Review By Dean Bielanowski  GMC Website - http://www.gmcompany.com


GMC
MX355C Metal Cutting Saw
Review
By Dean Bielanowski

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Please note: Since this review was published, Global Machinery Company (GMC) has gone into receivership and is no longer operating. As such, spare parts or technical support cannot be obtained directly through them. Their website at www.gmcompany.com appears to still be available online and offers some product information and manuals but contacting them will receive no reply. Note that OnlineToolReviews.com does not work for GMC, nor do we offer any support or spare parts for their products.

Whether or not you dabble in metalwork, there are times when a metal cutting saw could come in handy. Whether it be building some storage out of steel tubing or building a jig to complement your woodworking tasks, a few basic skills in metalwork will go a long way.

A recent project of mine was the construction of a chainsaw mill made out of RHS tubing. Naturally, this involved a lot of cutting tube to length, and while the handheld grinder would achieve the task, a dedicated metal cutting saw will make the job much easier, quicker, and more accurate.

I recently acquired a GMC MX355C Metal Cutting saw, and this proved to be a great project to put the saw to the test.

The GMC MX355C Platinum Metal Cutting Saw
The MX355C is a dedicated metal cutting saw, designed specifically for, you guessed it, cutting metal, unlike other types of saws that can be readily adapted for different cutting tasks, or for cutting different materials.

The MX355C model is part of GMC's platinum line of power tools. The platinum line offers more durable construction and an extended two year warranty that covers commercial and trade use, not just personal home use. Let's take a look at the features of the saw...

Tech Specs and Discussion
The saw features a 355mm cutting disc. One comes pre-fitted to the saw out of the box. In fact, most accessories are fitted and ready to go. The disc bore size is 25.4mm (1 inch). This is a common disc and bore size, so finding replacement discs should be no problem at all. Most good hardware stores or trade stores will stock them. Juts make sure the disc is rated to spin at 3900 RPM, which is the speed the disc spins on this saw. The high RPM allows a smoother finish on the cut piece.

The disc is spun by a powerful 2400W universal motor, which is fixed in a direct-drive configuration. While most of the saw features all-metal construction, the motor housing is comprised on hardened plastic. This provides protection while not adding any unnecessary weight to the tool. There is plenty of power in the motor to tackle even the cutting of solid steel. As with any cutting task, let the blade do the work and the motor will generally have no problem keeping the blade/disc spinning. Even with a bit of excess pressure applied during a cut, the 2400W motor rarely missed a beat.

In terms of motor sound output, I couldn't find any value printed either on the tool or in the product manual or product page on the GMC website. However, I'd have to guess it would be up around the 90-95 dB level, similar to my 2400W miter saw. At these levels, hearing protection is a must, so be sure to use a good set of earmuffs, or suitable ear plugs whenever using this machine.

The main drop handle houses the power controls, and it too is of hardened plastic construction (like pretty much all drop-type saws these days), however, rubber overmolds on the handles add comfort and grip. The power controls are simple but safe. To start the saw, push the round lock-off button lateral to the trigger in, then pull the trigger and the saw starts up. To stop the saw, just release the trigger. Fairly basic stuff. Bear in mind that, for safety, you should wait until the cutting disc has come to a complete stop before placing your hands near the disc, or before removing the cut material from the saw. Also note that freshly cut material, particularly around the cut area is extremely hot. So use either proper metalworking gloves or wait until the metal has cooled before handling it.

The drop action of the saw is quite smooth. Not the best I have ever felt on a drop saw, but given these saws are not really an ultra-precision machine, the drop action needs only really be smooth enough to make a fluent cut. Lateral movement of the saw head when dropped is minor. There is some movement, but again, any movement introduced by the user when lowering the saw head doesn't have much of an effect on the cut result. The actual cutting disc will flex much more during a cut, particularly when cutting through thicker or wider materials... it's simply the nature of the beast on these type of machines.

The retracting disc guard and disc housing are all metal construction. Like on a miter saw, as the saw head is lowered, the disc guard retracts to expose the cutting disc to make the cut. After the cut is made, and the saw head is raised up, the guard again covers the exposed blade for added user protection.

For transportation, the saw head can be locked in the down position. A locking knob at the rear of the saw holds the saw head down securely. The top handle above the motor housing offers a "carry handle" to allow you to pick up and carry the saw around when the head is locked in the lowered position. This certainly makes it easier and safer to move the saw from one point to another.

