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First up in our no-particular-order top ten favorite tools, 2007 edition, is Skil’s ever-popular circular saw — the 7-1/4″ Skilsaw. And we’re not talking about their high-buck worm-drive model. Our 2007 favorite is the model 5400-01, which we snagged for a whopping $25 off a Lowe’s sale table sans operator’s manual. Read on past the jump for details.

Despite this saw’s humble appearance — and price — it’s tough as hell. We’ve made thousands of cuts with it this year, building at least four bookcases, a huge hutch, a bedroom suite, numerous tool test rigs, and even the building we tore down. It’s been pitched off a roof, slung around by its cord, stepped on, and abused in almost every fashion you can imagine — and some you probably can’t.

Still, it cuts straight the first time in most any condition through anything from 1/4″ ply to 2″ hard wood.

Features? Sure: its foot has a mark you can use to follow a line to make straight cuts. And there’s a safety lock on the trigger. You could spend more for a laser (or two) and some additional foot detents. But why? For the price of many modern circular saws you could have two or three of these — and we can attest that it’ll do anything you need to do with a circ saw.

Even if you can’t find one on sale, they only retail for $45 brand new, and they’re readily available at most big-box retailers — or online if that’s how you shop.

Skilsaw Model #5400-01 [Skil]
Street Pricing [Google Products]

 

17 Responses to TM’s 2007 Favorites: Skil’s Base-Model Skilsaw

  1. PutnamEco says:

    Re:
    You could spend more for a laser (or two) and some additional foot detents. But why?
    =====================================================

    Or you could spend more for a more ergonomic and durable saw, rather than some froo froo gadgets.

    Why?
    Because you don’t want to go buy a new saw every three months because the runout in the bushings shifts your cut line everytime you pause or vary your speed.
    You may want a saw that can rip more than 1 or 2 2 Xs in a row without going up in smoke.
    And you may want a saw that doesn’t give you a cramp or make your fingers go numb from vibrations when you have to work with it for 8-10 hours a day.

    Hey, you could have a hot dog or you could have a steak.

  2. scubasteve says:

    RE: You may want a saw that can rip more than 1 or 2 2 Xs in a row without going up in smoke….

    =========================================

    It seems that the editors have done a sufficient test on their unit to show reliability (see above). And while the sample size isnt large enough to prove durability, their testing is at least suggestive.

    So, the point is: if I can find a hot dog that I like just as much as a steak, Im only paying for a hot dog.

  3. PutnamEco says:

    Re:
    It seems that the editors have done a sufficient test on their unit to show reliability (see above). And while the sample size isn’t large enough to prove durability, their testing is at least suggestive.
    So, the point is: if I can find a hot dog that I like just as much as a steak, I’m only paying for a hot dog.
    ==========================================

    Don’t take this the wrong way, I’m just offering an opposing view point, for the sake of argument, after all I’m just an over the top, elitist tool snob.
    But, it has been my experience that “affordable” saws (B&D, Skil, etc.) just don’t hold up very well, for long. I’ve witnessed a similar saw go up in smoke after ripping 3 1/2 2x10x12s where as an older 77 went through over a dozen barely getting warm.
    And having lived through the frustration of multiple worn out saws, and the ribbing I got from the more experienced people on the job, from having to borrow their much more reliable “premium” saws (Bosch,Milwaukee,Makita,etc.) wondering why they never had new saws when I was buying 2-3 a year. I learned what a “false economy” cheap saws are.
    For “DIY” type stuff like the editors did, they may last fine, but if your going to make a living with a saw in your hands for any length time, I don’t think they cut it.

    Some people do like hot dogs better than steak,(ask just about any kid).
    To each his own.

    P.S. A good blade does wonders, no matter what saw you plug it into.

  4. ToolFreak says:

    The Skil saws have a two year warranty, and most other saws, even the cheaper brands, have at least a year. I’d say even at $45 new, 2 years of cutting would be worth it. I’ve seen these at Walmart and Lowe’s for under $40, though. They didn’t fare so well in noise and vibration in some recent circular saw reviews, but yeah, I’m likely to buy a good Skil model when they’re cheap, and use a really good blade, rather than spend $100+. I guess if you use it often enough or it’s your most frequently used tool on the job, you’re better off getting the best you can get, though one of these would certainly still make sense as a spare.

  5. rick says:

    noise and vibration? I wear gloves and hearing protection anyways… gloves may be overdoing it but hearing protection is on pretty much all the time for me. Ear muffs are cheap, why not protect your hearing. Frankly the only noisy activity that I dont wear them for is when I has upset the lady of the house… and I have tried ear protection for that… but apparantly that is a bad thing… seriously though, ear protection is mandatory for a circ saw!

  6. PutnamEco says:

    Re:
    I wear gloves and hearing protection anyways… gloves may be overdoing it but hearing protection is on pretty much all the time for me.
    ==============================================

    Now there is a controversial issue, gloves and power tools.
    The two sides

    1. Gloves should always be worn, they protect your hands form vibration, minor cuts and splinters.

    2. Gloves should never be worn. They take away the “feel” for what the tool is doing. They give a false sense of security, that your hands are safer than they are,
    and can get caught in tool and do more damage than good.
    (Picture getting you glove caught in a bench grinder or belt sander, or wrapped into a drill.)

