I've been looking at radial arm saws from Delta, specifically the 10" model, for the purpose of keeping a dado on for cutting dados for bookshelves and furniture work. I was wondering how safe ripping and running grooves with a radial arm saw is, and why I can only find them from Delta - has some other method of crosscutting or mitering wide boards and running dados the short length of long boards phased it out? For the work I've done in the past, I usually set a fence on the piece and run the router, but against grain cuts are messy and moving the fence every cut is too time consuming.
From contributor P:
For many years, my only power tool was a mid '50's vintage Dewalt radial arm saw. While that's thankfully in the past, I remember that running dados crossgrain was easier on that saw than with any other method. That said, I feel that ripping or plowing grooves in rip mode is more dangerous than any other method. The consequences from a kickback are not worth it, believe me. I have a friend who is lucky to have his hand from such an accident. A tablesaw is the way to do those cuts. It's much safer, and the depth of cut is easier to control. For simple crosscuts or miter work, many shops now use sliding compound miter saws, although you're limited to around 12" capacity. Radial arm saws are still available for those who want them. Try Dewalt, the Original Saw Company, and Maggi, in addition to Delta. We have a large Wadkin in my shop now, but use it solely for crosscutting rough lumber before running it through the other machines.
There is a company called Saw Trax that have some affordable machines that may be better suited for what you want to do. Either their panel saw with a router insert or their floating panel router coupled with a quality straight router bit should be much better than a radial arm saw for running dadoes.
As posted above, ripping is dangerous. I was told by my uncle that when he was ripping, it pulled the board up under the blade, sending it through the wall. The real bad thing was that it warped the arm on his saw, and from that day on, his massive old Dewalt was nothing more than a sawmill.
I don't really baby my Maggi, but I treat it with respect because it's probably the most dangerous saw ever invented. I think with a smaller saw you could flip over the base cabinet sides and it would be close enough for dadoing, it's just a lot more work flipping over a piece of wood to finish the cut. I use my RAS for many things, but I hate changing blades, so I have a separate table saw with a dado blade on it. Look on E-bay for a radial arm saw. Large 3 phase are cheaper than a new 10'' Delta, and you can get a saw that will cross cut your dadoes in the base cabinets. Some people only put a 1/2 shelve in their bases anyway, and by the way, my Maggi has an adjustment for every way you could imagine, so it can be fine tuned to be accurate as needed.