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Craftsman 7-1/4-Inch Sliding Compound Miter Saw

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Forum topic by Tedstor posted 12-23-2012 10:56 PM 5133 views 0 times favorited 5 replies Add to Favorites Watch
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Tedstor

1503 posts in 1377 days


12-23-2012 10:56 PM

Topic tags/keywords: miter saw

(Disclaimer- I’ll post a review in the proper section after I’ve made a few tweaks to the tool and given it some more trigger-time)

So on far too many occasions, I’ve found myself wishing for a decent crosscutting alternative to my tablesaw. I mean, my TS does a GREAT job in the crosscutting department, but due to having a small, cramped shop (garage), my TS isn’t always easily accessible. I have to move my motorcycle into the driveway, then move the TS away from the wall and into position. A real PITA, especially when you just have to make a couple cuts or tweak a small workpiece. Additionally, it seems that everytime I need to crosscut one board, my ripping blade is enevitably installed on the TS, making it necessary to switch blades.
(oh- and yes, I own handsaws. And I could use them in these cases, but I wanted a power tool. So shut-up and keep reading- LOL).

So I was walking through the Sears tool department few months ago and a 7 1/4 SCMS caught my eye. I wasn’t immediately blown away at first glance. 7.25” seemed a bit unconventional for a miter saw, but the more I inspected the display model, the more interested I became.
This sliding model can cut 9”x2” stock which is adequate for 95% of my crosscutting needs. And after playing around with the sliding/chopping/moving parts, I was fairly impressed with quality. Everything was smooth and tight. I also was attracted to the fact that I could outfit the saw with a premium 7.25” blade for considerably less than a more conventional 10” saw. I started to realize that this might be the TS alternative I was looking for. A seemingly decent quality miter saw, with adequate cutting capacity, and a compact footprint. But the price ($169 reg) was a bit high for a tool I didn’t need and knew very little about. So I decided to pass. But I did start researching other makes/models as the SCMS seemed to be a good fit for my shop.

It turned out that craftsman doesn’t have much competition in the small SCMS market. Makita makes a highly regarded 7.5” model that can be adjusted to use common 7.25” blades. I’ve read several reviews and all were good. BUT- the makita is over $400. Its probably worth every penny, but I don’t have that many pennies. Ryobi and Skil also make a model. I saw the Ryobi at my local HD, and the display model was not impressive. Lots of play in the sliding rails.
So it looked like the craftsman was my best option, but I had to work on the price. Craftsman tools are hit n’ miss, although I’ve personally had pretty good luck over the years. Nonetheless I didn’t want to spend a whole lot on an unkown tool, even though I realize could easily retun it if I were unsatisfied (within 90 days).

Well I had been following the price for a few months. Its reg priced at $169, but is habitually on-sale for $120-140. A few weeks back, I caught it for ~$115, and after applying a coupon code, I got it for $98 + tax with free shipping. And since I shopped via Fatwallet, I got 5% cash back which basically reimburses the sales tax. Order placed, and a few days later it arrived.

The saw comes 99% assembled out of the box. And the included owners manual spells out all the necessary adjustments and operations. Everything was fairly well adjusted from the factory, so I didn’t spend too much time fussing with the fence, blade angle, etc. I did however, immediately remove the stock blade and installed a 7.25” CMT 40T. The stock 24T blade looks fine for rough work, but not for clean cuts I’m looking for. To be fair, this saw is likely intended for “harry homeowner” to build a doghouse or cut the occasional piece of baseboard, so the stock blade is a good choice for most who own this tool.
Like the model I saw in-store, the one I received looked to have been reasonably well made.

With everything set-up, I grabbed a piece of 3/4×6ish maple and gave it a whirl. My initial/tentative impressions of the saw are good. Right angle cuts were flawless, clean, and most importantly- 90 degrees ( I did have to account for the puny, pathetic fence -see below). At 9 amps, this is no powerhouse, but is consistent with other saws in this class. It had no trouble cutting the 3/4” hardwood. And had no trouble cuttting a piece of 2×8 SPF. Noise level is on par with what most would expect from this sort of tool. I also made a couple 45 degree cuts using the positive stops. They were off by a fraction of a degree. The positive stops can (and will) be tweaked. Otherwise, miter and bevel functions work well and are easy enough to set.

Other features on the saw include an integrated hold-down clamp, dust collection bag, laser cutting guide, and an abidexterous cutting head handle/power switch.

- The hold down clamp is pretty ho-hum, but similar to many other saws. It attaches to the rear of the fence and simply screws up and down to hold the workpiece. Works fine, but I can’t understand why manufacturers use such fine threads for clamps. Takes forever to adjust the clamp with such fine threads.

- Dust collection on every miter saw I’ve ever used has sucked. The little cloth bag is a joke. This one is no different. Hooking up a shop-vac in lieu of the bag improves dust collection, but in general, miter saws are sloppy machines when it somes to sawdust. In my limited experience with this machine, it does seem a little less sloppy. Perhaps because of the smaller blade?

