Over the past decade or so, a revolution of sorts has been occurring within the cordless tool industry. Thanks to improved motor and battery technology, power-hungry tools that were once available only as 110-volt corded models are being offered without cords. The list is long and includes rotary hammers, impact wrenches, angle grinders, and more.
One tool that's been conspicuously absent is a cordless miter saw. A couple of models (by Bosch and Makita) existed briefly in the past but didn't catch on, partly because their 24-volt nicad and niMH batteries didn't work with much of anything else. Now Makita has filled that void by introducing the LXSL01, a 7-1/2-inch sliding compound miter saw powered by the same 18-volt lithium-ion batteries as the rest of the company's LXT series cordless tools. My crew and I have been using one of these saws since December. Here's what I can tell you about it.
The LXSL01 looks very much like the company's well-regarded 7-1/2-inch corded sliding compound miter saw, the LS0714. In fact the cordless saw appears to be a near clone of its corded brother except that it has a different handle configuration and a battery tucked behind the handle. The two tools' size, capabilities, and included accessories are practically identical.
Certainly the new saw is as light and compact as the corded tool. According to Makita, the LS0714 weighs 28.9 pounds. We weighed the cordless version (including the battery and dust bag) and it tipped the scales at 28.4 pounds. The extension wings — which we rarely use — add another 2.2 pounds.
My company focuses on window and door installations, so we don't always need the capacity or power of 10- and 12-inch saws. They're nice when there's production work to do, but the vast majority of the lumber and moldings we cut can be easily handled with a smaller saw. Smaller saws are easier to carry and take up less room in a gang box or truck. They're often more accurate, too, since their smaller-diameter blades tend to deflect less during cuts.
Blade diameter: 7-1/2 inches
Despite its small stature, the LXSL01 has good capacities: It can crosscut a nominal 2x12 at 90 degrees and miter a 2x8 at 45 degrees. I wouldn't recommend such operations on a regular basis, though, as we found that the tool performs better on thinner materials. We did cut some 2-by stock to verify that the saw could handle the job, and it performed well enough — provided the battery was carrying close to a full charge. Vertical capacity is just over 2 inches in slide mode and close to 3-1/2 inches in chop mode (for 1-by stock against the fence). This is enough capacity for us but would be limiting for carpenters who want to cut crown in the nested position.
The lithium-ion batteries are very light — about half the weight of nicad batteries of the same voltage. The LXT designation refers to the fact they're 3.0-amp-hour models, which provide twice the capacity of the slimmer, 1.5-Ah batteries that come with Makita's compact (white) drills and impact drivers. It should be noted that the slimmer packs do not fit every LXT tool, but every LXT battery fits all of the tools in the 18-volt lithium-ion lineup.
Charging time is very reasonable; a pack can go from discharged to charged in about 30 minutes (unless the battery is hot). The charger contains a fan that blows air up through the battery to cool it, and signals the beginning and end of the charging cycle by sounding a chime.
Using the Saw
We used the saw to cut a variety of solid and engineered lumber products — pine, oak, fir, and composite — and were happy with its performance. Accuracy was excellent out of the box, with both miter and bevel cuts matching the settings on the scales.
If adjustments are needed, you simply loosen the screws on the pointers, alter their positions, and retighten the screws. To make more involved adjustments to the miter function, you loosen and reset the fences — an operation we never found to be necessary.
The miter and bevel scales are easy to read, with crisp white-on-black markings for every degree. The usual detents are cast into the miter table at 0, 15, 22.5, 30, and 45 degrees. The tool miters 47 degrees to the left and 58 degrees to the right — very handy.
It bevels to the left only, which didn't bother us; we rarely need to bevel. (We might feel differently if we used the tool to cut crown on the flat.) The bevel scale is a bit small, but legible.
The saw does not slide quite as smoothly as other Makita sliding saws I've owned and used over the years. But this doesn't affect performance, so it wasn't a problem for us.
One of the biggest differences between the LXSL01 and a corded model is the speed of the motor, which turns at only 2,200 rpm. That's much slower than the saws I'm used to, which spin at upwards of 3,200 rpm. I could tell when I used this saw that it cuts slower, and I also noticed the cuts were not as clean as we get from corded models — but they were certainly acceptable, even for stain-grade work.
We used the LXSL01 for intermittent cutting and were always able to charge the spare in less time than it took to run a battery down — so the question of runtime never came up for us. And since we own other 18-volt Makita tools, we had plenty of spares.
I can't picture runtime being an issue, unless you're working someplace where it isn't possible to charge a spare or are using the tool for production cutting — which is not its intended use.
Like most other sliding saws, this one has an adjustable flip-stop that lets you make cuts that don't go all the way through. We didn't use this feature much, though we occasionally found it useful.
Other features are pretty standard, such as a vertical hold-down clamp, a brake, and a dust bag that does a fairly good job of capturing sawdust. The saw includes a pair of detachable table extensions; they do the job, but I wish they stored under the saw for transport. As it is, you have to either take them off and risk losing them, or leave them on and have the tool take up much more storage space.
One nice detail is the adjustable foot near the miter lock handle on the underside of the table. This prevents the tool from tipping forward when the saw's head is pulled all the way out. There's a spot behind the rails for the blade wrench to be stored, which is very convenient.
The Bottom Line
This saw should appeal to anyone who places a premium on convenience and portability. It would be a great second saw for tasks that require only a small number of cuts: punch-list items, small jobs, and the like. The tool did everything we asked it to do, but we had reasonable expectations — we didn't ask it to cut 2x12s (though it can) or try to make hundreds of cuts per day. For that kind of work, it makes sense to use a faster and more powerful corded saw.
Is the LXSL01 worth the $750 price tag? That depends on the kind of work you do. For me, it would be worth the price if I did a lot of small jobs or had a project where the saw could pay for itself in a short period of time. Several years back we bought a 24-volt cordless miter saw (which has since been discontinued) to make a series of small exterior repairs on an apartment complex. The tool paid for itself within a few days because we were setting up all over the place and there weren't many electrical outlets available. The same would have been true had we used the Makita. Its price is a little less daunting if you already use Makita's LXT batteries, because you can get it for a couple of hundred bucks less by purchasing it as a bare tool.
Greg Burnet runs Manor Services, a carpentry contracting firm in Chicago that specializes in door and window installations.