Author Topic: What kind of power saw should be my first purchase?  (Read 2816 times)

Offline Amator

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What kind of power saw should be my first purchase?
« on: November 09, 2012, 10:04:11 PM »
I'm wanting to get into more DIY projects now that I have a bit of time. Making bookshelves, a workbench, etc. I'm trying to go beyond putting together Ikea furniture and learn how to properly use the tools.

I currently have several hand tools and a 12v Craftsman cordless drill.

Being that I don't know a lot about tools it seems like for my purposes I can get by with most types of power saws - a circular saw, a miter saw, a table saw, etc. I'm just trying to figure out which should be my first purchase to build the items above and I can add others in as I need them.

Since Black Friday is coming up I see that Sears has a pretty good deal on a Dewalt 18v 4-piece tool set (drill/driver, circular saw, reciprocating saw, worklight) for $199, half the normal cost. They also have a Craftsman 10" Miter saw and table for $100.  Given the recent podcast on tools, I'm thinking the Dewalt set might be a good investment for the future, but I'd like to get opinions from those of you who have more experience than I do in this area. Thanks!


Offline Koldsteel

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Re: What kind of power saw should be my first purchase?
« Reply #1 on: November 09, 2012, 10:20:38 PM »
I own and use a lot of tools. Ive never been dissatisfied with Dewalt. But I'm not hung up on all expensive stuff. I have had a Skil circular saw that was a gift from my wife 15 years ago and its still goingstrong. The Craftsman miter saw is probably is good saw, I have not had good luck with any Sears tool that had a motor. If you really want to see how deep this rabbit hole goes, ask me sometime about old and new hand tools (planes, saws, chisels, etc).

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Offline Skunkeye

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Re: What kind of power saw should be my first purchase?
« Reply #2 on: November 10, 2012, 11:17:00 AM »
Pretty much any cut you can make with a miter saw, you can make with a circular saw.  The only difference is it's a lot easier, quicker, and more repeatable with the miter saw.  The circular saw has the advantage that you're not limited by the length of cut, as you are with a miter saw.  If you go this route, spend an afternoon making cutting guides for it, and you will be rewarded with much cleaner, more accurate cuts, and less frustration. 

A miter saw is nice because there's very little setup required.  Lift the blade, line up your cut, and zip! you've got a clean, square cut.  They only do crosscuts, however, so you can't rip a wide board down to a narrower dimension.  They make cutting angles much less frustrating, and more accurate.

A table saw is much more versatile than a miter saw, and much more accurate and repeatable than a circular saw, but a decent one is the most expensive of the three.  Stay away from really cheap table saws, they tend to have a lot of plastic parts that can flex or crack and ruin accuracy.  It's pretty easy to build crosscut and miter sleds for a table saw that make it safe and easy to get very accurate crosscuts and angled cuts. 

I went through the same process as you about ten years ago, and made the mistake of buying cheap before gradually moving up to a full woodworking shop setup over time.   It makes sense to start small, but you also don't want to buy bad tools that will give you a poor experience while you're learning.  I think if I were starting over, I'd look for a good table saw first.  With a few simple jigs, you can do anything either of the other two saws will do, more accurately and safely than a circ saw, and you can make cuts that are impossible on a miter saw.  But a decent table saw is more expensive, and takes up more room in your shop, if that's a concern.

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Offline Dawgus

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Re: What kind of power saw should be my first purchase?
« Reply #3 on: November 10, 2012, 11:36:35 AM »
I'd recommend a circular saw over a miter saw. You'll have more options with a circular saw. (IE cutting sheets of plywood) Also, IMHO, Craftsman power tools are nothing compared to what they once were. They're barely a step above Harbor Freight anymore.
 My 2 circular saws are a Milwaukee and Bosch. Neither has let me down yet. DeWalt saws are also great quality. I had a Craftsman circular saw, and it literally fell apart during use. The rivet holding the foot at the rear pivot fell out while I was cutting plywood for my last chicken house; and the blade guard kept sticking. It went in the junk pile as my last-ever Craftsman power tool.
 The DeWalt 18v kit is a great idea. I have one of their drills that was used every single day when I was doing pipe work. It looks like it went through a war, but still runs like a champ. The reciprocating saw is AWESOME. I have a Porter Cable one (came with a kit), and it gets used more than anything else in the kit.
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Offline ncjeeper

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Re: What kind of power saw should be my first purchase?
« Reply #4 on: November 10, 2012, 01:21:20 PM »
Also, IMHO, Craftsman power tools are nothing compared to what they once were. They're barely a step above Harbor Freight anymore.
Yep. Their hand tools are getting just as cheap too.
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Offline Skunkeye

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Re: What kind of power saw should be my first purchase?
« Reply #5 on: November 10, 2012, 01:55:17 PM »
I have a Hitachi circular saw that is a real workhorse, and it wasn't that expensive.  I've cut thousands of feet of sheet goods with it, and even used it with a masonry blade to cut the soapstone countertops in my kitchen.  I've had it for years, and it's always been reliable and accurate.  I think they're about $80 now.

