Skil Mag77 circular saw
OK, there have been lots of reviews published about this saw, both in magazine reports and on the internet. However, I have not written any of those reviews. So, here goes my shot at fame.
This is a great saw, BUT it is a saw built for use by strong men with strong arms, or at least one Popeye-grade strong arm. Why? Well, its magnesium case notwithstanding, at 14 pounds it is still very heavy for a circular saw. However, what you get in return is a left-side blade that makes it easier to guide to a scribed or penciled line when cutting right handed and a whole lot of cutting torque. Regarding that torque, my particular sample is an earlier one with the 13-amp motor. A later version has the 15-amp motor found in the Bosch version of this saw, plus the newer version also has a rafter hook. The 13-amp rating notwithstanding, the version I have cuts through wood like it was heated butter, and it is hard to believe that anybody would need more hand-held cutting power.
The weight of this saw can be an advantage if you are cutting things like large plywood boards (hopefully, with a fence clamped into position to insure a really straight cut) where you just roll along for several feet and basically lightly push and guide the saw like you were piloting an M1 tank. Heck, stack several sheets on top of each other and save time that way. The saw doesn’t care. It just mows its way through that wood.
Like most circular saws it takes a 7.25-inch blade and unlike most of them it has a diamond arbor for a really solid grip. (Skil notes that you should not overly tighten the lock nut, in order that the clutch action that does allow slippage if a jam should occur will work properly.) That is no problem with most blades, since they are pre-stamped for that kind of use. All you need to do is twist out the diamond precut section from around the standard round arbor hole in the blade and you are in business. Unfortunately, if you do that you then can no longer use the blade in any conventional saw you might own, although diamond-shaped inserts are available for back converting. I have one of those, and admit that care is needed to properly use them and avoid blade wobble and slippage in conventional saws.
This saw can cut to a depth of 2 3/8 inches at 90 degrees and 1 15/16 inches at a 45-degree angle. It has a button-type spindle lock to make blade changes easier and the lower blade guard seems less prone to snag than with some other designs. While the saw is ostensibly blessed with lots of magnesium in the body to save weight, the sole plate on the bottom is still aluminum. It is not quite as well machined as some of the plates I have seen on other saws, but it is more than precise enough for carpentry use.
Like other worm-drive saws, the Mag-77 requires an oil change once in a while. It needs oil, because unlike direct-drive “sidewinder” saws there is substantial friction between the motor shaft output and the right angle ring gear that is attached to the blade shaft. Skil recommends that the oil be changed after the first ten hours of use with a new saw, but they are vague about intervals after that. Supposedly, once the oil looks dirty or smells burnt it will be due for a change. Oil is available from Skil directly, but you can also get the stuff at any Sears store, because they sell (or at least once sold) a Craftsman version of this saw in aluminum-case form. The Skil owner’s manual has clear directions about how to both check oil levels and replace the old stuff. Skil also recommends a bearing change after 300-400 hours of use, which is a lot of use. I will probably not get to that level for the rest of my already long life. The owner’s manual also implies that the brushes typically last 150-200 hours. Those are also available from Skil, and I would imagine that the bearings and brushes last as long as with any other kind of portable cutting tool.
My own saw came with a 25-foot cord (some versions come with an 8 footer) and I suppose many carpenters would love this, because it reduces troublesome extension-cord usage with some projects. I found it to be awkward, because I do most of my work out on my shop’s adjacent work deck, and out there I only need about a 12-foot cord. The 25 footer was a problem to deal with when storing the saw (I have this fetish about storing tools neatly), and so I cut it loose and installed a short pigtail wire on the saw with a male plug on the end. (See the photo.) This allows me to use whatever length cord I want, including the 25 footer (well, now it is 24 feet), which now has a new female plug on the cut end.
The saw came with a blade that was not a carbide model (which may explain why it was on sale at Lowe’s for $159, with a Skil rebate offer that paid me back $20, for a $139 total price) and I replaced it with a Freud Diablo job that works just fine. I saved the stock blade for use when cutting wood that might have nails in it.
I like this saw, if only because of its “macho” cachet, but I find it awkward to use with minor-grade cutting projects. Consequently, for work of that kind I use a Craftsman trim saw that has a 5.5-inch blade. The thing weighs half what the Mag-77 does, also has a left-side blade, and I reviewed it elsewhere on this tool review site. However, when the chips are down and big stuff needs cutting, I whip out the Skil unit (well, lug it out, since whipping it would pull my arm out of joint) and power my way through whatever lies ahead.