Review By Dean Bielanowski  Ryobi Website - http://www.ryobi.com.au

Ryobi ECS1519
Circular Saw
 Review

By Dean Bielanowski

It could be argued that the circular saw is one of the more dynamic tools available for the masses. Dynamic in the sense that it is used by carpenters, tradespeople and fine woodworkers/cabinetmakers alike. The circular saw is perhaps one of the more simpler tools available in terms of its function and use, however, it can also be one of the most dangerous, so care and respect for the tool is paramount.

In our ongoing review series of Ryobi Professional Series products, today we present the review of the ECS1519 Circular Saw...

Packaging & Contents
The ECS1519, like many circular saws, ships in a box without molded case. It arrived damage free, which is always a plus, and we quickly pulled it out of the box for closer inspection. Supplied with the saw is a side rip fence, a black plastic vacuum attachment for dust collection, a blade spanner, 2 x 24 tooth tungsten carbide tipped saw blades and a small black and white printed manual.

It is nice to see two blades included in the package. The blades are of average quality, nothing to write home about, however, they should give you a fair amount of use before you need to buy new ones. The ECS1519 is a 7 1/2" saw, so blades come relatively cheap at this size. You can pick up a quality blade for around AUD$30, so re-sharpening is not really a worthwhile exercise, unless you can get it done cheap. You might want to buy a few blades right off the bat... perhaps a 40 tooth or higher blade if you plan to do some crosscutting with the saw as well.

The fence we will look at later. The blade spanner... well, is a blade spanner. The product manual is black and white, about 10 pages in length and covers all the basic functions and adjustments that can be made to the saw. Images are all line-art style but they are printed very well and very clearly - no "photocopy quality" manuals here.

Specifications
Ok to the nitty gritty of the saw. As mentioned above, the ECS1519 is a 7 1/2" saw, which is about middle of the range in terms of size. It takes 7 1/2" diameter blades (190mm) allowing a maximum cutting depth of 66mm at 0 degrees and 50mm at 45 degree bevel. Arbor size is a standard 16mm, so finding blades at almost any hardware store for this saw should not be a problem at all. Such standard sizes allow you to select from a wide range of blades as well.

The saw is powered by a 1500 watt double insulated motor, which is just over 2 horsepower. For a 7 1/2" circular saw this offers more than enough grunt. No load speed is 5,500 min-1, so just make sure that when it comes time to buy new blades, you buy those that can handle this rotational speed safely.

Net weight is 5.3kg. It is not the lightest 7 1/2" saw on the market, but the weight is directly attributed to the solid construction of the tool.

General Build
Apart from the motor casing, handles and adjustment knobs (which are hardened plastic), the saw boasts solid cast metal and aluminum frame construction. It certainly does not feel like a toy. You can easily see the metal components from the pictures on the right. Plastics technology has certainly come a long way and the strength and stability of the material is amazing. Even top of the line saws mix in this high strength plastic with metal components in their designs. It helps keep weight, and cost down, both are direct benefits for the consumer! Of particular note, all adjustable features are based around metal fittings and guides, and this ensures repeatable accuracy and less flex or movement in use. Ultimately, this should lead to better results.

Features & Use
Let's take a look at the handles first. The rear (blue) handle is what I would call "D" shaped in design, slanted forward to help provide a forward pushing action. It is ergonomically designed (what isn't these days?) and fits into the hand nicely - well, my hand at least. It is very comfortable to hold, and the balance bias is good when you are using the back handle to carry the saw around - no strain on the wrist. I would have really loved to see rubber overmold grips implemented on this handle. Although it is very comfortable to grip, I thought the addition of rubber pads/grips here would have almost made the design faultless, nonetheless, it is otherwise well designed. The D handle is split into two sections by a molded plastic bridge. Above the bridge on the inner handle surface is the power trigger. When you grip the handle, your index finger sits above the bridge and controls the trigger with the rest of your fingers wrapping around the handle under the bridge. Up top there is a bi-directional trigger release slider. This means you can use the saw comfortably with either left or right hand. I am right handed, so naturally, left handed use feels odd to me, but their does seem to be a design emphasis on right handed use, i.e. using the right hand on the back handle, and to control the trigger.

One simply slides the trigger release left/right and depresses the trigger to apply power to the saw. Ease of use is the order of the day.

