CUTTING CLASS: The Popular Mechanics folks test circular saws and they like this one best. I have an ancient Craftsman, which is entirely adequate for my once-a-year (if that) circular-sawing needs. What’s disturbing about the test, though, is that many models had bad blade alignment, ensuring that you’d cut at a slant when you thought you were cutting straight. That’s unforgivable. I hear people saying that tools aren’t as good as they used to be. Is that old-timer complaining, or is it true?

UPDATE: Reader Allan Evans emails:

Hey, you finally hit on something I know a lot about, being a 60 yr old framing carpenter. First, circular saws are poor cousins to worm-drive saws. At about half the cost, that’s a given. But poor cuts are caused by two factors generally. Dull blades or cheap ones will guarantee a crooked blade angle and direction. Go for carbon tipped blades for a few bucks more. And the second factor is pushing the saw too hard. Let the blade do the work at its own pace. Requires a feel for allowing the motor to rev just below its max. And plywood will bog down a saw more than solid wood.

I use a Skilsaw mag, but more and more guys out here in San Diego are buying Bosch.

And Shawn Clemons writes:

The quality of new tools (or complete lack thereof) is a major issue. In order to get anything worth owning, you’re enerally better off spending more money to get into low-end professional/commercial tools, even for homeowner use.

I do a fair amount of work around the house. Everything from steel fabrication/welding to wood framing/renovation. I learned long ago that it was never a good decision to scrimp when shopping for tools. Most “homeowner” grade stuff that you buy nowadays simply isn’t worth owning.

Compare that to the old DeWalt, Craftsman, and B&D stuff that my dad or grandfather still own — much of it 30+ years old, and still quite functional. I don’t think many manufacturers think it’s in their best interest to sell quality tools anymore. Better to sell a tool that only lasts a year or so and has to be replaced, than to sell one that lasts a lifetime.

BTW — I own the Milwaukee saw picked in the PM article. In fact, I own quite a few Milwaukee power tools. They’re all great. They’re also guaranteed for five years, should you ever have a problem with them. Most power tools only have 1yr warranties, and many aren’t even covered for that long. Oh, and speaking of Milwaukee — several Milwaukee drills come with a spare set of motor brushes stored in the handle. How’s that for a promise of reliability? The manufacturers expect that you will wear the motor completely out (likely only after many years of hard use), and have to replace the brushes in order to continue using the tool. The old brushes are easily changed through an access door on the side of the drill body. Swap them out and keep on working.

That is kind of cool.