, and raising
and lowering the column changed the blade's depth of cut.
built his first production model, the Universal Woodworker, in 1924,
the year he established the DeWalt Products Co.
basic DeWalt design has changed little over the years. But
think that radial-arm saws are extinct. This example—and
thousands of others are still in daily use in garage shops,
professional cabinet shops, and industrial factories all over the world.
Sandor Nagyszalanczy Power Tools: An Electrifying Celebration and
Grounded Guide Newtown, CT: Taunton
Press, 2001, page 63
most out of your Radial Arm Saw (Pittsburgh:
Rockwell Manufacturing Co., 1956 was issued.
mainline publisher issued a woodworker's manual
by Robert Scharff, dedicated entirely to the Dewalt radial-arm saw --
the Dewalt Power Shop -- that was being marketed to the home workshop: Easy
Ways to Expert Woodworking
CHAPTER 1: Introduction to the radial-arm machine
WOODWORKING is the most lasting and also the most satisfying
of all pastimes. This fact can be borne out by the ever-increasing
popularity of this hobby. One of the most powerful appeals of wood to
all workers is the ease with which it can be fashioned into useful
products. It can be cut into any desired form and shaped, drilled, or
sanded; as a matter of fact, it can be worked with a variety of
Wood is also very flexible in
application. It can be used in many different ways to produce many
different items; in fact, there are over 6,000 known uses of wood,
ranging from a toothpick to a structural member in an industrial
building. The flexibility of wood and its ease of working have led to
the development of versatile tools of many different designs and types,
each of which enjoys one or more features to satisfy a specific need.
When selecting a power tool for your shop, the determining
factor is not so much the many jobs it can do but primarily the end
uses, that is, how it fits your particular needs. The tool that meets
this requirement, yet is extremely versatile, is the radial-arm
machine. Homecraftsmen and hobbyists are discovering that theycan get
professional scope and skill into their work with this machine.
As you can see by the table of contents, it is a complete
workshop. It will saw, dado, and shape with complete ac-curacy. (These
operations comprise basically 85 per cent of all homeshop work.) With
the proper attachments added, it will function as a jointer, drill
press, router, saber saw, lathe, sander (disk, belt, and drum),
grinder, buffer, and polisher.
Operation. The radial-arm type of power tool is in effect a mechanical
arm that features the easy dexterity of a human arm. In fact, it can
actually duplicate all movements with unerring, controlled accuracy on
every operation. When cutting lumber, for instance, the human element
makes it impossible for even an expert carpenter to cut two boards
exactly alike; but the mechanical arm, with its ball-bearing carriage
riding on precision-machined tracks, guarantees accuracy on every cut.
For further ac-curacy and safety, all work is done from the top of the
Flexibility with this tool means that the cutting
member can be placed in any position throughout all three dimensions
(length, width, and depth).
This is possible
because of the unique design allowing full maneuverability through a
complete circle in any of three directions.
into the why's and wherefore's of these different movements (they will
be explained in detail in Chap-ter 2), let us see how three-dimension
flexibility is possible with the motorized mechanical arm....
Scharff, Easy Ways to Expert Woodworking.
New York: McGraw-Hill, 1956, pages 1-2
recognized as the leading champion of the radial arm saw, specifically
the Dewalt radial arm saw, Wallace Kunkel, extols the usefulness of
radial arm saws in his 1997 ring-bound book, How
to Master the Radial Saw.
(Since I myself am definitely not an "expert" on the
RAS, like, say Wally Kunkel, nonetheless I respect and treasure these
machines. I have two vintage machines: an 1943 Dewalt GP -- it's a
12-incher with a 2-hp (old rating) 220 volt motor -- and an early
1950s vintage Delta "double-arm" 1 and 1/2 hp (old rating)
The diagram above on the left
illustrates the features -- especially the "double arm" -- of
my Delta. This image is from Delta's
Getting the most out of
your Radial Arm Saw (Pittsburgh: Rockwell
Manufacturing Co., 1956.
text below is from an Old Woodworking Machines pdf of
the manual for the Powr-Kraft RAS: