Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Review of 18 volt Mastercraft saw from Canadian Tire

Here is a shot of the victim:

You noted I wrote victim?


Is it a real good saw? 


This saw should be stuffed and mounted as an example of poor industrial design, of which it truly is a victim.

How do I hate it?  Let me count the ways.

1: The charger fan makes a soft whirring noise to cool itself down while plugged in. ( a good thing for charging lithium batteries) but it keeps on whirring even after the charge is complete.

This is not a good thing because the owner is tempted to unplug the charger except when charging. And if the saw is in only occasional use - the li-ion battery suffers from not being kept up to charge. 

Many DIY types would only drag out the circular saw every year or so for a small job, or in my shop, it exists to trim long boards which are awkward to handle full length, or to cut big panels down to close to finished size before trimming on the table saw, once every blue moon.

2: The laser sight. On my saw it would not point on or along the cut line. no matter how I fiddled with things.

It would not cut along the line because the laser pointed off to the right. Worse, when I managed to get it pointing straight ahead on the line, the saw bit the wood off to the side of where the laser pointed.

I examined the base to see if the base had been knocked out of whack by being dropped. Nope.
I tried fiddling with the set screws that point the laser at the wood, shifting the line right and left.  I could get the laser to get the saw blade to cut where the cut line began, but it stubbornly refused to point along the line of cut marked on the board.

3: During my struggle to get the laser pointed the right way I partly dismantled the handle and noticed some wires to the laser and the trigger were crimped by the assembly because they were not properly routed in the groove left for them, which solved the intermittent laser light problem. I repaired the almost severed wire.

4: The base was not aligned with the saw blade, so if a person used a guide edge to cut a straight line, the saw would not follow the guide without binding and tearing the cut. Aligning the base made the laser pointer even worse.

5:Take another look at the blade shrouding. 

The operator cannot actually see the blade as it enters the cut. It might be eye safe from the point of view of flying splinters, but the operator is flying blind because the guidance system doesn't work and cannot be trusted.

6: All the above are the good parts. Take another look at the saw above. Note that it, like all circular saws has a wide part and a narrow part for the base. On this saw, the narrow part is to the left as the user holds it. If the user is right handed, his left hand holds the wood to be cut.

Do you see the problem? Imagine you are trimming three inches off the end of an eight foot board.  The saw will rest its wide part on the long bit while you use it left handed, or you will use it right handed and rest the saw's narrow base on the part to be cut off. Neither orientation is a very safe way to use the saw.

So the design demands the user to actually clamp the wood to something while making a cut. Safe, but slow, awkward work flow ensues.

Back in the day, I worked on construction sites and movie sets when the power saws all had cords. The blade was to the right of the motor part, and it was easy and fast to use. 

Mark the cut. Pick up the wood in the left hand, and cut with the saw, holding the thing in mid air, the trim dropped off and the saw and big piece were still in contact.

Or put it on a saw horse or two and hold it in place with the left hand while operating the saw with the right. On those saws it was possible to observe the blade as it entered and proceeded along the cut line.

Of course the way to spot an experienced pro was that his power cord had been patched together at a convent distance away from the handle, where the user managed to cut it with the saw.

So it seems to me that the designers of this tool have never actually operated a power saw, and designed some tool that followed all the safety recommendations, but ignored useability.

The tools.

Don't buy one, you will regret it.

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