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I have been busy, of late constructing the framework for a huge garden shed that I roughly designed, to replace the two dilapidated ones standing - just about - at the top of my garden. My good friend and neighbour then worked out the plans for the framework and amount of materials I would need.
The only tools required were saws, a hammer, two G-Clamps, screwdriver, a stapler and drill - and loads of energy to use them. This review is about one of the saws.
Now, I cannot saw a straight edge, to save my life. Not only that, I don't think my aging, un-tuned muscles could withstand the crippling amount of sawing required for this project, so decided to invest in what my neighbour called "A chop-saw." This, in simple terms, is a circular saw-blade mounted and pivoted above a metal base. The blade, powered by electricity, is lowered onto the wood resting on the base, to give a good, clean and accurately cut edge.
I had several B&Q vouchers over the past couple of years that I had not used, so bought a suitable, relatively inexpensive chop-saw for £44 -98. (Well with a 10% discount and use of my vouchers I actually paid the princely sum of £5.48) after quizzing a knowledgeable assistant about the quality, and safety aspects, and to check that the blade was big enough to saw through the size of wood I was using.
What did I get for £44.98?
The chop-saw with fitted blade.
One hex key for changing a blade.
One cloth dust bag for collecting sawdust.
One work clamp, to clamp wood to the unit.
Two extension rails.
One support stand.
One comprehensive user guide with useful illustrations and safety instructions.
A two year guarantee.
What is a chop-saw?
A chop saw is also known as an Electric powered mitre saw, or compound mitre saw, depending on the number of functions it can perform. The basic chop/mitre saw will saw vertically through wood at any chosen angle, by swinging the blade to the left or right of the base plate. The compound chop saw will also bevel edges of wood, by angling the flat of the blade downwards, towards the base, (so it looks as though it is tipping over;) whereas to mitre a piece of wood, the blade remains upright and angled sideways, relative to the wood.
Although there were more sophisticated, hence expensive, chop saws. The one I chose was the Performance Power, Compound Mitre saw PCMS210L
Specifications and details
The whole unit weighs 9Kg, which is just a little under 20 Ibs.
The maximum - no load speed of the blade 5000 revs per minute, reduced when cutting into wood.
Power input 1400 - 1700 watts.
Blade: diameter is 210mm.
The width of the blade is about 2mm. Width of the blade cut is 2.6mm.
The length of the blade teeth are 30mm.
The number of teeth - 24
Noise levels are 99.6dB. It is recommended that ear protection be worn when using any equipment with sound levels above 80dB.
Cutting capacities of the PCM210L Mitre saw
The cutting capacity of this chop saw is dependent on the positions of the two scales - the mitre scale on the rotary table and the bevel scale on the saw arm spindle.
When the mitre scale is set at 0 degrees and the bevel scale is set at 90 degrees, the saw is set to cut vertically through the wood. The maximum width of wood it can cut at these settings is 120mm to a maximum depth of 60mm.
When the mitre scale is at 0 degrees but the bevel scale is at 45 degrees, the maximum width is still 120mm, but the maximum allowable depth( or thickness) of wood is reduced to 35mm.
When the mitre scale is set at 45 degrees and bevel at 90 degrees, the max width will be 80mm and depth 60mm.
When both scales are at 45 degrees the max width will be 80mm and depth 35mm.
The heavy, metal base plate onto which is embossed a mitre scale in degrees, has four extension arms with mounting holes so that it can, if required, be bolted to a bench or slab of wood.
Mounted onto the base plate is a rotary table, which, as its name implies, can be rotated left or right horizontally, to select the angle of cut.
Pivoted at the rear of the rotary plate is the saw blade in its protective shield, and the motor. The position of the arrow, fixed to the rotary table, indicates the angle the saw will cut vertically.
Once the angle of cut has been chosen, the rotary plate can then be locked into position by a table-locking knob positioned behind a stationary fence plate, bridging the rear of the rotary table.
A simple (removable) clamp positioned on the far left of the base plate clamps the wood in position against the fence-plate. A laser-guide is centrally positioned on the lower parts of the saw spindle, permanently in line with the table insert which is the open slot in the rotary plate where the blade sinks into once through the wood. Although it is not essential to use the laser guide, it does make lining the wood to the correct position under the blade, easier and quicker to ensure the cut is along the pencil line.
