The latest pro circ saw from Skil (model HD5687) is not one of the company's signature wormdrive tools but a new blade-right sidewinder model. We found it interesting enough to test because of its price (under $100) and the fact that it's Skil's only 7-1/4-inch sidewinder warranted for professional use – like the company's flagship #77 line and a few others. We put this new tool to work in custom residential construction to see whether or not a bargain saw could indeed live up to professional use.
The first thing we evaluated was the performance of the motor; after a few months of typical job-site cutting, the 15-amp powerplant proved smooth and powerful and gave us no cause for complaint. Like Skil's other pro models, the HD5687 has no blade brake and its strong fan clears sawdust really well. Beyond that, the saw's features are a mixed bag.
The shoe is made of stamped steel, which is sturdy enough but not our preference over more refined cast metal, composite plastic, or thick aluminum. The rolled edges of the steel shoe aren't bent up evenly along its length, so they don't provide a uniformly flat surface to run along a straightedge – when guiding crosscuts using a triangular square, for instance. Although the resulting inaccuracy isn't an issue for the short 90-degree cuts needed for lopping off a 2x4, it makes the blade wander noticeably off your line on long cuts, especially when beveled at a 45-degree angle. Of course, this is not an issue when guiding cuts by eye.
The shoe's cutout provides adequate blade visibility, and the stamped cut-line markers for 90- and 45-degree bevel cuts are right on the money. The 90- and 45-degree-angle stop settings have no provision for fine-tuning, but pulling the stop override lever lets you bevel the saw up to 51 degrees.
The bevel and depth-of-cut locking levers are no-frills stamped-metal pieces – again, plenty strong but a bit primitive compared to padded levers found on many pro saws. The levers hold tightly, but locking and unlocking them can be hard on your fingertips and palms. Also, the front handle felt small and angular; it would fill the hand more comfortably if padded or rounded. Rounding over the corners of the trigger could greatly improve its feel too.
The tool's cord is less than 8 feet long and can catch on the edge of sheet goods being ripped. A cord long enough to keep the extension cord end on the ground when ripping would be better.
A few more mixed results: The depth-setting scale was useful but began to peel off after a month on the job. And the blade guard, though sturdy, doesn't retract as readily as those on our favorite saws during tricky compound angle cuts. The blade wrench stores securely in a locking slot in the base – but perhaps a bit too securely, as we had to use a hammer to get it out.
The Skil HD5687 did everything we asked of it and is a true professional-grade saw, especially for more basic framing uses. It didn't replace our favorite saws – but at $90, it's good deal.
SKIL POWER TOOLS
John Spier of Spier Construction on Block Island, R.I., contributed to this test.