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Using a radial arm saw for metal cutting?

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Jake2465

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#1
I have what appears to be a decent Craftsman radial arm saw (probably from the 1980s) that has a cast iron base that I have thought about using for cutting aluminum and steel. Does anyone know of those kind of saws can handle that load with a good metal blade? My current go to metal cutting saw is my cheap Skil 12" chop saw with a carbide blade. It just cant cut a very big piece with it's range of motion.
 

Eddyde

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#2
I seriously wouldn't, and I'm the type that takes risks. I have a lot of experience with radial arm saws, they are prone to climb cutting which is a real hazard and even more likely in metal than wood.
 

Jake2465

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#3
I seriously wouldn't, and I'm the type that takes risks. I have a lot of experience with radial arm saws, they are prone to climb cutting which is a real hazard and even more likely in metal than wood.
Now, what if the saw is pushed away for the cut instead of pulled toward the operator? Would that help the climb cut issue?
 

Ray C

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#4
I would not advise this at all. Aluminum pulls and tugs like crazy when cut with a saw. Add that to the peculiar behaviors of a radial arm saw and I think that puts you in really dangerous territory.
 

magicniner

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#5
Put a heavy damper on the pivoting arm?
 

Eddyde

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#6
Now, what if the saw is pushed away for the cut instead of pulled toward the operator? Would that help the climb cut issue?
It would be libel to pick up the edge of the work and throw it back towards the fence, yeah that may be away from you, but still not a good or safe scenario.
 

Jake2465

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#8
Well that's sad :confused:. That thing has been sitting in the corner of my shop for years. I was hoping to put it to use :grin:.
 

dlane

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#9
They cut wood good, not metal :eek 2:
 

MAKEITOUTOFWOOD

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#10
Don't be sad. Be happy your not going to cripple yourself with it.
 

Jake2465

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#11
Guess I will have to get a hold of a metal cutting band saw from somewhere.
 

magicniner

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#12
Just use a circular saw with a TCT blade :D
 

Silverbullet

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#13
Forty years ago my father cut aluminum plate with his old RADIAL ARM SAW. Dewalt collectable now. But he new how to control it from his forty years using it. Yes they will kick out or in , but if you put fences and stops you can do it. Now it was all under 1/4" thick but the length was about three ft. He made steps for his beach camper we used to go fishing. We had several in the family who loved beach buggy fishing back then me included , I had dad's camper on my dodge w200 4x4 when I got screwed up in 1979 . So if your careful you can cut aluminum but steal I'd use an abrasive blade only . Use hold down clamps for any cutting or brackets so it cant lift or grab . Not recommended for sure so if you do be careful and it's your choice.
 

Jake2465

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#14
It sounds like I should side with a metal cutting band saw because very little of what I cut for the mill is only 1/4". Most of the time it is at least 1/2" or more in thickness.
 

Eddyde

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#15
Yeah, for thick stock a bandsaw is the way to go, much safer too.
 

FanMan

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#16
I did a fair amount of metal cutting (aluminum) on my RAS some years ago when I was building a paramotor, mostly 1/8" plate and 1/16" wall square tubing. It can be done, but I don't recommend it.

  • You need the right blade (I used a blade specifically made for non ferrous metals and plastics).
  • You need to lubricate the blade with stick wax.
  • You need to push, not pull, the blade through the work.
  • It'll be REALLY REALLY loud. Wear earplugs!
  • The cut pieces will be extremely hot!
  • Metal shavings get everywhere, not good for the motor and track bearings.
A bandsaw is a much better choice.
 

francist

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#17
This is another one of those things I wish I could say I didn't do, but I did. I worked five years as a glazier and we built a lot of aluminum greenhouses. For some of the specialized joint cutting I had the Craftsman radial rigged up but it really wasn't a comfortable operation. I think part of it was that the arm wasn't really as rigid as one would have wanted, and that effect seemed to compound with the aluminum. I never liked using it.

-frank
 

chips&more

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#18
I did a copper gutter job once. And used a Dewalt miter saw to cut the ends. The job came out great, but my nerves were shot. I can’t imagine using a radial arm saw to cut metal. It’s dangerous enough cutting wood with it, especially ripping…Dave
 

tjb

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#19
Personally, I agree with the majority of respondents. Many years ago, I did a lot of woodwork but had to stop because of allergy issues. I used a radial arm saw quite a bit, and now after becoming familiar with metalworking tools, it's easy for me to visualize an accident waiting to happen. My suggestion: sell the radial arm saw and use the proceeds to buy a decent metal bandsaw. I have one that I bought pretty cheap, and it has become indispensable in my small hobby shop.

Regards,
Terry
 

ericc

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#20
I bet it would work just fine, but it would need some modifications. Just look at its metal cutting counterparts. Step back, and think about the differences. First, it is too fast and the blade is too floppy. Modification: use a smaller blade, and those disks to stiffen the blade. Second, the saw can climb or throw the piece it is cutting. Modification: control the movable saw head and the metal. The table will need real T-slots and clamps. The flimsy wood fence will need to be replaced with something a little stronger. The saw itself should not be fed by hand. Screw or lever feed only, and the backlash must be controlled. Third, rigidity of the arm is not sufficient. Modification: a restraining bracket that mounts solidly to the front of the table. This will cut down the size of the pieces that you can cut, but a metal saw which can cut huge pieces should weigh a few hundred pounds or more, and the radial arm saw just isn't quite there.

