Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Dewalt De Fault: Postscript

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.

19 comments:

  1. I love reading your posts and your explorations in the world of carpenters. Although my needs are as precise as yours, I too am ever frustrated by the planned obsolesce. Like I tell my helpers as they are being trained, it takes just as long to do poor job as a quality job (task). If you start with the right objective, and analyze the process needed to reach it, it needn't take any extra work.
    For my needs, a Hitachi sliding compound saw has been fine, not great. You need to know the tool to get good performance out of it, the little tweaks and corrections. But its for my mobile shop and does frame to finish. What I have loved is my Rousseau 2950 saw stand with all accessories. It has made the saw. Easy to set-up and rarely needs a truing. But, as I have used others and tested the Festool products, every one so far I think is superior for fine work. Not just their performance, but in the little details that are designed for the craftsman. But you get what you pay for... As I replace tools, Festool will get the first look.

    ReplyDelete
  2. Chris,
    From my experience you wouldn't have been happy with a Makita slider either. I took the fence of mine, laid it on a shim on the concrete drive and drove the work truck on it. And that made it considerable straighter. I have also bought a replacement fence for a Dewalt (now junk) because the original was so crooked. At the time I thought I had damaged it somehow or the cast pot metal shifted from internal tension but since I have come to believe this is normal for this type of saw.

    Peace,
    Harlan Barnhart

    ReplyDelete
  3. KCC,

    first time posting a comment I see, and pleased to hear from you. I've never looked at one of those Rousseau stand before, however I'll take a look into that soon. Not that I need a stand - hopefully the Bosch will hang in there a few weeks.

    Harlan,

    man I gotta say I love your style with the driveway straightening method for the Makita fence. That reminds me that the College of the Rockies carpentry shop, where I once worked, had a Makita sliding saw. The motor was smooth but yep, the fence wasn't straight. I agree, it seems to be the way they make them now. All show, no go.

    ~C

    ReplyDelete
  4. I searched for and found these two manuals for the Festool miter saw:

    http://www.festoolusa.com/media/pdf/kapex_ks_120.pdf

    http://www.festoolusa.com/media/pdf/kapex-ks120-supplemental-manual.pdf



    I found this page with an "unreleased" manual whatever that means:

    http://www.talkfestool.com/vb/meet-members/362-rick-christopherson.html

    Below is the direct link:

    http://www.waterfront-woods.com/festool/Kapex_KS120_R3_1.pdf

    The Festool line of woodworking tools looks very good but is way beyond my means. Even if I did have the money I'm not sure I could embrace the complexities of owning one of their systems.

    ReplyDelete
  5. http://www.mcfeelys.com/docs/manual/561287.pdf

    ReplyDelete
  6. KP and kaninfan,

    thanks for the links. I do believe my needs have now been met manual-wise!

    ~C

    ReplyDelete
  7. COTR carpentry shop? Where?

    Scott

    ReplyDelete
  8. Scott,

    thanks for asking. When it was up in Kimberley. I guess it is down in Cranbrook now. I taught the Timber Framing Program for a semester.

    ~C

    ReplyDelete
  9. Chris:

    Thanks.

    Small world with the net available.

    I'm in Cranbrook and the COTR shop is just up Victoria from my house.

    Scott

    ReplyDelete
  10. Chris, your latest post would seem to also point something else out. It seems a bit unfair putting the blame entirely on manufacturers for putting out less than entirely respectable goods. The consumer has some responsibility in the matter. People want quality for less price. It is often an impossibility combining the two, something has to suffer. Not saying that $600 for a saw is being cheap, but the formulas and whatever else large manufacturers use to maximize their profits, while still fitting the targeted budgets to make it work for them, it is often likely a mutual appeal with inherent flaws on both sides.

    ReplyDelete
  11. Dennis,

    thanks for your comment. I agree with you that the blame does not lie entirely with the manufacturers, however the system as designed, the consumer society, has this as an outcome. There's a great book on this topic called "Cheap: The High Cost of Discount Culture" by Ellen Shell that shows clearly "the peculiar forces that drove Americans away from quality, durability, and craftsmanship and towards quantity, quantity, and more quantity". At one time people distrusted a cheap price, believing it to be indicative of poor quality. Now people as often as not are distrustful of a high price, believing they are being gouged. That complete reversal in attitudes did not come about by accident.

    The average person who buys an item for $20 or less is unlikely to be all that bothered if it works poorly or fails prematurely, and that is part of the genius in selling cheap crap. Yet it is the items at the low end of the price spectrum that generally derive the greatest profit for the companies involved. A $50 hammer might have cost $20 to produce, whereas a $4.99 hammer probably cost $0.75 to make. The return is much better and the sales are going to be so much higher with the $4.99 hammer obviously, and inexorably the profitable companies drive out the less profitable ones so we end up with a market filled with nothing but $4.99 hammers and people think a $50 hammer is outlandish. The challenge for the producers has been to mold consumer attitudes so that they think they are getting a great bargain with the $4.99 hammer.

