Wednesday, May 24, 2017

Working with a Radial Arm Saw

First a confession:  My first real stationary power tool was a Radial Arm Saw, A 1965 Craftsman model... The kind that got recalled in the early 2000 for a safety hazard with the guard. Apparently you could cut yourself with it... Really!!
This was followed by a bandsaw and later a newer Unisaw.

Circa 90s. Me posing proudly with my first Unisaw, 
the old Craftsman RAS is in the background.

There was a wide range of models affected and the fix was ; Send us the old guard, will send you a new safer one, or in my older model case, send us the complete motor assembly, (the cutting head essentially) and we will send you $100... So you end up with a useless saw carriage and no working tool but with a US $100 check and they pay for the shipping. These carriage would then be destroyed upon receipt by them.
So I thought at the time, Nah, I'll keep risking my life every time I used it instead :-)

But what brought this question forward was one posed by Brian who was wondering how did the RAS worked in my work flow and was it still relevant in today's shop, basically.

My short answer is: Hell Yes!

Radial Arm Saw earned quickly a bad reputation as an unsafe tool, Dewalt forgo the RAS market, Craftsman got brought to court over it, etc.
So what made them so dangerous?? And why would anyone make and use them?

In one word the blade. Yeah really. Because the teeth are riding on top of the board instead of under, like on a tablesaw, it is very good at lurching forward suddenly (a climbing cut); either the saw carriage and blade (crosscut) or throwing out the board and pulling you into it (ripping).

Both aggressive tendencies can be somewhat tamed by using a different tooth geometry on the blade, with should essentially be a crosscut blade.
Similarly on a ripping blade, you would want a chip limiter design for increased safety, but really, RAS are better and safer at crosscutting and cutting dadoes.
The other part of making them safe is to keep control of the saw carriage everytime you turn it on and NEVER put your arms in front of the carriage travel. Yes, sometimes it means using your left hand to control the carriage.

In my power tool shop days, I often left the dado head set up on the RAS while leaving the tablesaw freed up for other cuts. I used a safety dado set with chip limiting tooth geometry.
When I did uses the RAS for initial rough cross cutting my pieces to sizes, I put on a Freud Thin Kerf with anti kickback shoulder design, a TK601 I believed. It made a huge difference in how much easier it was to control, not to mention leaving a nice cut line. Being a Thin Kerf blade it also provided some relief on the motor, which was getting a tad worn out... (slow to come up to speed)

The blade that came with my old RAS, it was a tad frightening to use...
Shown inside the packaging from its replacement, a freud TK

The TK blade from Freud I used in it

I have long been a fan of Freud saw blades, I find them to be high quality, and not too expensive, and besides they go regularly on sale at Canadian Tire and Busy Bee, so.... that is when I buy them :-)

Besides my blade for the RAS, I have both dedicated rip and crosscut blades for the Unisaw, including a special laminate blade, I bought for a previous job in the house.

Work flow using a RAS in the shop

Like I mentioned earlier, having both a tablesaw and a Radial Arm Saw, gives me the opportunity to leave the dado set on the RAS, freeing the hassle to changes blades on the tablesaw during a project.
There are of course limitations to cutting dadoes using such a RAS, up to about 14 in or so in length, but their positions can be on practically any length of work piece, limited only by your available workspace around it. I found that these limitations were never much of an issue in most of my work, and when I required longer dadoes, such as on cabinet sides, then I would switch over to the tablesaw. By being careful to plan ahead my cut sequences, I found that I could go on without the hassle of having to switch often.

Now a days most shops have replaced the RAS by a chop saw or sliding miter saw. In most case you loose some cross cut capacity, but more importantly for me, you loose on the dadoes capability.
In addition, a special class of RAS, with a rotating turret arm can really cross cut long angles, something not possible with a Sliding miter saw.
Delta and General still makes them.

