This is the first SCM (sliding compound miter) saw I've purchased, so I am comparing it to what I fiddled with on store shelves. While I really like the saw, there are a few things that could have been done better.
Recommend this product?
After reading the reviews, and looking at the SCM saws on store shelves, I ordered the Makita LS1013 from Amazon.
There were no problems with Amazon, although I admit I was worried since several other reviews talked about the poor packaging leading to damage in shipping. It arrived early and undamaged. The packaging was OK, but I understand the other reviews -- the miter adjustment knob sticks straight out without any real protection, and Makita should really have slipped a tube of corrugated cardboard over it to protect it. OK -- I considered myself lucky, and unpacked it.
After lifting the saw out of the box (and pausing to ooh and ahh over my new addition to the workshop), I noticed that the preset miter for 90 degrees registered 89 degrees on the pointer. OK -- so I grab the manual and read up on how to adjust this.
The manual could really use some help, but I'll get to that in a moment.
The fence was off. This requires 4 bolts to be loosened, the fence adjusted, and the bolts re-tightened. However, to get to one of the bolts, you have to remove the portion of the fence that folds over (the part that you have to move if you are doing a left bevel). Kind of inconvenient, especially since I see no reason why they could not have placed that bolt better. More importantly, this portion of the fence is held by a phillips screw and the type of nut with the rubber lock. If the saw regularly went out of adjustment (due to bouncing around in the back of a truck or contractor's van, for instance), I'd think the rubber in the nut would give out. An easily replaced part, but still...
I get it adjusted with the help of my framer's square, and find that the pointer is still off. The pointer (all of the pointers, not just the miter gauge) is a small metal part held with a single phillips screw. The result is that, as you tighten the screw to lock it down, you turn the pointer. Since the pointer is set down into the groove, there was really no way for my big, home-improving hands to fit in there to hold it steady while I locked it down. It's true that I have to stretch out X-Large gloves before they are comfortable, but I think it would be difficult even for folks with smaller hands. Fortunately, since it's set down, it should be difficult to accidentally move, and I should not have to do this again.
The manual -- not a happy experience:
There are several diagrams in the manual, and all of them are of very small portions of the saw. There is no large diagram that shows the over-all layout of the saw. The result is that one looks at the diagram of two bolts in a one-inch metal part, and then looks all over the saw for that part.
On the directions to adjust the miter, the manual directs the operator to push the slide all the way in (blade to the fence) and lock it. It comes locked all the way out (blade to the knob), and there is nothing in the manual that tells how the slide is locked or unlocked. The knob in front is a "nested" knob -- the one that extends further is to lock the miter adjustment, and the one further in is the slide lock. Perhaps this is one of those things where "everyone knows that", but I missed that day in kindergarten. It really seemed like the manual was written for people already familiar with the saw, and included several tables of measurements for cutting cove molding on different angles (in case your room is not square).
I stop reading and start cutting:
Time to cut a 2x4 and check my adjustments. Plug it in (two prong, with one wider than the other), and start the saw. There are two "buttons" on the vertical handle -- a small button where your palm would rest and a large, lever-type trigger inside. The trigger extends the length of the grip, and the switch is near the bottom. With the saw on the floor, and me kneeling in front, it was a little uncomfortable since I was effectively triggering the saw with my pinkie and ring finger. With the saw on a workbench (one of my first projects), it's much better. I think if I regularly used a scm saw on the floor, I'd prefer a horizontal handle, although I think the vertical is more comfortable for bevel cuts.
The electric start gets the saw to speed in under a third of a second, measured by the scientific "one-one thousand, two-one thousand" method, and the electric brake stops it in just under a half-second. There is no jolt on either end. The saw zipped through the 2x4 without pause -- I barely noticed a difference between pushing it up to the wood and pushing through the cut. The cut, with the stock blade, was very smooth -- like rubbing your finger on printer paper.
The slide, the miter table, and the bevel arm were all "sticky" at first, by which I mean they did not move easily and jerked. This lessened quickly as I moved them back and forth. Once "worked in" they are all smooth. While I note this, I also should disclose that my workshop is unheated, and it's January in Chicago -- and this probably makes a bit of difference!
The table is huge. I wanted the large table to provide stability, even knowing that a large table equals more weight. It delivers on both.
I do a lot of strange dado cuts, so the depth stop is an important feature to me. The adjustment is a bolt which threads through an arm that swings out of the way when you want to make full depth cuts. A second bolt is the depth stop for these "full" cuts. While a handy design, I was a little concerned that the arm could move and throw off my dado depth. The arm is not so easy to move that you could move it by bumping the saw, and the difference in dado height from "the arm is turned all the way over" to "the arm is turned just enough to catch the adjusting bolt" was negligible. I like this design...
It's been commented on before, but the preset stops for the miter are not connected with the "screw-type" lock -- meaning you can make cuts a tenth of a degree off a preset without a problem. Toying with cam-lock systems in the stores, I usually had trouble at 2/10s of a degree. Just make sure both are loose before turning the table.
The top of the table is the same height as 3 2x4s stacked. If you are working on the floor or a bench, you can provide support for your work with scrap. Nice... I have a shop overflowing with specialty jigs that I keep "in case I need them again" -- but I always have scrap.
I've not used the dust bag yet. I just fit my little shop vac to the port for the bag. I'd recommend a vac to clean the tool, too -- there are lots of nooks and crannies that I could not get with my brush.
Overall, the saw itself does a really nice job. I think the pointers on the miter and (to a lesser extent) bevel are a design flaw -- they are difficult to adjust, fragile and "cheap" looking, and don't fill me with confidence. Luckily, they are at least in protected locations. The manual was poor, lacking the basic information that allows a new user to get up to speed -- and I admit I'm confused why they didn't just put a half-page, labelled diagram of the saw in. I didn't pay all this cash for a manual, but it would have helped so much...
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