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The History Behind DeWalt and Skil Radial Arm Saws and Classic Tools
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Radial Arm Saw development at DeWalt Shop The original radial arm saws from DeWalt were designed by Tom Kernan around 1925, some of which are still around today.

A while back in the Woodworker’s Journal eZine, editor Rob Johnstone reminisced about a frighteningly big ol’ radial arm saw back in his dad’s shop.

We were particularly pleased with the reminiscences two of our readers shared in response and their close connections with men who didn’t just use some of the classic tools of the 20th century — they invented them.

The dad of Mike Schuler of Champaign, Illinois, John Schuler, “was head of purchasing for Skil for 25 years after World War II. His good friend, [Bill] Topolinski, an executive vice president, bought the rights to the radial arm saw from Skil and left the company to produce them on his own. My dad came with him.”

The large RAS, known as the Topp Saw, had its good points, but Mike said its downfall was its configuration as a back arm saw: “The power head was mounted to the end of a substantial arm. Thus the bearing assembly was fixed at the top of the post. The logistical problem is that the saw cannot be positioned with its back right up against a wall; it needs room behind the bearing assembly and post for the entire arm/head assembly to retreat in the ready position before a cut. Depending on the size of the model, this was as much as 36"!

Tom Kernan, Sr. of Lakeland, Florida went even further back in time in his tool recollections. His dad, also Tom Kernan, designed DeWalt’s first radial arm saw around 1925. Tom still has the third one of these saws made.

posted on October 1, 2009 by Joanna Takes
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5 thoughts on “The History Behind DeWalt and Skil Radial Arm Saws and Classic Tools”

  • Tom Kernan Sr 4th
    Tom Kernan Sr 4th January 19, 2013 at 10:58 am

    I'm Tom Kernan Sr 4th I just saw the add in of my dad and the Dewalt Radial Arm saw The picture is the shop where they first started. The man standing on the right at the saw is my dad Tom Kernan 3rd I'm Tom Kernan Sr 4th I Tom Kernan 5th has the saw now and still works I used the saw for a number of yrs after Dad died and it still works both my sons Tom & Tony worked on the saw. my
    e mail is tbksr4@yahoo.com Tom Kernan Sr 4th

  • Douglas Roger Dexheimer
    Douglas Roger Dexheimer April 18, 2014 at 7:04 am

    I appreciate the background information on the invention of the Radial Arm Saw. However, I am not familiar with the term: "Back arm saw", and went looking for a picture of this variety. No show so far.
    Please describe the Back Arm Saw in detail, with photos if possible, so I can understand the problem mounting it near a wall.

  • John Johnston
    John Johnston July 5, 2014 at 3:13 pm

    I recently acquired the DeWalt radio arm saw motor number 1913, all the research I've done so far shows me the saw to be made in 1925. After a little finessing it runs great. it will just take some time to stop but it
    still cuts great. It's something my father would've Been proud to own. I'm curious as to how many there might be in good running condition ,I would like to know more about it .was it the 19 hundred and 13th made?Do the numbers run in sequence and for insurance purposes I would like to find out the value of such a saw. It is truly a piece of art

  • Melissa Smith
    Melissa Smith July 11, 2015 at 1:06 pm

    what would it be worth, if someone has one of the saws in the picture?

  • Dennis

    RE: Dewalt 7790 Type 6 radial arm saw

    I own a 12” Dewalt 7790 Type 6 radial arm saw that I have not used for several years. I started using it again recently and it was running fine for a while but lately started shutting itself off on overload. The amp meter was all over the place when I tried to check the starting and running amps. I went to a shop and had the capacitor and the overload checked and they are okay. In fact I had a new capacitor on hand so I replaced the old one anyway but it is still acting the same.

    Would anyone know where I can get the information on what the windings resistances are so I that can ascertain that they are okay and are not shorted or leaking current? Also, is there a place I can purchase a new motor if I need one and will be worth the trouble buying a motor rather than buying a new saw?

    The saw has 3.5HP motor, 120/208-240V, 17/8.5A, 3450RPM, 86531-59 Winding, 86532-00 Motor No., 52170196 Serial No., 250 Frame, 60 CY, CLASS B, Duty INT.
    I would appreciate someone’s help. Thank you.

    My email is: ddkswk@netscape.net


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