Choosing a Demolition Saw
Finding out which is the best cutoff saw can be an important decision to your business. While the price of the saw is a factor in deciding which one to buy, often the difference in cost isn’t more than $50-$100 from one saw brand to another (with roughly equal specs). More important is weighing a particular saw’s abilities against the uses you’ll have for your concrete or brick cutter. Choosing the wrong saw could mean lost hours of productivity that will cost far more than the initial price difference of one saw over another.
So let’s get to it.
Cutoff Saw Uses
For the hardscaping our company does, we need cutoff saws that are light enough to cut long runs of pavers without fatiguing the user. But they also need to be big enough (turning a large diameter diamond blade) to cut through retaining wall block without the hassle of turning the block over to finish the cut. For those needs, our best, most productive saws are those that can turn 14″ or 16″ diamond blades, because they tend to be more versatile. If we have a lot of tighter curves to cut in a paver patio, we can put a 12″ blade on either saw, giving us the ability to make those tight turns in our cuts. It also makes the saw a bit lighter.
But that’s us.
You might use your saw mainly to cut CMUs, face brick or other masonry. In that case, you really only need a saw that can penetrate three or four inches into the material it’s cutting. A smaller, lighter, less powerful and less expensive 12″ cutoff saw is probably sufficient.
Or you might not have a daily use for a cutoff saw, but need the saw to be able to perform many different tasks (cutting brick, rebar, PVC, etc). In those cases, because the saw isn’t run as often, having a saw that’s easy to learn to use (and re-learn if it isn’t used for a few months) is more important. Fewer knobs and switches, quick, easy blade changes and an ability to run old fuel might be the features of a saw most important to your business.
With all of those ideas in mind, let’s review the pros and cons of each brand of cutoff saw. Back to Top ^
Cutoff Saw Overview / Review
Without a doubt Stihl saws are the most popular saws available, owning the largest share of the market. Because Stihl was and is such a large player in the chainsaw industry, and the cutoff saw engine and body were originally just modified chainsaws, it’s not a surprise that Stihl is the market leader.
We’ve owned a single Stihl TS400 for a decade, and more recently a TS350 (an old one). In maintaining the TS400 for that period of time, and replacing the piston and cylinder in the TS350, the level of engineering that goes into these saws appears to be superior to other brands. There are only two bolt sizes over the entire saw (a hex head that’s 16mm or so, and a star-head for everything else), making having the right tool a non-issue. You can tell that a great deal of time went into designing these cutoff saws so that it’d be easy to remove, service and replace parts. Replacing the piston and cylinder on the 350 was surprisingly easy.
Though with all of that engineering, most Stihl models seem to lack the comforts needed to make a cutoff saw user-friendly. The first is vibration dampening. Of all the saws we use, TS400 has historically been the worst for vibration. Here’s a discussion on our site about vibe damping and other saw issues. Running the saw for a few consecutive hours one day made half of one hand go completely numb for several days. The same consecutive run time did not have the same repercussions with any other saw brand. Another issue for longer periods of use is the balance of the saw, which seems most directly related to the positioning of the hands on the saw. Most Stihl models place the throttle grip and “handlebar” close together, with much of the weight of the saw overhanging the lead hand. This creates a situation where the user has to exert energy just to keep the saw upright. Newer models like the TS700 solve this problem by moving the throttle hand grip to the back of the saw (like the Partner, Husqvarna, Wacker (and Wacker clones)).
We’ve also found the saws to be a bit underpowered relative to their similarly-sized competitors.
That we use a saw that’s a decade old speaks to the durability of the Stihl cutoff saw brand. Back to Top ^
Partner / Husqvarna Review
With Partner and Husqvarna both being owned by Electrolux, it was really only a matter of time before the parent company realized efficiencies by consolidating these two brands, which they did in 2006. The new brand keeps the Husqvarna name, but uses what we’ve come to know as “Partner saws”, with the Partner saw body and specs. The only difference is the color of the plastic has changed from yellow to orange, and the name on the plastic has changed. Otherwise, it’s the same cutoff saw. But I digress. On to the saws themselves.
