Tool Test: Sliding Compound Miter Saws, continued
Fence: Upper segments of the one-piece fence slide back for compound bevel cutting. Not truly square to the table; however, the deviance is small and unlikely to affect most cuts. Scales: Bold, high-contrast markings and clear lines of sight on the miter gauge; bevel scale is mounted at a forward angle and is easy to read. Blade Change: Awkward. The blade wrench stores on the tool. Detents: A miter detent override allows use of a micro-fine adjustment dial. A full range of bevel detents provides quick cut setups for both 38- and 45-degree springing crown. The bevel over-ride knob is slick. Depth Stop: A clever split jam-nut device allows rapid depth-of-cut adjustments for dadoing or kerfing. But if you forget to set the backup stop nuts, it can slip its grip and you could easily ruin an expensive piece of wood. Guard: The blade guard has a pair of wheels at the tip, designed to roll over the stock when slide-cutting. I've had trouble with the wheels hanging in deeply contoured crown, though, especially when taking another hair off the end of a board. DeWalt uses the same device. A larger diameter wheel would probably fix the problem. Controls: The overall layout of this saw is great, with nearly all adjustments, including bevel angle, made right up front. The handle rotates and can be adjusted to four positions, and has two trigger locks for left- or right-handed convenience. Comments: An on-board tool kit for making simple setup adjustments is mounted under a cover at the back of the saw.
Fence: One-piece, 4 1/2 inches high, left and right. Top sections slide for beveling. Not precisely 90 degrees to the table. Scales: Boldly marked and well placed for both miters and bevel settings. Blade Change: Awkward. Wrench stores on tool. Detents: Excellent for cutting crown on the flat. Miter settings are positive but easy to override when desired. Bevel settings in particular are easily made. Depth Stop: Firm. Flips out of the way when not in use. Guard: Works well, but guide wheel occasionally hangs on complex molding profiles. Controls: Front-mounted controls and a four-position adjustable trigger handle make this saw exceptionally functional. Comments: The designers clearly paid careful attention to how these tools are used in the real world. The only thing lacking is a laser — but, other than that, this saw's got it covered.
Fence: The one-piece casting won't go out of alignment, but its 1 3/4-inch height makes an auxiliary wood fence a must for nested cuts. Holes are provided for screw attachment. Scales: Visibility and legibility take a back seat as soon as you try the miter adjustment. It's stiff and ratchety, bumping along in fits and starts. There's no mechanism for locking in settings. The squeeze-and-release mechanism holds feebly; a mild nudge knocks the miter table out of position. Blade Change: Average. Blade wrench stores on board. Detents: More miter detents than you can shake a stick at, none of them firm. All positions are equally fussy to set, in or out of detent. There are no bevel detents. Depth Stop: Basic screw-set, but firm, no springiness. Guard: Does what a good guard should, no more, no less. Controls: D-handle, no safety on trigger. Comments: This saw is left-bevel only. The plastic base allows the table to wiggle independently, leading me to doubt its durability. The slide tubes are extremely stiff and operate with a peculiar grinding sound and feel. Like its predecessor, the Sawbuck, the Sidekick is not ready for prime time.
Fence: One-piece casting eliminates alignment problems, and the fence is precisely square to the table. The fence measures 4 1/2 inches high, left and right; both slide back to accommodate bevel cuts. Scales: Large, high-contrast miter markings aid visibility. But until the saw is heeled over to about 15 degrees, the bevel gauge is obscured by the saw body. Blade Change: Average. Tool stores on board. Detents: Aggressive detents make it difficult to lock in fractionally off the setting. Bevel stop releases with a convenient push-button. Requires a wrench to reset bevel limit to 47 degrees. Depth Stop: Large, accessible adjusting knob, firm setting, flips out of the way for full-depth cuts. Guard: Employs small guide wheels that can hang up on complex molding profile, as on the Bosch saws. The guard has open perforations along its front edge for viewing the blade even after the guard becomes coated with dust and resin. Controls: Squeeze-to-release, press-to-lock miter control is comfortable and intuitive. The saw starts without jerking. The D-handle gives equal access to north- and southpaws. Comments: Slide action and table rotation are smooth, but the return spring is too heavy-duty for my taste, with an aggressive lift that's tiring to suppress. Overall, a ruggedly made tool.
