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"The Great Do-It-Yourself Era"

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Uglydog

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Was digging out the radial arm saw for a wood working project last week and puttering with my vintage Dewalt.
RAS often have a bad reputation as dangerous, and was trying to improve my technique.
Stumbled on these free sample chapters (which I've not yet ordered).
I'm offering the link here as yet another ode to days when having a home shop was a cultural expectation and not an exception.

http://www.mrsawdust.com/pdf/Sawdust_Chap1.pdf

Daryl
MN
 

Old Mud

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Good read Daryl, I especially like Wally's words of wisdom.
"I do not mince these words:
Stupid,
uneducated
mistakes can maim you for
life! (That’s a long time.)"
 

Dorn

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I'm 70 and I sort of thought that NOW was "The Great Do-It Yourself Era".

If you need help figuring how to fix a carburetor problem on a John Deere LA145 lawn mower? -- There's a video for that.
If you need help learning how to thread on a metal lathe? -- There's a video for that.
How do you make dovetails if you want to make a fancy drawer? -- There's a video for that.
How would you make a simple spinning wheel? -- There's a video for that.
I got a powder coat kit for Christmas. How do I use it? -- There's a video for that.

... and those are just a few of ones I've actually used.

The one time this failed was when I wanted a practical introduction to hydraulics and couldn't find anything that really helped me much. But I've still got faith. Ave has said that he is going to start such a series. (If you don't know who Ave is, you are in for a treat. Just search Ave on youtube and prepare to spend the next two weeks watching his old videos.)
 
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Good ol hydraulics. I'm not too fond of them either. My dad used to cuss out the engineers at his work place for most of their genius ideas that went sour and he had to show them the right way it should have been done and fix their screw-ups.
 
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Was digging out the radial arm saw for a wood working project last week and puttering with my vintage Dewalt.
RAS often have a bad reputation as dangerous, and was trying to improve my technique.
Stumbled on these free sample chapters (which I've not yet ordered).
I'm offering the link here as yet another ode to days when having a home shop was a cultural expectation and not an exception.

http://www.mrsawdust.com/pdf/Sawdust_Chap1.pdf

Daryl
MN
Daryl,

I had a B &D Dewalt radial arm saw, I couldn't afford a Rockwell at the time. Ran a lot of wood thru that saw. Later in life, gave it to my little brother. Don't miss it one bit. Still have all of my fingers and limbs.
 

chips&more

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The RAS is OK for a cross cut but deadly when ripping:eek:. Never owned one, but did use one when making custom picture frames through college. When ripping, that saw would shout out the molding like a spear! The adjacent wall was full of holes from the saw shooting out moldings!
 
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FOMOGO

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I have a Craftsmen RAS I purchased new in the mid 70's. It has had many thousands of feet of 1 & 2X lumber run though it, as I was a GC for many years. Just like any machine that spins, you have to have your wits about you. Mike
 

RJSakowski

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The first power tool that I bought was a Montgomery Ward radial arm saw. I still use it fifty years later. It was a 9" saw but readily accommodated a 10" blade and because it was gear driven rather than direct drive, I could cut through a 4 x 4.
I also have a Grizzly 10" hybrid table saw but for many operations the radial arm saw excels. Much easier to cut 10" off a 12 ft 1 x 10 than trying to stabilize the moving board with the miter gauge.
I would say the the most dangerous tool that I have in my shop is the table saw, my chain saws included, although the compound miter saw is a close second. Maybe forty stitches in my right hand when I was a teenager is influencing my state of mind but I still tense up whenever I am running close to that blade. Years ago, I developed the habit of hooking my fingers over the fence to help prevent them from being pulled into the blade.
 

RJSakowski

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Speaking of the do-it-yourself era, I grew up reading Popular Mechanics and Mechanix Illustrated. I used to get back issues going back to WW II and read them cover to cover. The ads at the back were great.

How many remember all the war surplus stores advertising there? And how about the "Wordless Workshop"?
 

CluelessNewB

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I have a later Black and Decker 7780 12" Dewalt radial arm saw. Truthfully I don't use it much anymore, the Dewalt compound miter saw and Delta Unisaw get much more use. Before the Dewalt I owned a Craftsman 10" radial arm saw (Emerson Electric made) that I purchased new around 1987, it was my first stationary tool purchase and also my worst. Any bump to the arm or looking at it crooked would twist the mounting and un-align everything. I sold it after 2 frustrating years and purchased the well used B&D Dewalt which is 100x better than the Craftsman.
 

HBilly1022

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I've always been a kind of DIY guy but have to agree with Dorn. It has become much easier due to the internet. The downside is that, with all the information available, I have more hobbies than time for them all.

