About a year ago, Tools of the Trade sent me a ZipSaw, a grinder-based cutoff saw that takes 3-1/2- and 4-inch proprietary cutoff wheels. I was eager to test this tool because it's factory-equipped for dust collection. My other grinders don't have dust collection, and it would be expensive to equip them with third-party shrouds, most of which are designed for grinding rather than cutting.
The kit (RFS1000) includes a 1-inch-diameter hose that connects the saw to the hose of a dust-collecting vacuum. One side of the guard is open so the blade can engage the work, and its face is removable for flush-cut applications. With the guard in place, the tool can cut about 3/4 inch deep. The rest of the tool is not all that different from a standard grinder, though it has less heft and power than the other grinders I own.
RotoZip makes five different blades for the saw: one ZipWheel and four XWheels. The ZipWheel – a dry diamond blade that cuts stone, masonry, porcelain, and tile – is flat and thicker than the XWheels. XWheels are domed, so the arbor nut is recessed below the face of the blade, which is why flush-cutting is possible. In addition to a dry diamond XWheel, there is one for wood, one for ferrous and nonferrous metal, and an all-around version for drywall, plastic, and nail-embedded wood.
The big-box stores in our area stock a good selection of ZipSaw blades, so we've had no trouble buying replacements.
Motor: 7 amps
Speed: 11,000 rpm
Weight (by ToTT): 4.4 pounds
Maximum depth of cut: 3/4 inch
Length of hose: 56 inches
Kit includes: Saw, dust-collection equipment, side handle, wrenches, one wood XWheel, and either one tile ZipWheel or one tile XWheel
Country of origin: Assembled in Mexico
My remodeling company specializes in tile work, and we regularly use this saw to cut cement backerboard. In the past we used a grinder, and it created so much dust we had to wear masks and clear the air with a blower – even though we cut outdoors.
The job is easier with the ZipSaw. We still cut outdoors, because some of the dust escapes – but enough is collected that we can work without masks or a blower. The tool's plastic hose could be better; it's stiffer than I'd like, and more than once it's come loose from the saw during a cut and sent a cloud of dust into the air. (It fits into the tool via friction.)
Tile and Stone
We've used this saw to cut curves in hard porcelain tile – usually around toilet flanges, where the cut edge won't be visible. There's enough vibration with the dry-cutting blade that I wouldn't leave the edge exposed.
To avoid walking out to my tile saw, I will sometimes use the ZipSaw to make cuts and notches in stone and tile. Recently we used it to notch the edge of a stone shower bench to accept a shower door. The bathroom was nearly finished and a standard grinder would have made a terrible mess. Using the ZipSaw saved us from having to breathe all that dust and reclean the room.
We also use the saw for occasional cuts in metal when other tools won't fit or we need to keep the area clean. A chop saw (or larger grinder) is more powerful and is a better choice when there are many cuts to be made.
The ZipSaw can cut a variety of materials, but the author uses it primarily to cut cement board (left) and to make utility cuts in tile and stone (right). The work area stays relatively clean because the tool is equipped for dust collection and can be connected by hose to a vacuum.
Several months back we put a new floor in an existing bathroom. It was lower than the old one, so the 4-inch cast-iron toilet drain projected above the floor. I used the ZipSaw to trim the pipe flush with the floor, which would have been hard to do neatly with a standard grinder.
Although the saw can be used to cut plaster and drywall, the dust collection isn't effective enough that I would want to use it in a finished space. When we're concerned about dust, we cut these materials with a traditional spiral-style RotoZip equipped with an accessory dust shroud, because it does a much better job collecting dust.
The ZipSaw can cut wood, but we prefer not to use it for that task: The wood blade has no real teeth and cuts by abrasion. The tool would cut more cleanly with a toothed blade, and then you wouldn't get that burning smell from grinding wood.
This tool is fine for rough cuts in plywood, but I wouldn't advise using it for critical cuts in trim and wood flooring. The manufacturer's website shows the tool being used as a jamb saw. I can see how you might want to do this if you had to undercut a lot of baseboard, but that's not something we normally do. When I have to undercut jambs and casing, I use an oscillating multi-tool, because it cuts cleaner and is easier to control.
The Bottom Line
There's a lot that RotoZip says this saw can do that I would probably never use it for. In fact, if the ZipSaw weren't equipped for dust collection, I probably wouldn't consider buying it – but it is, and that gives it an edge over standard grinders.
Though not an industrial-grade machine, it's reasonably well-made for the price. And despite some annoying glitches – a stiff hose, a plastic guard that is hard to adjust when it has grit in it, and a switch that is always kind of sticky – it's a useful tool to have around for cutting cement board and making the occasional utility cut in metal, tile, and stone.
The blades cut by abrasion – even the wood blade, which has no real teeth and has a carbide grit coating along its edge.
Rob Zschoche is a remodeling contractor in Chantilly, Va.