DeWalt-DCS391N-XJ-XR-Cordless-Circular-Saw-Review

DeWalt DCS391N-XJ XR Cordless Circular Saw Review

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US tool brand DeWalt are nearing their 100th birthday, and in that time, they’ve done a lot for the professional and DIY tool market. Inventing the radial arm saw is just one of their proud achievements, and their range of powerful XR battery powered tools are some of the best on the market.

The DeWalt DCS391 is one of the best lightweight circular saws you can buy. It fills the gap between using a heavy duty table saw and wearing out your arm with a regular panel saw. Incredible balance, comfort and performance are just three things that this saw has got going for itself.  

DeWalt DCS391N-XJ XR Circular Saw At A Glance

DeWalt DCS391N-XJ XR Circular SawDeWalt DCS391N-XJ XR Circular Saw
Design
3
Performance
5
Power
3.5
Noise
4
Safety
4
Value for Money
4.5
Overall
4
CHECK PRICE →
  • Power
    Battery - 18V
  • No-Load Speed
    5150 rpm
  • Blade Diameter
    165mm
  • Blades Supplied
    1 X 24 TCT
  • Cutting Depth @ 90°
    55mm
  • Cutting Depth @ 45°
    42mm
  • Bevel Capacity
    50°
  • Weight
    3.2kg

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How I Tested The DeWalt DCS391N-XJ XR Circular Saw

Circular saws are wonderfully versatile tools, especially when you cut the cables and go cordless. The ideal job for any circular saw is making cross cuts in constructional timber, so I started testing with CLS that measured 37 x 135 mm.

I made multiple cuts at . Free hand following a pencil mark then with a roofing square for quick parallel cuts. Then setting the saw bevel to 45°, I repeated the process to see if it felt comfortable and if the saw wandered at all.

The next challenge was on much harder wood. Some English oak timbers I milled up several years ago had dried nicely and proved ideal for pushing this cordless saw a bit harder. I tried out the same test: cuts at free hand and with a roofing square, then set to 45° to force the saw to work a lot harder.

The blade that comes with this saw is the DT1209. It’s designed to work specifically with the DCS391 and is optimised for cross cutting. But rip cuts (where you cut along the grain of the wood) are a big part of any challenge, so I also set the saw up to cut along the length of constructional timber using a fence.

Seeing as this is a blade designed to cut through timber only, I didn’t try it out on any other material. You could probably use it to cut plastics or even soft metals, but it wouldn’t be a fair test of a wood cutting blade.

The last test was to see how accurate the depth gauge was. I set it to 40 mm on the scale and crosscut through some of my oak. This unscientific test should show up some manufacturing tolerances.

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The Results

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Design

3

DeWalt-DCS391N-XJ-XR-Cordless-Circular-Saw-design

Unboxing this DeWalt DCS391 Circular Saw was quite underwhelming. In comparison with the bright and informative boxes that the Makita or Bosch saws came in, this was a bit disappointing. I know this is sold as a “bare” tool, but a plain cardboard box is as bare as they come!

Even though the only saw on my list to come in a “proper” hard case is the Makita HS7601, the sturdy carboard boxes that some saws were shipped in were good enough for a temporary home. This isn’t the heaviest duty circular saw I’ve used, so it would need its own case before long.

They certainly know a thing or two about making a comfortable handle. The rubberised overmoulded grip stretches from the bottom of the trigger grip and envelops the entire “T-shaped” front grip as well. It’s a cinch to hang on to, even without my trusty nitrile coated work gloves on.

DeWalt have gone down the premium route when it comes to the baseplate. It’s made from cast magnesium, which is light as well as incredibly tough. Magnesium shoes are usually the most expensive option on a circular saw, as it’s lighter than steel and more durable than aluminium.

The downside to a magnesium baseplate is that it can crack. If you drop a steel shoed circular saw from a ladder it might bend, but you could in theory get it back to a useable state. Magnesium, on the other hand, is tough, but if it cracks or chips then you’d need to replace the entire part.

