Rockwell 4-1/2 Inch Circular Saw - Review
Rockwell has just hit the scene with a little circular saw. 4-1/2-inch blade, to be exact. This is a good sized step down from the standard 7-1/4 or the increasingly popular 6-1/2 inch blades. These smaller trim saws aren't uncommon, but Rockwell decided to give theirs an "in-line" body style, as opposed to a traditional circular saw body. The result is that it looks like one of those "all-purpose" saws that claims to cut tile, stone, and wood. But given my experiences with those saws, I'm happy to report that this one is nothing like them and thankfully, is only geared towards wood. Rockwell sent us one to check out and here's what we thought...
The Rockwell is a nice little saw. It has some solid capabilities; it can cut through 2x stock at 90 degrees, which is great. Still, to make an obvious point, it's probably not the saw you want to frame your house with. If you're a light duty DIYer, this tool maybe, maybe could be enough saw for all of your needs. so if you live fully in the "science fair project" realm of 1x stock, then this one is going to fit the bill nicely. Where you're going to get stopped up is trying to make an angled cut through a 2x4...it can't do that. So the crazy rafter cuts on your doghouse are going to have to wait.
The saw also has a nice little built-in dust port which is a smart move seeing as a tool like this, a trim saw, is more likely to be used in a nearly finished space. It has all of the features and controls that you see on most circ saws (blade bevel, depth of cut, etc).
One thing that's a little strange is that the saw body doesn't bevel directly off the footplate. Instead, the footplate consists of two parts, only one of which bevels. For some reason I didn't take a photo of this, but there is one here so you can see what I'm talking about. There's actually a slight wobble where the footplate connects to the body of the saw. Not a lot, but enough so that I noticed it while doing some uber-precision work. The choice of a metal footplate also leads me to believe that one or two good tumbles could knock it out of whack.
Over the past number of years, I've slowly evolved towards the worm drive saws. They're total brutes and I've found that I can use their added weight to my advantage. But it still doesn't mean that they're a practical tool to use for everything. So in my situation, the Rockwell presents a nice counter point to my larger bulkier saw. If I'm doing something small, I've been reaching for the small saw. If I'm doing something big, well then, it's the big saw that gets the work.
My first impression of the Rockwell was that the handle was a little awkward to use, but after a few uses, it was no problem. It's definitely a different feel, more like a grinder than anything else.
So as a supplemental saw, this is a winner. It would also be a good option if you keep to thinner materials and simply don't need a larger saw. Dicing up shingles up on staging, buzzing scraps for the kindling pile, or really anything where size and speed are going to matter.
It costs about $100, which we think is entirely reasonable for a solid little tool like this one.
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Posted by Doug Mahoney at December 2, 2013 8:34 AM