Of all the many power tools a carpenter has in his arsenal, a circular saw is arguably the most versatile and widely used. When it comes to circular saws, there are many different styles and brands, as well as varying levels of quality and precision.
Here in Japan there are 3 standard commercially available miter saw sizes based on saw blade diameter – 165, 190, and 210. There are bigger ones available but are less popular due to their size and weight. Today we’ll be talking about miter saws, and more specifically, the pros and cons of the 2 top brands here in Japan: Hitachi and Makita.
The company itself as you probably know is a massive conglomerate, but the subsidiary that produces its power tools is called Hitachi Koki. When it comes to power saws and which is “better”, it’s a pretty close call. However, in my experience there are 4 main and very strong pros going in favor of Hitachi concerning power saws:
1. Higher precision. This is an arguable point, and one in which pro-Makita folk will probably take issue with. But in my experience – especially with miter saws – Hitachi hardware has better alignment, and overall higher precision.
2. Better bearings and housing components. Perhaps another arguable point. With many moving, pivoting, and sliding parts as with a miter saw, high quality bearings and bearing-housing design is crucial. Also, by virtue of its primary function (cutting wood), bearing components and moving joints are exposed to large amounts of saw-dust. It goes without saying that housing components must have the ability to seal and protect the integrity of the inner bearing chambers.
3. Better cross-compatibility with other brands. To be honest I have only one particular piece of hardware in mind when I say cross-compatibility, and it concerns circular saws, not miter saws – the rip guide. But if there’s one, it’s a sign there may be others that I’m just not aware of.
The slots through which you insert the rip guide are generally larger than Makita’s and able to accommodate – in my experience – any widely available rip guide on the market. On the other hand, many of Makita’s power saws are made to take only their brand of rip guide. This can be a little frustrating considering all the better rip guides are made by third party manufacturers.
4. Better balance and center-of-gravity. This point concerns the newer models of Hitachi vs Makita miter saws, such as Hitachi’s C7RSHC and Makita’s LS0717FL models – in all likelihood the most popular models as of the writing of this post for each of the manufacturers in question.
The C7RSHC has a fixed lower base in terms of the push-pull motion, and a single 30 centimeter sliding pipe system where the saw head slides back and forth on a single axis. The upper and lower halves are essentially both in the same horizontal position, just at different vertical ones. This makes for an ideal center-of-gravity and a solid seating of the machine. See image below (the side stock-support extension pieces on both machines are options).
The LS0717FL on the other hand, as much as I actually prefer its general aesthetics, doesn’t share the same balance and symmetry as the C7RSHC when in use (folded up it looks beautiful). The LS0717FL incorporates a 2-step slide system, that allows for a more compact machine when not in use, but causes the bulk of the machine’s weight to concentrate at the rear when the saw head is pushed all the way forward (from the position of the user) when at the end of a cut.
This can cause a rocking motion due to the fact that the front end of the machine has very little weight to begin with, and the rear end has only thin arm-like extensions that serve to counter the shift in weight. I’m no engineer but any way you look at it it’s a design flaw.
Also, on the subject of the Makita’s 2-step sliding pipe system, this can’t help but add to the inadvertent, lateral movement of the saw head, which would explain the inferior precision.
In conclusion, it’s my opinion that when it comes to power saws, and miter saws to be more specific, Hitachi trumps Makita in every department except mobility. And even in mobility, it’s almost negligible. Here are the size specs for the C7RSHC and LS0717FL respectively:
- W:412 D:780 H:480
- W:430 D:670 H:505
As you can see, the C7RSHC is both narrower and shorter, but is longer in the sliding direction due to its single sliding pipe system. They both weigh exactly the same at 12.4 kgs and have identical cutting specs.
I know I was supposed to write the pros and cons of both brands, but I honestly can’t think of any Makita pros that outweigh Hitachi’s in this particular department besides what I already mentioned – and the fact Makita is most definitely and by far, second place. Having said that however, it wouldn’t be fair to Makita as a world-class tool manufacturer to not mention their one dominating suit: battery tools.
So although it may be unrelated, I’ll close this post by saying that when it comes to battery-operated tools such as impact drivers, drills, saws (jig saws, circular saws, saber saws, work lights, etc, it’s safe to say that Makita takes first place.