If it wasn't for the internet I probably would have given up on machining a long time ago. But with help form this site and the numerous videos available I am enjoying this newest hobby. It has consumed a LOT of my time. Good thing I'm retired.

My grandson, who is 14, just remarked yesterday that he wants to learn how to work on cars so that he can save money when he has his own car and it needs repairs. I've got a 1997 Toyota Tercel that he can learn some basics on. Change plugs, air filter, oil change, etc, It hasn't been driven in years but still runs and will likely need a new timing belt and brakes too. After he has learned how to do all of these things, with his papa's help of course, he will be given the car he did all the work on.
 

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I enjoyed that read, I had the old green saw with red knob . I gave it to my step father , I hope it's still in my mom's garage . It was bought by my gran pop in the fifties. It made many built in cabinets and houses too. Ill have to Ck on that. My gran mom gave it to me when I was old enough to use it. It's a worker and really sings.
 

kvt

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Prob getting rid of my Craftsman RAS this weekend. Need room and have not really used it in years Except as a storage place. In a small area it is just to big when I do not do that much wood working. Need the room for metal working.
 

Bob Korves

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My Craftsman RAS is still doing the job for me. It is about 50 years old, and still in nice condition. Radial arm saws are lots more dangerous than a table saw used correctly, but both are relatively safe used correctly. Table saws are also highly dangerous used incorrectly, just in different ways. And, of course, all saws are dangerous, even a hand saw, if used incorrectly. All the machines in my shop have high levels of danger inherently. Danger can be mitigated by being truly careful when using them -- no shortcuts, always wide awake, and paying full attention to what we are doing. If something seems dicey, then it probably is. Address the issue immediately and make it safer. I am almost always the only one in my shop when working, and no one in the house, either. If I get hurt bad, it could well be the last time. Work carefully with machines like it matters -- it really does!
 

Aaron_W

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Interesting reading, I never knew where the Dewalt name came from. I've only known it as the higher end line from Black & Decker.

It does help me understand where my wariness of radial arm saws comes from though. My did didn't like them, and although the schools I went to still had well equipped wood shops, we never had a radial arm saw to use. I'm pretty happy with a large miter saw and table saw although both make my fingers hurt when I use them (doesn't take much imagination to know how little effort it would take for the saw to liberate them).

I'm 70 and I sort of thought that NOW was "The Great Do-It Yourself Era".

If you need help figuring how to fix a carburetor problem on a John Deere LA145 lawn mower? -- There's a video for that.
If you need help learning how to thread on a metal lathe? -- There's a video for that.
How do you make dovetails if you want to make a fancy drawer? -- There's a video for that.
How would you make a simple spinning wheel? -- There's a video for that.
I got a powder coat kit for Christmas. How do I use it? -- There's a video for that.

... and those are just a few of ones I've actually used.

The one time this failed was when I wanted a practical introduction to hydraulics and couldn't find anything that really helped me much. But I've still got faith. Ave has said that he is going to start such a series. (If you don't know who Ave is, you are in for a treat. Just search Ave on youtube and prepare to spend the next two weeks watching his old videos.)

I thought it was going to be about the present as well. The internet has made it so much easier to find information and buy stuff no matter where you are. Then of course the whole 3D printing thing. It also seems like the DIY'er has it much easier today with quality home shop equipment available. I look at those old many tool in one things that cost a ton, weighed a ton and don't look like they would do much of anything well. Doesn't sound like it was easy to buy or learn how to use them either, no wonder so many just sat in a corner collecting dust.
 

C-Bag

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It does make you wonder if there was more DIY'ers, or just more magazines. It IS amazing what's on YouTube and I'd be lost without it. My dad subscribed to Popular Mechanics and several others mags yet never really made anything. Growing up it seemed like where ever we lived there was always one guy who was doing projects in his garage. But it was one out of how many blocks?

Right now I'm that guy as I'm out in the garage almost everyday. There is another neighbor who's often doing wood working where mine is 99% metal. But everybody else for blocks and blocks has their cars on the streets not because they use the garage for a shop like me, their garages are packed with junk. No way could you hardly get in there much less work, repair or build.

I've inherited a Craftman table saw and Hitachi miter saw from my dad. He was the handyman in his over 55 mobile home park. So he was the guy when the old guys would pass on that the widows would give him their tools. He's literally has 3-5 of everything. No RAS thankfully. Every once in a while I miss what a RAS could do but not enough to give up the floor space. And like Bob, if I'm not at least apprehensive about using some power tool I know I shouldn't be using it probably.
 

