DeWalt DW717: Heavy Duty Upgrade
Mar 22, 2010 (Updated Apr 5, 2010)
Review by theuerkorn
Rated a Very Helpful Review
Pros:Slide, 15A, solid base, double bevel, motor placement, precise angle setting, extensible fence
Cons:Heavy, large, laser not included, laser position, blade change, fence design, dust collection
The Bottom Line: Heavy duty and powerful, but also expensive, heavy, and with a few unexpected quirks.
Way back (more like 18 months ago) a bunch of miter cuts frustrated me enough to invest in a dedicated saw. It turned out to be an excellent deal for mid level tasks, and only more demanding jobs developed the craving for a slider saw and the occasional double bevel cut to avoid changing references. Other than that, the Hitachi sported light weight, easy setup, and easy storage (size) for a mere $113 when bought on a special. The price is back up to $149 but it's still an incredible bargain (including the laser).
Recommend this product?
The upgrade to the DeWalt DW717 was induced by a special (25% off) which brought the very expensive $500 to a slightly more agreeable $380. That in combination with the slider saw finally wore out the resistance for the upgrade. It's a lot different and mostly good, but it also reiterates how great of a deal the Hitachi is.
Details: The DW717 accepts a standard 10" blade with a minimum rating of 5000 rpm. That size pretty much drives the 3.5" maximum cut height (in upright position). The slide stroke of 10" extends the usability of the miter saw to cover some more work that usually require a table saw. There is a grooving hard stop which allows to stop the blade at an adjustable depth.
Ergonomics: [***--] The miter saw follows the typical design with a horizontal slide and a handle in the same orientation (90 deg from the blade orientation. Ergonomics gurus might complain about the handle orientation and the lack of a soft grip makes it simply feel a lot cheaper to the hand than it is. Fortunately there is mild relief in blade change by providing a built-in spindle lock, though that's really standard. The angle adjustment is well thought out for the most part. The typical handles lock down motion while the miter lock release is a bit hard to depress, and most levers have no indication which way it locks the slide for instance. At least the bevel lock is very well designed and marked. See section "portability" for more details.
Blade Change: [**---] I may just completely misread the instructions (despite having extensive experience with power tools), but the fact alone that it was necessary to read the manual to change the blade is telling. Seriously, the placement of the guard release screw is very hidden while another one (on the same guard but not to be touched) is much more prominent. Even when following instructions to every detail, it's still very difficult to get the guard completely out of the way. The spindle lock is placed on the opposite side which requires some artistic arm bending to keep it engaged. Unlike the Bosch saws, there is also no marking on the wheel screw to indicate the lefty threat. (An important detail for occasional users, and it's odd since the sample in the store actually does have a marking.) If you have the comfort of an elevated placement, it does ease the blade change significantly.
Power: [****-] The DW717 sports a moderate 4000 rpm speed with the power of a 15A motor, that's driven via a quiet belt system (rather than gears). The power unfolds impressively quiet and still there is no doubt that if this saw would get a hold of you it's unlikely to stop for power reasons. Good thing the typical guard is works well and normal use should never get you into that situation. The start-up jerk is minimal and doesn't affect the cut anyway. Once letting go of the trigger, the motor is actively slowed down for safety and work flow. (The slower speed than some other saws with 5000 rpm drives the need for an 80T blade for cross cutting, the included 40T blade is for general use only.)
Portability: [***--] The DW717 puts the heavy into Heavy Duty. Seriously, it's very heavy (51 lb) for a 10" miter saw and much of that is founded in the solid base and the slider mechanism. It's actually twice the weight of most non-slide 10" miter saws! Either way, it's significantly harder to transport due to size and weight. Further, the handle is off the weight center in the most space saving position of the slide which adds to the transportation hassle. It doesn't make it any easier that the handle is straight without features to ensure a better grip. With all the criticism, much (but not all) is driven by the slider design and the extra stout base. Both are good things in functionality, but of course one pays the price in transit. (Or at least DeWalt has not found a good way to compensate for it.)
Slide: [****-] One of the biggest if not THE biggest reason to upgrade was the extended cut length provided by the slide feature. It can be locked in the normal position. It's the typical double barrel slide design and smoothness is okay. It's not perfect though, and good fixturing is essential to not affect cut precision. The horizontal slide sits behind the blade and adds to the depth of the tool in a very linear way (unlike vertical slides which can easily be placed in parallel to the blade). Overall stability is good, though locking the clamp is recommended when not using the slide, even if there is a latch to keep it in the back position.
Workholder: [****-] The Fence is precise and the slider design works well for tall pieces (i.e. crown molding). It's extensible to the left and the right making for significant alignment length (tall pieces only). The fences are locked in place via wing nuts on the back side of the fence. The included clamp sports a twist&lock base to quickly assemble and disassemble the post. However, it's relatively loose and the ease of removing it sounds better than it is in actual use.
Dust: [***--] The DW717 sports the typical cloth bag to capture much of the saw dust which is supposed to be slung up into it simply by the speed and direction of the blade. The relatively low blade speed and high position of the dust port seems to reduce the efficiency of this embodiment. In other words, there will be a large percentage of saw dust outside the bag. Further, the frame in the bag is kinda stiff and positioned in a steep angle which makes for a tall device to store with the bag assembled.
Laser: [***--] I am a big advocate of a well designed laser alignment tool, and at the price tag of the DW717 one would think that this might be included as it tremendously helps to easily align compounded cuts. Of course that requires the laser line to be adjusted correctly, but once that's done it's as easy as deciding on which side of the blade to place the line and make sure it aligns with the edge. Then all you need is a point on your work piece and precise cuts are very possible. The DW717 allows to add the optional laser module DWS 7187, but it costs in itself almost as much as a complete entry level miter saw. Aside from the extra cost, the positioning of the laser makes it somewhat difficult to set up. The slotted cover projects a dotted line in the Up position (when loading the work piece). Looking back to the Hitachi miter saw the placement and ultimately usability are better on that design than the DeWalt despite being a third of the price tag!
Value: [***--] Even with 25% off, the DW717 is still expensive no matter how you look at it. In fact, Hitachi offers a 12" slide miter saw with double bevel and better laser system for the same price as the discounted basic DW717 (without laser). Add the laser and there is no doubt that this is an expensive solution. Nevertheless, the angle adjustment and overall heavy duty design of the DeWalt DW717 will please fans and contractors alike.
© 2010, theuerkorn
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