November 29, 2010

Bosch GCM12SD 12-Inch Axial Glide Miter Saw - Review

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If there ever was a tool that sucked the oxygen out of the room, it's the Bosch Axial Glide Miter Saw. It's crazy, but everyone is talking about it. Even our non-tool friends are asking, 'hey have you seen that saw with the Bionicle arms?" Until recently, we had actually only seen it on paper. A number of frustrating experiences at the airport prohibited us from making our flights out to Bosch for the unveiling of the tool (we tried twice), so it was just a couple weeks ago, when Bosch nicely packed one up and sent it our way, that we got to see the tool in person and give it a good once over.

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As you probably already know by now, the big breakthrough with the saw is that Bosch has done away with the traditional rail system entirely and in doing so has created a miter saw with minimal rear clearance. A couple years ago, Festool got the clearance, but still utilized the rails. Bosch, as they did with their innovative line of nail guns last year, started over from scratch and designed a tool, seemingly forgetting all that has come before it. They also did it with a 12" saw. The Festool is only available as a 10".

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Without the rails, the motor/blade movement is now done with two robotic arms, one on the x axis and one on the y, which flow open and closed bringing the saw across the cutting area. We use the word 'flow' here because that's really what happens. The movement is like pouring water. It's ridiculously smooth. This ease of motion is created by the 12 sealed ball bearings at the arm joints. And if you'd rather have smooth like molasses over smooth like water, there are a couple of set screws that can adjust the amount of resistance in the arms.

bosch_axial_glide_dust_port.JPGWhen we first heard about this tool, we, like everyone else, thought that there's no way this freaky arm system could be even half as stable as a rail system. Egg, meet face. After making cut after cut after cut with this thing, we've actually come to see the traditional rail system as fragile and unsteady. When we switched over to make a cut with our Bosch 10", it felt clunky, gritty and the slide resistance over the course of the cut is uneven. In all of these aspects the Axial Glide excels. The articulating arms are thick and bulky where they need to be and because they are positioned against one another (one vertical and one horizontal), there doesn't seem to be much chance of them coming out of alignment.

When we visited Bosch last year upon the release of their line of nail guns, we got a chance to see the 'Nail Gun Testing Chamber,' which consisted of three dudes blasting off rapid fire nails all day long for weeks on end. Bosch takes their durability seriously and even though the Axial Glide hasn't been around too see much field time, our guess is that deep inside Bosch HQ, there's an 'Axial Glide Testing Chamber' where the tool has proven itself under some serious long-term conditions.

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Head to head against our old 10" (click to enlarge all images)

So what does all of this new engineering mean in practical terms? Well, a lot...a real lot. The Bosch saw has a total front to back measurement of 32-3/4" compared to our old 10" Bosch which tapes off at 42-3/4", a space savings of 10 inches. But it's not exactly these numbers that are the important ones. What you really want to look at is the distance from the back of the tool to the back of the fence. This is what dictates the space savings to the left and right of the saw, which is far more important that the total depth of the tool. Anyone who is seriously looking at this tool has some sort of accommodations for side work support and the back of the fence is the dictating line because that's where the 12' piece of crown molding is going to be sticking out. This number on the Axial Glide is a very slight 13-1/4" and on our old 10" the same measurement is 24-1/4", a difference of almost a foot. Now this is significant, especially if you've got a dedicated and permanent work support system. Say you have a work support table that runs eight feet down each side of the tool. By using this saw, you now have 16 extra square feet at your disposal. And anyone who has ever been on a 'bump-out' renovation can understand what a couple square feet of floorspace can do. Or think of it on a crowded jobsite...you could actually set this thing up in a hallway if you wanted to. We were going to calculate out our actual square footage mortgage savings with the Axial Glide, but thought that was getting a bit too geeky.

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There are a few other things that Bosch has done differently from their older saws. First off, they've done away with the fully rotating trigger handle on the Axial Glide. It was a nice feature on paper, but one that we never used in real-life. Also, the angle markings across the front of the tool have been cleaned up with much nicer looking lines and numbers. Bosch has also added a second, smaller scale with marks for common rafter cuts. It's a nice touch and one that we're into.

bosch_axial_glide_front_controls.JPGIf you're used to an older Bosch, like our 10" (which is about three years old), you'll also notice that the Axial Glide doesn't have a micro-adjust on the detent override. Junking this feature is a good idea. We always thought it was fussy and difficult to use. The new saw also doesn't have the double nut depth stop, opting for a spring-loaded piece of threaded rod instead (also a good move).

If there is something to fuss about with this tool, it's the dust collection. Even hooked up to a Festool vacuum, our workbench collected sawdust. When we think about how much material is being removed and the fact that it's a 12" saw, the collection is pretty damn good, but it's not in the 'hand's down, best evah!, I could use this in someone's living room' category.

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The ooo and aaahh factor on this tool is unquestioned. Fellow carpenters have been flocking to the shop since word got out that we had one. Everyone who has come by is impressed and so are we.

The Axial Glide costs about $800 which is only $100 more than their standard 12" saw. Seeing that Festool had no problem putting their Kapex in the $1300 range, we think that Bosch should be applauded for their restraint. With the way people are talking about this one and the general excitement over it, they could have gotten away with at least a $1000 price tag. It's nice that they didn't.

At Amazon.com and Ohio Power Tool.

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Posted by Doug Mahoney at November 29, 2010 5:00 AM

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Recent Comments

AKA it looks AWESOME!


Posted by: Ethan at December 22, 2010 2:37 PM

this Saw had to be designed by a kid of the 80's, it's look like a cross between robocop and the 1984 holiday doorbuster the Tandy Armatron.



Posted by: Kevin at November 29, 2010 5:56 PM
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