Tool Review: Chicago Electric 10" Compound Slide Miter Saw 90891

Power miter saws make quick work out of cross cutting boards and, you guessed it, making miter cuts. In today's market you can find miter saws with many features that extend their capability far beyond simple miter cuts. The Chicago Electric 90891 is one such saw. It is a sliding compound miter saw, but what exactly does that mean?


By no means am I a professional tool reviewer. This is a review from an "average Joe" for all the DIYers out there.

Description
Sliding miter saws have the blade assembly mounted on some form of sliding mechanism so that the blade can make broader cuts. In a way, this feature turns a miter saw into a miniature radial arm saw. Compound miter saws let you adjust the bevel of the cut in addition to the miter angle.

So How Good is the Chicago Electric 10" Compound Slide Miter Saw 90891?
The Chicago Electric 10" Sliding Compound miter saw is priced right around where most non sliding, non compound miter saws from the major tool brands are. That can be expected since Chicago Electric is the name Harbor Freight puts on its power tools, and Harbor Freight generally imports the least expensive tools it can get from China. You will usually find people who either love the inexpensive prices at these stores or hate the generally poor quality of imported tools sold at Harbor Freight. But this is a review of the miter saw, not the store where it came from.

Brand new, this saw will cost $100-130. Used ones can be found at discounted prices; I found my near-new saw for a little more than half retail price. You definitely get a lot of saw for your buck, but what we need to determine is if the saw works well.

Ease of Use

Starting with the ergonomics and ease of use, this saw performs well. The vertical pistol grip handle of the saw is comfortable and I prefer this style of handle as opposed to a horizontally mounted handle. The "trigger" and the safety thumb trigger are spaced perfectly for my medium sized hands.

Changing the miter or bevel angle is easily accomplished by using the large plastic knobs. The included work clamp features the same type of plastic knob which makes it comfortable and easy to use.

The weight of the motor is not a real issue. The motor/blade unit smoothly pivot down, though the spring in the hinge area may be a bit stiff. I would prefer the spring to be a little softer so it would not take quite as much effort to lower the blade.

To use the slide feature of this saw you simply loosen a bolt (that has a comfortable plastic knob, like all the other adjuster bolts) and the whole saw's arm, hinge, and motor unit slides back and forth on two rails. It takes very little effort to slide the saw, which I like.When the saw is completely extended forward on its rails, the center of balance is a little too far forward for the saw's base to handle. If you are going to use the saw's sliding feature, you should bolt or clamp the saw down to a stable surface. What is nice about the base is that it includes pre-drilled holes to use to bolt it down.

The miter adjustment has positive stops at 0, 22 1/2, and 45 degrees. I really like this feature and wish all tools that have miter or bevel adjustments used accurate positive stops. Unfortunately, the bevel adjustment on this saw does not have positive stops, except at 0 and 45 degrees, which happen to be both the miter and bevel range of angles this saw is capable of cutting.

The included out-feed support rails are marginally useful, but the plastic stop is not. The amount of play in the stop is alarming, even when it is fully tightened down to the rail. That is not too much of a problem though since the out-feed rails are really too short to begin with. Like all miter saws, this can easily be remedied with the purchase or creation of a dedicated miter saw stand.

Operation
First of all, the 90891 has a strong enough motor to cut through any wood that will fit. No complaints there.

The blade leaves a clean cut almost all the way through the wood, but creates a lot of splinters and tear-out at the rear of the cut. I think most of this is caused by the large gap in the fence for the saw's clearance. Most of the tear-out can be eliminated with the use of a sacrificial auxiliary fence. I really would like to be able to completely eliminate all splintering, but I have not had any luck. Another factor may be the large opening in the lower blade insert. If this insert were narrower, the wood piece would have more support from underneath and would splinter less when cut.

The biggest criticism I have of this saw is the excessive play in the motor/blade unit's hinge. While lowering the blade to make a cut, I can wiggle the blade side-to-side about 1/16". Because the movement originates in the blade's pivot point, it can create a slightly angled cut.

Summary
For the most part this is a good saw. The movement in the blade really keeps the Chicago Electric 10" Compound Slide Miter Saw 90891 from being an excellent saw. It works very well for making quick cuts where dead-on accuracy are not important or if you are going to true those cuts on a table saw or other tool. The compound angle cuts are also very useful when working with crown molding.


What I Like
  1. Compound cutting capability
  2. Sliding feature
  3. Easy to use
  4. Inexpensive price

What I Dislike
  1. Free play creating non-square cuts
  2. Excessive tear-out and splintering
  3. Blade guard needed to be adjusted in order to correctly work

My Rating
I rate on a five star scale.
1 star = Poor, I would not buy and would probably not use even if given to me.
2 stars = Marginal, there are better products out there in the same price range. I would only consider getting this if it were extremely discounted and I did not plan on using it very much, otherwise I would suggest passing.
3 stars = Acceptable, if this product were on sale and I needed it, I would buy it. It functions as it should and will probably last a few years. It is probably not good enough to be my primary tool of choice, but excels as a back-up.
4 stars = Good, this tool is worth retail price if you need it. It only has a few minor drawbacks that are easily outweighed by its strengths.
5 stars = Nearly Perfect, this product is exception with few minor, if any, flaws. It is built well enough to pass on to the next generation of DIYers and will not disappoint them.


The Chicago Electric 90891 10" Compound Miter Saw gets



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1 comments:

Anonymous,  April 13, 2011 at 12:46 PM  

I can't seem to find the manual on this item. (I'll find it as soon as I don't need it again. LOL) Stupidly enough I bought this about 7 years (around 2004) ago because I knew I was going to need it for a project. But procrastinated until the mailbox post finally fell over in January 2011. But now in my second project (making saw horses) after making one I started smelling a some what burning smell from the motor but not what I am used to as a burning smell. I am assuming it is the carbon brush since they did give you an extra one. Must admit not happy about it going bad this soon, less then 50 hours of use. Harbor freight no longer supports this exact one and the replacement manual doesn't explain how to replace this or if this is the problem. Nothing about a smell coming from the motor.

Thank you
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