Clarke Power Products Crocodile Saw - Review
Clarke Power Products has recently released something called the Crocodile Saw, which, at first glance, looks like a hybrid between a grinder and those great little trim saws that Makita and Porter-Cable make. The hook on the Croc is that it has the ability to handle wood, tile, stone, and metal. It has a 4 amp motor and a number of interesting safety features to help it along this task. We've had one in the shop for about two months now and have come to our conclusions. Is it too good to be true; to have one saw to deal with all of these materials? Read on to find out.
Before we began our testing, we had to get the tool started, which turned out to not be as easy as we thought. The blade is entirely encased in a large plastic guard which won't flip up unless a little red button is depressed. To start the tool, you need to turn on the motor (which is also a safety button requiring you to press down the center button before sliding the entire thing into the on position). Once the power is on and the motor is humming, you then have to reach around and press the guard release button, (while keeping the thumb on the 'on' switch because it doesn't lock like a grinder), then once that is done, you now have to press the tool into the workpiece, making sure to keep holding both buttons, so the guard can flip up out of the locked position. It's impossible to do this with one hand, and awkward, at best, with two hands. Also, by having both hands on the tool, none can be on the work piece, which immediately eliminates the possibility of working with small pieces (which is where we thought this tool would shine).
There is also something strange about the placement of the power switch. When the tool is running, to keep it pressed, you have to have your hand perched over the tool, which pulls it away from the grip and lessens the amount of hold that you have on the tool. Out of the box, we were impressed with the feel of the grip area, but the fact is that once you're using the tool, your hand is hardly touching it because you've got to keep pressure on the power switch.
So after a while, we settled on releasing the blade guard and holding it up by the work piece (but holding the blade back) and starting the motor. We still didn't like the idea of starting a tool with the blade just barely missing what we were cutting, but it was the easiest thing to do. We handed the tool off to a few other people and watched them try to use it and everyone had the same awkward experience. We all agreed that a few minor changes would have solved the problem. For one, allow the 'on' switch to lock. It's a feature on all grinders and would let the user easily release the guard and be able to firmly grip the tool. Secondly, move the guard button closer to the grip so it can be operated by one hand. Or honestly, remove it all together. Anyone who reads this site on a regular basis, knows that we're very safety conscious, but we think the whole blade guard release button just gets in the way. And what is it preventing anyway? Any circular saw on the market (which are far more powerful and deadly than this guy) just has a standard blade guard that flips up when it comes in contact with the work piece. This just seems like needless overkill to us.
So we finally got the Croc running. Now how does it cut? Well, on to the second problem we had with the tool. When cutting wood, the blade guard gets so filled with sawdust that it is impossible to see the blade, so you have to rely on the markings on the foot plate (or, if it's a straight line, you can use the edge guide). Even with a vacuum hooked up, it's tough to see the blade. Trusting the marks excludes the saw from precision work (where the edge guide can't work), which is another area we thought this saw would excel in. We also found that the saw bound up pretty easily in ½" ply wood.
We then put in the metal cutting blade and tried it out on a metal stud. It seemed perfect for us; being able to quickly cut a metal stud with no snips and no sharp edges. Unfortunately, the blade just barely missed cutting through the entire piece, but what was more disconcerting was that the grinder wheel lost a ¼" radius from just one cut through a stud. So it looks like assembly line framing it out of the question unless you've got a good number of extra blades.
Probably the most bizarre aspect of the tool is the carrying case that it comes in. It's a small sized duffel bag with more zippers and pockets than the leather jacket from the Thriller video. Not only are there a ton of openings, but some of them are completely redundant. You can zip open a large flap on the top of the bag, but you can also zip open a smaller flap within that large flap. Huh? Are you ever in such a hurry that the time it takes to zip 200 zipper teeth is the difference between success and failure?
The sides also open up and in one of these pockets is an interesting and successful blade storage system. It's a circular cartridge that can un-attach from the duffel and stand alone. It's a nice little touch and the high point of the carrying case.
The Croc Saw comes with a few additional items, some standard (edge guide, extra blades, pipe cutting guard) and some not so standard (laser level with accompanying miter gauge and a grease pencil).
The Croc Saw costs about $100, which, if the saw was all that we thought it was going to be, is really short money. But as it stands, it's $100 for something that we're not going to use a whole lot. For a multi-purpose tool to be successful, it has to be at least as good as the tools it is emulating; in this case it has to cut wood like a trim saw and handle metal and stone like a grinder. From what we experienced, the Croc Saw does neither.
Maybe our hopes were too high. We really wanted this saw to kick our asses, but it sadly didn't. It's awkward in the hands and limited by its own safety features. We loved it on paper but in reality it just isn't happening.
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Posted by Doug Mahoney at October 6, 2008 5:21 AM