Radial Arm Saws vs. Table Saws

Table saws and radial arm saws have slight differences in their configuration. Both are regarded as indispensable woodworking tools, needed for performing household carpentry. Both these saws appear similar, offering a table-like surface. However, each of these saws offers some advantages and a few disadvantages that you should know about.

Understanding Saw Configuration

The table saw consists of a metallic table. A spherical saw-edged blade pokes through the table. The extent up to which the blade protrudes can be easily adjusted. The blade is driven by an electric motor. The saw has a rip fence around the entry point, leading towards the blade. This is needed to ensure that the lumber remains secured in its position when being cut by the blade. In table saws, the lumber moves towards the blade. The blade’s angles can be altered but it remains secured in its position.

The same motor-fueled blade configuration is found in radial arm saws also. However, it differs slightly in the positioning of the blade. The blade doesn't protrude through a table — it is held above it. The lumber is positioned horizontally, in a table extension, called a yoke. However, the yoke is meant for merely placing the wood and not holding it in a fixed position. Here, the blade is moved through the wood—the blade is portable.

Pros and Cons of Table Saws

Table saws are regarded as the safer option. Since the blade is firmly secured, chances of injuries due to uncontrolled blade action are negated. The presence of a stable, spinning blade means that homeowners with basic carpentry skills can also use a table saw. However, table saws need more clearance space to cut through a piece of lumber. Since the blade remains fixed, space is needed for the sliced lumber bit to be collected from the other end of the table. Further, table saws are a more affordable option, commonly sold in many easy-to-understand configurations.

Pros and Cons of Radial Arm Saws

The radial arm saw has become popular owing to its more compact size. It can be squeezed in small garages. It is often set-up against a wall, since clearance space isn't needed on both sides of the blade. However, radial arm saws are considered a riskier option. They are not meant for homeowners with basic, woodworking skills. The presence of a maneuverable blade raises the probability of accidents. Radial arms saws are a more recent introduction as compared to table saws. The presence of a mobile blade means that the pricing varies across numerous retailers. Each brand offers different safety ratings and features that ensure precise, blade movement. Radial saws are generally expensive and are usually retailed with various blade accessories. The retailed choices based upon such considerations can be overwhelming for first-time purchasers.

Choosing the Appropriate Saw

To choose an appropriate saw, you need to know about the various woodworking activities for which these saws are most suitable.

Table Saws

They are ideal for making ripped cuts: deep, lengthwise cuts, made along the grain of the wood. Table saws are recommended for rip cuts because they present a more stable, working surface. If you are an amateur in using saws and need it for basic, cabinetry work, table saws present a sensible choice.

Radial Arm Saws

These are ideal for making more demanding, manipulative cuts like miter cuts and crosscuts. The radial arm provides a very dexterous sawing element. Crosscutting involves cutting along the width of the wood and this becomes easier if the blade is flexible. This also makes it easier to move around the wood and shape it accordingly. Further, motors found in radial saws are slightly more powerful, making them a better choice for ripping aged, hardwood timber. You should consider radial saws if you plan to undertake more complex carpentry projects, like trimming and re-shaping the lumber. These saws offer greater flexibility in terms of the packaged, non-blade options. Most radial arm saws are sold with multiple attachments like sanding add-ons, routers and planers. These add-ons can be used for non-sawing, woodworking activities like sanding the edges.

Looking to purchase a new power saw? Check out our Power Saws Buyer's Guide.