Radial arm saws consist of a circular saw mounted to a sliding horizontal arm. Radial arm saws are most commonly used to create length cuts, as well as dado, half lap, or rabbet joints. A radial arm saw serves a similar purpose to a table saw, but instead of ripping stock, the radial arm saw does crosscutting. It can be difficult to cut a long piece of wood widthwise on a normal table saw, and this is where the radial arm saw comes in handy.
In many shop settings, the radial arm saw is seen as a complement to the table saw. A radial arm saw performs many of the same functions as a table saw, but can take the awkwardness out of some operations. When working with longer pieces of stock it can be cumbersome to work with the table saw. Longer stock can end up hanging over the edges of a table saw, which is a safety hazard. A radial arm saw, on the other hand, can take care of a long piece of stock easily.
Accessories are also sold for the radial arm saw that allow it to perform a wide variety of secondary tasks. You can find accessories for the radial arm saw that will allow it to act as a shaper, disk and drum sander, surface planer, and a boring machine. The radial arm saw can be adjusted to work at any angle, and some saws have locked in angles that the operator can select, allowing a high degree of precision in the work.
Safety is of paramount concern with a radial arm saw, as they can be initially more difficult to operate than a standard table saw. When working, be sure to wear safety glasses and hearing protection as well. As you cut through material, stand to the side of the saw and keep all body parts out of the cutting path of the blade. Maintain a clean and clutter free work area. Be sure to use only blades and accessories that are approved for that particular model of radial arm saw.
Common sizes for a radial arm saw are 10″ and 16″ models. Two major brands in the radial arm saw market are Craftsman and Delta. Craftsman sells an affordable entry level saw, the Professional Laser Trac 10″, for $649.99. For the higher end radial arm saw, Delta sells their 33-890 12 Dial Arm Saw for $1770.