Setting Up Your Radial Arm Saw

A radial arm saw is designed to accomplish three tasks in the shop: cross cutting miters, and compound miters. A radial arm saw can’t be used to rip and will not take a dado blade. Many people have learned to woodwork on these machines. Before you use one these machines, however, it must be properly set up.

Tuning any radial saw can be tricky because there are so many moving parts that have to be adjusted in a specific sequence.

The Column

Raise the arm so that the blade is free of the table, then lock the mortar in the middle of the arm. Check the rise and fall of the arm by placing your finger on the column. The up and down movement should be smooth. If there is any jerkiness this could indicate dirt in the shaft or lack of lubrication. Placing pressure on the arm either sideways or up and down shouldn’t cause any movement on the column or base. The column rises up through a split base, which functions as a clamp. The motion of the column can be eased or tightened by turning the bolts.

The Arm

Move the arm out of square then allow it to click back in. Wiggle it to make sure it is seated well. Check for roughness in the yoke mechanism by trying to rotate and slide it. Four rollers support the motor carriage and slide on tracks on each side of the arm. Test the tension of the bearing by pressing your thumb against it as it rolls. If you can stop the bearing from rotating, it’s too lose. Adjust the bolt on one side of the track. Lubricate tracks with machine oil.

Leveling the Table

Remove the guard and blade. Make sure that the arm and the blade are parallel. Make sure that the pin lock in engaged. Use a paper shim as a feeler gauge. Test the table on all four corners and in the middle. Tune the table height if necessary.

Squaring the Blade

Make sure that the square isn't touching a tooth. Free the lock screws at the front of the yoke, then tilt the blade to square. Mark any tooth with a crayon or marker. Set the square at the back of the table against the tooth and move the carriage forward. The tooth should scrape evenly against the square. If not, loosen the table mounting bolts and tap into square with the blade.

One Cut Test

Using a piece of plywood with parallel edges, mark an “X” in the wood and then make a single cut through the center of the X. Reverse once face to check for blade square to the table. On edge, with one piece still reversed, test for the blade being square to the fence.

With this setup, you can take it with you to a job site for all your ripping, cross cutting, and mitering needs.