Saying Goodbye

A short time ago I was talking with a friend about radial arm saws. We each had an old Craftsman saw and marveled at its versatility. Besides being able to make com-pound cuts, it could be used with a dado blade, a molding cutter, a sanding drum, a carbide sanding disk and likely many other attachments. It really was an all-in-one tool. The only thing it couldn’t do was hold a 90o angle for more than 5 minutes. Even so, along with a small jointer, a drill press, a router and a few hand held power tools, we agreed we could take care of all the necessary repairs around the house. And if pressed, we could even make some furniture. Things were simpler back then.

Soon after this conversation, someone at a workshop told me about a recall on Craftsman radial arm saws sold in the 60s and 70s. Apparently, the saws were considered so dangerous the manufacturer was offering a $100 payment to disable the saw by sending them the motor, and they would even provide the box and pay for shipping. I was amazed that, after nearly 50 years of use, someone would give me half what I originally paid for it, and even more amazed it was deemed such a liability. After all, I used it enough to practically wear it out and was still able to count to ten on my fingers.

When I got home and blew off the sawdust, I wrote down the serial number, plugged it into the recall web site, and bingo, they said they wanted my saw. I was happy to be included in the recall, but not yet ready to part with it, so the matter was put on hold for a while. The recall, it seems, had been going on for at least 10 years and thus wasn’t likely to end any time soon. And besides, procrastination is in my nature.

Over the next few months I thought about whether or not I was ready to trade my radial arm saw for something more 21st century. My dilemma ended one day in a big box store when I saw this yellow carton with a 12” double bevel sliding compound miter saw I had been eyeballing for at least a couple of years. The price was right and I couldn’t resist.

Given the limited size of my shop, procrastination was no longer an option. Now came the hard part. It wasn’t so much the physical task of exchanging the new saw for the old one, but rather like the emotional experience of parting with an old friend. It didn’t take much for the memories to surface, like the time I used it to make a ladder climber for my daughter’s nursery school. Ripping a 2” thick hard ma-ple plank into 2”x4”s with the basement smoke detectors sounding is not easily for gotten.

Finally, the box arrived and I wondered one last time if I could find a spot for this, the oldest of all my tools. Not an option. The wires were cut and into the box it went, packed with care in a bed of crumpled up newspapers for protection on its final journey. As much as I like acquiring new tools, and at the risk of sounding sentimental, I couldn’t help but think of this as the end of an era.

David Sumberg