Tool Review: Skilsaw 7 1/4" Circular Saw, Model 5400

Are circular saws worth having in your tool collection? Is the Skilsaw 5400 any good? Read on to find out if this is the saw for you.

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

Circular saws are real work horses and are good at
ripping and cutting large boards and panels, like full sheets of plywood. Sure, a mid to high end table saw may yield better results but will cost 20-40 times as much a this Skil saw. The main use for a circular saw is making straight cuts through wood products no more than 3" thick. Not every DIY weekend warrior has a cabinet, radial arm, or panel saw, but you will not need any of these expensive tools to cut large panels or boards.

It can be difficult to cut straight lines free hand, but you can make a simple jig that will assure accurate cuts every time.

To construct the straight cutting jig you will need one board 4' long and at least 2" wider than the distance between your circular saw blade and the edge of the saw's foot plate, another board 4' long by 1"+ width, and some nails or screws:
  1. Fasten the narrower board (green) to the wide board (blue) as shown in the picture. Make sure they are square to each other.
  2. Position the circular saw on the jig as shown in the picture. The bottom board should extend a little past the blade. Run the saw along the guide while cutting the bottom board to the correct width.
  3. Now all you need to do is line up your cut marks with the edge of the bottom board and you will have precise cuts every time! (Remember to add the thickness of the jig to the thickness of the board you are cutting when setting the saw's blade height)
So How Good is the Skilsaw 5400 Circular Saw?
There is no denying that this is a budget saw. It was the least expensive one at Lowes where it retailed for about $30 in 2008. But do not let the inexpensive price scare you off. A lot of times a cheap tool is just that, cheap, but I prefer to call this a base model saw. Its low price reflects its simple design and lack of pizazz (if a power tool can have pizazz) instead of cheap craftsmanship and materials. More expensive models come with laser sights, better blades, and if you pay enough, completely different methods of spinning the cutting blade. However, with a straight edge and steady hand you do not need laser sights. The blade it comes with is adequate, not great, but adequate. Different blades are readily available, so it is hard to knock too much off for the included blade.

Adjusting the blade height is as simple as unlocking the adjuster via a lever, changing the height, and relocking it by tightening the lever. An indicator shows you what height, in inches, your blade is set to. Here is where a more expensive saw would have the nice feature of set height points for the most commonly used heights so you could easily and repeatedly set the height without having to eyeball the ruler line and the adjuster. But, considering this is a budget saw, it is hard to complain about the lack of features that, though nice, are not absolutely necessary.

The saw can also be adjusted to cut up to 45 degree angle beveled cuts. The bevel adjustment is very similar to the height adjustment in terms of simplicity and short comings.

Changing blades is also simple. There is no spindle lock on this model, so you must use a block of scrap wood to act as a brake for the blade. With the blade blocked by the wood, an included wrench is used to loosen the spindle nut.

The saw has plenty of power to cut through any wood I put in its path, as long as the blade is sharp. It is loud when being used due to its direct drive motor, so be sure to wear proper ear and eye protection.

The included blade is suitable for fast cutting 2x4s and plywood. However, if you want a cut that will leave a really nice and smooth surface, I would recommend buying a 60+ tooth carbide tipped blade.

This was one of the very first power tools I purchased when we moved into our first house. For a while it substituted for a table saw and power miter saw. Even now that my tool collection has expanded, I still find uses for the circular saw. The Skilsaw is a very sturdy power tool considering the budget price tag. It may lack some of the features of the more expensive saws, but what can be expected from the low end offering? This saw does its job well enough and, in my opinion, is worth having in any DIYer's tool box.

What I Like
  1. Price
  2. Simplicity of design and use
  3. Blade and Foot Plate are square to each other
  4. Plenty of power

What I Dislike
  1. Included blade is only adequate
  2. Would be nice if the height adjustment locked into standard heights
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 Skilsaw 5400 Circular Saw gets

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Wiliam July 3, 2015 at 10:52 AM  

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

Lori September 21, 2015 at 9:59 PM  

Thank for your sharing. I read information very late, your article is closed but congrats to our winner. I bought Dewalt miter saw. It very good, I think I create anything that join contest

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