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Chicago Electric #98194 12" Sliding Compound Miter Saw Out of the box review.
Chicago Electric #98194 12" Sliding Compound Miter Saw Out of the box review.
Published by dbhost
12-13-2010
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Chicago Electric #98194 12" Sliding Compound Miter Saw Out of the box review.

This is NOT a usage, or long term review, this is just a fit and finish sort of thing. So if that is what you are interested in, read on...

I picked up a Chicago Electric #98194 on Friday with a coupon I have been sitting on for a few months that expired on Sunday, so it was a use it or lose it sort of thing. The coupon brought the price for this 12" sliding compound miter saw down to $109.99, and then throw the 2 year warranty on top of that, and taxes and I walked out the door for just a few cents over $140.00.

A few things worthy of note here. The packaging that Harbor Freight is using these days, especially the foam blocking material, is FAR superior and protective than the packaging I am used to from them. This thing was very secure in its box. Now with that said and out of the way, let's get down to the nitty gritty.

Out of the box, it took me a minute to figure out how all the knobs, levers, buttons and other various controls worked. Checking with various squares, and drafting triangles finds that the fence / blade etc... are all dialed dead in from the factory, and that the stops at 22.5, 30, and 45 degrees are exactly where they are supposed to be, and that he blade tilt measurements are where they are supposed to be.

The pointers for both rotate, and bevel were misadjusted, but easily brought into line with nothing more than a #2 Phillips screwdriver.

The throat plate on this saw is adjustable, which in this price range was a stunning find. I did not expect this, and am very happy that it is adjustable. I may still make a ZCTP for it, but at least this way, I am in no huge hurry...

There was no play in either the head assembly, or the arbor bearing, so the blade stays true throughout the lift / lowering cycle. And while not perfectly smooth, the slide action is on par with the much more expensive Ridgid and DeWalt sliders that were on display at Home Depot. (The only slider I have laid hands on that is perfectly smooth sliding is the Makita...)

Overall the saw looks solid, and well thought out. and the fit and finish where it matters is top notch. However there are areas on this saw, that were obviously neglected in manufacturing, as there are some rough spots on the table, and the frame that are in non functional areas, that it looks like instead of cleanly machining the casting excess off, they must have just whacked it off with an angle grinder and called it good. Now whoever did this job does nice enough work, but you can tell there is a slightly irregular surface that looks very odd...

The routing for the power for the saw, as well as the battery compartment for the laser are both, well in the way of the lockout device for raising / lowering the head. A touch of fiddling with it and you can get them in a workable position, but it's annoying that you have to do it.

The lock down mechanism for the table is simply a thread in rod, no quick release here. It is an obnoxiously crude design, but it functions so well it is hard to complain about it... Just twist the know counter clockwise to loosen, set your position, then turn clockwise to tighten. Very intuitive.

All of the control surfaces and plastics are well machined, and solidly cast. The handle feels good in the hand.

The included blade is a 60T General purpose blade. The carbide teeth appear well brazed, and everything looks solid enough, but the overall look and feel of the build quality, sharpening of the teeth etc... of this blade make me want to exchange it for a Freud 80T before I even fire the saw up...

The dust bag is completely pointless, the loose weave of this thing offers no filtration whatsoever. But that is not a concern for me. I either use the CMS outdoors, or hooked up with a hood to the dust collector...

Overall, I believe that swapping in a quality blade and just ignoring the funky machining in cosmetic areas, all the while just remembering that this saw cost me less than a non sliding 10" Ryobi, or B&D CMS, and I will be happy as a clam. All the function I want is there, and it all appears smooth. The moment of truth will come tomorrow when I plug it in, and send it sailing on its maiden voyage across some 2x10s that I need to crosscut at a compound angle (odd piece of support decking for the hot water heater needs to be replaced...)

*UPDATED 12/14/2010*

I got an opportunity this evening to fire it up, and double, then triple check the saw. There is some good, and some really bad to report…

The good.
- The bevel stop at 0 is dead on perfect. No problem.
- The laser is dead on, with waste to the left of the blade, and is VERY bright contrary to most reviews. I seem to have gotten a bright laser…. I need to adjust this though. I like the waste on the right side of the blade…
- Something I didn’t mention in my initial review. It comes with a spare set of brushes. Something my more expensive machines make you pay extra for…
- The saw is no noisier than my B&D. That is until… Well we will get to that in a few lines…

The not so good but not terrible.
- The bevel stop at 45 degrees was off. It took a little bit of fiddling, and about 10 test cuts to get it dead on, but now, it’s dead on…