Fence: A tall fence adapter, handy for cutting nested crown molding, slides out of the way for left bevel layover. The fence is a one-piece casting, and is truly square to the table. Scales: The engraved stainless-steel scale is highly readable. Blade Change: Awkward. Combi-wrench stores conveniently on tool. Detents: The miter detents are solid, but it's difficult to tweak slightly off-detent settings. And the miter scale is too easily obscured by the work piece. There are two bevel detents at the rear of the saw, including a 33.85-degree crown setting and a 45-degree stop. There's also an override to allow bevels up to 48 degrees. Bosch and Ridgid saws also have this feature. Depth Stop: A handy flip-stop allows you to set a dado depth, then flip it out of the way for through-cutting. Guard: DeWalt guards are better than most. A series of open slots in the front edge provide a blade sight, even after the guard becomes coated. Controls: The D-handle and wide trigger are intuitive and comfortable, although some people just can't get used to a horizontal grip. Comments: Like its big brother, the 708, this saw has a heavy-duty return spring that's hard on the arm. The blade wrench stows conveniently on-board. At a 45/45 right compound bevel setting, the blade guard mechanism hits the upper left fence which can be removed with a Philips screwdriver.
Fence: The two-piece fence is a meager 1 3/4 inches high, left and right, making nested crown cuts virtually impossible. And, unlike other saws, there are no readily accessible holes for attaching an auxiliary wood fence. Scales: The miter scale is poor. Not only are the cast markers painted the same color as the base and therefore difficult to see, but they're dominated by a confusing 10-ratio layout, presumably for cutting rake angles under the metric system but useless to most U.S. users. The bevel scale also fades under the same single-color scheme and is difficult to view without contorting your neck. Blade Change: Average. An on-tool mount for the included T-wrench would be nice. Detents: The spring-mounted ball-bearing miter detents are easy to use and to lock in just off the mark. Rear bevel stops and up-front miter detents are good functional features. Depth Stop: A basic bolt and stop-nut arrangement, but it shortens the chop accurately without flexing. Guard: Retracts smoothly. Controls: An effective, low-tech twist-lock handle. The safety trigger is well placed, unless you're left-handed. Comments: In general, visibility seems to be compromised on all single-bevel miter saws; it's really hard to get a good eye on your cut-line. I'd rather spend the extra money for a left and right bevel and better line of sight.
Fence: The left-hand section of the two-piece fence flips out of the way for bevel cuts. Its 3 1/2-inch height provides good backup for nested crown cuts. The right fence is only 1 1/4 inch high, but has mounting holes for a supplemental wood fence. Fence is absolutely square to the table. Scales: The miter scale is on a riveted steel plate, and is more visible than the cast aluminum scale on the 8 1/2-inch Hitachi. The additional decimal scale is of little use. You have to lean in over the tool to read the bevel scale which is mounted at 90 degrees to the user. Blade Change: The arbor cover plate removes easily because the blade guard mechanism attaches on the other side of the housing. Hitachi should provide on-board storage for its ergonomically friendly T-wrench. Detents: The bevel release is effective, but a stretch to reach. Bevel detents require manual depression of the stop pin. Miter detents are gentle but effective and easy to override when needed. Beveling beyond 45 degrees requires a wrench to reset the stops. A detent with an override would help. Depth Stop: The depth stop is firm, but doesn't flip out of the way. Guard: Vision slots in the blade guard, while a good idea, are not as well-placed as those in the DeWalt and Ridgid saws. Controls: Trigger lock favors right-handed use. Familiar vertical handle. Comments: The adjustable laser can be fine-tuned to exactly reference the edge of the blade and can be shut off when not wanted. A clever retractable guard provides backup support for small workpieces, preventing them from being grabbed by the rotating blade. The saw's light weight and compact footprint enhance its portability.
Fence: Two-piece. A low 2 3/4 inches on the left and 1 3/16 on the right is convenient for bevel cutting, but requires an auxiliary fence for nested crown cuts. A useful guard slides forward behind the blade for small-piece support. Perfect 90-degree accuracy to the table. Scales: A contrasting color on the cast-in miter scale would improve visibility. A useless decimal scale confuses settings. Blade Change: Average. No place to stow the wrench. Detents: Miter detents include one at 7/10, for what it's worth. There's one at 15 degrees, but no number to register it by. Depth Stop: Effective and firm. A knuckle-buster to set. Can't be flipped out of the way. Guard: Good action. Controls: The right-thumb trigger lock should be redesigned for equal left-handed use. Comments: This saw starts smoothly and cuts well but doesn't show the kind of improvements made to the C10FSH. The return spring action is comfortable.
