Choosing a Saw
For this test, we selected top models of 7-1/4-in. sidewinder saws from the most popular brands and compared them. With one exception, the saws all have 15-amp motors and spin at 5,200 to 6,200 rpm. The saws range in price from about $60 to $150.
To test the saw, we assembled five staff members with about 80 years of combined carpentry experience, gave them a big pile of lumber and proceeded to turn the boards into kindling. We crosscut, ripped, and then tried the ultimate torture test: a 45-degree by 45-degree compound angle cut across a 2x10.
After comparing comfort, balance, features and cutting ability, we chose a few saws to receive Editors' Choice awards for Best Overall and Best Mid-Priced Saw.
How Does It Feel
All of these saws performed well when fitted with the same 24-tooth carbide blade. Beyond the specific set of features you're looking for, one of the most important considerations in buying a saw is how it feels in your hands. Unfortunately, you don't have the luxury of 13 saws lined up in front of you like we did. But you can still visit two or three stores and get a good idea of which saws you find most comfortable. Despite the fact that the DeWalt saw has a simple grip with no added rubber or other enhancements, we all think it's one of the most comfortable and well balanced saws in the group. If you work in a cold climate, be sure you also try out the saws with a pair of gloves on. Some of them may not have enough clearance around the trigger for gloved hands.
Aluminum or Magnesium Shoe
Steel shoes are common on less expensive saws, and they have a few downsides. First, they can bend if you drop the saw. And a bent shoe can cause your saw to cut poorly. Also, the rolled edge on a steel shoe can be a problem if you're using a thin straightedge like a rafter square for a saw guide. The saw can slip over the top of the guide and ruin the cut. We prefer aluminum or magnesium shoes with crisp, square edges. The more expensive saws in this group all have excellent shoes.