Shortly after we moved into our house we launched ourselves into various projects that required both light and heavy duty tools. Last week's Toolbox Tuesday post covered the basic hand tools that we used during the first days of our renovation. While adequate for the basics of measuring, molding removal, and demo work, they left something to be desired when it came to the thing that everyone loves about tools in the 21st century...POWER!
Note: You get a stamp on your man card for each major power tool purchase you make. Ladies, when you purchase tools, you also get a stamp on your man card. Any gender can redeem man card stamps for grunts and barely audible discussions about sports and the weather. Women can also redeem them to make their less capable male friends feel self conscious and less adequate.
For this week's installment of Toolbox Tuesday, I'm going to cover a tool that I consider to be my first major tool purchase and one of the most important power tool purchases that I've made since starting to build my collection -- my Hitachi 10" Sliding Compound Miter Saw...with Laser.
Just after we moved into the house we borrowed Wendy's father's miter saw for a couple of our initial projects. It was a 12" fixed arm compound miter, and it was great experience with a decent saw to figure out what I liked and didn't like about miter saws in general. We used that saw to build a few shelves in the basement and install the crown molding in our living room. When we returned the saw to its owner, I started looking for a miter saw of my own since I knew there would be a ton of projects in our future that would benefit from it.
While the 12" saw was great, the fact that the blade arm was fixed, not sliding, significantly limited the overall usefullness in applications that required anything more than the simple chop action. I started searching for a good sliding saw, knowing that I would use that aspect of the saw's action quit often.
Through my research I determine that a smaller blade, probably 10", would be more than sufficient when it came to saws with sliding action. However, an 8 1/2" blade would probably be too limiting when I ran into moderate size material. The smaller 10" blade's size limitation was easily overcome by the saw's ability to "reach" for what I would be cutting. Additionally, the sliding arm would allow me to set a depth of cut and carve small dados into the material. That would have been nice during basement shelving building.
I definitely wanted a compound miter, as I find the compound measurements far easier to work with when cutting the angles necessary for crown. There are plenty of jigs you can buy to cut crown at the proper angle using a simple miter angle, but it is just easier to cut flat using compound.
And finally, I really wanted a specific feature on the saw that can easily be seen as overkill, but I had to have it, even though it might make me seem a bit lame. I really wanted a laser guide on the saw. I know, I know, a laser, seriously? Yep, I'm even the guy who said to "keep the simple things simple" last week, but this is one place where I broke my own rule. The time savings using a laser are worth the extra cost. You can just mark your cut and see where the laser hits the board, without lowering the saw and trying to make sure the teeth of the saw hit right where you want it to. The laser also significantly removes the guesswork associated with trying to set the saw to an unknown angle that you've scribed into a board. With the laser guide, you see the whole line of the anticipated cut, not just where the saw will happen to hit when first lowered.
While looking around I continually ran into the same saw with positive reviews over and over. It was the Hitachi 10" Sliding Miter. So I went for it. I'm quite glad that I did because this saw is great! Even Wendy is a fan. Here she is working on a siding project several years ago.
The Hitachi brand has a great reputation among professional contractors for quality construction, reliability, accuracy, and the ability to hold its settings well into its useful life. I've been using this saw for over seven years now and haven't had a significant issue with it beyond the need for a blade change (which was actually to the spare blade that came with the saw). I've recommended this saw to at least ten people who have also purchased it, and they are all just as happy as I am.
I do have one thing to note with its function. The laser. Yes, I'm going to complain about the laser. The laser guide gives you an accurate cut line to the left of the blade. This is perfect as long as the material you need and your mark are on the left of the saw. If you need to cut on the right, the laser shows you the cut on the opposite side. You need to be aware of this or all of your cuts on the right of the saw will be 1/8" short. You can buy an after market laser add on to give you marks on either side of the blade, but this is more of a pet peeve than anything seriously critical. A little time using the saw and you get used to the small annoyance.
All in all it is far from the least expensive saw in the category, but for the amount we use it in our projects, the need for quality construction, and the reviews you see all over the Internet, I feel it is well worth the extra cost.
If you have a compound miter saw that you simply love, please drop us a line in our comments section and tell me about it. I'm always looking for great recommendations on tools that we can share with people when they ask.