Radials, Memories, Captains, and PowerShelf

Radial Arm Saws

“So what’s up with the radial arm saw anyway? I’m a relative newbie to heavy-duty woodworking, so I’d appreciate an article about the radial arm saw, especially after all this nostalgia about old ones. Specifically, what are they good for these days, and are they a satisfactory substitute for any other power tools? A RAS is a particularly tempting purchase, but is it a waste of money?” – Doug Pocius

That’s a good question, Doug, and as luck would have it, one we covered before. For more background on radial arm saws, and why they lost popularity, check out this Q&A from eZine Issue 131. – Editor

“I bought my Black and Decker radial arm saw over 40 years ago, and I still have it. I started my own business at the time, and that’s all I had to work with. It’s a wonderful tool; it did everything. When I finished work at the age of 68, I was employing six persons. I sold all my machines but not the saw. The saw and I got old together, and I’m pleased to say we still share some time together with my hobby at home.” – Bernard Stogden

“I have a DeWalt 12-inch radial arm saw that is 30 years old. You would never want another saw. It is the ultimate.” – Jack Badcock

“I have a Sears radial arm saw and have had it at least 20 years. Because of a somewhat cramped location, the radial arm is the ticket for me, although if I had the room and a choice, I’d probably choose a table saw. I did the blade-guard safety upgrade a few years ago, which was provided free of charge from Emerson Tool Co. I hope it lasts forever, as new radial saws have certainly not come down in price like most other power tools.” – Rick McClean

“My late neighbor had a RAS that was military surplus. It rode on its own trailer and had its own three-cylinder diesel three-phase generator that rode on a separate trailer. He mounted the generator on top of his utility shed for emergency power and the monster RAS is still in his shop. It has a 16″ blade and a motor as big as my torso.” – Dr. James W. Randolph

“I purchased a Craftsman 12-inch RAS in 1972 and call it Jaws. It scared the hell out of me. When I approached the saw it had my full attention.” – Bill Larsen

“I bought a Craftsman RAS about 30 years ago at our local Sears store for $100 because the table had been damaged. It was the only big power saw I had for many years. I finally had to retire it about six months ago when I needed space for a chop saw and router table, but I just couldn’t bring myself to get rid of it. I had tears in my eyes when I had to store it out of the way.” – Al Furman

Gone But Not Forgotten

Many writers answered the call to share tales of long-gone mechanical friends. Here are just a few. – Editor

“The three tools I wish I still had were old and manual: a rotary drill, the kind with a geared wheel and crank, a Yankee drill, and a ratchet screwdriver. These have been replaced by cordless tools which are great for saving human energy, but cannot get into close spaces very easily. Also, with manual tools, you feel when you hit something hard, like a nail, or miss the stud when drilling in a wall.” – Ed Frankenfeld

“My dad was a fine craftsman and a great cabinetmaker. When I was a kid, I was always in the shop with him and loved the smell of wood. I inherited his shop after he died. He had some great old tools in there that were like my friends, since I grew up with them. Among them were a Parks Machinery planer, Walker Turner jointer, Delta Milwaukee band saw, Homecraft LD shaper, Delta Rockwell HD shaper, Craftsman 100 table saw and a Walker Turner drill press. He also had a wonderful Red Star radial arm saw. One day, the ball bearings on the beam fell out of the strip they were in. I took the motor and everything but the table and put it by the pole across the street. It was gone the next day. Since then I have joined Old Woodworking Machines.com and could probably have saved the saw if I had that information source back then. I still think of it often. Love them old machines!” – Mark Granier

“It was probably less than 10 years ago that I owned a Hitachi 10-inch dual compound miter saw. I now have an eight-and-a-half-inch Hitachi slider. It has proven to be totally dependable and accurate, but my 10-inch CMS could cut to the right and to the left. This basically eliminated the wrong way cuts that happen when cutting moldings. I have cursed myself more than a few times for selling the saw with the dual direction capability.” – Al Berube

“As a beginning woodworker in San Diego many years ago, I had a Makita D-handle router that I really loved and foolishly sold. I bought it when new for $80; it now costs around $200-300, last time I checked.” – Gary Behun

Not everyone, though, misses vanished tools. – Editor

“I had a Craftsman radial arm saw for years. It was the first major tool purchase I made, in the spring of 1973. I bought it because I thought it was the most practical power tool out there. I sold it a couple of years ago because I had a couple of near misses with the blade coming really close to my fingers. To me, it is the most dangerous machine in the shop. It climb cuts and can get away really fast. I haven’t missed it.” – Bill Foulk

Oh Captain, my Captain

“Was it just me or did anyone else notice a resemblance between the Captain of the Maersk Alabama ship, Richard Phillips, and the old picture of Rob Johnstone that used to be on the Woodworker’s Journal eZine? Just curious.” – Darrell Cullum

Now that you mention it, Darrell, we can’t ever remember seeing both of them in the same room at the same time. Coincidence? – Editor

PowerShelf a Hazard?

“The PowerShelf products in issue 222 are in direct violation of the National Electrical Code Article, section 406.5(b) as the metal portions of the plate and shelf are not grounded and must be, and the UL tag must be displayed on their device as it contacts a UL listed device and is covered by the NEC, which is only there for safety. Their products are in violation of Federal Law, and must not be put on the market. If your magazine lets them advertise on your website and in the magazine, you might be held in contempt of the general public safety. Your license is in jeopardy.” – Gordon Eggers

Calm down. We’re not sure what license you mean, but to be fair, we looked up section 406.5 of the National Electrical Code (NEC) and found that it contains only one sentence: “Metal faceplates must be grounded.” It says nothing about UL (Underwriters Laboratories) listing. Furthermore, it seemed to us that the screw used to hold the faceplate on, whether in a normal or modified faceplate, acts as the ground. However, just to make sure, we checked with both the distributor of PowerShelf, who is a former electrician, and with the inventor. They confirmed just what we suspected; the screw is the ground for the plate, since the outlet itself is grounded, and UL approval, while considered desirable by many, is not required by law. – Editor

Typo Corner

This issue’s typo reminds us that stiles come in all styles, and all colors. – Editor

“I can’t match the stile of the other pieces of furniture, but I’ll try to make it blend in by matching the color.”

Perhaps you could just match the rail. – Editor

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