Leverage your knowledge from machine tools, and you will be able to figure out where you need to make modifications by yourself. There are some commercial examples that you can surf on the Internet for ideas, but for some odd reason, there don't seem to be any hobby machinist versions. I have seen a couple in youtube videos, but the makers said that they didn't work well. As for an unmodified radial arm saw, I wouldn't do it.
 

FanMan

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#21
A radial saw to cut metal is something you do only if you have no alternative... but sometimes you have no alternative. When I was doing it I didn't have a metal cutting bandsaw or even a mill, it was either the RAS or a sawzall and a file. Even for woodworking the RAS gets a bad rap (undeserved, I think). You just gotta be very careful, and work within its limitations. But (for woodworking) it's still one of the most used tools in my shop, for the kinds of work I do there's nothing that works as well.
 

Chipper5783

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#22
Yes you can cut metal just fine with a radial arm saw. As I read through the responses to date , it seems I am the ~5% voice against the tide.

In certain LIMITED applications a RAS makes a very good metal cutting tool. I'll still agree with all the comments above that you still need a metal cutting saw for the majority of metal cut off operations that you will encounter in a machine shop. There are LIMITED applications where an RAS (or smaller counterpart - such as a sliding compound miter saw) are very good metal cutting tools. The general application is thin profiled metal. For years Wolfe Machinery bought up the old heavy duty DeWalt RAS tools and refitted them specifically for cutting profiled panels (i.e. roofing, building cladding) - obviously it is not using a conventional wood working blade. Another example is cutting aluminum soffit material - I have probably cut thousands of pieces of soffit material with a SCMS - with a conventional woodworking blade (blade on backwards) and it works very well. It is not a scary task at all. I can't take credit for that idea - it is a common method of cutting thin aluminum.

Jake, I don't know if that answers your question - yes you can cut certain metal products on a RAS. I'm in agreement with the other replies - you still need a proper cut off saw.
 

Jake2465

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#23
Jake, I don't know if that answers your question - yes you can cut certain metal products on a RAS. I'm in agreement with the other replies - you still need a proper cut off saw.
I think it does. I will need to look into a metal cutting band saw because the metal I normally would need cut is thick. Right now I could use a piece of aluminum cut down to size and it measures 10"x10"x1". One of the sides needs to be cut down to around 7.5" .

Unfortunately in my area I have a hard time finding any good deals on used equipment. I am better off buying the band saw new and that means I would need to pony up around 1K to make the purchase. So, now it just boils down to how often I think I would use that saw for the money I spent on it. My metal supply usually gives fair rates on my aluminum in precut configuration, but sometimes they have good deals on drop which is where the band saw would come in. I would buy the drop for a better price and then cut it to my liking back at the shop.

I guess one way to think about it is that once I buy one of those saws, then I always have it on hand and my convenience goes up. And I do like convenience. I remember spending around $300 for a full 115pc screw machine drill bit set and at first I thought I had lost my mind paying that amount for some drill bits, but then I saw how quickly I could just walk over to my set and pick out the exact bit I needed for a job and be done with it V.S. having to hop in the car and go to the hardware store. It would appear that peace of mind has a value all its own.
 

MrWhoopee

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#24
I have cut a little aluminum with an RAS. It's nerve wracking, loud and dangerous. The RPMs are way too high for cutting steel, even with carbide. Look at dry cut saws, which are intended for cutting metal.

https://www.northerntool.com/shop/tools/product_200641810_200641810

They only turn about 1400 rpm. Depending on your needs, a dry cut might serve you better than a bandsaw.
 
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Franko

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#25
I definitely would not recommend it. I tried a non-ferrous carbide blade on a 10 miter saw. It worked a few times. Then, when attempting to cut a section off a 2.5" aluminum rod, it grabbed and broke the miter saw in half. It sounded like an exploding bell and scared the crap out of me.

The problem as I diagnosed it was run out and side to side oscillation, and a even a cheap miter saw has way less than an expensive radial arm saw.

I have a good solid Powermatic table saw with almost no blade run out. I use a heavy duty slider with t-slots and clamp downs and the non-ferrous carbide blade cuts aluminum mirror smooth. I make sure as much of me as I can manage is off-line of the blade. I do that with wood, too. If I need to look closely at the cut, I do it from the side, never in line with the blade.
 

pontiac428

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#26
I think radial arm saws are the bee's knees for cutting extruded aluminum using a sensible wood cutting blade. I have no other use for mine, since I don't do wood work, and somehow it's still a fixture in my shop even after moving it a dozen or more times over the last 25 years. It's a machine with decent work holding, sharp cutting edges, and a controllable feed rate. I don't think there is any problem with using this tool for alloy. If I'm building things with lots of bevels, miters, or simply need a clean, square cut, it works a treat.
 

TonyRV2

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#27
Why screw around tempting fate? Like someone said before, sell the RAS and put the proceeds toward a metal cutting bandsaw. Consider for instance a used portaband and then mount it on a home made stand. There are a lot of youtubes showing how to do this. Or if your budget allows purchase a nice heavy duty table made just for portabands from SWAG. These are a bit pricey...$125 or so, but its the route I went because I just wasn't inclined or inspired enough to build one of my own.
 
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cg285

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#28
i like adrenaline. i chose to tempt fate. :)
 

pineyfolks

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#30
I still have and use a 7 1/4" worm drive skill saw that I converted to a chop saw with friction disks.. I mostly use it for cutting hss tool blanks but I have cut up to 1 1/4" key stock and square tubing.
 
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