I recently decided to replace my trusty miter saw. My first miter saw was a Chicago Electric brand from Harbor Freight. It did a decent enough job for me for the most part, but I began to find a lot of issues with it for the more intricate jobs that I had started to work on. For things like framing a house or rough cutting lumber to length, I think that Chicago Electric would have been fine. Dust collection wasn’t terrible, it had a laser sight (though it wasn’t super accurate), and it had a dual bevel, so it tilted roughly 45 degrees either direction. The main problem that I began to run into was accuracy when trying to cut angles. I could get the saw to cut 90 degrees fairly consistently, but it was impossible to cut a true 45 degrees. The plastic framing of the saw actually got in the way to prevent it from cutting a true 45 degree bevel cut, and the saw blade had a tendency to cut at a slight angle top to bottom when cutting not at 90 degrees left to right.
Why the DeWalt?
I have always seen DeWalt as a good brand and they have a good reputation for both quality and customer service. The brand is available primarily through Lowes Home Improvement, and since I only have a Lowes in the town where I live, it made it more convenient as well. There are other saws for roughly the same amount of money and with the same functionality but after a lot of research I decided that the differences were not big enough to go out of my way for the others. I do not own any other DeWalt saws, and I generally am not one of those guys that has to have all the same brand tools in my shop. If it works, I’ll try it out no matter how cheap or off-brand. I do have a DeWalt palm sander that I got second hand at an auction and it’s been my go-to sander ever since.
Reviewing the Saw
The first thing I noticed about this saw is that it’s HEAVY. It seems to be made of very high quality metal but it’s not small so it packs on the weight. It easily weighs nearly double what the Chicago Electric saw weighed. I do not think that the weight is a particularly bad thing. It looks and feels like it is very high quality and can stand up to a lot of use. It doesn’t feel like if you pull something too hard it’s going to break a chunk off.
Like I mentioned earlier, this saw is bigger in the base than my old saw. It has a wide base but again this feels like a good thing rather than a bad thing. It makes the saw feel stable when you use it and it helps to have that wide base when cutting longer boards. The DeWalt also has a pretty low profile for a 12″ saw. If this was installed in a workshop with cabinets above it, it might be easier to use this saw at its full height instead of another, taller saw.
I’ll give a quick list of Pros and Cons as I see them. Let’s start with the Cons.
- Hard to change the blade. On my old Chicago Electric saw it was pretty easy to change the blade; push a button to lock it in place, then use a wrench to loosen the bolt holding it in before swapping the blade. On the DeWalt, there is a multi-step process that actually involves loosening part of the plastic cover on the saw to even get to the bolt that attaches the blade. The instructions in the manual are very clear and easy to follow, but it’s just not a simple switch.
- It’s hard to find the arm lever release pin. In order to lift the saw up, you have to pull a small silver pin out to unlock it. Once you find the pin it’s easy to use but without reading the instructions it’s pretty hard to find the pin. It blends in with the plastic covers and the rest of the metal on the saw so it took me several minutes to find it. It’s also not spring-loaded which isn’t a big deal but it was a little surprising for the pin to not spring back into place.
- The blade engage trigger is only “handy” for right-handers. It’s possible to use it with your left hand, but really it’s made to be pushed with your right thumb.
- Dust port and bag are plastic and feel flimsy. When I was putting the dust collection bag on the plastic dust port tube it felt like I was about to snap it off. It doesn’t bend in half or anything but the tube is long because of the layout of the saw, so just touching it on the end to put on the bag means you get a lot of leverage and it moves the tube.
- Saw blade hits the plastic bottom of kerf area unless depth stop set. My old saw was designed so that if the blade head was all the way down it still wouldn’t hit the bottom of the protective plastic kerf. This new DeWalt saw is designed differently, and almost rests on the plastic bottom out of the box. This means that when you cut through a board if the saw keeps on going it will actually cut into the plastic slightly. There is a way to keep that from happening, if you set the depth stop on the right side of the saw, but even that is not apparent.
- Saw arm jumps when the trigger is depressed. When you hit the trigger to start the saw, make sure you aren’t too close to the top of the work piece, because the arm will jump like a bronco when the motor kicks in to spin the blade.
- Uneven plastic pieces on flat table of saw. On the table of the saw, where the wood sits when you cut it, there is a plastic blade guard area with a kerf in it. This is where the blade sits when it is all the way down. However, this plastic piece is not exactly flat and the kerf is fairly wide so it is possible that a small piece of wood could be off balance or even fall into the kerf.