Fence: One-piece fence has an alpine profile that peaks at a lofty 4 1/2 inches on the left, dropping to 1 3/16 on the right. A left fence segment flips over for bevel cuts. True 90 degrees to table. Scales: Good, readable miter scale; the bevel scale slightly less so. Blade Change: Average. Wrench stores on board. Detents: Miter detents are tweak-friendly. Other saws have a crown detent at 31.6 degrees; Makita's is at 30 degrees. Bevel detents are limited to 0 and 45 degrees. Depth Stop: Not firm enough, but does flip out of the way. Requires a light touch when dadoing. Guard: Good clearance and action. Controls: Big trigger and top-mounted lock are ergonomically placed. Comments: Better features and capacity than the LS1013. Has nice return spring and smooth slide action. Quiet and light in weight for its size.
Fence: One-piece fence is accurately square to the table. A versatile extension on the left fence supports wide nested crown and flips out of the way for bevel cuts. Mounting holes provided for a wood auxiliary to the maximum 3 3/16-inch staggered fence height. Scales: The miter scale is oddly placed to the right of the blade, difficult to view, and disappears under the board being cut. Blade Change: Awkward. Wrench stores on the saw. Detents: The lack of crown bevel detents is a detriment to this saw. But the miter detents are excellent and easy to tweak by a half degree. Depth Stop: Firm; flips out of the way. Guard: Moves smoothly. Controls: The slide lock is conveniently installed as an outer ring on the miter handle. The handle locks and releases with a twist, and the table turns smoothly. The top-mounted trigger lock release is convenient for right- and left-handed users. Comments: Instead of the torsion spring used on all the other saws, Makita uses a compression spring for the chop return. The action is positive and gentle. The direct-drive motor is mounted at an acute angle to the blade, providing good table clearance. Slide action is smooth. Drop-in slots in the large turntable are for optional crown stops, good if you prefer to cut crown in the nested position.
Fence: The two-piece fence is nicely machined and perfectly square to the bed. The 2 7/16-inch-high left fence not only slides out of the way for beveling but can also be flipped upside-down and moved tight to the blade for small-piece support. The right-hand fence is 3 1/2 inches tall. Scales: Readable, well-placed miter and bevel scales. Blade Change: Average. Blade guard mechanism mounted on the right, out of the way. Detents: An easy miter detent override allows fractional settings. There are no bevel detents but the action is just stiff enough to make precise location easy, and the release handle is top-mounted, fist-sized, and comfortable to use. Depth Stop: Difficult to use, requires a wrench to adjust, no flip action. Guard: Moves smoothly, doesn't interfere. Controls: A basic stick-grip and finger trigger with no safety lock. Powerful, jerky start. Comments: This left-tilt only saw ships with a beautiful 80-tooth blade. This is a solid-feeling, heavy-duty saw and a good candidate for general crew use where double bevel action is not needed.
Fence: The one-piece cast fence is a good feature, but it's only 1 3/4 inches tall. Add a taller auxiliary fence, though, and the armature won't clear it at a 45-degree miter setting. Scales: The miter and bevel markings are small and hard to read. Blade Change: Awkward. The blade guard mount interferes with recess. Detents: The miter detents are difficult to override, and the rotation is a little stiff. There are no crown bevel detents. Depth Stop: Basic and effective, but no flip feature. Guard: The externally-mounted mechanism works well. Controls: A horizontal handle and comfortable trigger help, but this saw has some serious flaws. Comments: Ruggedly built, but poorly designed. Like the Delta 36-240, the 3807 had a stiff, crunchy, noisy slide-tube action. A general lack of features and a relatively high street price leave little to get excited about.
Fence: One-piece casting with 5-inch-tall sliding wings on the left and right. Scales: The 65-degree miter scale is misleading — the action stops at an already generous 61 degrees, both left and right. The scale is highly visible, with clear, large markings at half-degree intervals. The bevel scale stands up like a crescent billboard, with equally large markings. Blade Change: Awkward. Wrench stores on the tool. Detents: An easily adjusted bevel override allows compound cuts up to 47 degrees; better still, remove the top fence section and you can compound cut a 2x10 at 47 degrees and 61 degrees. Depth Stop: The unique cam disk works well and is easy to use. Guard: Lifts smoothly on plunge, and features a vented vision edge, like the DeWalts. Controls: The up-front miter controls are positive, a breeze to use, and great for overriding detents. Comments: At 57 pounds, a heavyweight contender. Centrifugally-activated, arbor-mounted laser throws a fine, accurate line with the blade in the raised position.