I’ve got a love/hate relationship going with the bevel adjustment on this saw. I’m a huge fan of the fact that it marks out each degree from 0 – 50°. That’s brilliant for when you need to make an odd bevel cut. It’s

But what I really don’t like that when you loosen off the fastener, it drops all the way to 50° rather than 45°. It’s good that you can get up to 50°, but you’re much more likely to need a 45° bevel. You need to stop and line it up each time, there isn’t a detent that helps you catch the common bevel angles you might need like 22.5° either.

Another minor gripe I have about the bevel adjustment is the locking mechanism itself. The height adjuster uses a large cam lever that’s easy to operate, but the bevel is locked with a rectangular knob. It’s not the most comfortable thing to use, I’d rather have a large lever that takes less force to lock in place. Adjusting the cut depth is made nice and easy though thanks to a large plastic cam lever. It’s right behind the motor and doesn’t wobble around when it’s tightened down.

DeWalt have made a point of saying that the bevel measurements are easy to read. I’ll agree that they won’t rub off any time soon, as they’re cast into the metal, but they’re hardly high contrast. Under bright work lights they can be a hard to read as they’re the same colour as the background. Compared with the, admittedly plastic, measurements on the Makita DHS680Z, they’re much harder to make out.

An interesting design decision that DeWalt have made differently to the rest of the circular saws I’ve tried out is in the dust extractor fitting. Instead of positioning it within the blade casing, it’s set back behind the saw blade. It’s an odd choice, as the extractor will be sucking dust up from behind the cut.

The problems with the dust extractor placement don’t stop there unfortunately. When plugged into a dust extractor hose, there’s barely enough room left for your hand on the handle! I’m surprised at this design decision as it’s not very user friendly or well thought out. And if you’re a left handed user, it’s virtually impossible.

When setting the cut depth, I can’t work out if this is on purpose or not, but there are two detents notched into the adjustment arm. One for 40 mm, and another for 14 mm. They might come in handy for quickly setting the depth, but I can’t work out if this is intentional or not.

Another minor problem I encountered with this saw is with the plastic handle that you use to pull back the safety guard. When sliding it open, it would rub against my left wrist. It sticks out a bit too far. At first I thought the saw was binding up on the timber, but it was this that was causing the problem. Once I knew it would happen, I moved out of the way, but it’s not ideal to have the lever in a place that can catch your leading hand.

Performance

5

DeWalt-DCS391N-XJ-XR-Cordless-Circular-Saw-performance

DeWalt are well known for their saws. And I’ll say it right now, the DeWalt DCS391 Circular Saw is one of the best battery powered circular saws I’ve ever laid hands on. It’s just so easy to use and a joy to handle. It makes crosscuts through soft and hard woods without complaining, and even beats the excellent Makita DHS680Z when it comes to rip cuts.

Cross cutting at is effortless, the saw feels well balanced, and the relatively small baseplate makes it easy to handle. The blade guard doesn’t take any effort to push back, so you’re not forced to move it back with your free hand.

There were quite a few wood fibres left sticking out of the edge of the CLS after cutting though, so it’s not quite good enough for second fix work without some finishing. The same was apparent with the English oak. The saw blade left some radial marks and a tiny amount of tear out on the trailing edge.

The rip cuts I made into some softwood board were surprisingly easy. I didn’t expect this performance from a lightweight battery operated saw. The guide rail is marked with measurements and feels solid enough when clamped down as well. It leaves a nice thin kerf and was easy to push through the timber.

At least some of this excellent performance must come down to the 165 mm DT1209 blade. There are 24 TCT teeth that make short work of both soft and hard woods. The finish isn’t the best of all the circular saws I tested out, but it was probably the most effortless to push through the cut.

The final test of this circular saw was my slightly unscientific depth gauge accuracy check. The DCS391 managed a cut depth of 39.5 mm. It’s not bad, but still off by half a millimetre!

