Ridgid 6-1/2-Inch Circular Saw
In my snowboard manufacturing shop, we use a circular saw primarily for cross-cutting hardwood lumber to rough lengths prior to laminating it into blocks. This operation is all about speed. With thousands of feet of lumber in 16-foot lengths delivered at once, we really need to move through the stacks to keep up production; we gang-cut the material about 1-3/4 inch deep while it's still in a stack.
When the Ridgid Fuego 6-1/2-inch compact framing saw was introduced boasting a lighter weight and a dramatic increase in cutting speed, I knew I had to test its claims myself. I was pleased to find that compared to my 7-1/4-inch saw, the Fuego cut through poplar and ash like it was on fire while its lighter weight virtually eliminated my arm fatigue.
The Fuego has features borrowed from cordless circular saws; in fact, it shares a platform with the newest Ridgid 18- and 24-volt models. The saw uses a 6-1/2-inch thin-kerf blade that spins at 6,100 rpm instead of the 5,500 to 5,800 rpm common to 7-1/4-inch saws. This smaller blade is driven by a smaller, lighter motor. Ridgid replaced the standard metal shoe with a super-tough fiber composite and the blade guards are made from lightweight magnesium.
The smaller-diameter motor's center is closer to the base, which allows you to still get a vertical cut depth of 2-1/8 inch, just under the standard 2-1/4- to 2-3/8-inch depth of most 7-1/4-inch saws. Ridgid claims this capability will allow the average user to do everything he'd need to do with a circular saw. I found that even at a 50-degree bevel, the blade still made it through 2-by lumber.
I tested the base for stability and stiffness and found it only slightly more flexible than the aluminum base of my larger saw. But with the reduced force required to push the saw through a cut, this difference was negligible.
I did some high-demand tests by burying the blade into a block of poplar and really pushing the cuts. While my old saw bogged down, the Fuego sliced right through without hesitation; its thinner, faster blade really did improve cutting speed.
The ratcheting levers on the Fuego's blade-depth and bevel-angle adjustments allow you to obtain the best position for locking the lever. The saw also features depth indicators for six common thicknesses of sheet goods and framing lumber. When setting to these depths, the saw automatically clicks into the right position and you simply lock it in place. Other handy features are the blower aimed at the cut line and the 12-foot cord. Blade changes are simple with an easy-to-find spindle lock and a hex key that stores on the shoe. One missing item that would help the Fuego's speed of use is a blade brake.
The saw has a comfortable grip; the twisted front handle is positioned well and kept my wrist straighter during bevel cuts. The grips are slightly smaller than those on standard circular saws, but I found this actually helped my grip by giving my fingers a more wrapped-around feel. The Fuego is a full 2 pounds lighter than my 7-1/4-inch saw, which went a long way toward alleviating the sore elbow I usually suffer after a session of production cutting. The depth of cut and blade angle set easily and cutting was effortless and fast.
The Fuego circular saw surpasses the speed of my 7-1/4-inch saw, in a much lighter package. It has replaced my 7-1/4-inch saw for a very good reason: It does the job faster, working harder without working me harder.
Ridgid Fuego compact circular saw: $139. 800-474-3443. www.ridgid.com.
–Sean Martin is a snowboard manufacturer, photographer, and bagpipe player in Watkins, Colo.