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Trimming door jambs or making flush cuts with a handsaw typically ends with scraped knuckles, dulled blades, and rough, wandering cuts. Flooring guys have circular jamb saws, but they're expensive, and the ones I've seen leave rough and splintered cuts. Hand-held jamb saws cut a little better, but when you're faced with multiple jambs with applied casing, the process gets slow and physically daunting.

When I first saw Bosch's new 1640 Power Handsaw at my local big box, I thought it might be the perfect tool for trimming jambs and other flush-cutting tasks. But it looked like a very job-specific tool, and I wondered whether it would be able to pay its way into my tool trailer. The model I tested (1640VSK) includes a carrying case and the optional miter-table attachment.

This tiny power saw uses an electric motor to power one of four fine-tooth reciprocating blades. It gives users the precision and safety of a dovetail or backsaw in a tool that's less tiring and faster to use. My first impression was that the 1640 is well designed and built, and it had a good, solid feel in my hand. It comes with four blades: fine-cut, medium- to coarse-cut, flush-cut, and metal-cutting. Blade mounting and changing are a snap with Bosch's simple click system. Once clicked into place, the blades felt securely connected, without any wobble or slop. All blades can be mounted left or right facing, which gives the saw great versatility.

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Faster than a handsaw and more precise than a circular saw, Bosch's 1640 reciprocating blade makes quick work of trimming doorjambs. The blade is reversible for flush cutting on either side of the jamb.

Trimming Door Jambs

My first use of the saw was to trim 1/4 inch off the bottom of some prehung, split-jamb doors that arrived at the job site with their casings a little short. I usually tackle this common task with a circular saw or a fine handsaw, but it's always a chore that eats up time and requires a little finesse.

I marked the length to be removed, and after snapping in the fine-cut blade, I cut the right jamb leg; I then flipped the blade and cut the left leg. It was quick, efficient, and clean. The saw seemed to melt through the jamb material.

My next task was to set the doors in the opening and trim the side jambs, so the head jamb would be level. Carpeted floors will hide a multitude of sins, but hardwood, linoleum, and tile floors require tighter tolerances. Here's where I really began to appreciate this little saw.

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Shim stock in a variety of thicknesses helps the author level the jambs on prehung doors. After the low side is shimmed, the piece is removed and held against the other jamb as a guide. The little saw is perfect for this job.

With the door temporarily secured, I shimmed the low leg until the head jamb was level. I then took the shim and held it against the other jamb as a guide and made the cut with the flush-cut blade. I also tried the general purpose blade and found it made perfectly acceptable cuts.

Miter Table Attachment

As a finish carpenter, I had my doubts about the tiny miter table that comes with the 1640VSK. The saw attaches to the aluminum table with a long thumbscrew, and the box itself includes small bar clamps for mounting it on a sawhorse or bench. A built-in dust port is included, as is a material hold-down clamp. Because the blade is reciprocating, getting fingers pulled in seems unlikely, but the hold-down clamp helps to hold the kind of small pieces the saw is designed to handle.

This miter table excels at cutting shoe mold and quarter round — small profiles that can be downright exciting to cut in my 12-inch miter saw. While building a fireplace mantle, I clamped the miter table to a sawhorse set up nearby and was impressed by the speed and time saved by cutting small pieces right at hand. I found the table's accuracy to be just fine.

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The miter table is accurate, easily portable, and it can cut moldings up to 3 1/2 inches wide. But the short fence means you have to cut baseboard with a plowed back with the front side against the fence.

I am thinking of building a small sawhorse, about 12 inches tall, for mounting the miter table. The setup would be ideal for installing shoe mold and would save me countless trips to the garage or wherever my large miter bench is located.

I did have a little trouble with the release mechanism that allows the saw to swing through the different degrees of cut. It seemed to jam as I swung from one 45-degree angle to the other. It has stops (detents) at 15, 22.5, 30, and 45 degrees and can cut 46 degrees left or right. The angle indicator is adjustable, and a set screw can be engaged to lock the setting.

The Verdict

I have yet to use the metal-cutting blade, but the other blades performed well in hardwoods, softwoods, and MDF. The saw has a variable speed control that allows a user to select a speed compatible with the material and the job.

I began to use the saw for general purpose and freehand cutting during the workday and found it to be handy there as well. My only concern is blade life and availability. The 1640VS blades are Swiss-made, heat-set, steel blades, and they've held up well for the few weeks I've used them. But they're not available at my local big box, and I haven't found a source on the Internet for them.

The Bosch 1640VSK performed well in every situation I used it for and has certainly found a permanent home in my work trailer. With four different blades, a kit box, and the miter table attachment, it has a street price of $160. With only two blades, it sells for $110.

Derrell Dayis a finish carpenter and the owner of Dayco Construction Inc., a general contracting company in Panama City, Fla.