-Laser cutting guide. It physically turns on/off with a conveniently located button on the handle. And unlike my previous miter saw, its wired into the machine’s AC supply, and doesn’t require batteries. But to be honest, I haven’t used the laser much, since I haven’t grown to trust them yet. Its an OCD thing. I’m working on it. That said, I can’t properly judge the feature.

-Ambidextrous Cutting handle with integrated on/off switch. This is easily my favorite “unique” feature of this machine. Sometimes, its easier to operate a miter saw off-handed which is awkward to do with a “right-handed” saw.

One other thing to keep in-mind is that this saw has a very small footprint compared to 10-12” machines. The small footprint and lightweight is an asset for my purposes, since it can reside under my assembly table and can be easily set-up anywhere. But I’ll need to build some sort of supports to use when cutting longer stock.

So why didn’t I just declare this saw a 5-star marvel and post it in the review section? Because it has a few issues that I need to address/tweak and because I haven’t used the tool enough yet.

-One issue, that can’t be fixed is the manner in which the blade is held onto the arbor. It requires a hex key to loosen/tighten rather than a bolt. I’m not an engineer, buy I can’t understand how/why a puny hex bolt is better than a traditional 5/8” bolt? I guess the hex bolt works, but will enevitably strip. And finding the right size hex key will be an occasioanal hassle. Just a nuissance, more than a flaw. But I feel better for getting it off my chest.

- The circular rotating portion of the saw base is slightly tilted from left to right in relation to the fixed portion of the machine base. The left side sits 1/64 ”-1/32” above the left side of the machine base, while the right side sits slightly too low. After viewing the parts breakdown, I’m pretty sure I can easily correct this by repositioning the large bolt that connects the rotating and fixed portions of the machine base. But if I can’t I’ll likely return the machine. I’ll get around to that soon.

- The fence is also an issue, but was anticipated before I decided to purchase. This small machine has a small fence. And since the saw was presumably designed for doghouses and such, its adequate for cutting 2×4s and other rough work. But its worthless for woodworking. Besides being really short, mine is also slightly cupped. An auxillary fence will need to be built and installed. Most miter saws benefit from an aux fence anyway, so I won’t dog the craftsman too much for the shitty fence they included on this one. It’ll cost me some cutting capacity, but I’ll live. One hurdle on this point is the lack of any pre-drilled holes in the stock fence to attach any sort of auxillary fence and/or jigs. That should be standard on every miter saw fence. I’m not sure why they skipped it on this model, but I’ll have to get busy with the drill press and make some holes. Of course, the rear portion of the fence is angled, so I’ll have to get creative. But the problem is far from insurmountable.

- And finally, the plastic pieces that line the blade throat were too high and low on either side. I had to lightly sand the high parts and shim the low parts with masking tape. No big deal.

Anyway, sorry to ramble- just wanted to talk about one of my newer tools. I’ll properly review when (or if) I iron out the bugs. I’m optimistic I can turn it into a respectable saw with minimal effort.Some people would immediately disqualify this tool for said flaws. But given the low price point and the unique niche it will fill in my shop, I’m willing to work with it.


5 replies so far

View BurtC's profile

BurtC

90 posts in 1874 days


#1 posted 12-24-2012 12:46 AM

Thanks for the review, but did you look at the Kobalt version yet? I’ve been eyeballing that one for a while and may just buy it soon.

View Tedstor's profile

Tedstor

1503 posts in 1377 days


#2 posted 12-26-2012 02:06 AM

I looked at the Kobalt. Very similar machine. Appeared to have a lot of compatible parts with the craftsman. But assuming all else being equal, I like the ambidexterous handle on the craftsman better. Although, the kobalt has a lower regular price.

View josephf's profile

josephf

58 posts in 840 days


#3 posted 12-26-2012 06:57 PM

thanks for the review .i was eyeing it as an easy to grab saw for my service truck .it is so small and would do so much of my work .very light weight and easy to get in and out of my van .the price is nothing compared to most saws . oh and if i am cutting junk wood and hit a nail it is no big deal .also no big deal if i cut that engineered flooring which kills my finish blades .

View Bill White's profile (online now)

Bill White

3579 posts in 2704 days


#4 posted 12-26-2012 07:07 PM

I’ve always wondered why a good small CMS wouldn’t be a great baddition to the shop or trimmer’s arsenal.
Seems kinda goofy to me that I’d have to fire up a 12” monster to cut shoe molding.
Keep us posted as to how well it works.
Bill

-- bill@magraphics.us

View dhazelton's profile (online now)

dhazelton

1261 posts in 1041 days


#5 posted 12-26-2012 08:00 PM

I looked at the Kobalt and Sears saws as well. Sometimes you just don’t want to tote around a 50 or 60 pound saw. Interested to know if it holds up.

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