I just fired up an old (1965) Delta radial arm saw to use for rough cutting stock to length. I admittedly have rarely had the opportunity to use a RAS in the past, so this seems like a real basic question. If I pull the blade through the stock, it wants to climb and bind (or maybe bind, then climb) in the stock. Pushing cuts nice, but loading the stock is a pain. What's the correct approach? The blade is a basic combination blade. Will a better blade function better?
From contributor F:
I have never gone for the "push the saw through the board towards the fence" approach, but I know it works well and some guys swear by it. A sharp blade will definitely help a lot. Also, since you are new to the saw, it will take some time to get used to how hard to pull the saw to avoid climbing.
I have a very heavy old Dewalt 14" and like you, I use it strictly for rough crosscut. The heaviness of the saw makes it less prone to climbing. One thing I always do to set up a radial arm saw that helps prevent climbing and also makes the saw safer is attach a weight to the saw carriage. I am always nervous that a radial arm saw will creep forward and try to trim my fingernails, so I take something heavy like an old sash weight or two and attach it to a steel cable. I run the cable up the wall behind the saw and through a pulley attached to the wall at the right spot and then fasten to the back of the saw carriage. This arrangement makes it harder to pull the saw forward, thereby reducing the tendency to climb, and then the weight makes it easier to push the saw back behind the fence after the cut.
Comment from contributor D:
There is only one really safe way to cross cut on a RAS - by putting the stock against the fence and then pulling the yoke and blade towards you. This is, technically, a climb cut since you're feeding the blade to the stock in the same direction the blade is rotating. Yes, the blade can "climb" into the stock and the motor can jerk towards the operator. However, that's why you should pull the yoke through the stock with a bit of a "stiff arm" (so to speak), to minimize motor movement should this happen.
In my opinion one should never use a pushing movement back through the stock and against the direction of blade rotation. There are two important safety reasons for this. First, the blade will tend to lift the front of the stock off the table and possibly throwing it into the blade. Second, if the blade hits a hard spot in the wood it can kick back powerfully and suddenly push the motor back at the operator. Both these dangers far, far outweigh the rare possibility of the blade "climbing" through the wood on a normal pull-cut. Further, if on a normal cut the blade does try to climb it forces the yoke upwards against the radial arm which in most instances will stall the blade before if moves very far towards the operator.
I've used a 10" Craftsman cast iron RAS for over 30 years and only had one or two instances where the yoke tried to "climb" - and neither was too harrowing. The key to any RAS is ensuring it's accurately set up in the first place, and regularly checked. This will, in nearly all cases, ensure the saw can be used safely and accurately.