We know, we know. The Skil Flooring Saw has now been on the market for about a million years. Actually, it’s closer to one year, but that’s a long time in the tool world. We’re a little (ok, a lot) behind the curve on this one, but since Skil is a HomeFixated sponsor, we figured we’d better get a move on. Skil sent us both the 3600-02 7 amp Flooring Saw, and one of their Contractor Series Premium Flooring Blades (75536). The saw is designed to cut solid, engineered and laminate flooring. Although we didn’t have a flooring job underway, I grabbed some leftover 3/4″ white oak flooring scrap from a previous job and put the Skil Flooring Saw through it’s paces.
Having glanced at the Skil Flooring saw in the past, I never realized it makes both cross/miter cuts and rip cuts. More on our thoughts about the saw’s cutting abilties below. The saw comes out of the box more or less ready to go. There are four mounting holes, but you’ll want to be careful about mounting. One, you’ll need a cutout in your mounting surface to allow excess saw dust to escape, as some of it falls through the slot in the saw base. Two, count on un-mounting it for blade changes since you’ll need to actually use the slot in the base to remove and add a new blade. Luckily, some nice thick rubber feet give a stable base and protect flooring too. The saw is also cleverly designed so that standard 2x material can be used to support longer pieces.
The entire tool is light, relatively compact and easy to carry with an integrated carry handle cutout of the saw base. The Skil Flooring Saw’s base features easy to read, solidly engraved width (ripping) and angle (miter) markings. A push stick and allen wrench are also conveniently stored below the base. The Skil Flooring Saw also has a small metal post and arm to clamp and hold down material. Since the clamping assembly just drops into a hole in the base, you’ll want to carry that separately, or just keep an eye on it so you don’t lose it during transport. Some type of clip or attachment point for the clamp for transport would have been useful to avoid dinging your new, prized floor with it during transport.
A couple hooks on the track for the saw enable safe stowage of the power cord, so you’re not accidentally playing jump rope with it while climbing stairs. The same pin that locks the saw into place for rip cuts also prevents the saw from sliding around during transport.
The Skil Flooring Saw has an integrated dust port and includes a bag for collecting dust. I’m not a big fan of dust collection bags, so I hooked mine up to a Festool CT 26 Dust Extractor. The Skil’s dust collection outlet is a bit small (at 1 1/4″), so I needed to use a little adapter to hook up the hose. Keep in mind you’ll be sliding the saw back and forth on the track, so you’ll want to rig your dust collection hose up a bit and with a little slack so it doesn’t snag on the track during miter cuts.
Not unlike a table saw, the Skil 3600-02 also includes a riving knife and anti-kickback pawls. A blade guard also does a nice job of keeping the sharp blade tucked away when not in action. I found the blade guard to be unobtrusive during cuts. The saw also has two different switch mechanisms depending on what you’re doing. For miter cuts, a trigger-style switch with a thumb safety is in play. For rip cuts, you lock the saw into place, and in doing so, a bump-style switch is activated. Trying to do rip cuts using the trigger from the opposite side clearly would be playing with fire, so the bump switch makes a lot of sense. Even though the Skil Flooring Saw is small relative to a full size table or miter saw, it’s still perfectly capable or severing digits or flinging wood at you. Make sure you read the manual’s safety tips and observe basic precautions like keeping your meaty bits away from the blade, and using a push stick for rip cuts and keeping your body out of harm’s way should a kickback occur.
Skilsaw Contractor Series 75536 Premium Flooring Blade & Blade Removal
We immediately swapped out the standard blade for the 75536 Premium Flooring blade. If you’re used to blade removal on full sized tools like we are, you may find the blade removal process slightly awkward. We did. The arbor lock button is a little hard to reach, and I wound up using a socket wrench to loosen the bolt securing the blade. Unlike everything you’ve been taught about screws and bolts, keep in mind it’s righty-loosey, lefty-tighty on this one. Arrows on both the blade and the saw help insure you don’t do anything silly with blade direction. We found the Premium Flooring Blade made very smooth cuts in both miter and rip cuts, even with our relatively beefy 3/4″ hardwood flooring. Skil says these blades are ideal for hardwood and laminate, and based on our experience with White Oak, I have to agree. Skil also say’s the Premium Flooring Blade offers two times the life of the standard (75540 blade), which some reviewers have said wears out a little quickly.
Straight and Miter Cuts
When it comes to most flooring projects, cutting floor boards to length is what you spend most of your cutting time dealing with. The Skil FLooring Saw excels at this, and makes cutting through even 3/4″ hardwood nearly effortless. If you need to cut an angled miter, clear markings make adjusting the fence to the right angle very easy. Best of all, the compact design of the Skil Flooring Saw means you can cut in the same room you’re working on. Not running outside or to another room saves a huge amount of time over the course of project.
When starting, or in particular when finishing a run of flooring by a wall, it’s sometimes necessary to perform rip cuts. After locking the saw into rip position, one thing to do before you start ripping any material is to align both the rip fence (to ensure its square to the blade) and adjust the rip fence pointer. I failed to read the manual at first (as usual) and did my first cuts without aligning the rip fence. I quickly realized my material was pulling away from the fence after the cut. My bad. Aligning the fence keeps things square and keeps your rip cuts straight.
Don’t be an overly rugged individual and skip the manual on this one, it includes some key steps like lowering the front hold-down bracket and the anti-kickback pawls. Adjusting the rip pointer was also key, as mine was 1/16″ of an inch off at its factory setting. Both the fence and the pointer adjust easily with a couple screws. The riving knife may also need to be adjusted, also with a couple screws.
The Skil Flooring Saw is a compact powerhouse for flooring installation. It’s impressively solidly built base, miter and rip versatility and compact, floor-friendly design make it ideal for a typical DIY’er looking to install some flooring. Even some pros may be attracted to the compact portability and easy of keeping the cutting work in close proximity to the installation. If you’re planning on doing a lot of rip cuts and straight cuts, it might be worth having a tablesaw nearby for the rips. Switching from miter to rip is fairly fast, but not as fast as a few steps over to a table saw. Since most flooring jobs involve cutting material to length with straight cuts, the switching is unlikely to be a concern. While I still prefer my table saw for rip cuts in particular, the Skil Flooring saw can get the job done smoothly and efficiently in a compact, portable package. And, at just $160 from our sponsor Tyler Tool, the Skil 3600-02 120V Hardwood Flooring Saw Kit just might be the biggest bargain around in the flooring installation tools, especially when compared to buying a table saw and a miter saw.