Shop Testing

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The rafter hook on the Bosch saws is a nice feature for professional use.

Credit: Photo: dotfordot.com

I performed three controlled shop tests,which consisted of more than 800 feet of cross-cutting and nearly 2,300 cuts. I tested battery runtime by cross-cutting 2x4s with a freshly charged battery and a new blade in each saw, and measured in cuts per charge. Then I evaluated relative power of each tool, again with new blades and fresh batteries, by cross-cutting the same long 2x10 more than a dozen times with each saw and averaging the timed results in seconds. I performed a high-demand test by timing the cuts through a 1 3/4-inch by 12-inch piece of laminated strand lumber (an OSB board), which not all of the saws could do. Those with no posted results took more than a dozen tries each to make it through the LSL once without the motor or battery shutting down, and are not suitable for such heavy cuts.

When a rough measure of efficiency is figured by comparing the number of cuts per volt, it is interesting to note that, without exception, the higher amp-hour batteries achieve the higher ratios.

With the newer LI battery technol-ogy, I noticed that the tools worked at full strength until there was insufficient power to operate at capacity. When they reached this point, the saws simply stopped working. Other battery chemistries tend to keep working slower until the power level is too low to operate the tool under load.

I was able to test all of the saws, except one, using the same 24-tooth, thin-kerf framing blades. The exception was the Panasonic, which requires a blade with a special 20-millimeter arbor hole, which is larger than a standard 5/8-inch hole and, therefore, cannot be adapted. The Panasonic saw was tested with its supplied 48-tooth, thin-kerf blade. The manufacturer's stated reason for the odd size is to make sure that people use proper (read: proprietary) thin-kerf blades, but I found it to be unnecessary hand-holding that makes it impractical to find replacement blades.

Feel

Sometimes it's the subtle things that make one tool more attractive than another. In the case of these saws, this meant evaluating weight and balance, grip and trigger comfort, and general ease of operation–what I like to call user friendliness.

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A fuel gauge is great for verifying battery life when grabbing one out of the truck.

Credit: Photo: dotfordot.com

Beyond the specific weight, the balance of a tool is something a user really notices while cutting. Saws I found particularly well balanced include the aforementioned Bosch, the Hitachi, Makita, Milwaukee, and Ridgid. Poorly balanced tools include the Craftsman and DeWalt.

If a tool you use frequently isn't comfortable to grasp and operate, you probably won't enjoy using it. Saws with a handle and trigger combination that feel good in your hand can motivate you enough to pick up one saw instead of another. Again, these include the 36-volt Bosch, Hitachi, Makita, Milwaukee, and Ridgid. Before you can run a cordless saw, you must depress a safety trigger with your thumb. A common characteristic of these five was the ability to grasp the tool and operate the two-stage trigger switches without contorting your hand. The DeWalt felt less comfortable to hold and operate with the plastic around its trigger digging into the user's finger. The 18-volt Bosch has a rear handle that is too fat to hold comfortably, and the Metabo suffers from a rear grip that is both too far forward and too high on the saw, which makes it uncomfortable to push across the work.