Power

3.5

DeWalt-DCS391N-XJ-XR-Cordless-Circular-Saw-power

DeWalt have been developing their XR range of tools for more than eight years. The fact that you can power up this circular saw with a lightweight Lithium-Ion battery is still impressive though. Using 18V batteries means you can share them with a wide range of DeWalt tools and save money by buying bare kit like this saw.

Something that’s going to count against this circular saw compared with the Makita DHS680Z or even the Ryobi R18CS7 is the type of motor it uses. The DeWalt DCS391 is cordless, but it uses a brushed DC motor. Although brushed motors are excellent and have plenty of uses for DIYers as well as professionals, brushless motors are much more desirable in cordless tools.

Thanks to this brushed motor, I don’t expect it to be quite as efficient compared with the Makita DHS680Z’s brushless power pack. You could always use one of DeWalt’s insane 9.0 Ah batteries if you knew you were going to be on site all day though!

Noise

4

There’s no way around this, circular saws are loud. You might be fooled into thinking that this is a quiet saw though. When it’s not under any load, this tool is incredibly quiet! It’s completely manageable without ear defenders on, but that’s not really the point. Once you’re cutting through timber, it’s still a loud piece of kit that always requires ear protection.

This saw is rated at 95 dB, which is about the same as a motorbike engine. This is loud enough so that you should always wear ear defenders during use. What I like about this cordless saw is thanks to the electric brake. As soon as you let go of the trigger, the noise stops. You don’t get that wind down noise you’d be used to in corded saws.

Safety

4

DeWalt-DCS391N-XJ-XR-Cordless-Circular-Saw-safety

One of my favourite things about cordless power tools is the electronic brake. One of the most terrifying side effects of any rotational power tool is over run. This is when the blade keeps spinning, even after you’ve let go of the trigger. The DCS391 stops dead in its tracks as soon as you let go of the trigger. So, if you get into trouble, you can stop the blade spinning in less than a second.

All circular saws have the potential to be dangerous. When you’re holding the DCS391, you’ve got 760 Watts of cordless power in your hand, but luckily, it’s about as safe as it can be. The saw isn’t overly heavy, so it’s easy to control, and the handles are supremely comfortable and grippy, so hanging on to it isn’t difficult.

The other obvious safety benefit of this tool is the lack of power cable. Even if you’re careful, they can get in the way at the worst possible times. By upgrading to battery power you can focus completely on the cut in front of you and forget about tripping over a snaking cord.

Value for Money

4.5

I might have been a bit hard on some of the strange design choices on this DeWalt cordless circular saw, but for the money it’s actually a bit of a bargain. Plenty of professional tradespeople swear by DeWalt saws, and they happen to make some of the best mitre saws in the business too.

You’re saving a whole lot of money if buy this bare tool without fancy cases or stacks of batteries. It’s an incredibly good quality tool with premium features you might only expect to see on the best circular saws. You’re getting a magnesium base and one of DeWalt’s excellent blades for not a lot of money at all.

If you’ve already bought in to DeWalt tools and you’ve got a charger and batteries knocking around, this deal is hard to beat.

Overall

4

After several weeks of testing the DeWalt DCS391 Circular Saw out against regular construction timber, hard oak and even a bit of super tough Iroko, I’m almost a DeWalt convert. It’s hard to fault the grip, power and handling you get from this cordless saw. It’s a premium product with just a few problems.

I honestly can’t understand why DeWalt would put the dust extractor where they did. If you’re planning on working indoors with this saw, it’s going to make a mess whether you’re using a dust extractor or not.

If DeWalt were to fix this dust port issue and upgrade the motor to a brushless one, I’d probably rate it higher than the brilliant Makita DHS680Z. It cuts through timber so easily and confidently, that if you already own DeWalt batteries, this is a no brainer to get hold of.

DeWalt DCS391N-XJ XR Circular SawDeWalt DCS391N-XJ XR Circular Saw
Design
3
Performance
5
Power
3.5
Noise
4
Safety
4
Value for Money
4.5
Overall
4
CHECK PRICE →

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