If you install a lot of trim or flooring, you’re probably resigned to the process of hauling a miter saw along wherever you go. Even if you only have a few cuts to make, they need to be clean and precise, and the accuracy of a miter saw is tough to accomplish with anything else. Lugging around a full-size miter saw is roughly the same as lugging around almost two cases of beer (and I’m talking bottled beer – not those lightweight aluminum jobs) – but with greatly reduced refreshment potential. What if you could get a sliding cordless miter saw that could make compound cuts, and cut dimensional lumber up to 8” wide – and that weighs less than ONE case of beer? Join us as we take a look at the recently introduced DeWalt 20V MAX miter saw.
As tool categories go, the field of cordless miter saws is wide open. Ryobi makes a chop saw that can cut material up to 4-¼” wide. The only other cordless sliding miter saw I’m aware of is the Makita LXT. Milwaukee introduced an M18 version last year, but so far it’s not available in the good old U.S of A. Pesky Europeans…
The DeWalt 20V MAX Miter Saw is available in two flavors: as a bare tool (DeWalt DCS361B) or in a kit (DeWalt DCS361M1). Both options come with a 40-tooth carbide blade, a blade wrench, a material clamp and a user’s guide. The M1 kit also includes a 4-Ah battery (DCB204) and a 12-20V Max charger (DCB112).
The official specs from DeWalt
Blade Diameter 7 1/4″”
No Load Speed 3750rpm
Arbor Size 5/8″”
Vertical Capacity\: Baseboard Against Fence 3 1/2″”
Vertical Capacity\: Crown Molding Vertically Nested 3 5/8″”
Horizontal Capacity\: Baseboard Lying Flat 8″”
Horizontal Capacity\: Crown Molding Lying Flat 8″”
45° Bevel Cut Capacity (dimensional lumber) 1.5″ x 8″
90° Cross-Cut Capacity (dimensional lumber) 8″”
90° Cross-Cut Capacity (Max Width) 8″
45° Miter Cut Capacity (Max Height) 2″
45° Miter Cut Capacity (Max Width) 5.5
Tool Weight 30lbs
According to DeWalt, using the included battery provides, on average, 183 cuts of 2×4” pine or 275 cuts of 3-1/4” pine baseboard. The integrated XPS cross cut system provides adjustment free cut line indication, for better accuracy and visibility. The saw has the capacity to cut up to 3-5/8″ nested crown and 3-1/2 base vertically, and can cut a 2×8 laying flat.
An adjustable stainless steel miter detent plate with 11 positive stops improves productivity and ensures cutting accuracy, and an oversized bevel scale makes bevel angle adjustments accurate and easy. DeWalt’s compact, lightweight design (31.6 lbs.) allows for easy transport and storage.
Inside The Yellow Box
With a battery-operated saw, you might have lower expectations on how sturdy it will be; I did. When I liberated it from its carton, though, it was apparent DeWalt hadn’t just slapped together a cheapo, lightweight “disposable” tool. The saw has a beefy cast base, and fit and finish is excellent on the entire saw. My first impression of the DeWalt 20V Max miter saw? This is one solid little saw; it looks and feels like a corded miter saw.
The saw is ready to make the sawdust fly right out of the box; just slap a battery on it and squeeze the trigger. And about that trigger: Like most modern miter saws, the DeWalt 20V MAX miter saw has a built-in safety feature. Unlike many miter saws, the safety on the DeWalt is easy to operate. There’s a little spring-loaded lever built into the front edge of the trigger. Slide it over to the left, pull the trigger, make your cut. Smooth and easy, for both left and right-handers.
The saw will definitely be easier for right-handed users than left-handed ones, though. The blade is to the left of the trigger handle, which would make it pretty awkward to reach over and operate with your left hand. This setup is undoubtedly an attempt to keep the saw as compact as possible. If the handle were centered above the blade, the profile would be much bulkier. The fact that the majority of the population is right-handed (70-90%, according to Wikipedia, the leading authority on everything) likely led DeWalt to use this setup. Many southpaws are used to dealing with living in a right-handed world, and may be perfectly comfortable using this setup. My wife – an avowed leftie – tried it out, and said it would be easy enough to get used to. My advice? Try one out at a local retailer; many Home Depot locations stock it.