In terms of actual cutting capacity on the MX355C, the following specs are listed:
 
Cutting Capacity in Pipe: 105 mm
Cutting Capacity in Box Section: 95 mm
Cutting Capacity in Rectangular: 70 x 200 mm
Cutting Capacity in Angle Iron: 110 mm
Cutting Capacity in Solid Steel Bar: 35 mm

Bear in mind that these figures are true for a new 355mm disc. As the disc wears down through use, the maximum cutting capacities will be reduced. For most home/DIY and light commercial/trade jobs this saw will be used for, the cutting capacities are more than adequate.

To hold the workpiece securely while it is being cut, a vice is integrated into the saw. It is attached directly to the saw base. The clamp has more than enough width capacity front to back thanks to the long threaded vice rod that extends out the front of the saw. The vise clamp head also pivots about 50 degrees each side so you can clamp metal on angles securely. A rubber handle on the front of the vise rod makes securing or releasing material a comfortable procedure. You can quickly release material in the vise by using the vise lock release lever. This can be flipped one side to the other to engage the rod threads (for applying pressure) or disengage them (to quickly reposition the vise without a lot of knob/rod turning, or to remove pressure on the clamp faster).

Of course, there needs to be a "fence" to clamp any material to. The MX355C features a metal fence which also doubles as a "miter gauge" of sorts. The fence can be rotated to 45 degrees left or right from its zero position. To change the fence setting, you must use an allen wrench (supplied) to release the guide, pivot it to your desired angle setting, and then tighten it back down with the same allen wrench. As with any tool, check the tool for square-ness, and common angles before you get going. You may have to make some slight adjustments to attain accuracy. It is important not to apply too much pressure to material using the vise, as this can deflect the fence slightly and affect accuracy. While this is generally not a problem as most metal tasks undertaken using this saw probably won't require ultra-accuracy, it is worth keeping in mind. A slightly more solid fence on this saw would be ideal, but the fence it does have is manageable and gets the job done well enough.

If you need to make specific depth cuts, a depth stop is employed to stop the saw head lowering beyond a pre-determined depth. It is adjusted via an allen-head screw lateral to the head spring at the base of the saw head pivot arm. The depth stop works fine, but I found I rarely used it. Your mileage may vary of course.

In Use
It is important to ensure any cutting of metal done with this saw is not done near flammable materials. The saw produces a shower of sparks that will quickly ignite any exposed flammable substances in the vicinity of the saw. The saw should be set up on a sturdy surface, or on a solid ground surface. The base features four rubber feet to ensure the saw will not slip during use, and it helps reduce vibration a little too. As the saw cuts, the shower of sparks generally heads to the rear of the saw, although as you can see from the photo in the right column, it can head in other directions depending on the material being cut. At the rear of the saw is a spark shield which helps direct the majority of sparks in a downward direction. It is not wide enough to catch all the sparks, but probably redirects about 75% of them down instead of leaving the sparks to shoot meters out the back of the saw.

As with using a miter saw for cutting wood, a slow but steady cutting action produces the best results, and will ensure longer tool and disc life too.

In terms of ergonomics, the saw seems quite comfortable to use. It can easily become discomforting if you do not use both eye and ear protection. Respiratory protection is also a good idea, particularly if you are using it in an enclosed area. When it comes to blade changes, these are achieved quite easily. The blade is attached via a locking bolt, washer and blade flange (which provides some stability to the blade). These are readily removed and a new blade can be added and secured in the reverse manner. All instructions for tool use are well illustrated in the full color manual supplied with the tool, which is of high quality, as has become a standard with GMC product manuals.

The GMC MX355C has a recommended retail price of AUD$189. Considering this tool is offered with a 2 year commercial/trade use warranty, and that its build seems better in general than some of the cheaper DIY models, it does represent good value for money. Apart from the fence flex that can occur if too much clamping pressure is applied (which again is not overly concerning unless you are looking for ultra-accuracy) we had no other issues with the saw.
 

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GMC MX355C Photos
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The MX355C Metal Cutting Saw


The yellow head lock allows the saw head to be dropped and locked for storage or for transport.


Solid handle with lock-off power switch, trigger and rubber overmold grips.


The vise clamp and adjustable fence.


Vise handle.


The supplied cutting disc is of good quality and gets the job done quickly.


RHS steel clamped and ready to cut.


Fireworks anyone? Slicing through the steel.

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