Buying a 7¼” circular saw on the cheap is bound to raise many questions. Is it any good and, more importantly, will it get the job done? The Skil5280-01 is certainly cheap, under $60. Looking beyond mere affordability, this review gets down to the nitty gritty. We’re going to determine if this saw makes the grade as a competent machine.
Reviewing the top power tools for a living can make one a bit of a tool snob. I’m always drawn to the best power tool brands which invariably come at a hefty price. For home DIY work, the prestigious brands may be high on our wish list, but the stark reality of budget is an entirely different story. If you ask a contractor which is the best circular saw, the answer usually come up as Bosch, Skilsaw, Makita, or DeWalt. Festool will always top the others. Though, even for many contractors, a Festool saw could be a bit expensive.
When we start looking at more affordable saws, there are way too many to mention. Most DIY tool buyers will probably gravitate towards better known cheap consumer brands, like Black & Decker or Craftsman. In this arena, the Skil 5280-01 comes into its own. Okay, it’s almost capable of competing with the big boys, used by professionals. Although it may hold up fairly well in a professional environment, I wouldn’t suggest that this a commercial grade circular saw. Going by the price tag, this should be quite obvious.
Now it’s time to put my prejudice aside and take a realistic view of the Skil 15A 7¼” circular saw. I can only say that this is one heck of a deal. I’d go as far as to say, that the Skil 5280-01 outclasses many saws that cost considerably more. Going by sales figures, and customer reviews, the tool buying public has certainly given this circular saw a huge thumbs up.
The Skil 5280-01 is a best seller with a mighty impressive 4.6-star rating on Amazon, from well over 2,000 customer reviews. On other sites, customer reviews have been just as favorable. Though, I’m going with Amazon on this one. Not only because we are Amazon affiliates, so it helps us if you buy from Amazon by clicking the link on this site, but also the price. Walmart has the Skil 5280-01 listed close to 80 bucks. At a full $20 cheaper, it’s a no-brainer, Amazon is the way to go for this product.
Skil 5280-01 – The Full Review
- Powerful 15A electric motor 92.5HP).
- Lightweight, only 8.7 LBS.
- Accurate laser cutline guidance.
- Includes 24-T carbide blade and carrying bag.
- Dust blower clears sawdust from line of sight.
I’m going to review the Skil 5280-01 circular saw from the perspective of the end user. Since this is, essentially, a DIY (medium-duty) electric saw, I wouldn’t expect it to be a big hit with professionals. As a home user, you may not be as proficient as the guys who cut lumber all day, every day. In this regard, I’m sure a lighter, more nimble saw would be an advantage. I think a good level of safety would also be an important attribute. So my first objective is to determine if this saw is both easy and safe to use.
A heavy-duty pro saw can weigh upwards of 11-pounds. While this is indicative of a high quality machine (heavy is usually better in the power tool world), it can make the machine difficult to use. This would be especially relevant if you don’t use a circular saw all that often. This makes the lightweight (8.7 LBS) design a distinct advantage for most users. The opposite would probably be true for the pro who will favor tough build over easy, lightweight operation.
As for safety, I give the Skil 5280-01 top marks. The handles (front and rear) offer excellent grip, giving you full control over the saw, with a great level of comfort. Working easily and comfortably, does contribute to user safety. The guarded trigger prevents accidental starting, which is an obvious plus. Naturally, the saw has a blade guard with a competent spring action.
I think the greatest advantage, especially for less experienced users, is the excellent anti-kickback mechanism. When the blade encounters a tough knot in the wood, it will easily be forced to stop in an instant. A sudden stop at 5,300 RPM, with 2½Hp power behind it, can be extremely dangerous. If you don’t use a circular saw all that often, it can be downright terrifying. The guys at Skil have come up with a simple, yet highly effective, way to help circumvent this common danger. They call it a Vari Torque Clutch. A mighty fancy name for an uncomplicated mechanism. The low-tech design, using a series of washers and a unique blade nut, allows the blade to slip when the resistance becomes excessive. It’s a wonderfully effective safety feature. Because it doesn’t involve sophisticated engineering, the Vari Torque Clutch is perfectly reliable. There’s virtually nothing to go wrong.
When it comes to using the saw, I was quite amazed at how capable this machine is. I really didn’t expect a cheap saw to be this powerful, or accurate. For both rip and cross cuts, the Skil 5280 glides along quite effortlessly. It exceeded my expectations when dealing with hardwood and thicker pieces. For most types of wood, it can achieve the maximum 2³⁄₈” depth of cut, without working up much of a sweat, or burning the wood as the blade labors. Okay, it’s not a DeWalt DW384, let alone any similar size saw from Festool. But, for this caliber (and price), the Skil has won my admiration.
The shoe is wonderful flat and accurate. You would think this should be a given with a circular saw. Unfortunately, many cheap saws fail dismally in this all too crucial area. Again, earning more stripes for the Skil 5280-01. The blade can bevel up to 51°, with a positive stop at 45°. The markings are large, and the bevel is remarkably accurate. Though the locking screw could be a bit more heavy-duty, in my opinion. Then again, this is not a heavy-duty saw. If you’re aware not to apply too much force, when locking or unlocking the blade for angle adjustments, all will be fine. At 90°, you get a perfectly square cut, which is exactly what we want.
They’ve fitted a laser to this saw, which illuminates your cut line very accurately. Though this has never been my thing. I suppose I learned, a long time ago, how to line up a saw with the old-fashioned cut line guide. For some, this may be a valuable aid. I really like the blower that clears away sawdust as you work. This makes it much easier to see the line, allowing you to work more accurately, without having to constantly stop and blow away that pesky sawdust that obscures your vision.
I’d like, for a moment, to ignore the wonderfully cheap price, and just look at the Skil 5280-01 as a tool, engineered to do a job. Skil is an affordable version of Skilsaw. The latter being one of the top professional choices. While they don’t share all the traits of a professional-grade machine, Skil power tools do carry some of the Skilsaw DNA.
Of the cheap saws, Skil is usually my first choice. Perhaps this is just some sort of hankering after the Skilsaw reputation, but Skil is good quality. The 7¼” Skil 5280-01 can, on many levels, hold up to the performance of more expensive alternatives. It may not handle the daily grind of a hardcore jobsite as well as the pro machines. For home DIY projects, I believe the Skil will do a mighty fine job. It’s really accurate and powerful. That’s what’s important. The saw also has a high level of safety, another great reassurance. For a saw costing around 60 bucks, the quality standard is exceptional, way better than anyone would reasonably anticipate.
In conclusion, I have to concede, the Skil 5280-01 may cheap but it sure isn’t nasty. In this price category, it is certainly about the best you’ll get. While not a heavy-duty saw, I’m pretty impressed with how tough this tool is. Certainly deserving of the high ratings it has received across the board.