By Tim Uhler
DeWalt DWS535 Specs
Blade diameter: 7 1/4 inches
Bevel capacity: 0 to 53 degrees
Motor: 15 amps
Speed: 4,800 rpm
Weight* (by mfr.): 13.8 pounds (* does not include blade or cord)
Cord length: 8 feet
Street price: $199
Made in: Taiwan
This spring DeWalt introduced the DWS535 wormdrive saw. As a true wormdrive, this tool promises to be more durable than the earlier DW378G, an inline model. Over the past few months, our crew has used it for all aspects of framing, including hand-cutting a roof. Here's what we thought of it.
Performance The depth-of-cut scale is clearly visible on the DWS535's blade housing (left). Preset stops at 22.5 and 45 degrees make it easy to set common angles; a secondary scale has 1-degree increments (right). With a maximum bevel of 53 degrees, the DeWalt can cut steeper angles than other wormdrive saws.
The DWS535 is solidly made and well-balanced, and it has a comfortable grip — though not quite as comfortable as the one on my Makita 5377MG. According to DeWalt, the saw weighs 13.8 pounds — slightly lighter than the average wormdrive. In use, it had about the same heft as my Makita and Ridgid R3210 models.
Power. The DeWalt has more than enough power to cut the materials we normally use — framing lumber and large engineered beams made from LVL or PSL. We were impressed by how powerfully it cut a 45-degree miter when set to a bevel of 53 degrees; it powered right through without bogging down. The motor does have a bit of a rattle to it, which was off-putting until I considered that all of my Bosch 15-amp wormdrives have similar rattles that apparently haven't affected their longevity.
Guard. While most guards work fine for straight cuts, all too many snag during bevels — a major annoyance when you're cutting roofs. This wasn't a problem with the DWS535; its guard never once snagged during steep compound miters. We've been using the Ridgid to cut rafters, because the Makita snags too often; with the DeWalt we have a second option.
Adjusting depth and bevel. It irritates me when I have to use a lot of force to change the blade's depth setting. This usually happens after the saw has been in use for a while and has gotten dirty and taken some falls. With some saws it gets to the point where I have to tap the base with a hammer to adjust the depth of cut. DeWalt's depth-setting mechanism worked very smoothly out of the box — though it's a little stickier now. I haven't had it long enough to know how it will fare long-term.
I particularly like the bevel adjustment on this saw. The scale is marked in 1-degree as well as the usual 5-degree increments. The mechanism slides very smoothly and there are detents at 22.5 and 45 degrees. The latter comes in handy when you set the bevel all the way to 53 degrees — which, incidentally, is farther than any other wormdrive can bevel. An oversize rafter hook allows the user to hang the tool within reach. It can be folded out of the way when not in use.
The DeWalt has well-thought-out features like a comfortable oversize trigger, a large folding rafter hook, a sturdy baseplate, and a reinforced cord. The rafter hook projects almost 3 inches beyond the edge of the saw, so you can hang it off engineered lumber and 2 1/2-inch flange I-joists. This is an important feature for me because I almost never put a saw on the ground, preferring to hang it from a joist, a rafter, or a notch cut in a sawhorse.
Sooner or later every saw takes a fall, so the baseplate must be tough enough to resist damage. I like the base on this saw: The lightweight magnesium piece has some thickness to it and reinforcing ribs that keep it from bending.
Although we know we're not supposed to, we often find ourselves lowering tools by the cord. Do this enough and the cord gets ruined. To protect against that kind of damage, DeWalt beefed up both the cord and the cord's connection to the saw. It may be a small detail, but it's the kind of thing that makes for a better tool. Straight, accurate rips of up to 14 1/2 inches wide are possible with the DWS5100 rip-guide accessory.
Rip guide. The DeWalt saw can be equipped with the DWS5100 rip guide. With two arms, an oversize fence, and a 14 1/2-inch rip capacity, this $39 accessory puts other rip guides to shame. I've used it to rip framing stock and can see using it to rip soffit material when I don't feel like using a table saw.
The Bottom Line
With work as slow as it has been, I have to think pretty hard about buying new tools. Nevertheless, if I were in the market for a new wormdrive, the DWS535 is the saw I'd buy. It's powerful, its guard doesn't snag, and it bevels to 53 degrees — all big pluses in my book. Everything about it feels solid and well-made. The one thing I don't like is that the depth-setting mechanism is a little sticky, but that's a minor problem when weighed against the tool's other qualities.
Tim Uhler is a lead framer for Pioneer Builders in Port Orchard, Wash., and a JLC contributing editor.
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