We’ve consistently been satisfied by the power-to-weight ratio of our Partner saws (we own or have owned a K650 II, K650 III, K700 and K950). For almost any task put in front of them, they muscle right through a cut. The filtration system they use seems to be more advanced than that of the Stihl saws, but at the same time, we’ve never had any air contamination problems with our Stihls like we’ve had with our Partners. But we’ll get to that in a minute.
The balance of the Partner/Husqvarna saw has always been excellent, making extended use very easy on the user. Couple that with very good vibration dampening and the only limit to the consecutive time spent cutting is the boredom of the cutoff saw user. That we’ve purchased and repurchased Partner saws should say something about our opinion of this brand.
But this saw could also use improvements (some of which did improve with the latest Partner cutoff saw model, the K750). The air filtration system uses a multiple-density, oil-impregnated foam piece as the first step in filtration. The oil does an excellent job of snaring and holding onto dust and particulates, and the sheer size of the filter prevents it from getting clogged if a certain area of the filter gets plugged with dust. However, because this filter has soft edges (not a harder rubber edge like on a Stihl), it’s difficult to ensure a perfect seal. We often would find that dirty air was getting past the first filter simply because it hadn’t sealed very well in the compartment. This in turn shortened the life of that saw.
While vibration affecting the user is not a problem with the Partner, it does seem to be an issue with the bolts on the saw. We’ve sometimes had to “MacGuiver” a fix on a jobsite, using zip ties and duct tape to hold together a saw that had lost a bolt or two during normal use. Using loctite on the threads is the best way to prevent this problem, but it would be nice to not have to worry about it.
Partner cutoff saws have been excellent starters for us, firing in cold or hot weather. Back to Top ^
Makita / Wacker and The Clones Review
I call them “the clones” because they are all identical saws. Wacker, Makita, Dolmar, Speedi-Cut and others are simply private label saws, manufactured by a single company, packaged in a different color plastic shroud, then shipped to the various brands for reselling as their own. But don’t let that scare you off from this brand(s) of saw. (For the sake of brevity I’m going to lump all of these saws together and call all of them Makita cutoff saws. Fair enough?)
The air filtration system of the Makita cutoff saw is much like that of the Partner saw – a soft-edged, multi-layered foam filter as the first line of defense against air contaminants. The filter is not oil impregnated, which may mean it can’t hold it’s dirt like one with oil. But the surface area of this filter is a great deal smaller than that of the Partner/Husqvarna saws, so I have to wonder if it really can’t use oil, because it would get gummed easier, starving the saw for oxygen, or requiring frequent filter changes. Or both. The Makita also has a plastic screen serving as an additional filter between the foam filter and the accordion paper filter. We haven’t been able to determine the function of this added filter.
While the body of the saw is considerably larger than it’s Stihl or Partner counterparts, it’s footprint is no bigger, and the height of the saw is just slightly more than the diameter of the blade it’s turning. Which is the same as it’s competitors. It also seemed no heavier than it’s competitors.
One of the features that we were impressed by while using the saw for cutting brick, block and concrete was how quietly it ran. This must be the quietest cutoff saw you could buy. While letting the saw idle it’s possible to talk with someone on the jobsite without earplugs. We were also impressed by the vibration dampening system the Makita cutoff saw employs. It is a noticeable difference over every other saw we’ve run. And this dampening continues through to the cutting surface of the diamond blade. The steadiness of the blade allows the user to cut more delicately than is possible with other saws. So intricate patterns in a brick paver patio will come much easier with this saw.
Another benefit is the short learning curve. Unlike the Partner saw, which has two switches each with two settings, or the Stihl cutoff saws, which have two switches that each have three settings, the Makita (and clones) have a single switch with three simple settings: Choke, Run and Off. Very easy for a new user to learn to operate the saw. It has a larger fuel tank and seems to consume less fuel, so you can cut for longer periods without stopping. This is probably good, because while the power of the saw is adequate, it’s less than a Partner. So a Partner cutoff saw will use more fuel over a given period of time, but it’ll cut faster, so you’ll finish sooner. One knock on the position of the Makita saw switch – it’s in a place that makes it too easy to shut the saw off just as you’re grabbing it to cut some brick. We find ourselves doing that all the time.