The absolutely awful.
- That blade. Now a low quality blade is NO surprise on any saw under $1,000.00. But just HOW bad this blade is will make your skin crawl. This thing relieves me permanently of ANY desire to EVER buy any bits or blades from Harbor Freight. I will have to grab a Freud Diablo D12980X and swap it over before I can write even a basic how this thing cuts. I think I would have been happier had Harbor Freight just left the blade out of the whole package…. This blade is every bit as bad as the Drill Master hole saws I got from them. ICK! My initial visual inspection of this blade was spot on. What a piece of JUNK!
  #1  
By dewi1219 on 12-13-2010, 09:57 PM
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I'm very interested to hear your impressions once you put it to use. I am also in the market for a SCMS, and I was considering the ~$200 Craftsman and Kobalt models from the new Wood comparison. The previous reviews I've seen on the HF models were mostly negative but maybe this one is the exception.
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  #2  
By dbhost on 12-13-2010, 10:07 PM
Quote:
Originally Posted by dewi1219 View Post
I'm very interested to hear your impressions once you put it to use. I am also in the market for a SCMS, and I was considering the ~$200 Craftsman and Kobalt models from the new Wood comparison. The previous reviews I've seen on the HF models were mostly negative but maybe this one is the exception.
I've read a lot of bad reviews of the older HF models, the ones with the yellow motor covers. I had seen them in store, and there is a big difference fit / finish wise. I won't say this is as nice as the DeWalt or Ridgid I had looked at, but aside from being single bevel and those were dual bevel, I believe this should line up accuracy wise with those. At least judging from what I have been able to check so far...

The B&D sits on a shelf for now, ready to go back into use if need be...
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  #3  
By dewi1219 on 12-16-2010, 04:53 PM
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Today I got an email with a new coupon for this saw, again at $109. That's too good to pass up, even if the blade is garbage. I was planning on getting a new blade before using it anyway.
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  #4  
By dbhost on 12-16-2010, 05:34 PM
Do your sanity a favor, grab a good blade for it, and install BEFORE you even fire the thing up... The OEM blade IS sharp, but it cuts like a hatchet instead of a saw blade. More of a brute force kind of thing...
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  #5  
By dewi1219 on 12-16-2010, 10:04 PM
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Sounds like my 10-year-old el cheapo Delta MS (which still has the stock blade on it )
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  #6  
By Ed62 on 12-16-2010, 10:18 PM
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It sounds like they are making a little headway on the quality aspect if you don't count the blade. Looking forward to hear how it works for you after the new blade is installed. Good writeup so far.

Ed
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  #7  
By dbhost on 12-16-2010, 11:22 PM
I am not going to say features wise the stuff I have bought from HF has been spot on. But quality wise, I can not complain about most of the stuff. I have had trouble with bits, and blades, as well as one pretty bad screwup in quality control on a finish nailer, that they happily exchanged for me...

Mind you, I run a hobby workshop, and this stuff will likely last me the rest of my life, and probably get handed down to my kids, unless I start producing a LOT more projects, and selling stuff... Then I would probably have to replace whatever breaks with something better. I seriously doubt I will get to that point...

So far I don't regret it, and like I said, given a decent blade, I think this will work out quite nicely for me...
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  #8  
By ivwshane on 12-17-2010, 12:20 AM
Thanks for the review! I was always curious as to how bad these sliding miter saws were from HF. It sounds like a diamond in the rough to me.
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  #9  
By dewi1219 on 12-21-2010, 12:18 AM
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I went Saturday, with $109 coupon in hand, and picked up this saw. As dbhost suggested, I didn't even plug it in until I had replaced the blade. My local Lowe's had a bonus pack of DW 80T blades, 2 for the price of 1 ($49.99) so I grabbed them. Surely not the best blade out there but I was in a pinch and so far it has proved to be fine. Assembled the saw, mounted it on my Ryobi quickstand (a steal in itself), and threw the new blade in. By the way, this saw has a spindle lock for easy blade changes. Maybe all CMS's have them now and I just didn't realize it but I was impressed nonetheless. I had some chair rail molding to cut for my parents, so I checked the 45 miter stop, which was dead on from the factory, and proceeded to cut beautiful air-tight miters.

I have bought lots of hand and air tools at HF in the past, but I have always been one to steer clear of their power tools. But I've got to say I was blown away by the quality of this saw for the price. It slides smoothly, the castings and machining look very nice, and most importantly it cuts great with the new blade. Mine doesn't have any of the grinding marks that dbhost mentioned, it's just a very nice looking saw IMHO. I'm not saying it is every bit as good as a $500 DeWalt, Hitachi, or whatever, but for MY USE, I couldn't be more pleased.

There are two small problems with my saw, if you can call them that. First, unlike dbhosts, the laser is very dim, to the point of being useless for some cuts. However, I believe that it may just be that the "Player" brand batteries that came with the saw were already dead as the laser has gotten even more dim since using it. Second, the brake is a little slower stopping the blade than my old Delta MS. Neither of these issues is a major concern for me, and I would happily buy the saw again for what I paid.
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