In our base woodshop we have 2 Delta 12 in rotating turret RAS and one new Dewalt sliding compound miter saw. The RAS get used most often as the first tool to cut wood to a more manageable size before being feed thru the planers. As there is really no good reasons trying to managed feeding a 10, 12 ft long board into the planers, we have some capacity to do it, but it is not done very often.

In that shop, I rarely used the sliding compound miter saw, preferring the larger capacity  of the RAS.
In doing the joinery for my barrel stand, it was a lot faster, easier and yes safer, to cut the dadoes and rabbets. I simply used a temporary nailed length stop to cut the initial shoulders on all my pieces, then simply moved the piece in between free hand to make numerous saw kerfs in between.
It took me roughly one hour to sequence my cuts with my temporary stops and the resultant joinery being all lined up properly. Back home I simply used a chisel to clean up the ridges left.

One of the two rotating turret RAS in the wood shop

Resulting joinery. 
Imagine trying to do that on the Tablesaw with an 8 ft piece...

Doing the same on the tablesaw would have been  more problematic, manhandling an 8 ft long piece of 4X4 post. In this case it was a no brainer, the RAS won hands down...

What ever happened to my old RAS?
When I last moved from Greenwood NS to Ottawa Ontario in 2002, I left behind my large stationary power tools with a friend shop, awaiting to buy a place and subsequently moved them about a year later.

The old Gal sitting unused back in NS

Starting to load the machinery for their trip back to their new home in Ontario

All packed and ready to go...
Except I made a big mistake, I did not secured correctly the arm on the RAS.

Having failed to correctly secured or immobilized the arm, its locking pin at the back of the arm broke in transport :-(
It has been sitting idle ever since. I moved it along two more postings, back here intending to get around to it and fixed it .. one day... but that day never happened and it just sat taking up valuable space in my overcrowded garage. So this year it went out with the big Spring clean up garbage pick up. Someone picked it up on the side of the road before garbage day, so it may still live to cut more wood...

Rudy pondering on the loss of the Radial Arm Saw...


So there you have it Brian, hope it answers your questions. Yes RAS are still relevant in today's shop, but strongly recommended to put in a proper chip limiter blade, much much safer that way...

Bob, who still has 10 fingers and two arms despite risking his life with my recalled Craftsman RAS for years :-)

Monday, May 22, 2017

Barrel stand Day 4


Day 4 started with me turning the furnace back on this morning... it's a tad cold.
We were supposed to go back to the nursery this morning, but we waited for the temps to go up a bit.
Apparently I have money burning my pocket so we have to go spend it on flowers... Huh, no tools? :-)
Our flower production won't be enough for this year so we will supplement it for faster results :-)

Well there goes my pocket money for this long week end 
yard sales looking for tools :-)

For various sundries reasons, I could not get to work on it until supper time, for which I was I/C of BBQ. So how long should it take me to slap a couple of side frames together while I wait for the BBQ to warm up? And should I bother to change before working on it, since it could get dirty? Nah!

Good reasoning except that I was kinda rushed and the darn construction glue really oozed out and there was some on the grass, and I leaned over to inspect one of my corner assembly joint, and.... that's how I ruined yet, another pair of pants... Dear, I swear! :-) (Heather would be so pissed at me right now :-)

Assembly was straight forward, just a bunch of dadoes and half lap joinery.
I used construction adhesive and lag bolts with washer, should be plenty strong.
As usual I don't really have any plans to go on, I am just winging it as I go...

First mistake: Fail to ensure correct orientation of joinery in corner post.
Oups, had to disassemble and turn post around after I try to lined up all four before proceeding....

After supper: We had a birthday girl, so Jean bake a cake and Rudy grab the first paw, it was too close to the counter edge and two change of clothes later, this is were I am now... (short version of the afternoon :-)


Once the frame was assembled, time to work on the top of the platform
The top would be done with 5/4 decking boards, should be plenty strong
with an additional cross member in the middle.