Cutoff saws from this line (Makita, Wacker, Dolmar and Speedi-Cut) would be a good choice for those who don’t use a saw much, or who need excellent control of the blade when making a cut. If adequate power is enough, this is your saw. Back to Top ^
Buying Cutoff Saws Online – New
Buying anything online can sometimes be a scary experience. You want to make sure the dealer is reputable, and that they’ll stand behind their product if there’s a problem. There are a few simple steps I take when I need to make an online purchase from an online store I haven’t bought from before:
1) Check to see how long they’ve been online. If you visit www.archive.org and enter the URL of the site you’d like to buy from, this site will show you the history of the URL, which can give you an indication of how long they’ve been doing business. I prefer to see that they’ve been online for at least 2 years.
2) Check that they use a secure server for order processing. I’ll pretend to go through the process of buying something to get to the payment screens. If I don’t see the little padlock graphic at the bottom of the window (telling me this site is using encryption to protect my data), then it may not be a secure site. Worse, it may be a scam site.
3) Search Google for the site name and complaints. “Site name” + “sucks” or “ripoff”, for example. You might find comments spread across the web of how customers were treated by this vendor. One note – you’ll never find a place that satisfies everyone all the time. (Think of your own customers. Is every single one of them ecstatic with your service? If you said “yes”, then you don’t know your customers very well.) You should expect to see at least a complaint or two. But if the search results in lots of complaints in lots of places, consider shopping elsewhere.
4) Get references.
Buying Concrete Cutoff Saws Online – Used
This discussion is mainly about buying used cutoff saws via the online auction site eBay. We’ve purchased new and used saws on eBay as well as myriad other tools and equipment. If you know your way around eBay you can sometimes find yourself some excellent deals. Here are my 4 basic tips for finding a good cutoff saw from a reputable seller for a decent price:
1) Look into the seller’s reputation. Not only should they have a net positive rating, they should have had that ID for awhile on eBay. Some sellers of construction equipment and tools have misrepresented some of the tools they’ve sold (but not all). They get themselves started with some positive feedback to build their reputation, but then start misrepresenting the items on some auctions. By the time it catches up to them in the way of negative reputation and feedback, they’ve discarded that user name and moved on to the next one. To me, a red flag for that scenario is a seller with a feedback rating number that’s large (say 200 or more), with a user id that is only a few months old. A user that’s been on eBay for a few years, with only 50 or so transactions, and 100% positive feedback is likely going to be one you can trust.
2) Check the shipping and handling charges on the auction for the cutoff saw you want to bid on. Sometimes a seller will sneak a big shipping charge into the auction, giving the unwary bidder the impression they are getting a deal.
3) Don’t get attached to the saw you’re bidding on. There are literally hundreds of cutoff saws available on eBay over the span of several weeks, and one just like the saw you’re bidding on will come along again in a few days. If you get attached to one particular auction, you’re going to tend to bid more than you should for the saw, which will in turn get others to bid more for the saw, ratcheting up the price.
4) Take a sniper’s approach. When I bid on things on eBay, I wait until just a few seconds before the auction closes. This gives me one chance to name the highest price I’m willing to pay for the saw (rather than getting sucked into bidding higher when I shouldn’t). More importantly, it doesn’t give other bidders a chance to see my bid and react to it (by bidding more). Bidding this way guarantees that you don’t spend more than you intended to, and that if you win the auction, it’ll be for the lowest possible price that could be had for a given cutoff saw. Back to Top ^
As a side/hobby we’ve also set up a site dedicated to cutoff saw reviews and information. Paver-Saws.com contains specific saw model reviews and other information to help you find the best cutoff saw, at a price to fit your budget. And when your saw breaks, look to that site to help you fix it.
Join our community of seasoned landscape professionals and compare notes regarding cutoff saws or any other issue you may be facing today. It’s free!