- The thread on the hold-down clamp is very fine and it takes FOREVER to tighten or loosen it. There is a clamp that can be positioned on either side of the saw to hold down pieces while you cut them. This is nice, but the thread of this thing is very fine and you’ll have to crank and crank and crank to change how tight or loose it is. It’s just annoying really. This hold down clamp is also very loose until it’s holding down a piece of wood tightly. This is a design choice DeWalt made to try to make it more secure while actually holding a piece of wood.
- No side extenders. Oddly, there are no extenders for the ends of the table to help hold longer pieces. It’s a strange feature to leave off of a nicer saw.
- It’s HEAVY.
- Dust collection tube clogged easily. Because the tube for dust collection is so long before the bag, it gets clogged by larger clumps of sawdust. I used mainly hickory during the test of this saw, and if there were any bits that came off as strips instead of dust, they stopped up the tube almost immediately.
- Dust gets into motor. This is an issue with most miter saws, but when dust comes out of the back of the saw some of it is blown almost directly into the motor. On my old saw, the motor was angled back a little so less dust was blown into it. I don’t think it’s enough dust to clog the motor, especially if you keep it cleaned out after use, but it’s still just another thing to watch out for.
- Must disengage depth stop to lock blade in closed position. This is probably a safety feature, but it’s a little annoying to have to remember to flip the depth stop back out of place just to be able to lower the blade all the way for storage.
It probably seems after that list that I hate this saw, but that’s not the case at all. Just being thorough! Now for the Pros:
- Tall fences. The fences on this saw are very tall and the can be extended out either to hold longer pieces or to get out of the way to tilt the blade left or right.
- Blade wrench storage slot. There is a little clip on the back of the saw to hold the wrench for changing the blade. This is nice, I suppose, but not really necessary. Maybe it’s an olive branch for making the blade so hard to change.
- Smooth sliding. The head of the saw moves VERY smoothly back and forth on its track.
- Nice “click” when the trigger is pressed. This one isn’t super important, but I still like it.
- Several different bevel stops on both left and right side of saw. This means that you don’t have to guess about where popular bevel angles are. Just pop out the stop and tilt the saw to hit it.
- Dust collection fits Shop-Vac, is long. I mentioned earlier the problem with a long dust collection pipe, but there are also benefits. The pipe is a perfect size to fit a Shop-Vac hose so that can help keep it from getting clogged. Also, since the pipe sticks out past the end of the sliding track, it’s easy to connect to.
- Holes on fences to mount extended fences. From time to time, you may need to screw a piece of wood to the metal fence to make it taller, longer, or thicker. This particular saw has holes in already drilled to make this very easy. It also keeps you from having to try to drill holes in your brand new saw’s fence.
- Comes with a 32-tooth blade. A 32-tooth blade is not the best for very clean and high-quality cuts. However, considering that many saws, even my cheap Chicago Electric saw, don’t come with ANY blade, this is definitely a plus. The blade is still great for rough cuts and framing uses.
- Much quieter than I expected. This saw can pretty easily be used without ear protection, though I would not do it all the time. My old saw sounded like a banshee screaming through a rusty windmill during a tornado. This DeWalt still makes some noise, but I forgot to put on my headphones a couple of times and I wasn’t deafened when it kicked on.
- Easy-to-use and accurate miter angle lock. One of the most important features of any miter saw. I cut several test pieces and checked the angles and they were right on.
- Good blade motor stop. The motor stops the blade really quickly once the trigger is released. This is a nice safety feature, but it’s also nice so that you can raise the head back up faster after using the blade.
- Hold-down clamp has rubber end to prevent slippage. Pretty self explanatory, but the end of the clamp has a little rubber piece to not damage the wood of the work piece and keep it from sliding.
- Lots of handholds to pick up saw. There are a lot of places on the saw that act as handles to pick up and move the saw around. There are plastic handles on the top of the saw and cut-outs on the cast-iron base of the saw as well. This makes it easy to move despite the weight and size.
- VERY accurate. I’ve mentioned this in a couple other points, but this is the most important part for me. No matter what angle I put it at or what bevel, or what direction the wood grain went, this saw was accurate. I checked many different angles after I cut them until I was confident that they were all accurate.
Overall, this has been an excellent saw for me so far. There are some things I would change, like the flimsy feeling dust collection and the almost-hidden latches, but the feel, look, and most importantly accuracy of this saw far outweigh those issues for me. Not to mention the reputation of DeWalt to make quality products and to stand by them. This saw is a great value at a reasonable price, and I hope to be able to use it for many years and many projects to come.
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