Aside from cordless drills and table saws, miter saws are the tool every serious professional and do-it-yourselfer really needs. While Harbor Freight's Chicago Electric 10″ Sliding Compound Miter Saw is certainly eye-catching for its price, we wondered: Will it stand up to other heavy-duty products and hold its own? Lots of things depend on it, Because it's easy to justify spending a few bucks here and there on some "experimental" hand tools, but what about a $139 sliding miter saw? That's an even bigger leap of faith given the amount of competition on the market. Although this type of The bigger names in the product are much more expensive, but Harbor Freight's Chicago Tools line itself has put smack dab in the middle of a bunch of generic tool names. Of course, that's before coupons and discounts (we've actually seen this Saws are as low as $85.)
Aside from cordless drills and table saws, miter saws are the tool every serious professional and do-it-yourselfer really needs. While the price tag for Harbor Freight's Chicago Electric 10-Inch Sliding Compound Miter Saw is certainly eye-catching, we wondered: Will it stand up to other heavy-duty products and hold its own? A lot of stuff relies on this, as it's easy to justify spending a few bucks here and there on some "experimental" hand tools, but what about a $139 sliding miter saw? It's an even bigger leap of faith given the amount of competition in the market. While the big names in this category cost much more, Harbor Freight's Chicago Tools line itself has placed smack dab in the middle of a bunch of generic tool names. Of course, that's before coupons and discounts (we've actually seen this saw on sale for as low as $85.)
Grabbing a miter saw is simple. Choosing a good compound miter saw can be a bit difficult. Add that to the slide mechanism, and you have a lot to consider when choosing a saw. Before we go any further, we thought we should describe the various features and functions of the Chicago Electric 10″ Sliding Compound Miter Saw. Least important but essentially the most obvious is the color. This is how they differ from reciprocating saws and corded multi The now expected maroon Chicago Electric color shared by functional tools. The trigger is yellow, thank goodness, no safety. We like that. A miter saw can be a dangerous tool, but the safety switch alone, has the same value as just adding pull strength Instead, stupid and inconvenient. Chicago Electric did it right.
There's a bit of resistance initially when you pull the handle down, which doesn't have any rubber grips or coatings, by the way. There is a manual adjustment set screw for tension adjustment, but an Allen key is required to modify the default setting. While the saw comes with two replaceable brushes and a blade changing tool, there is no included Allen key. We quickly found one and turned it a few turns to loosen the spring and the arm landed more smoothly on the material. Over time, this tension may require some adjustment as the spring relaxes.
There is another adjustment screw to limit the depth of insertion, this is easy to use and can also be bypassed by turning the locking mechanism. There's also a separate set screw for maximum depth, but the default is fine, and it prevents the included 60-tooth carbide saw blade from contacting the base.
Wires run from the motor, along the slide mechanism, and out the back. We noticed a definite point of friction (wear) where the wire meets the first plastic guide after the stress is relieved. As you raise and lower the blade, there's lateral and horizontal motion that seems to eventually cause the wire to fray and possibly even penetrate the insulation.
We measured the cutting angle of the wood on the 90 degree notch setting and the saw was nice and square. The bevel cut is just right too. The bi-metal protrusions give you approximately 5 inches of extra support width per side, but they are not adjustable – you can use them or remove them. In this way, they help very little. The side-mounted 2×4s provide roughly the same level of support, so you might end up just removing them and gaining extra compactness when storing your tools. The slide mechanism is achieved by using dual linear bearings, but the motion is rougher than most systems we've used, and it only gets worse as dirt and debris get into the slideways.
10-3/4″ is the maximum cutting capacity for slides, no matter what it says on the packaging, so 2×10 is the size limit for a single straight cut (as opposed to the claimed 12-3/16″ which we can only assume is with a piece of wood 1/8" high and the rear plastic bumper removed from the slide mechanism). The rear fence is about 2 inches high, so you'll need to do a flat top cut or use a temporary fence to make a sloped cut on the smaller crown molding.
The rear bevel control doesn't have any active stops and is a bit difficult to use, especially since it's on the rear of the saw. The embossed bevel miter gauge looks like it's over 45 degrees, but it's not. You will need to tilt the blade all the way to get the correct 45 degree angle, we recommend using a Phillips screwdriver to adjust the bevel gauge pointer to make sure the other angles are accurate. You also have to hold the saw in place while reaching and pull the locking lever into place for any other angle. Bevel gauges come in 5 degree increments, so it can be difficult to dial in common measurements like 22.5 degrees.
The saw sounds very rough while running, contrary to the smooth operation you'd expect from a precision tool. Our guess is that the bearings (maybe a needle type or maybe just not packed tightly enough) might stay rough for the life of the saw. It doesn't seem to affect performance, and the cuts are nice and straight, but we can't help but feel as if the motor is developing some serious wear and tear every time it's run. We measured the 90-degree cut and the 45-degree bevel, and each looked just right. This is fine and means quality control is setting up these saws to give proper cuts for gauge lumber and trim.
As with any tool that boasts a lot and costs less than most of the competition, buyer beware. In our opinion the miter saw is one of the more important and essential tools you can add to your arsenal and we don't really recommend this tool to anyone who wants to do a lot of work or intends to use it with work in business. Still, as we mentioned before, we've seen this tool cost as little as $85 — and at that price, it's pretty much a one-off. If you only use your miter saw occasionally or are lining up tools for a single project, it can be hard to pass up when it's time for a sale. For performance, we gave the Harbor Freight Chicago Electric 10″ Sliding Compound Miter Saw a 5/10. For value, it gets a 7/10, and quickly jumps to a 10/ if you can get it for the lowest advertised price 10.