The Holy Grail of cordless circular saws is to make one that performs on par with a pro-level corded saw and has a decent amount of runtime. Enter Makita’s XSH01, a hybrid 36-volt saw that runs on two 18-volt batteries.
In spite of their generally superior power, most brands’ 36-volt tool lines have faded from the limelight because contractors weren’t willing to buy 18-volt packs for most of their tools and 36-volt packs for the few that were on that system. Makita solved the problem of incompatible battery platforms by making it so all of their 18-and 36-volt lithium ion tools can run on their 18-volt battery packs—packs which have remained compatible since their introduction in 2005.
The handful of earlier Makita 36-volt tools can run on the brand’s rarely seen 36-volt battery pack or on two 18-volt batteries via a bulky adapter rig, but the XSH01 saw is the first tool purpose-built to fit two batteries directly. And two batteries only; this saw will not accept a 36-volt pack.
Like the corded saws the XSH01 emulates, this 7 1/4-inch blade saw has all the basics, but lacks some of the coveted gadgets often found on cordless tools—things such as a hang hook, an LED headlight, or fuel gauges for the batteries. The quick motor brake, dust blower, and expansive rubber grip surfaces and lever tips are nice touches however, as is the included rip fence.
The workaday bevel quadrant with raised marks at 5-degree increments up to 50 degrees failed to impress, but its design includes adjustable stops at both 45 and 90 degrees. I also disapprove of the markings on the front of the shoe being a sticker instead of permanent marks in the magnesium. It’s too early to officially complain, but I have had marking stickers fall off in the past. The edge of the cutline marker lines up nicely with the left side of the kerf for accurate cutting when viewed from above. When viewed directly from either side, the view of the cutline is so-so. The bottom edge of the guard partially obscures the view unless you lean way down.
In hand, the balance of the saw is excellent. And since it’s a blade-right saw, shave cuts off the right end of a board are not a problem no matter how deep the blade is set. There is, however, a problem with the depth marking on the support arm; some are engraved in the wrong place. The 2-inch mark was on, but at 1-inch mark the saw only cut 5/8 inches deep, and at the 1/2-inch mark I would use for sheathing, the blade didn’t even touch the wood.
The cutline sticker and errant depth markings were quickly forgotten once I began using the saw. The XSH01 powered full-speed-ahead through lumber and sheet goods—even in thick materials—which qualified it as the fastest cutting cordless saw tested to date.
In order to make direct comparisons between this and other cordless circs saws I replicated some of the test procedures from Tools of the Trade’s last 18-volt full category saw test—which ran in the fall of 2012.
In the last test I used laminated test boards made up of four layers of 7/16-inch OSB. At 1 3/4 inches thick and 11 1/4 inches wide, these test boards represent a 2 x 12 LSL. I also cut through four foot widths of doubled up 7/16-inch OSB to test runtime, making 10 cuts at a time and resting the saw in between. For all of the test trials, I replaced the saw’s stock blade with a new Irwin Marathon blade to accurately copy the procedure followed during my last tests.
Speed of Cut (time to crosscut LSL) The Makita X2 Series saw averaged 1.87 seconds per cut—versus 2.83 seconds for the top 18-volt tool in the 2012 test and 1.96 seconds for a 15-amp corded model.
Runtime (number crosscuts made on a battery charge) 74 cuts in material equal to 2x12 LSL
Runtime (linear feet of OSB cut on a battery charge) 388 feet—versus 231 feet for top 18-volt tool in the 2012 test.
Weight: 10.4 pounds
Max cut at 90*: 2 5/8 inches
Max cut at 45*: 1 15/16 inches
Charging time: 26 minutes
Kit includes: tool, two 3.0-Ah batteries, charger, rip fence, and tool bag.
Web Price: $415 (kit); $206 (bare tool XSH01Z)
Makita has made a bigger and better cordless saw that actually rivals the cutting speed of a decent corded saw. And what’s more, they made it in the format that corded sidewinder saw users are most familiar with (and I daresay prefer). The XSH01 is essentially a direct replacement for a traditional 7 1/4-inch corded sidewinder—as long as the batteries last, that is.
When 36-volt tools first came out almost a decade ago, the collective goal of manufacturers was to move toward making cordless tools that could render their corded counterparts obsolete. We’re not there yet, but in my opinion, this Makita circ saw is a noteworthy milestone along that road.