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Question:

Hello, I was wondering if any company out there has a portable frame type thing to set up a small radial arm saw using a circular saw? It could possibly be made using a slide rail system like on router tables and table saws, perhaps? I'm too busy with other things to actually figure it all out, but have pondered on the idea for quite awhile now. Maybe I am crazy for thinking this, but it sure would beat toting a heavy radial all the time to just set up one cut from the circular saw and proceed. To raise/lower and set it just like a regular radial would be the ticket. Thanks for hearing me out.

A Highland subscriber,
Dave


Answer:

Dave,

Because a hand held circular saw is designed to be pushed by the operator, it is unlikely a jig or track exists that would let you mount the saw so you could pull it towards you like a radial arm saw typically operates. In order for a circular saw to behave like a radial arm saw in use, it would need to be in a very rigid structure and would still be illogical in my opinion for a device to turn a tool that is designed to be pushed in use, into a tool to be pulled as you cut (at least in a horizontal orientation).

Delta made a tools years ago called the "Sawbuck". It came with its own motor. It was a portable radial arm saw like tool. You might find one used. Click here for some images.

As you probably know, there are tracks systems and panel cutting systems that use a circular saw. Those devices let you push the saw forward, just like you would when using the circular saw on its own. Track/panel systems are essentially a guide rail for the saw to cut nice and straight lines on sheet stock. Moving the circular saw as you cut is easier than pushing a large sheet of plywood across a table saw. When I refer to "panel" saw, I am using the older definition of a saw that is "vertical" so you can slide in plywood sheets on edge into the unit (often mounted up against a wall). Most vertical panel saw frame systems let you mount the saw so it cuts from top to bottom, instead of bottom to top. You could say you are pulling the saw down or pulling it up, versus "pushing" the saw. Either way, you are still pushing the saw "forward" when cutting (and not "pulling" it at you as you would with a radial arm saw). Nowadays the name "panel" saw is also used to mean a "track" saw, which is used horizontally.

In general, radial arm saws have just about been replaced by sliding miter saws in the small shop. The sliding miter (and compound) are often very portable, accurate, and cut more safely than a radial arm saw, which can sometimes lurch at you as you pull the spinning blade towards you. The sliding miter (and the earlier "chop") saws have a safer mode of operating; pulling the saw out first, squeezing the trigger, chopping down and pushing the saw back towards the fence as you cut. Of course they cannot match the cut width capacity of a really large radial arm saw, but radial arm saws have never really been considered "portable" tools. You still see really large radial arm saws in use at lumber yards and home centers for cross cutting lumber. Those facilities would typically never turn a radial arm saw 90 degrees to make rip cuts. Their insurance carrier probably forbids ripping cuts on their radial arm saw. Home centers use a vertical panel saw to cut sheet stock.

For a track saw, Festool makes the best in our opinion (and the best sliding miter saw). You buy the saw and it comes with a guide rail, so it is a perfect fit since it is a system. There are after market rails you can get to then mount your own circular saw to a plate that runs on the rail. But they cannot match the accuracy, dust collection capability, quality and safety of a Festool circular saw cutting on its own guide rail.

This company makes a panel saw kit (and industrial panel saws).

Give some thought to your overall needs in how you need to cut the material you typically work with (and where). There could be a better solution than toting around a radial arm saw to a jobsite (if that is what you are doing). If you need to brainstorm about choices and solutions, don't hesitate to give us a call.

Regards,

Ed Scent
Highland Woodworking

 

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