I bought myself a new (old) tool for Christmas, and I’m cutting my teeth on woodworking.
Shortly before the holiday, I found a Sawsmith radial arm saw listed on craigslist for a price that seemed reasonable to me.
I’ve heard people say that radial arm saws are dangerous, maybe because you’re pulling the blade toward you to cut, but I don’t think they’re any worse than any other circular saws. Like any machine spinning a blade with sharp teeth at high RPM, you need to understand how the equipment functions and how it should be operated.
Radial arms saws were once marketed as the do-everything tool for the home hobbyist. They can cut across boards, but their blades also tilt on several axes, allowing for angled miter cuts, bevels and long, with-the-grain rip cuts like a table saw.
The Sawsmith radial arm saw I snagged from craigslist was introduced in the late 1950s by a company called Magna. It, too, was sold as an all-in-one tool, and the original documentation included with it by the former owner boasts several attachments for sanding, routing, drilling and lathe work.
I’ll just stick to cutting for now, and my first project yielded good results.
For years, two drawers in our kitchen have been dummies — they were just drawer faces nailed over a cutout in the cabinet face.
With the Sawsmith lugged down the rickety stairs (possibly a future project) to the basement, it didn’t take me more than an afternoon to make a box to attach to the existing drawer face. With a little half-inch oak for the sides and some quarter-inch plywood for the bottom, I’ve got a respectable drawer that looks like it was made to be there (because it was).
There are still a few ins and outs of the Sawsmith I need to learn, but it seems like it cuts pretty good.
Now that I’m able to do so much woodworking, though, I’m afraid I won’t have an excuse to put off some of the projects that have piled up on me.
What’s your experience with a radial arm saw? Do you think they’re as useful as mid-century marketing portrayed them?
Let me know at firstname.lastname@example.org.