The saw blade is circular with 24 large, very sharp teeth that any shark would be proud to sport. The teeth, sheathed in two metal guards, are only exposed to the wood as the saw arm is pulled towards the wood. The upper blade guard is fixed, remaining in the same position with respect to the blade. The lower guard will gradually, as the blade is lowered towards the wood, move upwards, exposing the blade. At no time is the blade exposed enough to endanger anything other than what is directly below, spanning the table insert.
The trigger switch operating the saw is located on the saw-arm - which looks like a spade handle. The motor is fixed to the right of the blade.
For those who know all about carbon brushes in motors, and are interested, there is an easy to get at carbon-brush-cap located on the motor casing, which I believe makes it a simple job to change brushes if and when required.
When not in use, the blade encased in the guards, is stored with the blade lowered towards the base plate and locked in position with a "release knob" at the rear. The blade cannot be moved towards the base plate until the safety lever, located next to the saw-arm, is released.
At each end of the base plate are slots through which the supplied extension rails can be attached. These rails hold the wood in the same plane as the table - useful for long lengths of wood, or floppy wood.
To the rear of the base plate is another, shorter rail called the support stand, it helps stabilize the whole unit.
This is how easy it is to use
A pencil line is drawn on the wood at the point where the cut is to be made. The required angle of blade to wood is set by rotating the table until the little arrow points to the desired angle on the mitre scale, then locked into place.
The wood is then placed on the table, resting against the fence. When positioned against the fence, a laser beam is switched on and the wood moved so that the pencil line is in line with the laser beam, the wood is then clamped in position before sawing.
It is worth noting here that the blade should be aimed at the waste side of the pencil mark. The blade cuts a channel 2.6mm wide, so if the saw cut through the pencil mark the length of wood would be about 1mm shorter than desired.
Plug the unit into a mains supply, and release the safety lever to allow movement of the blade towards the wood. When the blade is about 6cms from the wood, depress the trigger switch to activate the saw-blade and gently lower it onto and through the wood. Once it had sawn all the way through, and the blade has stopped rotating - this does take a few seconds, the arm can be lifted safely away from the wood.
To use the bevelling feature, firstly lock the table at the desired angle on the mitre scale, the bevel angle is obtained by releasing the locking knob on the spindle, to allow the blade to tilt to the desired angle, set on a scale at the rear, on the spindle. The blade is then locked into place and the same cutting procedure as above can then commence.
My experience and impression.
At first, I was a little nervous about using such a saw - don't know why except perhaps my imagination, of what those teeth rotating at such high speeds could do to my fingers, got the better of me for a moment.
Before starting to cut wood for the frames, I practised on off-cuts, just to get the feel of the machine and to gauge the accuracy of my measurements and that of the mitre scale.
I then constructed, using the mitre at 45 degrees, a wooden right-angled setsquare to aid the accurate spacing and placing of the cut lengths of wood, when joining them together.
Soon, I was confidently measuring up, cutting and fixing each of the pieces to make frames.
Although the motor was noisy, it was only for short bursts, so I did not heed the advice about wearing ear protectors; I have heard more decibels coming from taped music in shops and restaurants. However, it is advisable to protect ears when the saw is used for long periods.
The dust-bag was next to useless, it did collect some sawdust, but most of it fell onto and around the machine, so eventually, I discarded the bag and allowed the sawdust to escape behind the saw, it was much easier and quicker to clear up after wards than unzipping the dust-bag and emptying it.
I was working outside and the breeze was not blowing in my direction, so the dust shot away from me, but if in an enclosed area, I think the dust-bag would be essential to prevent the dust bouncing back towards the operator.
As for the rest of the rules and advice, such as wear eye-protection, keep flesh away from the table-insert and not raise the saw arm until the blade has stopped rotating - I adhered to them religiously.
At no time did I feel that my digits were in danger of amputation, the guards worked perfectly, the blade cut cleanly and efficiently through the timber like a knife through butter. Now, one shed later, the blade is as sharp as ever and ready for the next project, now what can I build next?
This saw was the best forty-four pounds worth of equipment I have bought in a long while. I would still be sawing away now, if I had had to use a handsaw....Oooh the pain.
I wonder now, however I managed without it.
2014: I really an extremely pleased with this tool. The blade is still sharp and usable. I need one now that cuts wider wood pieces.