There are many new saw blades on the market these days and none of their marketing, or the magazine articles reviewing them, is directed at users of radial arm saws. I’ve tried a 60- and 80-tooth blade that works great on my table saw but performs less than adequately on my radial arm saw. I have a 40-tooth combination blade that works well, but I’d like one that produces a better edge. I’m sure the problem has to do with the angle of the teeth, but I can’t find any information regarding that. – Jim Allen
Chris Marshall: Radial arm saw owners like yourself, Jim, have been feeling the effects of that shrinking market for years as sliding compound miter saws have eclipsed radial arm saws in popularity and availability. But, that’s not to say you can’t buy top-shelf blades for radial arm saws anymore, or find online descriptions about these blades to help you make a buying decision. In about a half hour, I’ve found 60- to 96-tooth blades, marketed for radial arm saws, from Forrest (Woodworker I), Freud (Ultimate series) and CMT (series 219). That was just a quick survey. Suitable blades are definitely out there from more manufacturers than just these, I’m sure.
Getting optimal performance from a radial arm saw requires the blade to take little bites at a time with the edges of the kerf shearing cleanly. I’d shop for a blade that either has a high alternate top-bevel tooth design or triple-chip grind teeth. And, look to the “hook angle” of the teeth, too. A positive hook-angle blade will cut more aggressively and pull itself along—definitely not what you want from a radial arm saw. Instead, choose a blade with no more than a few degrees of positive hook angle down to a negative hook angle. It will take smaller bites, “pull” ahead less and still give you a clean cut.
Remember, too: you can always call or email the technical service folks at these leading blade manufacturers and ask for their advice. They’re the experts, and they really are willing to help you choose the right blade for your machine and application.
Tim Inman: Anybody who has read my books or articles has almost certainly come across my opinion of radial arm saws. They are dangerous and good for cutting rafters. They were way oversold in the 70s and 80s as the woodworker’s multi-tool. By design, they are virtually impossible to adjust and keep adjusted. Your lack of quality cut is almost certainly the result of either a bad bearing in the motor, or backlash in the casting frame of the saw. Others will disagree …. When I was a young woodworking teacher, I had to use them to teach seventh graders. I still have nightmares from that experience – although we never had one accident. Just luck. Radial arm saws are dangerous.