    Many of the comments I read against the Festool saw amounted to people feeling the price was outlandish and that there wasn't a significant enough difference - why, they could buy three sliders for the price of the Festool!

    In the US there is another factor which has driven a lot of machine tool manufacturers out of business: the high cost of litigation.

    Finally, what drives large manufacturers profit wise is really driven by their shareholders who will take their money elsewhere if the return each quarter isn't above a certain line, so short-term thinking and making the quick buck become the all-important concerns and measures of performance. If a product manager can't keep sales at a certain level he will be replaced by someone who can, and they will use whatever techniques have been developed elsewhere to maximize ROI.

    People who use tools are a funny and varied lot. Some will be disgusted by tools that give poor results and don't last well, treasuring a fine tool like and old friend while others seem quite indifferent to their equipment. I find this strange of course. At one end are woodworkers who could seem to care less about their equipment, using whatever to get 'whatever' done, and at the other end of the spectrum are those so obsessed with their tools who really don't seem to make anything with them!

    ~C

    ReplyDelete
  12. There also could be the added element of the difficulties in producing and maintaining quality, as a result of the lack of a conducive labor force. The training and motivation required to do the better work, for a manufacturer to have that going, it has to be quite high on the list of priorities, and that must entail a whole other degree of mindset and atmosphere compared to where mediocre is good enough. Keeping the standards up there for a large concern, there must be difficulties. Further resources would need be required, sharper pencils, along with more focused and stricter management. That doesn't seem like the direction in which the tide is going these days.

    ReplyDelete
  13. Dennis,

    absolutely. In many parts of the North America, since the bulk of the manufacturing was transferred overseas, there has been a gradual shrinking of funding for technical manual instruction in the public schools. The dust collection I just bought came from a high school that closed its shop program. Indeed, shop class is one of the first things cut these days whenever there is a budget crunch. The few manufacturers that remain, seeing to cut corners/costs wherever they can, no longer invest in in-house training. When the economy downturns, it is possible for them to snatch workers from other companies who have absorbed the cost of the training. and then the manufacturers complain about the lack of skilled candidates for positions on offer.
    Finally, in North American culture, at least, there has been a social devaluing of the skilled manual arts. Kids today are all told to go to university, but how many more managers, planners, paper shufflers and executives does society need? Now you need a Phd to apply for an entry level job - I exaggerate, but only slightly, and things are definitely heading that direction.

    One of the things I like about both French German and Japanese cultures is that skill in many of the manual arts is still greatly esteemed by the average citizen. In the film "Kings of Pastry" former French President Sarkozy makes a short speech about the validity of the manual arts -they being the equal of the achievements of the head only. Our entire education system, as Ken Robinson pointed out so well in his TED talk about schools killing creativity, is set up to produce people who are only valuable for the development of that portion of their body above their neck and to one side. The rest is apparently unimportant.

    ~C

    ReplyDelete
  14. great..I love Japanese architectures they are like building a house like of a lego. I really admire their handicraft as well as with their ability to do it.. House made of wood!

    ReplyDelete
  15. Really interesting read as always Chris. The race to the bottom of manufacturing quality is incredibly frustrating..
    Brian

    ReplyDelete
  16. Self-disembowlment is a bit much.. I met one of the most beautiful people I've ever met at the same big box outfit and it was real. And this was yesterday.

    ReplyDelete
  17. Adam,

    Thanks for your comment. Always nice to hear from someone who appreciates Japanese wooden architecture.

    Brian,

    Good to hear from you and pleased to read that the post had some relevance and resonance for you.

    ReplyDelete
  18. Will,

    I'm guessing that you live in Canada, where the orange box seems better in most respects. I imagine all sorts of nice folks can be found in those stores.

    ReplyDelete
  19. I am going to buy miter saw. I read many website and I see Dewalt DW175 which suitable my need. I am going to buy this site. I read your article, I don’t know Bosch miter equal Dewalt DW175. Do you give me for information?

    ReplyDelete

All comments are moderated, so if you're planning to spam this, know now that your clicking and pasting is in vain. I do read the comments before posting, so your mission is doomed from the outset. All this time and effort trying to put your inane spam onto blogs -- is this how you want to spend your time on earth?

Please do me the courtesy of appending your name to your comment, even if posting under the 'anonymous' option. No name = deleted.

Comments NOT accepted include:

-those containing links unrelated to blog content
-spam of any kind, or ham for that matter
-did I mention that attempted spam postings will be non-starters?