Two-sentence tool review: I find it hard to believe I’m about to say this about a Ryobi miter saw, as the sawdust-in-my-veins pro I am, but I’ll be: This is a unit whose quality out-paces its price tag by a triple-jump.
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I learned a lot during this tool review. Most notably, how truly uphill the battle is many people have to slog to get DIY projects done.
Sure, I say I “do DIY” but I do it professionally. In other words, the projects are scaleable for people of of various skill levels, but I do them with professional efficiency, speed, and—usually—power tools.
Without a doubt, big green is positioned as a DIY brand and not something I’d typically have on my sites.
However, this hunk of 12-inch-sliding compound cutting iron is taking cues from pro tools and in many cases its hard to tell the difference. I’ll also get back to the DIY thing in a minute.
This saw feels good in my hands, making cuts, and in my wallet. Lines of site to the blade and the work are clean, clutter-free and there was nary a cut I couldn’t make.
The fence is graciously tall. It’d be easy for Ryobi to sling some cost out of the unit by reducing the amount of aluminum here, but they didn’t. That means I can cut most crown molding I’d install on any given day in position. It’s called “nested”. VIDEO: How to cut crown molding. Back to the tool.
The blade guard is absolutely almost pro-grade. Clear, louvered plastic, it leaves lots of guards—deal breakers for me—on other pro tools in the dust. It’s not 1,000% smooth, but it’s darn good.
Dust collection is sweet. It collects and enormous amount of it in the saw’s really well-designed dust chute and bag. It’s not a feature I rely on much, but it is nice to know it’s there.
The bevel adjustment feels a little “last year’s model” but who cares? It works and works well.
The saw cut with outstanding accuracy out of the box and stayed accurate throughout the test period. No complaints. Adjusting the unit if it does get out of alignment is typical: Set screws and adjustment bolts. Read the directions if you need to adjust.
Power is abundant. I plowed through all the stuff of DIY like cedar deck boards, PT and regular 2×4 plus molding and 1-by. The blade brake brings the cutterhead to a pleasantly quick stop. The motorhead slides easily on the rails and delivers good cuts.
This Ryobi miter saw—TSS120L—only bevels the motorhead one way (right). When I unboxed the saw, I thought it didn’t bevel at all and had a petite nervous breakdown. I rarely use the bevel function, so I am not at all concerned about this; single bevel is plenty. It also comes with those little extension wings for the table. I get it, but they really don’t do anything. What you really (yes, really) need for dialed-in DIY is a work table like this one or this one.
The blade change works great (the set screw is doomed, but easily replaceable if and when it does cam out) however, the blade it comes with is a train wreck, albeit a tiny one. Because of it—and this is the DIY slog I mentioned above—I almost panned the entire tool. While the included construction-style blade cut and didn’t change the accuracy or adjustments of the saw at all, when it spun up, it was loud and vibrate-y (real word, look it up). It made the unit feel like it was launching off the table. When it stopped, it felt the same way. And, it was loud. I mean, that thing can ring.
That’s what got me thinking about DIY—which I talk about on this DIY podcast more in depth. One the one hand, with the amount I use a miter saw, little things add up fast. If every start and stop has my attention over something negative, that’s not a tool I can use day in and day out. Weekends? Whatever. All week? Not happening. It’d be kind of like having slow-loading email at your job. It’d get to you after a while.
Still, I’m a pro and have used a bazillion miter saws (check out my review of the cordless Ryobi miter saw here!) The blade-song didn’t interrupt my work. But if I were new to DIY, my heart would be in my throat and my palms would be sweating. As a DIYer, I already don’t really know all the facets of what I’m up against and now I’ve got a tool I have to devote bandwidth to as well. That’s a lot of unknown happening right there.
The good news is there’s a solution, and a simple one. I put a new blade on it and ended up—and this has never happened to me before—with a new saw. The wobbly wind-up of the included blade was gone and I was off to the races.
To overmake the DIY slog point, because I am a professional, I could easily solve this problem because I have 4-5 extra 12-inch blades hanging around. At somewhere around 80-100 clams a piece, this solution is likely nowhere near DIY radar screens. So, you suffer.
Thing is, with this saw’s price tag, you can get it and a sweet blade and get out the door for what I think is really reasonable cost to value ratio.
Ryobi miter saw, TSS120L, worth it.
Price: $249. As of this writing, it’s reduced to $199. Holy smokes!