Review on Lowe's Kobalt 12 inch sliding miter saw
Hi all! Today I bought a new miter saw to help me become better at wood working and have more accurate results. My old worn out miter saw was just a single bevel, non slider, and the motor bearings were allowing it to make other than true cuts from wear. I can't complain, I got a lot of use from it, virtually rebuilding a house inside and out using it for everything from trim to cross cutting the 2x materials used to build it all, as well as many, many other jobs in the field doing trim work, and home use for my wood working hobby as well. It's more than done, but still kicking.
Today I bought the Kobalt 12 inch sliding miter saw from Lowe's to replace it with. Here is a copy of the review I submitted on it after several hours of tweaking, set up, and playing with it. Maybe this will help someone looking for a new miter saw.
I bought this saw after comparison shopping between several others in the same category and price. It offered the best features and quality for its price than any of the others I looked at.
Out of the box it is impressive immediately. You can tell that the quality is there just by seeing the heavy aluminum base and solid fence, heavy made moving parts, and oversized knobs and adjustments. The slide action is smooth, with no bobbles or catches like some others have. The saw head up and down action is easy to move, just the right amount of resistance, not too tight, not too loose, unlike either of the 10 inch or the 7 1/4 inch models. The pivoting action of the miter base is smooth as well, easy to move even with the saw just sitting on the work bench under its own weight and not bolted down. The dual bevel angled movement is also smooth, but can be adjusted if desired by loosening the large lock nut at the rear of the saw where it is covered by a plastic cup (nice touch). Mine was factory adjusted just right already. The clamp that comes with it is nice and heavy made, and has a couple of extra features I'm not used to seeing on other saws. The foot is rubber padded to keep from marring the wood and it also has a quick adjust to save time threading it all the way down. Adjust it quickly, then thread down for final snugness against the workpiece. Very nice. All of the bolt adjustments have oversized plastic wing nut heads for easy hand tightened settings to hold clamps, secure the slide, and secure other moving parts.
The saw also has lockable, pull out extensions for longer workpiece supports, complete with flip up stops that are solid for accurate, repeatable cuts on shorter parts (minimum 12 inches, max around 24 using the stops). The stops on other saws are sometimes weak and wobbly. Not these. Mine are very solid and snug fitting, but move up and down easily when needed. The fence is very well made, very tall as well for cutting wood up to 4 1/2 inches tall. This is the actual height I measured with wood cut against the fence. The fence is adjustable by sliding the tops sideways. This is necessary for the bevel cuts. This saw bevels both directions, unlike some others, and has a front locking bevel control instead of the traditional knob in the rear. It also cuts miters up to 45 degrees on the left, and 60 degrees on the right, with several detents for common angles such as those used in crown moldings, and it has a detent override. It also has adjustable crown molding stops to keep the work against the fence for easier cutting of crown sat on an angle on the base. There is on board storage for these as well. Also there is onboard storage for the blade removal wrench, and even a carpenter's pencil.
Out of the box the 60 tooth saw blade is already set 90 degrees square to the fence and base. The 45 degree bevels and miter angle settings are correct also. I spent several hours setting my saw up for accuracy. I checked each 90 and 45 setting with a layout square. There are adjustments for correcting misaligned saws but mine was true in every way.
The only things I did adjust were the bevel gauge markers. They are metal pointers that ride just above the gauge to indicate degrees of tilt. They read ok but we're too far above the surface for me to feel they were accurately able to be read so I removed each one and tweaked the bend so they ride nearer to the gauge and this makes it much easier to tell what actual degree of tilt I am at on the saw. Then I tightened the set nuts on some of the adjusting levers to the fence and slide extensions and stops. A couple were slightly looser than I wanted so to ensure no slippage occurs during use i checked each and tightened as needed. Also, the screws securing the main pull down handle were slightly loose too, requiring 1/2 turn each to fully tighten down. The handle slipped slightly once during initial setup but a tightening of the screws solved it. The miter gauge marker needed no adjustments at all, and is much nicer on the 12 inch model than on either of the 10 inch and 7 1/4 inch models. Very easy to read.
As others have said, I found my laser to be off by a full quarter inch to the right of the blade. I removed the three caps covering the adjustment screws (located on right of laser, pry these off with very small slotted screwdriver) and I worked for nearly two hours trying to get the laser accurate. It's a major trial and error process. The two bottom black screws seem to control left and right movements of the laser while the upper silver screw seems to control left and right angle of the laser. One may control up and down movement but that is difficult to tell. At times though, each screw seemed to change functions and create opposite movements than the last time it was adjusted. Twist a little and the line goes left, twist some more and it goes back right. A real headache! I finally brought the laser into alignment after marking and testing with a sheet of paper with a line marked 90 degrees to the fence, aligned with the blade teeth along the right edge, and many test cuts in scrap wood, but it seems that slight pressure on a screwhead, or even just the blade guard, can change laser alignment some, so it remains to be seen how well it will hold an alignment while being moved from job site to job site. I suspect it will not last, but just sitting in my shop on the work bench, so far it is holding up to crosscuts in 2x materials and remaining accurate. If it does hold its adjusted position then it is easily accurate enough now for carpentry work and cutting flooring materials such as laminates and hard woods, but for cabinetry or dado cross cuts for furniture projects, I will be relying on tried and true pencil marks and blade alignment to these prior to cutting. All in all, the laser leaves me feeling like it is a wasted feature due to too much possibility of movement and being hard to adjust.
This saw throws a good deal of dust. It has a 2 1/2 inch port for a vacuum hose or dust bag. Without a vacuum, the dust bag is necessary to catch dust that will otherwise blow in your face, but even with it you need a dust mask to run this saw. The cut is very smooth though, and motions are fluid while pushing through wood on crosscuts. There is a depth of cut stop to allow for dado cuts with repeated passes and readjusting of workpiece between cuts. I am looking forward to giving that a try.
Other than the laser, I have no complaints, and would buy this saw again.