Bob Korves

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And like Bob, if I'm not at least apprehensive about using some power tool I know I shouldn't be using it probably.
I have no reservations whatsoever about using my RAS and do not think "I shouldn't be using it probably." If I thought that I would not use it, ever. If you do not feel OK about using a machine, especially as a hobbyist, then just don't do it, or, get enough training and experience with people who are comfortable and skilled with the machine to know you are competent to use it, and then use it competently.
 
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C-Bag

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I'm sorry Bob, I shouldn't have been paraphrasing. I will probably just make it worse, but being wide awake and full attention is what you said and I agree. I had a metal shop teacher early on who said if you are not a little scared you were not paying enough attention. That's how a gauge how I approach whether I should be using a dangerous machine, and that's just me. The couple of times I just pushed ahead and was not on edge was when I had some close calls. I'm all alone during the day while I'm working so I try to maintain a high awareness of the machine and its surroundings.
 

Old Mud

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Danger can be mitigated by being truly careful when using them -- no shortcuts, always wide awake, and paying full attention to what we are doing. If something seems dicey, then it probably is. Address the issue immediately and make it safer. I am almost always the only one in my shop when working, and no one in the house, either. If I get hurt bad, it could well be the last time. Work carefully with machines like it matters -- it really does!
Wise words Bob. It's funny that i fish many times solo, sometimes 40 to 50 miles offshore., a day or two at a time. As i got older i thought /think about those things. I try to take nothig for granted. The weird thing is I feel more comfortable now then when i was younger. Not sure if that's a good thing or bad.
Sorry for the sidetrack.
 

HBilly1022

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I finally read that link and found it quite interesting. I was amazed at how many and fast those old saws sold, especially since that must have been a LOT of money back then.

I still have my Craftsman RAS in the shop. Bought it new in the 70's and it still works fine, although it doesn't get much use anymore. My table saw, circular saw and sliding cross cut saw get more use. Mostly the table saw.

I've had kickbacks with the RAS and the table saw. The first time with the RAS was a real wake up call. I was ripping a 2" x 4" and the kicked piece went through the door behind me and just stuck out of it like a spear. After that time I never ripped another board with the kickback paul engaged and set right. That saved me on numerous occassions. The table saw kick back wasn't as severe but I got that one in the gut and that hurt for a few days. I have since learned better / safer ways of using the TS.

I think the whole DIY attitude stems from 2 main things; 1) your upbringing and 2) neccessity. My father didn't have money to spare when we were young and he did everything himself. I still remember him building a plywood boat in out basement because he couldn't afford to buy one and he loved fishing. He taught me a lot and I learned a lot from watching him. HE instilled that DIY, "can do" attitude in me. I have passed that on to my children and now trying to instill it in my grandchildren.
 

kvt

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My father was the same way, If you can do it yourself (DIY) then you do not have to go without. At the same time Barter system works wonders. I will do this for you if you do that for me, and teach me how to do it. That way you could work at doing it the next time. By the time I was in my teens I was overhauling lawn mowers, Cushman scotters etc some to use others to sell or trade. Managed to get enough done to purchase my first car when I was 14. (and get driven around by older sisters who did not learn the lessons so did not have a car)
 

woodchucker

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The RAS is OK for a cross cut but deadly when ripping:eek:. Never owned one, but did use one when making custom picture frames through college. When ripping, that saw would shout out the molding like a spear! The adjacent wall was full of holes from the saw shooting out moldings!
I used a RAS for years, from my age of 17 to 30. I feared it when ripping, but it never bit me. I had to respect it. Never did it shoot out a piece. I lost that saw in storage (at a friends), my friend gave it to someone. Later I picked up a lesser saw. I didn't use it. I could not get it to stay locked accurately enough for my liking.

Today it's a tablesaw, bandsaw, router in a table, jointer, planer, drill press, hand held routers (3), 6x48 belt sander , sliding miter saw... But I made more (younger) with that RAS, than I have with my current lot.
 

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I've used a RAS for over 55 years. Dad let an eleven year old use it. I still have it. I can still order ten beer, just can't drink them now. I've even been the sawyer on big construction jobs. some comments:

The DeWalts and Rockwells can be very accurate, more accurate than your SCMS , except maybe the Festool ones, they look like quality.
The Craftsman ones are the ones that gave RAS a bad name for accuracy.
The home shop ones are underpowered and are more dangerous than the big ones, they bog and catch. Blade selection is very important.
They have many adjustments that have to be right. Much more than my Unisaw.

Follow the 12 / 10 rule, keep your fingers 12" away so you can keep ten fingers. You don't stand in front of bullets, why would you stand in front of ripped wood, the effects are the same.
 

