During a recent visit to DeWalt’s UK website I stumbled across a type of tool that the company hasn’t sold here for 25 years.
I’m talking about the radial arm saw (RAS), a machine that was once synonymous with the DeWalt brand (Raymond De Walt invented it in 1922). You used to see these machines at every lumber yard and on most large jobsites. How they came to be nearly extinct in this country is an interesting story.
Black & Decker (now part of Stanley Black & Decker) bought DeWalt in 1960 and operated the company until 1989, when they sold off the saw designs but kept the name. It was a good time to get out because it was around this time when Hitachi introduced the first sliding compound miter saw, which due to its great portability quickly destroyed the market for small radial arm saws. The company that bought the designs failed and the designs were picked up by the Original Saw Company (which continues to make radial arm saws). The 14-inch machine on the UK website greatly resembles the saws DeWalt used to sell here.
So how did today’s DeWalt — which sells almost every tool except radial arm saws — come about? Well, it happened like this: In the early 1990s Black & Decker was having trouble because they’d been putting the B&D label on too many different grades of tools. Their pro-grade models (B&D industrial and B&D Professional) were excellent (I still own some) but were not selling because people associated them with the cheap DIY tools the company made at the time. To counter this, B&D relaunched their pro-grade tools under the DeWalt label. To this day, the company goes to great pains to keep their brands separate, with DeWalt being aimed at pros, Black & Decker at DIYers, and Porter-Cable (which B&D acquired in 2004) at hobbyists, woodworkers, and budget-minded tradesmen.
There is a great deal of enthusiasm for DeWalt radial arm saws among people who buy, restore, and use old machines. The photos in the slideshow below are from the vintagemachinery.org website – which if you like old machinery is well worth a visit.