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
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.
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.
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
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
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
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
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.