Friday, November 13, 2009

Radial Arm Saw Recall Results

A little while back I had posted about my free radial arm saw here:

It was a great deal and I was *very* happy to get it. Then a couple weeks later I found the Radial Arm Saw Recall website. It seems that Emerson is recalling a whole bunch of the saws they made for Sears under the Craftsman badge. The safety gear originally offered was inadequate. In fact, I have seen very few saws with the guards actually still in place. (The same goes for most table saws, unfortunately.) See the original saw photos at the above link if you wish to compare.

Emerson did this, " In cooperation with the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC)." I suspect it was less in cooperation with and more under threat from. But who am I to argue? Emerson committed to retrofitting some 3.7 *million* saws. That's a lot of recall and a lot of cost. Especially when you see what they provided.

I signed up online at the above website and thought I'd get some silly guard thing that I'd hate. I was absolutely wrong. A HUGE box appeared at my home a week or two later. I hauled it into the garage and left it for a week, while life got in the way. When I was finally able to open it I was shocked to find:
  • New blade guard - This Rube Goldberg contraption looked horribly complex. I figured I'd hate it.
  • New tables - Brand new MDF table surfaces. Everything but the fence (which is a consumable anyway.)
  • New table support wings
  • New table clamps
  • Set screw system for the center of the table to prevent sag
  • Dust deflector
  • New handle
  • Accessory guard - For use with dado blades or molding cutters.
Wow. A LOT of stuff. And none of it appears cheaply made. Except for the table which is drilled for several models, the whole thing appeared to be made specifically for *my* saw.

Installation was less challenging than I thought it would be.

I ripped my old table out and chucked it. I suspect it was the original particle board table from when the thing was sold 20-ish years ago. Buh-bye! I pulled the original table support wings off, saving the hardware and original clamps, and fastened the new ones on. Spent a little time dialing in the height per the instructions that came with the kit. Easy.

I installed the new table using the original hardware. The kit also described a T-nut and set screw for the center of the table, but only the T-nut was found. The screw was MIA. It's a standard size so I'll pick one up at Ace Hardware next chance I get.

I then attached the adapter for the guard. The adapter bolts to the motor housing and provides a more secure place for the guard to attach. It keeps the guard from moving as my original one was prone to.

A note about the new guard: It includes a riving knife! HOORAY! That is the one thing that has had me looking into replacing my beautiful Rockwell with something newer. The safety provided by a riving knife is huge when ripping. It prevents the wood from pinching at the back side of the blade, causing the blade to grab the wood and send it flying from the 3200 rpm spin. Also, the pawls are much improved. They don't appear to get in the way as easily as many I've seen, plus can be easily lifted out of the way for jobs where they just interfere. While leaving the riving knife in place!

Once the guard was on, I attached the rubber elbow to the dust port. It allows me to redirect the stream of dust away from me while cutting. While I can attach my shop vac to the port on both guards, for a quick cut that would be way more trouble than it was worth. Plus on the original guard the port faced me. So I either had a blast of dust and air, or I had a big hose in my face. Neither encourages comfortable operation.

After aligning the riving knife to the blade per the included instructions, I swapped handles. I've got to say that the old one was more comfortable. It had a better ergonomic design. But the new one had something the old one didn't. A lever to raise the guard. Such a simple yet useful feature! No depending on pressure against the wood stock to raise the guard. No needing 3 hands: One to raise the guard, one to hold the stock, and one to push the handle. Sweet.

I do have a problem though. The instructions said to re-use the bevel indicator and screw on the new handle. The hole is drilled too big for that. The screw doesn't seat properly. A larger screw will solve it, but I wish the instructions said so...

Everything assembled and dialed in and I'm a happy camper. It's much safer to use this tool now, and I'm more confident in its use. Now to see if it replaces my table saw as my go-to cutter. I've never ripped on a RAS before so I don't know how well that will work for me...