08:14PM | 08/22/04
Member Since: 08/22/04
2 lifetime posts
I'd appreciate advice on what type of saw I should first buy. At this point all I have is a portable circular saw. My near-term needs include miter cuts for trim (baseboard, crown, window casing, etc.), and both rip and crosscuts for exterior trim. Future planned projects include bookcase construction, a deck, and a wood fence.

From what I can tell, I have 3 basic choices: a miter saw, a table saw, and a radial arm saw. If I can only pick 1, what do you suggest and if I can only pick 2, what do you suggest? I've been thinking I need a table saw and a miter saw, but I've been told that a radial arm saw will perform the cuts of both as well.

Thank you,

David Andersen



09:41PM | 08/22/04
Member Since: 07/01/03
558 lifetime posts
You actually need 2-saws. A miter saw for accurate cross cuts and miters on lumber up to 6-inches wide (with a 10 inch blade), or wider if you really spend more and get a slide miter or 12 inch miter. The second item is a table saw for cutting rips in lumber and plywood.

The most economical approach is to buy a 10 inch compound miter saw, and a bench saw or portable table saw for rips. If you can afford the full size table saw, go for it. If you are really limited in budget, a bench saw will do it all, miters, cross-cuts, rips, and can be used where you are doing the work because its portable. I know of a number of people who use these for all their projects. See an example here:

A radial arm saw will also do all your cuts, but is a stationary tool that (like a table saw) will require some open space to operate and manipulate wood. They are more expensive, but are excellent and versitile tools. Only the largest ones can rip plywood in half (24-inch cut), so the arm extension is your limiting factor for rip cuts. In general, I feel a dedicated compound miter saw and portable bench saw is faster for most jobs, and allows you to use the tool where you work.


06:56AM | 08/23/04
Member Since: 06/06/03
1250 lifetime posts
Well sorry but I think you need at least three!

I should mention that I'm really NOT a fan of Radial Arm Saws (RAS).

With a RAS The blade is totally above the work; in my opinion they are scary things. Even with a table saw (or any power equipment, for that matter) you have to have your wits about you. But the RAS's versatility (I think) has trade-offs in the safety arena. I would also think its "hanging down and out on a limb" nature would give you less precision--but I am open to argument on that one.

A table saw needs a lot of room to operate--but there are very effective roll-arounds for these. I've had one for years--you can pretty much lock the wheels down and it won't budge once you place it.

My choices:

1. 120v circular saw. VERY important!: Watch out for 'kickback' with these! Don't allow any part of your body to be directly behind the saw while in operation!

2. 10" power miter saw, with attachments to allow you to cut long pieces. With your upcoming projects, this would be a good choice.

3. Table saw based on your needs (portability, power, precision). Rip fence quality is an important consideration. Personally I prefer one that's convertible between 120v or 240v--but the "portable" ones will do an admirable job for a lot of things and their quality seems to be improving.

4. 18v battery operated circular saw. These are expensive but very handy! Again, watch for kickback.


-k2 in CO

Moderator, Miscellaneous Forum


05:20AM | 08/24/04
Member Since: 08/22/04
2 lifetime posts
Thanks to you both.


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