Sometimes in residential and commercial construction, you get to work on projects that are really interesting. These jobs stand out from the more mundane fare I do regularly. A recent commercial job (for which I am a subcontractor) falls under that category—but this time I got to bring along a Skilsaw MAG77LT worm drive saw to make it more interesting. I’m fortunate enough to be the finish carpenter and restoration guy on a building that was constructed in the late 1800s and completed in 1906. It was once a bar and hotel until 1981. Sometime later, in the ’90s, it was converted into a diamond store. The construction of this building is fantastic. It’s balloon framed, which was traditional for that time, and features single 2×16 spans on the floor that are 30 feet long. You don’t get too many opportunities to see that kind of construction anymore.
Skilsaw MAG77LT for Historical Renovation Work
In addition to the finish carpentry, my job is to keep everything as historical as possible. That means managing the other crews and making sure nobody cuts anything they’re not supposed to. And there is a lot of cutting, so having a lightweight worm drive saw like the Skilsaw MAG77LT worm drive circular saw was going to be a great opportunity.
We’ve got a lot of saws on-site. Most of them are doing renovation work, but some are involved in the demolition of floors or ripping long shims to level them out. We also do a lot of sheet goods cutting (plywood) for the floors. This new Skilsaw MAG77LT was timely, and it’s running alongside a Makita, a DeWalt and the two previous generations of Skil worm drive saw, including the MAG77 and the heavy-duty SHD77. Needless to say, we got to really compare it.
Yes, It’s the Lightest Worm Drive on the Market
It’s definitely the lightest saw on the market. Skil shortened the body casing, so the balance on it is really great. It has a cast magnesium shoe—gone is the stamped aluminum and steel. I actually found that I could rig it up and use the MAG77LT as a poor man’s track saw quite easily. The older saws didn’t ride as nice against my makeshift plywood fence compared to the new one. This is because the stamped shoes had like a 3/8″ radius, while the Skilsaw MAG77LT saw’s cast base is really squared up nice and tight.
On the older stamped shoes, the steel or aluminum would bend. The cast ones usually don’t break and they certainly don’t bend. Speaking from experience, you could drop a saw with a steel shoe from a six foot ladder and they’d be bent for the rest of the life of the saw. And one of those saws would last you 40 years, so that’s a long time to deal with a bent shoe!
Features and Favorites
I liked the overmolding Skil put on the rear handle. The top handle looks overmolded, but the plastic is just colored black. The miters are all nicely marked, with bold white numbers and hashes on the black metal. I also liked that they stored the blade wrench inside the foot. It’s handy so that you don’t lose it, and it’s right there when you need it. For depth of cut, it has equally nice markings for both 2x and 1x lumber as well as marks for 1/4″, 1/2″ and 3/4″ ply or sheathing. It’s also accurate and very simple to use. Lots of saws have markings, but this one is just easier to read. This was a great change for the saw and it’s something I’ve always thought would be helpful.
A new innovation is in the form of a stop which protrudes out of the “Anti-Snag” lower blade guard. When you angle your shoe to set a bevel, it eases the guard back. It makes for a much easier start for your cuts and is a brilliant feature for framing or traditional rafters. Nobody else has this feature. Usually you have to pull the guard back with your thumb, but this saw does it for you.
Skil also put a rafter hook right on the saw which flips out easily and stays in place until you don’t need it. This is great because I used to have to bolt on an aftermarket accessory to get this feature.
Skilsaw MAG77LT Field Report
In addition to my finish carpentry and renovation work, I’m using this for cutting cedar siding and the construction of a new shear wall for the building. Along the way, I’ve been cutting all manner of plywood. The blade that came with the Skilsaw MAG77LT was great—at least until I used it to cut up some nail-embedded flooring. The blade Skilsaw ships comes from either China, Japan, or the USA. (It’s marked on the packaging.) I got a Japanese one. Considering how often I get circular saw blades with slightly off-center arbors (which makes them wobble) and other imperfections (which makes them inconsistent) the Skilsaw blade is a good starter.
Benefiting from a Lighter Weight Saw
I found this to be a great saw for overhead work. With the age of this house and the amount of remodeling we were doing, I often found myself retrofitting things into unusual areas, cutting out windows, and performing other similar cuts that involved lifting the saw over my head. I found that I was able to hold it up with one hand and cut (when necessary—don’t tell OSHA!). That is unheard of with heavier worm drive saws.
We work in the cold, so I took note of the cord on the Skilsaw MAG77LT—perhaps more than most. The power cord, which is about 8 feet long, works great in cold weather (meaning it stays pliable). I have two other Skil saws that are about 2-3 years old. On both of them, the cords “blew up” in cold weather, the outside sheathing cracking. The new Skilsaw MAG77LT worm drive saw stayed supple, even on really cold days. It reminded me of the Tundra-Air hoses I use which are flexible down to -40º F. They’re flexible at low temperatures and practically limp as a noodle at room temperature. This cord isn’t quite that flexible, but I was impressed by how it held up. In the lower 48 you may never think about that, but it’s important!
About the only other real difference in this saw vs my other Skil worm drive saws is that this sample has a bit more gear chatter. When you’re doing long rip cuts, making 12′ trims, or cutting through knots, you can hear a bit of noise in the gearbox. This may not be an issue, but it was worth noting.
I highly recommend this saw. It’s a little more expensive, but it will probably come down in price eventually and be comparable to other worm drives out there. Right now it’s about $60-$70 more than most other saws on the market. While it’s a steep price to pay, I’d go for it on the weight and features alone.