If we look at the front handle, we can see that it is somewhat different from many circular saws. Instead of having a round knob-like molded attachment up front, the ECS1519 has something similar to a baggage/luggage/carry handle design. As such, it provides a good method of carrying the saw around without risk that your hand will slip off or out the side. I found that because it allows you to get full finger wrap around the handle, it makes it slightly easier to grasp and control the saw, although the difference was only very small in my testing period. The design also means you can hold the saw in an underhand grip (palm facing up), although apart from carrying the saw this way, I can't see how it adds any benefit during actual use? Regardless, the front handle is comfortable and is no less functional than any other front handle design I have come across before.

In between the front and rear handles on the motor shaft is the spindle lock button. This is a handy feature that will allow you to lock the spindle so you can loosen or tighten the blade nut to install or remove saw blades. Most good quality circular saws have a spindle lock, some cheaper units do not, but it is definitely a good safety device and will reduce user frustration.

The ECS1519 comes fitted with a riving knife behind the blade. What does it do? Basically, the black aluminum crescent shaped "knife" (it's not sharp but is tapered at the front edge) rides in the kerf created by the saw blade as it makes a cut and stops the wood pinching or binding on the back of the blade causing kickback. Kickbacks are very dangerous events that can lead to serious injury, so the addition of a riving knife on this model is welcome. Riving knives are not terribly suited to plunge cutting applications, however, the knife on this model can be easily removed. You simply raise the saw blade up to its highest setting and the mounting plate for the riving knife, and the screws/nuts holding it in place are exposed. Just set to it with a screwdriver (may need pliers to hold the nut) and you can remove it for plunge cutting, or re-attach it for normal rip cutting. From a safety standpoint, you should keep it installed for non-plunge cutting activities. You should never sacrifice safety for convenience's sake, although many do... and risk suffering the consequences!

Speaking of plunging cuts brings us to the height adjustment feature. The projection and depth guide are found on the inside of the upper blade guard behind the motor. The clamping knob for height adjustment travels through the rear handle and is accessed on the left side of the saw (in relation to user when holding it in cutting position). The marked depth guide ranges from 10mm to 66mm. Disappointingly, the markings only go up in 10mm intervals, so setting a depth of say 26mm will mean a ruler has to be used. If there is one feature of the saw that was lacking the most, this was probably it. Despite this, I set the saw at 20mm, 40mm and 60mm and then measured the actual depth the blade protruded from the base and the measurements were right on the money, so I know I can trust the measurement guide when it comes to the crunch. Plunge action was very smooth during our tests, the weight of the saw allowing controlled plunge cuts to be achieved.

The blade guard works as all circular saw blade guards do, however, it is slotted on the underside to accommodate the riving knife. The slot is not wide enough to allow a finger to be poked up through it, even if you intentionally try. The blade guard lever does have a rubber overmold to prevent slipping in use and the spring seems solid enough, although not so rigid that raising and lowering the blade guard becomes a problem.

A 30mm (outside diameter) dust collection port is situated at the top back corner of the upper blade guard and a small collection nozzle which is angled and can be rotated is supplied. You will need an appropriate attachment for your shop vac to fit it however. Circular saws are notoriously hard to collect dust from because of their design, and how they work. I think if you can collect at least 50% of the dust they create, you are doing well. I only know of a few high end models that offer good dust collection features, and these cost up around the AUD$1000 mark. The ECS1519 dust collection ability is fair. Depending on the type of cut depends how much dust can be caught. It is difficult to measure but as a guess, I'd say you can catch maybe 40-50% of dust with the ECS1519 and a shop vac fitted. You would be best to use these types of saws in outside environments whenever possible.

The base plate on the ECS1519 is quite solid. The material and design does resist flex unless a substantial twisting force is applied, which then some small flex is evident. In use however, you could consider the base to remain fairly flat during your cut adding a good element of accuracy. Surprisingly, the saw body is quite rigid on its own base plate, that is, with the plate clamped down to a flat surface, the motor body does not have a lot of lateral play in relation to the base when a side force is applied. This is often a good indicator of a well-constructed saw.