Mocking up the top with two planks of decking

My corner post is too long, but I do not know the proper length yet, I have Min-Max height restrictions for the automatic drip system operation. Once my stand is finished and the barrel in place, at the proper location, I would know.

Now, you may be wondering why I set such a rain barrel far away from any gutters, and besides, I did set up a watering point feed from the house nearby... but... There is a reason for my apparent madness, as there is ...usually  :-)
One of the four post is set higher in order to attach the solar powered irrigation unit and to hold a hose hanging fixture she had.

I will have to fill up the barrel with tap water, but perhaps the rains will keep it up?? Well, will see... If not no biggie, I have a water point nearby for refill.
There is a water level sensor with the irrigation kit, so should be no problems

While I was at it, I wanted to install a tap on the barrel, to fill watering cans. There was a bottom drain line with valve, but I prefer to have a tap higher up for filing up water cans.  Even if using tap water in the barrel, said water will still be gentle on the plants, untreated, it is from my private well, and Heather's African Violets loved that water.

I did not got to it, was a tad busy :-)

While I was working on that infamous Rain Barrel Stand, Jean kept on cleaning up flower beds. We should be ready to move some of the bulbs flowers from our gardens to them shortly plus the new flowers we (?) are getting

Should be on track to finish this ONE DAY project in a few days :-)

Next up is the gardening tool station set up on another 4X4 PT post. Another ONE day project ?  Probably.  Heck I got the post already done... :-)

Bob, who is now the proud owner of yet another pair of fancy work pants :-)

Sunday, May 21, 2017

Barrel stand Day 3


It was definitely cooler last nite, not sure if we went down below 6C but the house was definitively cooler this AM, down to 67F. Furnace has been off for a few days, bonus.

Started our day early to clean up the front flower bed, we were suppose to go to Valley Raceway opening today with the daughter and grand kids, but that did not happened.

Teamwork :-)

Did a few tulip transplants, found around the yard

We did also managed to transplant a few trees from around my property, one of them a single Silver Birch for Heather, when this tree shows signs that it is going to make it, I would be able to cut the one by the deck at peace with myself,. Probably next year...



By the time noonish rolled around we were both dead tired
We took a good 2 hours nap with Rudy and went back to work: Her with more cleaning of flower gardens , me I went to the base wood shop to start the joinery on the barrel stand..YES, I actually cut some wood today...good progress on day 3 :-)

Setting up my length stop for repetitive saw cuts or kerfs 

Ensuring all pieces were cut at same locations.
I cleaned up the saw kerfs back home

After 1-1/2 hour, including clean up, this is what I got.
some clean up and assembly required and voila...!!!

Back home, after Rudy settled down, he is always so excited when I get home :-) Started to cleaned up the joinery I did with the Radial Arm Saw.



Once that done, I slapped on some end cut preservative on all my cuts.  Should be dry enough for tomorrow to start assembly


And that is about all we got done today.... progress, slow steady progress.
I'm happy, tired and need a cold one... And where is my Voltaren, Babe?

Tomorrow on Day Four I should have a carcasse assembled and who know, maybe even a completed project??
Stay tuned ... :-)


Bob, riding off in the sunset with Rudy, time to go sip a cold one, or two


Saturday, May 20, 2017

Rain barrel project... Day 2

Day two started by a quick run to the nursery with the grand peanuts to go get some tomatoes plants.

We put the netting on the trellis then as Jean planted the tomatoes, I started to cut a trench to bury the water hose to my water point so I could mow the grass without having to moved it every time. Both operation were helped with the grand kids and Rudy...humm, took somehow longer than expected :-)

Trellis netting installed, tomatoes plants, cucumbers plants
 and pepper bell plants in, next is staking 

Trench dug for the garden hose

Came across the power line going to the shed.
Glad to see they used the proper cabling

Buried and cleaned up

Their mother came to picked up the kids and after lunch here they all went swimming with grandma on the base. I stayed behind so I could get some work done on the "one day" platform :-)

But first a nap... :-)

Next another trip to the nursery stores, following our discussions about the grand plan, we decided on a partial privacy wall, made of trees and plants... need more ornamental trees... off to the nursery we go with Rudy

7 in total, will no doubt need more but it will do for now...

