Sam Scott

Amenities include a multifunction wrench that stores in the base, a rafter hook, and a more-convenient spindle lock that’s combined with the oil plug.
Bruce Greenlaw Amenities include a multifunction wrench that stores in the base, a rafter hook, and a more-convenient spindle lock that’s combined with the oil plug.

I’ve been an Oregon framing contractor for 30 years. I employ 12 to 20 carpenters, and together we frame about 75 to 200 single- and multi-family houses per year. Not only is that the ultimate torture test for our wormdrive saws, but it can also torture my veteran left arm — especially since I cut most of our roofs and stairs.

The 7 1/4-inch Skil MAG77 I usually use is a durable workaholic, has a quality lower blade guard that seldom snags even when cutting compound angles, and is 2 pounds lighter than Skil’s standard model SHD77. But Skil just rolled out the MAG77LT, which weighs 2 pounds less than the MAG77 and is now the lightest 7 1/4-inch wormdrive or hypoid model on the market. When JLC asked if I’d like to field-test one, I couldn’t wait to see if its reduced weight and other deluxe features would make a difference. After framing eight houses with it, I’m stoked.

Weight Loss

At first glance, the MAG77LT doesn’t look radically different from other Skil wormdrives. But Skil micromanaged the design inside and out to shed some weight while adding welcome features.

To subtract weight, Skil used magnesium for the blade guards and baseplate, reduced the length of the motor by 3/8 inch, reshaped the motor housing so it’s cylindrical and is attached with shorter screws, moved the spindle lock from the front to the side of the gearbox and combined it with the oil plug, and even refined the rafter-hook mount.

I appreciated the lighter weight as soon as I lifted the saw, and the benefit was multiplied after using the tool all day or cutting overhead, such as when trimming rafter tails from a ladder. In my opinion, that alone is a game-changer.

Skil increased the no-load cutting speed from 4,600 to 5,300 rpm, so the saw should cut a bit faster. I didn’t drag-race this model against my other Skils, but after cutting just about everything framers will normally cut with it (including plenty of LVL), I can’t tell the difference.

Other Upgrades

The saw I tried cut perfectly square at the 0-degree setting, but if it ever veers off, it can be corrected by adjusting a screw on the baseplate. It bevels to 53 degrees (compared with 51 degrees for the SHD77 and MAG77), and the bold new bevel scale has white markings against a black background for a much easier read. The “Cut-Ready” depth bracket has practical scales that make it faster and easier to set the correct depth for cutting lumber and sheet goods. The new soft-grip rear handle is also an improvement.

I especially like the tool’s unique multi-function wrench, which lives on the baseplate so it’s always within reach. It’s a blade wrench, plus it can pry the diamond knockout out of a new saw blade, loosen an over-tightened bevel or depth lever, and remove and install the oil plug and brush caps.

The Bottom Line

When I first started using this saw, I was annoyed when I came up empty after instinctively reaching up front for the spindle lock. But once I got used to the new location on the side of the gearbox, I found it to be more convenient. So much for my only complaint. I love the saw’s light weight, it performs like my other Skils, it has every feature I can imagine wanting, and I expect it to last for years — just like its proven predecessors. Would I spend $220 for one when I can buy a new MAG77 for $180? Absolutely. In fact, I think it’s a bargain.

Terry Goodrich is a framing contractor and custom home builder in Scappoose, Ore.