It been many years since I used a cordless circular saw, I even remember the first one I ever used. I needed to cut a 12 inch strip off the long side of a 4'x8' sheet of 3/4" inch plywood at a wood show. I had borrowed a saw that the vendor told me had a full charge and I remember hoping the saw would finish the cut for me as I edged closer and closer to the end of the plywood sheet. It did finish the cut, but only barely.
Roll forward some 15 plus years and wow, things have changed and now I get to a second chance to work with a cordless circular saw. One of the big differences in recent years is the Lithium batteries that are so much better in than the old NiCad batteries. More power, longer charge, quicker charges, no memory etc. Battery improvements along with all the other technological improvements have allowed manufacturers to create whole suites of top quality and top performing tools that will easily rival power and durability of corded tools.
When I first picked up and tried the Makita Cordless Circular saw, it struck me instantly just how much better this tool was than than the first generation of cordless circ saws. I was doing a test cut through construction 2x5 stud. The balance of the saw was comfortable, when I started it up, it didn't "jerk" in my hand as I started the cut and when cutting the wood, it didn't bog down, but powered through like any corded saw would do. On closer examination, here's some of the features I found ...
The unit it'self is reasonable in weight, and depending on the batteries you select, comes in around 10 pounds, roughly the same as many better quality corded circular saws. And speaking of batteries, from my research it appears there are 3 common voltages that will work with this saw, a 3Ah (Amp-Hour), 4Ah (which I used) and a 5Ah and of course with more power in a battery also comes with more weight. I was able to track down what sort of cutting ability you could expect from each of these batteries and in one typical scenario, cutting 2x4 studs at a building construction site, here is what a real world test showed.
3Ah - 326 cuts
4Ah - 512 cuts
5Ah - 682 cuts
And with the twin 18 volt batteries giving a combined 36 volts of power, this saw powers through most woods without hesitation.
The feature I liked the best was how easy it was to adjust the depth of cut with this saw. The thumb lever and guide are not obtrusive but easy to access and change. An important feature to help allow the operator to set the saw blade to a safe and optimum cut level.
The bevel or angle setting was equally easy to use and setting a 45 degree angle takes seconds to get a perfect angle, and if you want a little bit more than 45 degrees, like may 50ish, you can quickly move the "stop" and get a tiny bit more angle. And of course the saw can be set to any angle up to about 50 degrees.
When you begin to use the saw, as I mentioned at the beginning, the soft start feature means the saw blade starts spinning slowly and gains speed very quickly. What this means is the saw doesn't "jerk" in your hand or on the wood which often can result in abit of a sloppy start to a cut. The soft start helps improve this and probably makes the whole usage of the saw more ergonomical.
With no batteries, the saw is very light, but when installed, the batteries and the saw have a nice balance and the rubberized grip helps ensure that even in hot sweaty environments the saw will be easier to hang on to and control.
Like most saw produced in past 25 years, this one has a double safety switch to help ensure it's safety and in this case the safety switch on the handle is easy and natural to use. The other feature I liked was the fact that when you remove even just one battery, the saw is inoperable, another nice feature.
The one thing I felt was missing, and something I do use is something called the "saw hook", that little angle piece that can be flipped out from the handles of many saws so it can be hung on a standard 2x4 -6 -8 construction grade lumber. The one feature that Makita added, was a reinforced hole in the base of the saw that can be used to "hang" the saw on a nail. This is a much needed feature, especially for roofers. When you are working on a slopping roof and you have a cordless tool, they can slide off unless they are secured and not having a cord means extra care needs to be take to make sure they don't slide off creating a safety hazard.
All in all, I found this saw a vast improvement from what I had used many, many years and in many ways superior to some corded saws I have used and probably equal to some of the better quality corded saws. Of course the downfall of the saw is the batteries and the need to keep them charged and in some cases the weight of them, but all said, if you are in the market to spend a bit more to get cordless, this might be a saw to put on your list.
Copyright Colin Knecht