Our grand plan is just that...grand :-)
Hence why we are doing it in phases, this year being establishing a garden area to produce plants and veggies.

In the coming months I will terrasse the sitting area and that will help define the location of the Fire & Water area. Once these fall into place the remainder becomes easier to locate.

So after all that, we were both tired, it is amazing how much energy the little ones can zap from you :-)
Some of the front flower bed got started, clean up, the privacy wall planted,
the water line buried, solar lights put up and all the veggies planters got protection from the frost...

FROST?? Yes, they forecasted a frost warning for tonite...after three days reaching low 30s.???
WTF??%?$@# OK, so all the beds got their required protection from the frost. Still can't believed it, but, mother nature does what she wants.
Welcome to Canada, if you don't like the weather? Just wait 5 minutes, it will changed :-)

Rudy pointing to a squirrel. I see him Dad let me go...

The 4X4 got its greenhouse cover and the treillis one got 
various sizes cloches to protect the plants

The Veg-Trug get its greenhouse cover

Rudy and I thought that was enough for the day, so time for a cold one 


Oh, and the rain barrel stand project you ask? Oh I thought about it alright, Ralph estimate got me to do a double take, and rethink my bright plans :-)
But then realized that, hum, I think I was correct in my guesstimate, so plan C can proceed... Another day

There is always another day in retirement...

OK, I see that squirrel again Dad, let me go...

Bob, slapping on the Voltaren and sipping a cold one :-)

Friday, May 19, 2017

The rain barrel platform... in a day...

Today is another scorcher of a day, 37.5 by 1100 this AM... but at least there is a breeze keeping the damn little flyers out of the circuit... less bites that way :-)

As I said earlier, said platform must be sturdy to resist the load of a full 50 US gallons of water (pretty heavy) and not be rickety to tip the barrel (would be dangerous). That means, overbuilding is of the rigueur , or simply put, Par for me :-)

This should be an easy one day project... :-)
First thing was to figured out the optimum height. Guesstimating 16 in high
Rounding up my limited stash of PT lumber we have...

Enough 4X4 but not enough 2X4 and decking..

So after some mental exercise, I put some ideas to paper and quickly concluded that I need more stuff...
Off to the local lumber yard to get it before it close by 1700. Yes it has taken me that long to get there: Rudy to the vet first thing this AM, one trip to bring Jean her purse that she forgot, another trip to the stores and checked the mail which resulted in one more errand, filed the trailer with soil, plant some more seed as we planned last nite and etc etc... Oh and did I mentioned that it is hot today? Well another winter's day in Ken's corner of the world but, for here... :-)

So near the end of day one we have...

Oh right, safety first people...

These nails and staples have to go, and I need another beer...

By then Jean was back home with a tree and the grandkids, so time for a break and a tree to plant... So end of day one :-)


Tree planted, Meadow giving it its first drink

We also planted some flowers around it

It is an ornamental tree, Susan Magnolia.
It represent the beginning of our lives together, sort of my life V2.0


We will also plant a Silver Birch in Heather memory nearby. So I can cut down the one by the house to build a bigger deck. I have long debated to cut or not to cut this tree, Heather wanted to save it, build around it she said, but Id rather not.

As you can see that tree had a hard life, 
which probably is what made Heather its protector..

During the Snow armagideon of 2015,  she was worried about the birds not being able to forage for food. So I had to clear a path to the bird feeder to replenish it throughout the whole winter :-)

Finally, a good friend of Heather and I, David Morris, talked me into cutting it down and plant another one in her memory.  Good idea, dilemma solved! Thanks David :-)

Bob, who gave Rudy a bath with his new special shampoo. Dry skin conditions, too hot and numerous insects bites. Thank you Bailey's skin rescue, that stuff works miracle on his skin...