One of the things that echoed in my head after the bad taste of the Dewalt purchase gradually abated was the way the product was described in the sales lit.:
“The DEWALT DWS780 12-inch double bevel sliding compound miter saw expertly walks the line between the rugged durability and fine precision that professionals need on the job site. From delicate woodworking to heavy-duty framing and deck building, the DWS780 provides the accuracy, capacity, and portability that cabinetmakers, trim carpenters, framers, installers, and contractors need.”
I think the saw, like many other brands out there, would be fine for indifferent production cutting, tossing in the back of the pickup truck, etc. I was hoping for more, thinking that $600 should get me somewhat close to ‘the basics done right’, but it wasn’t looking that way.
Waking up this morning I was still not quite sure which way to go. I was re-contemplating the Tannewitz saw again, and trying to convince myself that I could make one of the $600 sliders do a decent job with an MDF sub-table, judicious filing work on the fences, etc. Not leaving me with a warm and fuzzy feeling, I’ll say that.
Driving to the shop, I decided to stop in a local building center, R.K. Miles. They are a 4-store outfit based in New England, and the staff in there have always been friendly – in a ‘real’ sort of way, not the fake sort of way as you get with the ‘greeters’ the big box stores put by their entrances to ‘welcome’ you in and with forced enthusiasm ask if they can ‘help you find anything’. I would commit hara-kiri if I had to do that job, so those people have my enduring admiration, when I’m not trying my best to avoid their approach at the entrance. I pulled in and grabbed my pile of reference tools to check out what they had on offer.
First off I looked at another Bosch 12″ ‘Glide’ saw. This one had a really bad table, level at the back by the fence and tilted forwards to the handle end to the extent of 0.02″. No, I’m not missing a ‘0’ there folks — it was on its way to being 1/16″ out of level (!). The glide mechanism looked cool, and I remember the hype about this saw several months back, but the glide was not as laterally stiff as one might have hoped. Pass.
Then I looked at their Hitachi 10″ saws, and again found the tables not co-planar with the saw base. And after having owned a 10″ newer type of Hitachi slider, and having used most of their other models, I wasn’t interested. I don’t like their split fence design as it is easily knocked out of alignment. Pass.
Checked another 10″ Makita DXT saw, and just like the one in the Orange Box store yesterday, was not level and neither were the fences square to the table. Pass.
Down to one last possibility: Festool Kapex. They had one in the store, folded up with its stand. I was eyeballing it and then a staff member came over and asked me if I needed any help. I told them I wanted to check out the Kapex. He wrestled it up and unfolded the stand (not the most impressive sort of stand), and then looked at me with a ‘well?’ on his face. I then moved in with the straightedge. The guy at the counter who was observing the scene said, “wow, we’ve never had anyone in here looking at the tools with stuff like that!” I’m always happy to provide some entertainment to my fellow human beings. I tried explaining to them why finding a flat and square machine was important to me, and while they nodded and looked like I was making perfect sense, I suspect they thought I might be a tad OCD or something like that.
I placed the straightedge across the Kapex’s table and base and it looked flat(!). Knowing that my eyes might be deceiving me, I pulled out the feeler gauge set and started with the usual 0.005″ leaf under the straightedge. No way Jose. I eventually found that I couldn’t even get a 0.001″ feeler gauge under any portion of the table. That my friends, is suitably flat enough for me and any sort of woodworking I can envision. I then checked the fences to see how square they were and was surprised to find they were dead on 90˚ as well. I know that some folks have criticized this saw for various reasons, having read the reviews like anybody else, but when it comes down to the basic functions of a cutting saw, this is the only one I have found on the market that actually has a flat table and square fence. I turned to the salesperson and said, “I’ll take it“.
Fitting it onto the Bosch gravity rise stand was a slight hassle, which was unexpected given that both companies are German and the fittings are metric. I eventually found that a 1/4”-20 Allen head cap screws and nuts were the ticket to fastening the saw to the stand without having to make modifications to either component.
The saw was a display unit and is missing the manual, so there are a few points of operation I haven’t quite worked out yet. The saw can be had with an 80-tooth blade, the up front handle to adjust the blade tilt, the extra large protractor scale for tilt, and the excellent dust collection all seem like strong points on this saw. A three year warranty is nice too. And it weighed a good 10 lbs less that the Dewalt as well. I’m sure the Kapex will have its faults in some way or another, but its basic accuracy promises more than any of the others at the consumer end of the miter saw market are capable of delivering.
Yes, I had to spend more than twice as much money to get a saw that had the basics done right. In the scale of things, when a Graule precision radial saw costs upwards of $10,000, the Kapex is still relatively inexpensive. I had hoped $600 would get me what I wanted, but it does not I’m afraid.
I now have a Forrest Chopmaster 12″x80T blade with a history of 10 test cuts on it for sale. Send me a message if you’re interested in buying it, otherwise it goes up for sale elsewhere.
Thanks for coming by the Carpentry Way and comments always welcome.