I don't think you'd regret the DeWalt kit purchase, but budget for extra batteries.  While an 18v drill seems to last all day, those 18v circular saws will eat through a battery in no time.  A handful of lengthwise rips in a sheet of plywood, and it's back to the charger.  I use mine all the time to break down sheet goods into rough dimension before doing the final trimming on the table saw, and they're perfect for that.  But you won't find a very good selection of blades in the smaller 5" sizes, so the little saws tend make rougher cuts with more splintering and chipout.  Not great for fine furniture, but good enough for framing a wall or building a workbench, etc. 
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Offline Special K

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Re: What kind of power saw should be my first purchase?
« Reply #6 on: November 10, 2012, 02:45:01 PM »
I don't think you'd regret the DeWalt kit purchase, but budget for extra batteries.  While an 18v drill seems to last all day, those 18v circular saws will eat through a battery in no time.  A handful of lengthwise rips in a sheet of plywood, and it's back to the charger.

+10 to what Skunkeye said. And get a second charger so you can "relay" dead and charged batteries quicker.

Offline P_Coltrane

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Re: What kind of power saw should be my first purchase?
« Reply #7 on: November 10, 2012, 03:17:10 PM »
Without a doubt, If I had only one saw it would be a circular saw.

I am also a Hitachi fan.  Same CS7 for 14 years and wouldn't trade it for anything else. Of course mine is from when they still had the metal base. :D The newer ones are good but not quite the same.

The two most important qualities I look for are weight and sight line. But for the most part, it's just getting used to what you have.

Of course you could always consider this

Festools are a little pricey but they do a tremendous job on both sticks and sheets.

Offline Bolomark

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Re: What kind of power saw should be my first purchase?
« Reply #8 on: November 10, 2012, 04:16:26 PM »
ok,how much workspace do you have? will it be set up all the time? if not smaller portable equipment will better.
saw horses and plywood make a good work table. small portable table saw can rip and crosscut, but so can a good circular saw and a set of removable saw guides. wood working follows a process.
step 1 size(cut your wood to length and width)
step 2 route edge or finish edge shape your cut wood.
step 3. sand and prep for a finish where easier to do than when its assembled
step 4 glue assemble nail  together
step 5 finish ,paint wax polyurethane,lacquer your project.
have you been reading woodworking mags,watching woodworking shows? a couple of real good podcast on wood working?
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=awndyvFwLOc
“There is no such thing as pure good or pure evil, least of all in people. In the best of us there are thoughts or deeds that are wicked, and in the worst of us, at least some virtue. An adversary is not one who does loathsome acts for their own sake. He always has a reason that to him is justification. My cat eats mice. Does that make him bad? I don't think so, and the cat doesn't think so, but I would bet the mice have a different opinion.”
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Online FreeLancer

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Re: What kind of power saw should be my first purchase?
« Reply #9 on: November 10, 2012, 04:58:26 PM »
I had an 18v DeWalt circular saw, as part of a kit, and found it to be OK for basic carpentry tasks, but not great at all for cabinet-grade or better woodworking.  The blade size limits the availability of quality blades, and this, combined with the low RPMs, just leaves way too much tear-out.  The nice thing, though, and this is true of most cordless circs, is that the blade is on the left, making it easier (for me, at least) to see and control the cut.

I upgraded to a 15 amp corded Porter-Cable sidewinder that I'd read good reviews on, it also had a left-side blade, and I could do quite good work with it, provided I used an appropriate quality blade and a guide.  I loaned it out to a friend, who had it stolen out of the back of his truck, and I really regret taking pity on the guy and not having him replace it for me, because they no longer make it.

I purchased a Festool track saw and it is simply amazing for doing cabinet-grade or better work.  The cuts are clean, safe, and precise and can easily equal the table saw's results, but is still not quite as good for repeatability.  But, like all Festool products, it is insanely expensive, and works best if you also buy their equally expensive vacuum to use for dust extraction.  I love their stuff, but these tools are definitely blue-sky budget territory.  DeWalt now has a similar saw, which is nearly as good, but still up there in price.

