The Bosch GKT 55 GCE stand out from the crowd by supplying millimetre accurate cuts and coping with an impressive range of strength tests. It can deal with everything from simple construction boards to sawing solid wood both with and against the grain. Despite the stresses in the 45 mm thick American walnut, it coped with a three m long cut with no problems. Nor do you need to do any finishing work, for example if you’re going to joint the sawn section, as the cut is straight and neat. The dust extraction is also good. The extractor maybe a little stiff and doesn’t always keep up on longer cuts, but overall the machine does a competent job at keeping the environment as dust free as possible.
Unfortunately, we didn’t have the option of testing the GKT 55 GCE with Bosch's own guide rail. The guide rail used was from another manufacturer and meant that we had to remove part of the machine for it to fit. However, the plunge cut saw moved smoothly over the guide rail, and the machine gave good resistance when we plunged it. Changing the blades is easy. Equally, the design is good. You adjust the depth scale with a thumb lever, then move the depth stop to the required depth, which is straightforward. All of the vital parts are coloured red so it’s easy to see which parts are buttons and which are moving parts. Overall, this is a comprehensive, robust plunge cut saw without lots of unnecessary functions, knobs and buttons. It’s also supplied with an extra blade in the systainer, which is a big plus. However, the systainer is a bit big. But given all the other plus points, and the fact that you get a three-year guarantee if you register your product, this is an extremely good value for money plunge cut saw.
The Festool TS 55 EBQ is a very competent plunge cut saw which delivers exact cuts and delivers very accurate depths. It’s easy to understand the plunge cut saw, and at least as easy to operate, thanks to very clear markings. For example, if you’re cutting out a hole for a sink, there are markings on the outside of the machine that show where the blade is both front and back, so that you know where you need to plunge the saw and where to stop it. Another major advantage is that it has a riving knife. In strength terms, the TS 55 demonstrates high-quality performance, but runs into problems in the very toughest strength tests. For example, when we tested it on thick elm boards, the overheat protection tripped twice during a 3 m long cut. This doesn’t apply to all solid wooden boards, and it deals with walnut without problems, for example.
The TS 55 EBQ's dust extraction is very good and it leaves very little debris after itself. It also has high build quality and ergonomics – it fits perfectly in your hand when you’re operating it. A useful plus point is that you can remove the mains cable and use it for other Festool products. The guide rail can also be used with other products from the same manufacturer. With a three year guarantee and the advantages mentioned above, this is a really good plunge cut saw. What reduces the score is the price, in combination with the fact that it can’t actually cope with all of the strength tests.
+ Reliable, accurate, good guarantee, good dust extraction, riving knife
– Slightly underpowered, price
The Makita SP6000 is a plunge cut saw that delivers exact, fine and clean cuts, and which also has a range of intelligent functions. For example, it has tip protection that locks the saw on the guide rail, which is helpful when you’re cutting with it on an angle. Another intelligent function is the quick button to set the blade at a 2 mm saw depth, which is useful for things like laminate. Unfortunately, the SP6000 is rather weak despite its 1300 W. In solid wood, this leads to problems. Sometimes it just has to rest for a while and then it can carry on, but sometimes it simply comes to a complete stop. It’s also rather irritating that the start button is so sensitive. You have to keep pressing hard during the entire cut so that the machine doesn’t lose power. But it copes well with simpler tasks. The fact that it can also cope with angles of up to 48 degrees is also good.
The SP6000 is compact and light with a comfortable grip handle and high build quality. It’s also quiet. It feels good in the hand and the guide rail stays in place well on the material. The scales on the machine are clear and we liked the fact that there are blade position markers on the housing. However, you need a hex key to connect the two included guide rails. We’d have preferred this to be a job for a flat bladed screwdriver. Nor do we really like the fact that the settings are controlled by a screw knob. However, the SP6000 is a very competent plunge cut saw, and if it had been able to cope with the heavier cuts it would have got a significantly better score.
The Metabo KSE55 Vario Plus is an extremely powerful plunge cuts or that can go through everything from simpler construction boards to thick, solid wooden boards. For example, a 3 m long cut in 70 mm thick elm was no match for this saw. One nice function is that you can also use it as a circle saw, something which you can see from the design. It looks more like a circle saw with a plunge cut saw function than a pure plunge cut saw. This is a combination that has both advantages and disadvantages. If you’re looking for a circle saw with a perfectly OK plunge cut saw function, the combination is positive. But as a pure plunge cut saw, this entails a number of shortcomings. These are primarily to do with the movable guard. This means that you have to hold in two buttons to plunge the saw, which has a negative effect on your control of it. Nor is replacing the blade as easy as it is on many other plunge cut saws. It does deliver fine cuts, but unfortunately they weren’t 100% perpendicular when we checked them with a set square.
However, the fact that the saw includes a case and guide rail is extremely good. A major plus is also the three-year guarantee that you get if you register the machine. And another advantage is the fact that the rail also works with other products in the Metabo range. Unfortunately, the guide rail is a bit fiddly to attach, which means that it can take a while to get started with it. The plunge cut saw also has problems with the depth setting button. The button is like a long rod and you regulate the depth by releasing this rod, but sometimes it gets in the way and doesn’t allow the saw to reach the required depth. These are unfortunate problems when the plunge cut saw is generally a powerful and easy-to-use machine that can also double up as a circle saw – and one with a long guarantee.
What should you think about when you’re buying a plunge cut saw? Here we list the factors that it’s important to investigate and understand before buying.
The power is an approximate measurement of how strong the plunge cut saw is. The higher the power, the tougher the tasks it can cope with. For example, solid wood under stress is a true strength test for a plunge cut saw, and the greater the power the bigger the chance that it will cope. However, the power rating stated in the specification doesn't give a complete picture of how the plunge cut saw will perform, as there are other factors that affect how powerful the saw is. But the power is a good guideline when you’re looking for a saw.
The saw depth is the same as the cutting depth. The maximum saw depth therefore determines the thickness of the boards that can be sawn completely through. The lower the value in the specification, the thinner the boards the saw can deal with. The saw depth is adjustable, which means that you can set a smaller depth if you don’t want the cut to go right through the board.
If the plunge cut saw can also be used as a mitre saw, the saw depth for this function may also be stated.
Naturally, the blade is at least as important in terms of result as the saw depth and power. Normally one blade is included with the machine, but it’s important to choose the right blade for the task – both on the basis of the material you are going to saw and how fine you want the cut to be.
The speed represents how fast the blade will rotate, and different speeds are more or less suitable for different materials. If the saw is equipped with a function for speed setting, it’s easier for the knowledgeable user to choose themselves how quickly it should rotate.
Many models also have a mitre function so that the user can set the angle of the saw cut.
If you’re going to work indoors with the plunge cut saw and don’t want sawdust all over the room, it should have an effective dust extractor. However, this must be connected to a workshop vacuum cleaner for the desired effect.
For the work environment to be tolerable for both you and anyone around you, it’s important that the plunge cut saw produces as little noise as possible. But you should still always use hearing protectors when working with electric tools.
The smaller vibrations, the better the control you have over the saw and the less risk you run of developing vibration injuries over time.
Guarantee and accessories
A long guarantee is preferable, particularly when you are buying a slightly more expensive electric tool. If something breaks, this means that you avoid buying a completely new product. It’s also important that you can easily get hold of spare parts even after the guarantee period has expired.