Black & Decker 3.4 amp Navigator Powered Hand Sawith Jig Saw (SC500)

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A Unique, Versatile Tool for Specific Tasks

Sep 20, 2004
Review by  
Rated a Very Helpful Review

Pros:Great motorized replacement for a hand saw or hack saw

Cons:Most jobs are not suited to a motorized hand saw or hack saw

The Bottom Line: Get a Navigator after a jig-saw, circular saw or reciprocating saw because complements rather than replaces any of them


The Navigator is kind of like a cross between a jig saw and a reciprocating saw. In fact, you can get accessory blades and rotate their mount so you can use the unit like either of those tools. But it isn't a perfect combination of a jig saw and a reciprocating saw. Its really a new type of tool with its own unique advantages and disadvantages. Probably the best way to review it is to describe its pros and cons in a variety of tasks and that is exactly what I will do. Keep in mind there are currently three blades available. A hand-saw-like blade (the one that makes the Navigator unlike anything else) a curve cutting blade for wood and a metal cutting blade.


Cutting Plywood, MDF, etc.

The navigator has a narrow shoe that tends to flex making it difficult to get perfectly perpendicular cuts. It can only cut at 90 degrees. The hand saw blade, because of its depth, will make excellent straight cuts. The curve blade is fine for curves. Both blades are thicker than jig-saw blades causing more wasted material. Blades have an aggressive tooth not suitable for finished surfaces (too much tear out). No fine-cutting blades are available. For this use the advantage is definitely with the jig-saw.


Cutting Framing Lumber (2x4, 2x8's etc.)

The hand saw blade works just like a hand saw in dimensional lumber. Its great for cutting two by fours to length. But like a hand saw, its not terribly fast compared with a circular saw or chop saw. It can fit in a place you couldn't work a hand saw or longer reciprocating saw - like between 16"-on-center framing. It can cut into corners/edges unlike a circular saw. Its great for cutting notches in lumber. The hand saw blade can only cut wood. I've ruined two of them running into hidden nails. This draw back makes it of limited use for demolition work where a reciprocating saw excels. The blade is deep enough to cut extra thick wood. Unfortunately, the Navigator doesn't have the horse power of professional grade tools so it slows down quite a bit in anything thicker than two inches. Here the advantage is with a circular saw/hand saw combination for construction and a reciprocating saw for demolition.


Fine Wood Working

Here the Navigator is pretty much useless except for rough cutting pieces to size simply because there are only three blades available and none are suitable for finished cuts.


Miscellaneous Cutting

Great with the hand saw blade for cutting plastic plumbing to length either before or after being glued in place. Also a great substitute for a hack saw cutting metal pipe, rods, etc.


Special Features

Changing blades is easier than any tool I own. You depress a button, pivot the blade 90 degrees and it lifts right out. Installation is just the reverse. You can install blades with the teeth up or down allowing you to hold the unit like a jig saw or reciprocating saw.


Construction

The Navigator's all plastic body is far from heavy duty but will easily hold up to the demands of household projects. The most important thing is it doesn't appear to have a design flaw that will cause to fail long before it wears out. That's the most important point because you can make up for light-duty construction by handling a tool more carefully. You can't make up for a design flaw. In particular, the snap in blade mount seems solid and up to the stresses places on the tool even by heavy cutting.


Ergonomics

The handle is comfortable to hold at a variety of angles. However, unless you are able to hold it straight on, one hand will have a hard time depressing the trigger lock. When cutting at an awkward angle I needed to use my other hand to depress the lock to get started. Once going you have to keep the trigger depressed. This is a good safety feature and I can't think or any modern tool designed to operated by one hand that doesn't work this way. The tool is equally functional for left and right handed use. Its plastic construction keeps it light weight. It operates smoothly with variable speed so you can minimize vibration. People who find larger, heavier, noisier tools intimidating will like the navigator.


Summary

The navigator is a great substitute for a hand saw or a hack saw. It does the cutting work for you leading to easier, often straighter cuts with smoother starts. However, most tasks of sufficient intensity to require investment in a power tool, have power tools option better suited to them than a motorized hand saw or hack saw. This leaves the Navigator in a narrow niche. Fortunately it is inexpensive enough that you may be able to afford one of these AND a jig saw, circular saw or reciprocating saw as your projects require. I have each of these tools and still reach for the Navigator quite often. Maybe its that pretty orange color that makes it stand out on the shelf. Its no magical do-everything tool but it does what it does reliably and efficiently. Mine was a gift, but if it disappeared tomorrow, I would go get another one.


Recommend this product? Yes

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