At this point, I have a table saw, a miter saw, and the Festool track saw, but the one thing I still lack is a general purpose circular saw, and I'm probably going to fill this gap with the venerable worm-drive SkilSaw.  I've thought about getting another cordless, but I don't see the increased portability in return for a poorer cut to be worth it, for me and my tasks, at least.

If I could only have one saw, I'd probably choose something like my stolen Porter-Cable sidewinder.  You can do framing with it, cut cement blocks with a diamond blade, and do finer woodworking when used with a guide, or some of the aftermarket products that allow it to do a reasonable job as a track saw.  Definitely the most bang for the buck.
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Offline Bolomark

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“There is no such thing as pure good or pure evil, least of all in people. In the best of us there are thoughts or deeds that are wicked, and in the worst of us, at least some virtue. An adversary is not one who does loathsome acts for their own sake. He always has a reason that to him is justification. My cat eats mice. Does that make him bad? I don't think so, and the cat doesn't think so, but I would bet the mice have a different opinion.”
? Terry Goodkind, Wizard's First Rule

Offline pokeshell

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Re: What kind of power saw should be my first purchase?
« Reply #11 on: November 10, 2012, 08:30:10 PM »
So you said you want to make a book case, then get a table saw. Tools can be had at a bargin on Craig's list right now. If going craftsman look pre 1990, it should last dang near forever. 

I love the older Dewalt stuff, but like all brands, they have gone cheaper also, but for a DYI, it is top notch. Makita still seems strongest in my opinion, but their new batteries are not as good as the older tech.

I want to through my experience behind riobi for a home user. WE purchased a few sets of multiple tools, and extra batteries.  The 18v electric impact out preforms all other brands I have compared against. Their batteries for 18v last the best. From dewalt to makita to RIobie, the riobe has the longest, most powerfull batteries on the market.

I run them on lights, leaf blower, impact wrench, circular saw, weed wackier (burns batteries quick, but very light), drills, chainsaw, the list goes on. I have 3 chargers, and one can charge 5 batteries at once. I never run out of juice. The gauge on he batteries is pretty accurate, depends on what you are doing. If you take a battery out of the drill, and put it in leaf blower, you have about 5 minutes.

But, for starting to actually make stuff, get a good tables saw and some nice eye protection (so comfortable you do not take them off after cutting). Then take a look at the riobe, I think the new stuff is just as good as the big brands, and is about 50% the price.

Also, consider getting an air compressor. It will save you a ton of money and hassle.

Sorry for any brand spelling mistakes it has been a long day.

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Offline bbobwat33

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Re: What kind of power saw should be my first purchase?
« Reply #12 on: November 10, 2012, 09:02:29 PM »
dude, go buy yourself a dewalt circular saw. the 100-150 range saw. i see em all the time on sale for one hundred bucks. 15 amps, aluminum or magnesium deck. with that saw, a straight edge, and some clamps you can do anything within reason. once you get good with it you can cut circles if you know what you're doing.

http://www.amazon.com/DEWALT-DW368K-Heavy-Duty-Lightweight-Circular/dp/B000068870/ref=pd_sim_hi_7

that saw will probably last you a lifetime
 
i'm a project manager. used to be a lead carpenter. i run 4-6 sub crews at one time depending on work load. 2-3 decks and sunrooms a week. they all use this saw and they never brake. i can't recall ever seeing one brake. that being said i have burnt up a few dewalt cordless drills. but once you invest in batteries your kinda stuck.

Offline Amator

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Re: What kind of power saw should be my first purchase?
« Reply #13 on: November 10, 2012, 09:17:18 PM »
Hey everyone, thanks a lot for all the great info. I'm going to keep checking Craigslist and probably invest in something on Black Friday as stores seem to let some tools go for decent prices. I'll update the thread when I've bought something.

Bolomark,

My current workspace is the back of my garage. I'm working on an old desk right now but one of the first things I do when I get a saw is make a cheap workbench, probably based off this plan: FamilyHandyman.com's Super Simple $50 Bench.

