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Roof Mates' Shingle Saw is the best thing to happen to roofing tools since hook blades. It cut everything I tested it on–in every application– better, faster, and cleaner than with any other cutting tool I've used. Invented by career roofer Rob Garrett for cutting straight rake lines in thick, tough architectural shingles, it makes lightning-fast work of slicing up shingles for starter strips and caps. It's also a lifesaver for cutting rakes and valleys. The Shingle Saw not only cuts shingles, it cuts time, easily shaving hours off a single roof install.

Power Source. The saw is air-powered, so there's no extra cord to drag up to the roof or battery to keep charged. It spins a proprietary, asphalt-hungry 3-inch blade with a 7/8-inch depth of cut. That means it can gang-cut architectural shingles three at a time. You have to go a little bit "slow" with the saw so it won't bind three at a time. Individual shingle cuts are a snap.

Like most constant-draw pneumatic tools, the Shingle Saw uses lots of air, so it's way too hungry for a 4-gallon compressor. I ran it off a
25-gallon unit, and it cut starter strips, caps, and bundles of half shingles off 75 feet of hose with no problem.

Cutting Action. One of the best things about the saw is using it to cut a nice straight line on rakes. Where hook blades make straight cuts nearly impossible and a 7 1/4-inch circ saw can be hard to use in certain applications because of its size and weight, the Shingle Saw is small, light, and compact–and has few internal moving parts–so it works perfectly in this application.

The blade spins so fast, however, that it kicks up lots of debris. Eye protection is a good idea, and position your body so you can keep the saw in front of you. Gloves help, too. I felt debris hitting my knuckles as I cut shingles, but that's a small price to pay for not having to rake my knuckles across them with a utility knife.

The tool's blade depth is adjustable, which is nice when cutting shingles one at a time, like in a valley, but I found that it worked best at full depth. Also, the angle at which you can hold the saw relative to the work is adjustable, which I liked for changing from cutting starter strips on the ground to knocking off rake shingles on a 12-pitch.

Maintenance. Roof Mates says the blade will last about five houses or 250 squares; the blades cost $44 to replace. The company also says the tool is Teflon-coated, so a light solvent will take off built-up asphalt and grime.

At $469, the Shingle Saw is not cheap, but the time and energy savings make having this tool on any roofing project a no-brainer. Plus it makes your work look better, too.

Roof Mates. 410-551-7539. www.roofmates.com.