Eddyde

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Interesting read, thanks Daryl
My high school shop had a radial arm saw, the teacher warned us it was extremely dangerous, more so than the table saw. None the less we were taught how to use it, even ripping, as there was only one table saw and cutting time was a premium. I remember at first being pretty scared using it but eventually the fear turned into respect and I got very good at using it. However, the first saw I purchased (at age 17) was a table saw as I felt (and still do) they are more versatile. Years later, I had a 16" 5 hp DeWalt that was a real beast, I used mainly for cutting hardwood stock to length but also for some plywood casework as it had a 30" cross cut. Eventually got rid of it to make room for 2 Martin sliding table saws with 16" blades and 9 hp motors.
Now I as I set up my "dream shop" I am considering getting a RAS as I only have a regular table saw, no sliding table. I think they still can have a valuable place in the shop.
 
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C-Bag

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It was a very interesting read. I love behind the scenes looks but it also pointed out how I've never seen a take over by especially a big Corp improve anything. It's always deteriorated where quality is sacrificed to greed and mass production. It would seem there is a world of difference between the original DeWalt and present day.

I also appreciate the author's enthusiasm for the product and his deep knowledge of the original design. Made me cruise the local CL to see if any were around and sure enough there were at hugely differering prices.

All I've ever been around is modern DeWalt tools and would prefer a Makita over them. Most of my exposure was hand drills and angle grinders as those were what we were issued in the shop. I used my own Makita drill and grinder because just with normal use the DeWalts would die. There were stacks of dead DeWalts that just got tossed because you couldn't access the brushes without disassembly. I think they knew this and did that on purpose. When it was slow I would go through the stack and rescue about 80-90% of them. Sadly Makita has gone this route too.
 

Downwindtracker2

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The first DeWalt portable power tools were nothing more than B&D Industrial in yellow cases instead of black. The quality of B&D Industrial was good for home shop use but they didn't last worth a darn in shop use. Milwaukee was the brand the shop preferred, much more cost effective. Now, Milwaukee is Chinese and DeWalt is Mexican.
 

kvt

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Yea my father had an old Milwaukee gear reduction 1/2 inch drill. drilling into concrete and caught a rebar. Had the trigger lock on. That thing spun and broke the 2x4s and kept going until it unplugged. He said that you turned loose as soon as you felt a snag. That thing was almost unstopable . Prob Is it diapeared before I could get it after he passed.
 

Rick S

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My Craftsman RAS is still doing the job for me. It is about 50 years old, and still in nice condition. Radial arm saws are lots more dangerous than a table saw used correctly, but both are relatively safe used correctly. Table saws are also highly dangerous used incorrectly, just in different ways. And, of course, all saws are dangerous, even a hand saw, if used incorrectly. All the machines in my shop have high levels of danger inherently. Danger can be mitigated by being truly careful when using them -- no shortcuts, always wide awake, and paying full attention to what we are doing. If something seems dicey, then it probably is. Address the issue immediately and make it safer. I am almost always the only one in my shop when working, and no one in the house, either. If I get hurt bad, it could well be the last time. Work carefully with machines like it matters -- it really does!
I still have my Craftsman radial arm saw , bought 40 yrs back. Built our first kitchen cabinets with it, couldn't afford to buy custom made ones . I have used it as a horizontal bore when doweling cabinet frames together, once used it with a molding head to make trim ( an experience I won't repeat), used it as a drum sander ,used it for years in my construction business and still use it to rough cut stock for projects. It does take a lot of floor space, but I have a sentimental attachment to it , so it remains. Is it dangerous? yes as all power operated tools can be if you're careless when operating them. Never be in such a hurry that you ignore safety. Also if tired or not fully concentrating on the task at hand , walkaway from it, there's always tomorrow.
 
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Back to the book under discussion, it is well worth the price. It highlights how to use a RAS properly and also the vast number of cuts that you can make.
I was given an old DeWalt that, after bearing replacement and building a proper table, is a joy to use.
It is dead accurate and like all machinery with moving cutting thingies requires some thought and care to avoid injury. Ripping is safe as long as you follow the simple rules. Table saws have scared me more than this thing, esp moving larger pieces of wood through the blade.

The best advice is to pick a proper blade, and pick one that is under size for the saw. E.g. I have an 8" blade on my 9" saw. That mostly eliminates the under powered complaints. I bought a Freud LU83R, the best ones are made specifically by Forrest but of course pricier.

As to quality of the machines, they declined over the years as American manufacturers did exactly what everyone accuses the Chinese of doing, cutting corners. I strongly suspect that the Chinese learned that skill from the Americans :). Thankfully my RAS is from the period before cost and quality cutting set in.
 
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