Craftsman 10" MiterMate - Review
Miter saws are one of those tools that dribble through the innovation process. Not a whole lot happens between generations other than a few more amps of power, or a couple more degrees of cut, at best, a laser sight is added. All in all it's a slow and rather boring progression. Festool released their mighty Kapex a couple years ago which added a good jolt to the process, but at a price of $1300, the most the average person could do was read the stats and say, "cool." But now here comes Craftsman with something called the MiterMate. When you first look at it, it's pretty strange. It's essentially a miter saw with two adjustable fences, as opposed to an adjustable blade. This feature, when used with their angle finder, allows for a single adjustment for two cuts which result in a perfect miter. Craftsman/Sears was nice enough to send us a sample to review and we found it to be an effective, but not perfect, tool.
So how do you use this thing? First, take the angle finder over to your door, window, wall or whatever it is that you're putting the miter around and capture the angle. The wings on the finder work nicely and there is a little locking knob so the angle won't change on the way back to the saw. Then set the gizmo into the throat of the saw and adjust the fences so that they are touching the wings on the gauge. Now, if your blade is tuned up (ours was perfect out of the box), it will bisect the angle perfectly. Just cut your stock, one piece on one side, the other piece on the other side (note: the rear bevel works just like any other miter saw).
We cut about a dozen or so different miters in the shop using scrap wood and each one came out perfectly. The real benefit here is with those corners that are just a whisker off 90 degrees. The MiterMate doesn't care what the angle is, it just makes the cut. The days of cutting and taking four more passes shaving off a 64th of an inch seemed at an end.
We then took the tool to a jobsite where we had some casing to put up and that's where we ran into a little problem.
Cutting miters usually means one of four things; door casing, window casing, baseboard, or crown. With at least three of these items, you'll be using at minimum 8' lengths of stock. This means that when you move the fence to make, say, a 45 degree cut, you're also swinging the stock around to your side. Here you have two options; 1) shift your outfeed stand around or 2) shift the saw so the stock remains over your workbench. The first option will quickly consume a lot of time (and you need an open space) and the second option leaves you standing at an off angle to your saw. And because you're constantly moving the saw around, this method doesn't allow you to bolt or otherwise clamp the saw to your workbench (which we highly recommend with such a light saw).
This design issue makes the saw difficult to use on a crowded jobsite where space can be hard to find. But because all of the crusty old carpenters we spoke to turned up their noses at this tool, it's probably a moot point. Members of the full-time woodworking crowd know about 500 different ways to get a miter right and from the ones we spoke to, they aren't likely to turn those skills over to a saw. And because we're also a member of that crowd, we tend to agree with them. Cutting a nice miter is one of the pillars of good carpentry and if you're a serious DIYer, it's something worth knowing how to do.
But not everyone has the time or inclination (or patience level) for that sort of self-flagellation, and it's those people who should investigate the MiterMate. Other than the outfeed issue, the saw does cut a nice miter and for someone unfamiliar with the process, it's a very quick way to do it. It could also be very helpful if you're working on an old house where nothing is plumb, level, or square. Like we said before, it's those miters that are only a whisker off 90 degrees that seem to be the most difficult.
The MiterMate is available at Sears for about $200.
Read More in: All Reviews | Power Tools
Share this Article with others:
Came straight to this page? Visit Tool Snob for all the latest news.
Posted by Doug Mahoney at February 17, 2010 5:27 AM