Radial Arm Saw vs Miter saw: Which one to choose

Ever since the dedicated miter saw came out, there has been a question lingering in everyone’s mind, especially those who own a home workshop and the professional woodworkers. 

The question is simple; which one is for you? The radial arm saw, or the miter saw? But there has been no single answer to this question as we’re looking at it from a wrong perspective.

In all honesty, there's no way to tell that the old RAS is a thing of the past just because a miter saw is more advanced and safer. We'll go over their features, and in the end, we’ll help you determine what you should choose.

So, where do these two saws one-up each other, and where do they fall short of each other? The answer to this question is everything.

Radial Arm Saw vs Miter saw: Which one to choose

Radial Arm Saw: The Versatility Winner

In terms of the number of cuts available with each of the wood cutting tools, radial arm saws are hands down the winners with their whole array of cutting options.

It’s the good ole friend of any home worker. With the ability to perform cross, rip, miter, compound, and bevel cuts, it’s the winner if your work needs you to perform different cuts.

Bosch Power Tools GCM12SD - 15 Amp 12 Inch Corded Dual-Bevel Sliding Glide Miter Saw with 60 Tooth Saw Blade
  • Axial glide system: The patented glide system allows wider cross cuts and better alignment while also being compact; This saves you 12 inch of valuable work space; Bosch glide miter saw also offers unmatched smoothness of cut
  • Capacity: Expanded cutting capacity 14 inch horizontal capacity nominal 6 1/2 inch vertical capacity against the fence base 6 1/2 inch crown capacity against the fence 45 spring
  • Adjustable: The GCM12SD miter saw provides easy adjustments with a large easy to read uniform bevel and stainless steel miter scales with marked detentes and roof pitch angles; Bevel detents: 0, 33.9 degree, 45 degree left/right for accurate cuts; Category best 90 percentage dust collection optimized for cutting 2x material with a vacuum
  • Precision: Square lock quick release fences lock fence 90 degree to the table and requires no adjustment, 1 touch lock/unlock to slide fence for added support
  • Ease of use: Upfront bevel controls all metal bevel lock lever and range selector located upfront for quick and easy bevel settings without reaching behind the saw

Miter Saw: The Marksman’s Tool

A miter saw, as a newer tool, does allow you to have more accurate cuts compared to a radial arm saw. It’s easier to mark and cut through wood and swift as well.

This advantage comes with the newer manufacturing technology. And since these saws are usually used to cut small workpieces, managing and handling them is easier, which is not the case with radial arm saws. The blade guard also helps, which is our next point of discussion.

DEWALT 12-Inch Miter Saw, 15-Amp, Single Bevel, Compound (DWS715)
  • Power and durability: 15 amp, 4,000 Rpm motor
  • Miter detent plate improves productivity and ensures cutting accuracy: Adjustable stainless steel miter detent plate with 14 positive stops
  • Miter dentent override that allows you to override the miter stops and adjust to the desired setting without the saw slipping into the Miter detents. Arbor size is 5/8 inches
  • Tall sliding fences that support crown molding up to 5 1/4 inch nested and base molding up to 6 1/2 inch vertically against the fence while easily sliding out of the way for bevel cuts
  • Cross cut capacity up to 2x8 inch dimensional lumber at 90° and a 2x6 inch dimensional lumber at 45°

Die Hard or Take the Safer Way?

Never Mind the pun, but this is an important factor when choosing a woodcutter. Because let's be blunt, radial arm saws are dangerous even when you've used it many times. It can cut you if you're a little bit careless around it.

The absence of protection is always felt, unlike the miter saws. These saws are equipped with an advanced blade guard as protection. So, whenever you're finished completing a job, you can just safely tuck it away by using the blade guard.

Which One Cuts More?

Although the radial arm saw can perform all types of cuts, it's not as accurate as the miter saw. While the miter saw is more accurate, it can't perform all types of cuts. So, the deciding factors are –

  1. Cross Cut

In terms of cross cuts, they’re both the same. The only difference you’ll feel when cross-cutting is in the size and handling of the two.

  1. Miter Cut

While the miter saw is a dedicated saw for miter cuts, the radial arm saw has the tools to perform miter cuts, but the procedure is a bit complicated as there is no indication of measurements on the saw itself. You have to measure it yourself, and it allows cuts of a sixty-degree angle in both directions.

  1. Bevel Cut

Both the miter and radial arm saw can perform this cut. But you don’t have to use manual measurements with a miter saw while the radial arm saw will require you to measure and cut manually.

  1. Compound Cut

The combination of miter and bevel cuts can be done with both saws, but the radial arm saw, as usual, requires manual work.

  1. Rip Cut and Cut Off

Only the radial arm saw can perform this type of cut.

  1. Dadoeing

Dado cuts are the U-cuts. Making dado cuts have never been a strong suit of a miter saw. Miter saws are simply not for making dado cuts. One of the best tools for dado cuts is the Radial arm saw.

  1. Rabbet Cut

Rabbet cuts are the same as dado cuts, but it's L-shaped. Miter saw isn't able to perform this cut.

Size Matters

In terms of size, they are very different from each other, with the radial arm saw requiring a comparatively much larger area than the miter saw.

Of course, versatility means more scope of customization, which requires space. And the miter saw being the compact tool it is, it needs a small area – making it perfect for people with small workshops.

Through Thick and Thin?

So, which one will be with you while cutting through thick and thin pieces of wood? The radial arm saw, of course. This saw can cut through much thicker workpieces than the miter saw, and this is another reason why it needs a larger area.

Your miter saw can cut swiftly and safely but only small and thin pieces of wood. It just doesn't have the adjustability it needs to handle thick pieces, whereas the radial arm saw is all about customization.

Ease of Installation

Although this isn't something that important, you need to know what you're working with here. A radial arm saw is a big tool, and it has accessories and attachments, which can seem a bit complex for first-timers, whereas miter saws are one-stop tools. Just power it up, and you're done.

The need for maintenance is also higher for radial arm saws.

Comparison Table of Differences

So, in short, what are the differences between them? Here, in this table, you can take a glance at their differences and advantages over each other.

Parameters

Radial Arm Saw

Miter Saw

Types of Cuts

Cross, rip, bevel, dado, compound, and miter cuts. Cut off is possible also.

Cross, bevel, miter, and compound cuts

Working Process

The blade is moved in a straight line to the static workpiece.

The blade is moved on its swing arm against the fixed workpiece.

Safety

It doesn’t have protection, so it can be dangerous if you’re not careful.

Blade guard acts as a protection.

Pros

  • Versatility of cuts
  • Powerful and fast
  • Crosscuts are very accurate
    • Accurate and safe
    • Small in size
    • Portability
    • Ease of use

    Cons

  • Can be dangerous without prior training
  • Not as accurate
  • Needs manual measuring during different cuts
  • A limited number of cuts
  • Compound miter saws are expensive
  • Not for big workpieces
  • Wrapping it Up!

    In simple words, if you're someone who needs all the regular types of cuts and doesn't need quick production, then you'll be more than fine with a radial arm saw with the manual measurements now and then. This versatile all-in-one tool is for woodworkers like you.

    But if you’re looking for a tool to run a commercial woodworking business, then getting the miter saw is the best option. It's accurate, safe, and fast.

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