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7-1/4" Circular Saws

7-1/4" Circular Saws
They came, we sawed. Which will conquer?

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    • 7-1/4" Circular Saws      Portable Circular Saw Chart
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Sometimes, it's easier to take the tool to the work than the other way around. That's why we have a well-worn portable circular saw in our shop, and we'll bet you do, too. For large built-in-place projects, a circ saw is worth its weight in gold. Meanwhile, in the shop, it earns its keep by helping break down sheet goods into tablesaw-manageable sizes.

Circular saws come in two basic varieties—helical-drive models (sometimes called "sidewinders") and worm drive—with blades ranging from 4" to 16" in diameter, and costing anywhere between $30 and $700. For this test, we focused on sidewinders with 7 1/4" blades and drawing 13 to 15 amps. These tools provide the best balance of power, price, portability, and versatility. Also, you'll find the widest selection of specialty blades in this size, for cutting non-wood materials, such as concrete, tile, and metal pipe.

Tough testing for tough tools
To make certain we evaluated the saws and not the blades that came with them, we first set aside each saw's supplied blade and installed identical 24-tooth, carbide-tipped Freud Diablo blades. After a short motor break-in, we got to work ripping pressure-treated 2x8s, as shown in the photo on this page-a demand ing task for any saw. While pushing the saw to the point that it was under heavy load, but not ready to stall, we timed a three 5' rips, and averaged the cutting times. We found that a circular saw's ampere rating tells you how much electrical current the motor uses, but it can't tell you how well the saw uses it. For example, one of the 13-amp saws made the 5' rip faster than all but one of the 15-amp models in the test.

To see how dust would impact the saw's workings, we made 50 crosscuts with each saw in 8"-wide cement-and-cellulose siding, a notoriously dusty material. All of the saws passed this test with no apparent effect on motors, bearings, or blade guards. Finally, we spent a month just using the saws; sometimes with the supplied blade, sometimes with the Diablo blade; cutting freehand and guided by a straightedge. We even made pocket (plunge) cuts in oriented-strand board (OSB) and oak plywood. This month of "playing" gave us a good feel for the settings, adjustments, and how easy it is to follow a cutline.

You can see learn the results of our testing of the Bosch 1657, Craftsman 27108, DeWalt DW369, Hitachi C7BD, Makita 5007NHK, Milwaukee 6390-21, Porter-Cable 347K, and Ryobi CSB130K. Just pick up the April 2002 issue of WOOD magazine and turn to page 84. Or, you can download the complete review, including charts and photos, for only $4.95.


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