Sight Lines

Left-handed carpenters have kept a secret from us righties: It's much easier to see a cut line when you don't have to lean over the saw. For cut-line visibility at a 90-degree bevel, left-blade saws take the cake. Things change, however, when you tip the saw over for a bevel cut.

Left Blade. For straight 90-degree cuts, I quickly took to the Makita 5007NLK and Porter-Cable 743K left-blade saws. At 90 degrees, each saw provides a great view. At 45-degress, however, it's more difficult to find the line on Porter-Cable's tool. With the Makita, I could still see the cut line through the saw body without leaning way over to see it from the far right. Since both saws were so good to use at a 90, it makes me wish other manufacturers made left-blade saws, too.

Right Blade. The DeWalt DW364K, Makita 5007NHK, and both Hitachi saws have clean sight lines at both 90 and 45 degrees. On these four saws I could clearly see my line through the saw body. When I leaned over the saw (the way I usually cut), I could see the line from that angle, too.

The Bosch 1655K has clean views too, but when I leaned over the saw debris from the cut shot into my face. On both Milwaukee models it was difficult to see the line through the saw body; with the Tilt-Lok model there was considerable blow-back of debris into my face when I leaned over the saw. The right-blade Porter-Cable 447K has absolutely no good view of the cut line when set at a 45-degree bevel. The Craftsman offered a good view at 45, but I could only get a good view at 90 by leaning over the saw.

Adjustments

Easy-to-adjust saws eliminate snags and frustration on site and are better to work with. I evaluated bevel and depth-of-cut adjustments as well as scales and levers to see which saws were easiest to use.

Blade-Depth Adjustment. The DeWalt DW364K is without a doubt the easiest-to-adjust and most user friendly saw in the group. The depth-adjustment knob at the top of the saw body is in a perfect location and provides the best control for setting the blade. (It also works nicely as a second handle.) Both Makitas are next for easy adjustment: padded levers with rubber tips are easy to locate and move. Third are the two Hitachis, which have comfortable, well-placed padded finger grips. The depth adjustments on the Bosch, Craftsman, DeWalt DW368K, Milwaukee Tilt-Lok, and both Porter-Cable models have standard levers and work fine. The Milwaukee 6375-20's adjustments need work; the knobs and levers aren't where you expect them to be. I consistently grabbed the bevel adjustment knob and expected it to adjust the saw blade height, as did my crew.

Bevel Adjustment. Not surprisingly, the DeWalt DW364K, both Makitas, and both Hitachis have the easiest bevel adjustments as well. DeWalt's is large enough to grasp comfortably and the bevel markings are easy-to-read. Makita has tactile blue rubber on its levers that makes them easy to move on both saws. Also, the company's done a good job creating a positive stop for 45 degrees while enabling you to override it easily. The override is a knob that you turn to stop the bevel at 45 or allow it to pass this mark, maxing out at 50 degrees.

The padded levers on both Hitachis are well-placed and move smoothly. My only complaint though is the bevel stop at 45 degrees. To get to a 55-degree bevel?the second highest bevel in the bunch?you have to move a holding pin with a quick left/right jog. This mechanism consistently bound up on me. Even though that's a pain, I'd live with it for the 55-degree bevel, which is great for framing hips and valleys and cutting compound miter angles.