Moving on to the bevel adjustment, this is adjustable via the bevel scale and locking knob at the front left of the saw's base plate. Any bevel from 0 to 51.5 degrees is available on the ECS1519. The scale is etched every 5 degrees from 0 to 45. To reach 51.5 degrees, you need to manoeuvre the knob and nut around a 'dogleg' in the adjustment shaft. This is so you can quickly set the bevel to 45 degrees (a more common angle) if needed without going past that setting unless you intentionally wish to do so. Additionally, there is an adjustable screw and nut assembly that can be fine-tuned to ensure the bevel can be set back flat to 0 degrees all the time. You should check the blade against the base plate for square before you first use the saw, and periodically from then on. I once again checked for accuracy of the bevel guide, at 0 degrees, 30 degrees and 45 degrees. They were pretty much on the mark... as good as you will get making rough bevel cuts with a circular saw anyway!

With a 51.5 degree bevel setting, the saw remains well balanced at a full depth cut. Naturally, as you raise the blade and motor body at such a large bevel angle, the saw has a tendency to tip as the centre of gravity falls outside its base of support, but only when I raise it high in the height range does it actually tip when free standing on a bench, so the saw offers a good amount of balance, even in the more rarer operating configurations.

Fence
A basic fence is included and is attached to the saw via milled slots in each side of the base plate. A single screw type tightening knob clamps the fence in position. The fence itself is scale marked from 0cm to 15cm in 2mm increments. The markings are machine etched into the metal so it is impossible to rub them off, and they are accurate. The actual fence face that rides along the piece to be cut is of average size. I would prefer one slightly longer for better accuracy, but this one will suffice. You could easily drill a hole or two and mount an extension fence made out of hardwood attached with screws if you want to make an improvement to the fence. It does work satisfactorily in use.

Overall
I have used the saw for about 6 weeks now and have cross cut and rip cut many types of hardwoods, softwoods, ply, MDF etc of various sizes and densities. The saw has performed very well. The motor is certainly powerful enough to cut through timber at full depth and we found the solid build of the machine allowed a good amount of user control during a cut, thanks to its added weight and stability over the cheaper circular saw varieties, that are a little lighter. In saying that however, you would not want to be making overhead or vertical cuts too often as the saw will tend to get a little heavy after a while. Most overhead/vertical tasks are probably best accomplished with a smaller trim saw anyway. We liked the ergonomic handles of the ECS1519 and the ease of blade change with the spindle lock feature. We found the riving knife added an extra element of safety and while fitted, we had no occurrence of kickback. The ease of installing and removing the knife should ensure its compliant use, even with the safety-conscience challenged!

Suitable ear, eye and lung protection should be used at all times. I have not had the pleasure of using a 'quiet' circular saw to date, so normal protection equipment is warranted. The 1500 watt motor generates a fair amount of noise, but no more than any other 1500 watt (or similar sized) saw I have used in the past.

If you are doing general building work where ultra-clean cuts are not required, then the supplied blades will work well, however, if you need a cleaner cut, particularly with plywood or for crosscutting, you will want to grab a better quality blade. I'd recommend making a zero-clearance base for the saw if you work a lot with ply. It will help stop splintering and give a cleaner edge.

If there is anything I could fault, it would perhaps be the lack of smaller incremental markings on the depth adjustment gauge, perhaps slightly bigger thumbscrews for tightening and loosening depth and bevel adjustments (from an ergonomic standpoint), and perhaps a slightly different design on the dust collection port to catch a little extra dust. Apart from these few items, the saw proved to be a good performer, and is well worth the asking price in our opinion.

For the retail price of AUD$159.00, the ECS1519 represents good value for money. It is miles ahead of any of the cheap model saws flooding the market, but it won't break the bank like the top of the line saws will, however, it has many features you will find on those same quality circular saws.
 

Ryobi ECS1519 Photos
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The ECS1519


The spindle lock feature is handy to quickly and safely change blades.


Note the "D-type" front handle...


...and the D-style main handle.


Easy access to the riving knife fixings should you need to remove it for plunge cutting.


The bevel setting adjustments
up front.


Note the angled dust port and rubber overmold on the guard lever.


The lower blade guard is notched so the riving knife is not inhibited.


A firm grip gives good control.


Making dust!


The guide fence installed...


Using the fence to guide a cut.


The standard blade gives a reasonably good cutting result.

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Reproduction in any form prohibited with express prior written permission. Copyright 2004