Offline Bolomark

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Re: What kind of power saw should be my first purchase?
« Reply #14 on: November 10, 2012, 09:59:14 PM »
if you get anything big, try to mount it on wheels to roll around and a shop vac to help control the dust. 8)
“There is no such thing as pure good or pure evil, least of all in people. In the best of us there are thoughts or deeds that are wicked, and in the worst of us, at least some virtue. An adversary is not one who does loathsome acts for their own sake. He always has a reason that to him is justification. My cat eats mice. Does that make him bad? I don't think so, and the cat doesn't think so, but I would bet the mice have a different opinion.”
? Terry Goodkind, Wizard's First Rule

Offline cep89

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Re: What kind of power saw should be my first purchase?
« Reply #15 on: December 22, 2012, 09:30:29 PM »
I would recomend a circular saw with a laser pointer.  I have a craftsman one I several years ago and it has held up very well.  I think it was about $65.00.  You could spend a lot of money on high end saw, but unless you plan to use it professionally it is overkill.  Don't go real cheap like Ryobi or harbor freight tools.  A corded saw will work better than a cordless.

Offline Jwlindy

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Re: What kind of power saw should be my first purchase?
« Reply #16 on: December 22, 2012, 09:49:52 PM »
I recommend the Milwaukee Cordless Sawzall. The battery lasts forever and this is a very versatile tool. You can use it to cut wood, metal and they even make blade for pruning. This is definitely a good first saw to own.
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Offline Perfesser

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Re: What kind of power saw should be my first purchase?
« Reply #17 on: December 23, 2012, 09:49:57 AM »
That 4 tool DeWalt package would be my choice.
I bought a similar Ryobi kit years ago and it's been the most useful carpentry tools I've owned. I have a couple of table saws, miter saw, circular saw, band saw etc but for the kind of small jobs you'll do for yourself it's hard to beat the portability of cordless now that they've all gone to NiMh batteries.
I wouldn't get a spare charger but at least one spare battery so you can charge one while using the other.

The sawzall is a fantastic tool for all kinds of rough work from pruning trees to cutting metal and you'll quickly learn how to make guides to do more precise work with the circular saw.
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Re: What kind of power saw should be my first purchase?
« Reply #18 on: December 23, 2012, 12:39:55 PM »
Ditto on the Craftsman@ tools. I bought a De Walt cordless drill several years ago for $140 and like its' performance. When Home Depot had a grand opening they had the "same" drill for less than half that price and so I had to get it. It was a piece of junk, the chrome ring around the chuck came loose and so on. Next to the serial number was "HD", and that didn't stand for "heavy duty".

I agree with the Hitachi fans, also Fine Woodworking magazine is the best resource for learning woodworking skills, however, there are video podcasts that are free and very well done.

I highly recommend http://grizzly.com/ for quality and price. Home Depot "Ridgid@" brand is good, I have their jointer, and many of their tools have lifetime guarantees. I have this http://www.tylertool.com/rockwell-rk2515k2-12v-lithiumtech-cordless-3rill-3-in-1-impact-driver/rkwnrk2515k2,default,pd.html?ref=shopping&zmam=31282435&zmas=47&zmac=481&zmap=RK2515K2 which has a lifetime guarantee on the battery, there are other brands like Milwaukee that give you a drill and an impact driver for the same price.

I am a cabinetmaker by trade.


Offline bcksknr

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Re: What kind of power saw should be my first purchase?
« Reply #19 on: December 25, 2012, 08:58:09 PM »
I'm fortunate to have a factory tool outlet store nearby. They sell Ryobi and Dewalt. I've outfitted my shop with Ryobi powertools, mainly because their factory reconditioned tools are half the regular price, are warranted, look and function like new and I've never had a problem with any of them. Are they commercial grade? No. If I was a carpenter who used these tools every day to make a living I would buy a better tool. Are they adequate for the home handyman who likes to build simple furniture and projects? Most definitely! My table saw, however, is a Craftsman that I know was used to build my grandfather's house before I was born. It is solid cast iron without a single piece of plastic! It will accurately rip and crosscut lumber with amazing accuracy. They don't build 'em like that any more.

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Re: What kind of power saw should be my first purchase?
« Reply #20 on: December 25, 2012, 10:27:36 PM »
Here is a good place for learning the skill: http://www.startwoodworking.com/

Offline AaronInAK

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Re: What kind of power saw should be my first purchase?
« Reply #21 on: January 12, 2013, 09:55:49 PM »
I've been really impressed with the performance Diablo brand saw blades. I use them in both my circular saw and miter saw. I'd recommend getting one for whichever saw you get. Keep the stock blade for rough work. Also, when you get a miter saw build yourself an auxiliary fence with a zero clearance insert. It will give you nice clean cuts.