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Should You Pull or Push Your Radial-Arm Saw?

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Pulling Through a Radial Arm Cut

Pulling Through a Radial Arm Cut

(c) 2008 Chris Baylor licensed to About.com, Inc.
When using any circular saw or table saw, one should always cut against the motion of the blade. In other words, when the stock passes the blade, the motion of the saw blade is against, or opposite the movement of the stock.

But what about a radial-arm saw? One could conceivably cut with the radial-arm against or with the motion of the blade.

How?

Well, by resting the saw as far away from the body as possible, then placing the stock firmly against the fence and pulling the saw toward the body, the motion of the saw is actually WITH the blade (rather than the common method of cutting against the blade). Conversely, by pulling the saw all the way forward, then placing the stock against the fence, one could actually push the radial-arm saw through the stock. Using the logic applied to the circular saw and the table saw, wouldn't this latter method be the correct one to choose?

In this case, absolutely not. Even though pulling the saw all the way forward, then positioning the stock and pushing to make the cut would be consistent with the other saws, on the radial-arm, this is not the safest or recommended method for use. The proper technique is to leave the saw in the resting position as far away from your body as possible, position the stock, then pull the blade through the cut. When the cut is finished, return the saw to the original resting position and then move the stock.

This may seem a bit contradictory to the other saws, in that you're pulling the saw in the same motion as the blade. This is the method for use as designed by the radial-arm manufacturers, but it does pose a bit of a quandary. The problem is that by pulling the saw in the same motion as the blade cuts, the blade could actually grab and force the saw through the wood faster than you might want. This could also pose a bit of a safety hazard, particularly if the blade grabs the stock. And when using a stacked dado blade set, the problem could be magnified, as more than one blade will be engaging the wood.

So, how should you go make sure the blade doesn't grab the wood as you're pulling it through the cut?

It's a bit difficult to describe until you actually try it, but you need to pull the saw smoothly toward you, but also push a bit against the saw to ensure that it doesn't grab and yank forward on its own. However, with a bit of practice, you'll be able to pull your saw forward and through the cut smoothly and still protect against the saw grabbing the wood.
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