If you’ve ever used a miter saw, operating the DeWalt 20V Max miter saw will be a piece of cake. The controls and adjustments are very intuitive. There are built-in detents at the most commonly-used angles, and the saw can cut miters up to 48° left and right. Whatever angle you choose, the miter lock knob locks it in solidly. All the miter marks are etched in, and the numbers are very easy to read. Before using the saw, I checked the blade with a square, and the fence with a straightedge, and both were right on.
Want to know where that blade is going to touch down? DeWalt’s version of the laser line is known as XPS. I’m not sure what that stands for, but the idea is that an LED light is centered behind the blade. As you lower it toward your workpiece, it casts a shadow the width of the blade onto your cutting surface. Where you see the shadow indicates the material that will be removed by the blade. You can turn the system on for about 20 seconds with a button on the handle. It also comes on automatically whenever you pull the trigger.
The beauty of this system is that it never gets out of whack, like a laser positioning indicator can. See the shadow, cut the shadow. It works great indoors, and outdoors if you’re in good shade. In bright sunlight, or a well-lit room? Not so great. Then again, I’ve used some laser systems that disappeared in sunlight, too. No biggie; I normally don’t trust these systems anyway, and end up lowering the blade to line up with my mark before making the cut.
Have DeWalt 20V MAX Miter Saw, Will Travel
I have a couple of compound miter saws. The big boss saw is my Bosch 5312, which I’ve had for several years – ever since my DeWalt 12” slider got stolen by some SLEAZY LOWLIFE TOILET-LICKING VERMIN LOSER, in fact. But I’m not bitter. The other saw is a lower-end Craftsman, which I use mostly for framing.
The Bosch is a beast – it will make accurate cuts in pretty much any size trim, all day long. The downside? The Bosch really IS a beast – it weighs over 60 pounds, it’s a bit awkward to carry by yourself, and it can wear you down schlepping it around. Since I work alone much of the time, this means I have to do the schlepping – no peons to delegate to. If I have a lot of trim to do, though, I man up and take it along.
Recently, my son and I have been doing a lot of work in a duplex we bought. We’re putting in laminate flooring, and re-doing some of the trim. Unfortunately, nothing can be left in the duplex. Early on in the renovation process, we left some tools and materials in the apartment. The next day, they were gone, thanks AGAIN to some thieving scumbag.
This has prompted us to take all our tools with us every time we leave, and bring them all back the next time we come. For normal hand and power tools, this isn’t that big a deal – it’s worth the aggravation to keep from having them stolen. For a big honkin’ saw, though, it gets old. Especially since the current phase is all on the second floor.
The DeWalt 20V MAX Miter Saw makes the daily schleppage a much more enjoyable task. Well, maybe not enjoyable, exactly, but a whole lot less miserable. There’s a carrying handle on top, and hand-friendly cutouts on either side of the table. Once it has reached its destination, it’s ready to make clean, accurate cuts in the laminate flooring and trim material. Battery life is good enough to get through an entire day of slicing and dicing.
A note here about the 7-¼” blade: I think it’s an excellent choice. Choosing a common blade size makes it quick and easy – and cheap! – to find a replacement blade when you need one. And when you’re cutting laminate, you’ll be going through a lot of blades.
When it’s time to swap out the blade on the DeWalt 20V MAX miter saw, plan on devoting about 5-10 minutes to the task. Because of the retracting blade guard, blade changes on miter saws are always a bit of a chore, but the procedure on the DeWalt is no worse than most. Grab the dual-headed wrench from its storage spot onboard, and loosen, but don’t remove, the two Torx-head bolts that hold the guard bracket. Note: the wrench doesn’t give much leverage, and those suckers are snug. VERY snug. Unless you’re a lot stronger than I am, which is very possible, you’ll need a pair of locking pliers to give you added torque to attack the Torx.
Once they break loose, they’re easy to back out. Next, just push the bracket all the way up; this gives you enough clearance to access the blade screw. Depress the spindle lock, and using the other end of the wrench, remove the blade screw. This was MUCH easier; just remember it’s a reverse thread. Pop out the blade, pop in a fresh one, and reassemble everything in reverse order.
