Si...Saw - part 2 (YEAH, I finally hit review #100 - where's my cookie?)
Dec 12, 2003 (Updated Dec 15, 2003)
Review by Kenny M
Rated a Very Helpful Review
Pros:built like a tank, best worm drive made, lighter than most worm drive saws
Cons:expensive and not for the common DIYer, comes with an average blade.
The Bottom Line: In the world of circular saws, worm drives are best and Skil makes the best worm drive saws - PERIOD.
Wow - here it is my 100th review and I had to chose something worthy of this special occasion.
Recommend this product?
There is a full spectrum of circular saws on the market. From the very cheap common circular saw up to the state of the art circular saw. What sets this saw apart from most is the fact that it's a "worm drive" mechanism and that its body is made of Magnesium. Hence, the "M" in the model number. Being made of this lighter-weight alloy, it's a whopping TWO POUNDS LIGHTER than their comparable standard worm drive saw.
A word about brand names: Some people (even contractors) make the mistake of calling any circular saw a "Skil saw." Much in the same way that someone might say, "Make me a Xerox copy" - when the machine is not a Xerox copier or "I need a Kleenex" when it's not a Kleenex brand tissue. Like my review of the Milwaukee Super Sawzall, many people refer to any reciprocating saw as a Sawzall. When you're the best in your class, people tend to commit this error when, in fact, it's a great compliment to the maker of that product.
Case in point, Skil's Mag 77M is BY FAR the best of the circular saws - BAR NONE.
Let's face it, worm drive saws are heavier than common circular saws. The HD77 and the HD77M are identical except for the weight and body color. You might ask what the big deal is about the weight. Well, until you've done some framing and need to cut or notch rafters or top plates with ONE HAND, you'll never know how those two pounds make all the difference in the world.
What is worm drive? Unlike common circular saws, worm drives incorporate a series of gears that directly drive the saw blade. This is crucial for cutting through thick or wet wood and hardwoods. Worm drives won't bog down on those woods like common under-powered circular saws always do. You can really feel the difference when you pull the trigger... there is so much torque, that the saw will tilt to the side until you get control of it. For this reason NEVER start the saw when the blade is against the wood you're cutting - it will damage the wood.
For more precision cutting, I would NEVER use a common circular saw again. Recently, I needed to cut down the bottom of a door for a better fit into the jam area. When cutting less than a 1/4" from a door, a planer would do the job just fine. In this case, I needed to remove almost a 1/2". So I measured off the cut line and made my pencil line. To insure a straight cut, I clamped a straight edge (you can use a level) 1 - 1/2" from the cut line. Since all circular saws have a straight edge fence built into them, I can glide my saw across the straight edge for a perfect cut.
There is an optional rip fence which allows you to guide the saw with the use of a protruding rip fence. I don't use this for two reasons. It's only effective if the edge of the wood is square and smooth and the only thing stopping the saw form meandering down the cut line is the tiny set screw.
Cutting tip: To cut down on the amount of splintering, do two things: Clamp thin pieces of wood over the cut line on both sides of the project. If you cut through the scrap wood AND your project, only the scrap wood will splinter.
Secondly, since the blade that this saw comes with is very average, I purchased a better quality Freud 7-1/4" blade that will even tackle wet wood easily. Besides, the blade is red and matches the HD77M's red and gray color scheme. Yes, us tool guys can accessorize too! That is my only complaint about this saw... for the money we spend on it, you'd think it would come with a better blade.
Common circular saws rely on JUST the tightness of the arbor bolt to hold the blade in place. Vibration can cause this bolt to loosen and cause the blade to spin freely - something you don't want to happen. If you look at most circular saw blades, there is a round hole in the center and a diamond-shaped cut-out around that hole. For worm drive saws, you'll need to remove the diamond-shaped cut-out with a pliers with a twisting motion. The reason for the diamond shaped hole is quite helpful. When the blade encounters resistance, the diamond shaped arbor ensure that the blade will not slip and doesn't have to rely on the arbor bolt ALONE to keep the blade secure. If, however, the blade encounters too much resistance, the vari-torque clutch will allow the blade to spin freely so the saw will not encounter kick back. This is VERY important with one-arm operation high up on a ladder or roof.
Other features include a 45 - 90 degree angle adjustment and adjustable depth cutting.
Specs: At 90 degrees, the depth of cut is 2-11/32" and at 45 degrees it's 1-29/32". No load 4400 RPMS at 13 Amps. Cord length: 8 feet. Weight is 14 pounds.
BLADE CHANGING I'm waiting for "quick-change" blade assembly, but for now, it's pretty easy to change blades. UNPLUG the saw. Depress the blade lock button and use the supplied wrench to remove the arbor nut. REMEMBER: It's the opposite of "Righty - tighty and Lefty - Lucy". There's a small "off" (and arrows) on the head of the arbor nut to remind you.
There are otional blades for cutting metal or concrete.
THE BAG: The HEAVY DUTY black nylon bag was a nice touch for this saw. It even has the word SKILSAW embroidered on the front in BOLD red letters. It comes with a shoulder strap as well and heavy duty triangular rings to keep it secure to the bag. Every stitch seems to be extra heavy duty. It has plenty of interior and exterior pockets for the manual, extra blades and accessories. The HD77 doesn't come with a bag or a case. Yes, you'll pay a little bit more for the HD77M with the bag, but well worth it. It measures: 21" wide x (about) 10" tall x 9-1/2" back to front. NICE heavy duty zipper too.
BUYING ADVICE: If you rarely use a circular saw, this is too much power tool for you. It's too expensive to be used once in a while. This is the saw (and versions like it) that contractors and serious handy folk have relied upon to build America since 1938.
This is a rear-handle worm drive saw. I prefer the rear handle to the top handle because I would rather push the saw through the stock in lieu of dragging it across the wood.
SAFETY: In every case, you should wear eye and ear protection. In cases where you're cutting pressure treated wood (which has arsenic in it) you should wear a respirator or AT LEAST a dust mask.
Maintenance: You'll need to check the oil level once in a while and ONLY use SKIL lubricants (no wise cracks). Brushes will need to be replaced when they reach 3/16" n length. The bearings should be replaced every 300-400 hours of operation or every second brush replacement. Cleaning should be done with compressed air.
Contact: S-B Power Tool Company in Chicago (877) SKIL999. On the net at www.skil.com.
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