    Me, I only wear glove occasionally with power tools, think jack hammers, palm nailers, and some chain/demo saws.

    OSHA quote:
    Protective gloves are the primary means available for direct hand protection. Extra-long gauntlets or sleeves attached to the gloves can extend protection up the arm. However, the appropriateness of glove use in the woodworking workplace should be carefully reviewed on a task-by-task basis. Gloves should not be worn when operating woodworking equipment due to the potential for getting caught in moving parts.

    Heavy leather, metal mesh, or gloves may provide protection against cuts, abrasions, and lacerations, but they can also greatly reduce dexterity, possibly leading to a higher frequency of the mishaps they are intended to protect against. Furthermore, no glove will stand up to direct contact with the cutting surfaces of most of your power equipment. For these reasons, engineering and work-practice controls will be your best bet for addressing the hand and arm hazards posed by cutting and shaping equipment.

    from
    http://www.osha.gov/Publications/woodworking_hazards/osha3157.html

  7. wilkins says:

    My Milwaukee saw is closing in on 30 years of reliable regular use. The only maintenance has been several replacement cords (and innumerable blades). There are times when I wish it would wear out because, being a tool-fool, I would like to buy a new one, but whaddya gonna do? I think I paid about $125 for it in 1980. What’s 125 divided by 28 years? About $4.50 per year?

    I guess it just depends on what your definition of value is.

  8. PutnamEco says:

    Re:
    My Milwaukee saw is closing in on 30 years of reliable regular use.
    =================================================
    One of my favorite saws , still can find them on ebay for a reasonable price, unlike my other favorite sidewinder, the pre Dewalt, Black and Decker Sawcat. I can’t believe people will pay close to $500. for those old Sawcats.

  9. Fred says:

    I’ve always preferred worm gear saws – with the caveat that you need to keep the gear train lubricated. My old Porter Cable (bearing the Rockwell Brand Name) trim saw (4-1/2 inch) is still my go-to tool for cutting single sheet stock and plexiglas. My Skil 77 is good for gang-cutting sheet stock – and the one that I have with its “BigFoot” conversion kit slices through rafters and large framing members with ease. I have 2 Milwaukee sidewinders – (one is 10-1/4 the other 7-1/4) that we use on and off too – but neither have gotten the long-term abuse of the worm gear saws.

  10. TL says:

    RE: The Skil saws have a two year warranty, and most other saws, even the cheaper brands, have at least a year. I’d say even at $45 new, 2 years of cutting would be worth it.

    =================================================
    Typically those warranties are only valid for non-comercial use.

    There are some tools where going with the cheap stuff doesn’t really mater to me. A circular saw isn’t one of those places. I’ve had too many times when bad bearings have lead to an uneven cut which has ruined part of a project.

  11. PutnamEco says:

    Re:
    Fred Says: My old Porter Cable (bearing the Rockwell Brand Name) trim saw (4-1/2 inch) is still my go-to tool for cutting single sheet stock and plexiglass.
    ————————————————————————————————————-
    Great little trim saws, them, and the 77 has got to be an all time classic. I hope the “new and improved” Chinese made version doesn’t kill them off.

    Big foot conversions are another classic,
    Have you tried their chain saw foot?
    http://www.bigfootsaws.com/newsite/head_cutter.html

  12. Fred says:

    Re. Chain saw foot:

    I don’t do timber framing but have gotten involved with some heavy structural members (glue lams and some multiple joists).
    My other big tool todeal with these is a Makita 1806 (6-3/4 INCH WIDE)
    power plane.

  13. PutnamEco says:

    Fred Says:
    Re. Chain saw foot:
    ===================
    Gang cut rafters – fast and fun

  14. [...] TM’s 2007 Favorites: Skil’s Base-Model Skilsaw The first member of Toolmonger’s Favorite Tools of 2007, the trusted 7-1/4” Skilsaw model 5400-01 proved to us time and time again that toughness doesn’t always come in expensive packages. Our $25 investment helped us solve a lot of problems, sawdust-style. [...]

  15. Teacher says:

    I’ve got a cheapo 12 amp Craftsman I bought 14 years ago that looks like the Skil saws…stamped footplate, lower power(12 amp as opposed to 15) etc. A thin kerf 36 tooth Dewalt blade and it still cuts fine. A speed square for a cutting guide helps as well.

    Also, ear plugs are an “always” item for me when using a circular saw so the saws noise level is a secondary concern to me.

  16. Mechagouki says:

    “There are some tools where going with the cheap stuff doesn’t really mater to me. A circular saw isn’t one of those places. I’ve had too many times when bad bearings have lead to an uneven cut which has ruined part of a project.”

    ——————————————————————————————-

    A bad workman always blames his tools?

  17. desettoad64 says:

    Dudes, let’s get a grip. One will not use this saw for a living. That’s stupid. However I have built an entire house using a saw just like this. It is built and marketed as a home project saw. To consider anything else puts you in the realm of tarddom. The life of a tool can be quite long with proper care and lack of abuse.

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