The DeWalt Visits The Farm
Another ongoing project is our farmhouse renovation. We’re replacing almost all the flooring in the place with 5” wide, ¾” thick oak strip flooring. We’re also replacing most of the interior trim in ¾” oak. Since we live in the place while we’re up there working on it, I’ve been strongly encouraged to refrain from getting dust all over the damn place, or words to that effect.
This means at the end of each row of flooring, or any time I need to cut a piece of trim, it’s off to the garage, where the miter saw dwells. Since we’re currently doing all the rooms on the second floor, this requires a lot of trips up and down the stairs. We have a covered back porch, with an almost flat roof, that would make a perfect cutting station, but just the thought of trying to drag the saw out there and back every day makes me tired. Also thirsty, so I figure if I’m carrying all that weight, it might as well be two cases of beer.
I first set up the DeWalt 20V MAX miter saw on some sawhorses in the yard to do some of this cutting. It eventually percolated through what’s left of my brain that this saw would be MUCH easier to hoist out to the porch roof, so I relocated it. This had three happy consequences: It cut way down on the stair climbing, it saved me quite a bit of time, and it gave me a view of the pool and the woods every few minutes, making me a more contented human.
The DeWalt 20V MAX miter saw had no trouble at all with the oak. I used it all day for the flooring, and it zipped right through, giving a nice clean, splinter-free edge. This wasn’t critical in this case, as these edges will all be hidden under baseboard, but it warmed my heart just the same. When I get back to trimming windows and doors, though, I’ll get a better finish blade. DeWalt makes a 60-tooth, thin kerf blade that goes for under $20.
Once again, the day’s work was accomplished on a single battery charge. Admittedly, I’m not the world’s fastest flooring installer; a pro would likely have made many more cuts. I still had a fair bit of juice left at the end of the day, though, and a pro could always top off the battery during lunch, or step up to a 5 Ah battery, if he or she is consistently running out of power.
Would A Lighter Miter Work For You?
My only quibbles with the DeWalt 20V MAX miter saw are fairly minor. The first is the lack of extension brackets, to slide out and help support whatever’s being cut. I’m not sure if they were left off to help keep the weight down, or the cost down, or both. In any event, not a huge deal. It also seems like this tool would be a prime candidate for a brushless motor. That would give the saw even better power and run time. It’s already very good in both of those departments, though, and again, keeping the cost down was likely the prime factor.
The only other complaint is with the design of the dust bag. The shape is pretty standard, narrow at the throat, expanding at the far end like a P. Usually, though, the top of the P faces downward, to let the sawdust settle into it. On this saw, it faces up; if it faced down, it would hit the sliders. This cuts down a bit on how much sawdust can collect in the large end of the bag, and if too much dust accumulates, actually results in some of it being dumped out when you lower the blade to make a cut. I found that turning the bag sideways helps a bit.
Would I let those minor annoyances stop me from buying this saw? Hell no! In my opinion, the DeWalt 20V MAX miter saw is a winner. It’s lightweight, solid, accurate, and simple to use, even where there’s no power source available. Would I use it to frame a house? Nope. Would I use it to trim a house? Yep. This is the saw I’ll be using to finish trimming out our farmhouse, to work on our duplex, and to schlep along to the majority of jobs where trim work is required. The DeWalt will easily handle all of the trim and flooring material I normally use. And at the end of the day, I’ll have enough energy left to bring home a case of beer.
DeWalt is obviously confident they’ve built a solid, rugged tool. The DeWalt 20V MAX miter saw is backed with a three year limited warranty, a one year free service contract, and a 90 day money-back guarantee. If you’re a trim carpenter, a flooring installer, a builder who is frequently out doing punch-list work, or just someone who’s tired of schlepping around a big, honking saw, this little DeWalt is definitely worth taking a look at. It has plenty of power, decent capacity, and great battery life. DeWalt is likely to own a nice-size share of the cordless miter saw niche, even after the other tool makers catch on and slide in with contenders of their own.
Available in both bare tool ($319) and kit form ($399) from Amazon and Home Depot: