26 February, 2014

Chicago Electric #98194 12" Sliding Compund Miter Saw with laser guide long term review.

After having owned and used the Chicago Electrc #98194 12" Sliding Compound Miter saw for over 3 years, I felt qualified to offer up my review for your consideration.

These saws are now available only as new old stock (NOS), but more commonly on the used market. I have seen several of them on my local Craigslist recently with selling prices averaging about $75.00

I bought mine new, with a coupon, back around October 2010 I believe it was, to replace a 10" non slide Black and Decker Firestorm miter saw. After seeing the many negative things posted about Harbor Freight power tools, I was leery, but at the time, I needed more cutting capacity as my 10" non slide miter saw would NOT cross cut 12" boards, and I really don't like crosscutting log stock on the table saw. So I took a shot...

Right out of the box, it was as I expected from a Chinese import tool. Slathered in shipping protectant, but reasonably complete. I set it up at that time on my B&D miter saw stand, cleaned it up, and ran it through its paces. The first cut a problem became very obvious...

The first cut, and I wish I had taken and saved a photo of it, but the first cut, well it looked like somebody had hacked their way through the board with a rock. It was as rough as could possibly be, and very, I mean VERY unpretty...

I looked into the problem and found the carbide tips on the blade were brazed unevenly. Simply put this blade never should have left the factory... But that's okay, I know better than to use OE blades very long. I already had a Freud Diablo D1280X 12" 80 tooth blade designed for sliders and radial arm saws. On it went, and back to testing... I also moved the saw to a firmer bench, and had to extend the bench to accomodate for the length of the saw and its rails..
The saw mounted to the old workbench. 
That dust hood didn't work as well as I had hoped.

WIth the new blade isntalled, I found everything worked smoothly, although the head lock wasn't quite obvious at first, it became so after playing with the assembly a bit. Instructions typical of Harbor Freight were dreadful... So here goes. The head lift / lower lock on these saws is on the right hand side by the hinge, it is a black knob. Pull it out until the tips on the shaft barely clear the catches, rotate 90 degrees, and let it back in. The head should go up and down now...
Unlocked position, pins are horizontal.
Locked position, pins are vertical.

After about a year of use on pretty much every project, I noticed things getting out of square. I followed the procedure listed on the HF site (now gone sadly), but basically I took a known good large square, and set the head in the locked down position, set the table to zero degrees, and loosened the fence bolts enough to move the fence, Brought it all into square, lock the fence bolts back down, double and then triple check, and verify the 45 and 22.5 deg stops are still set right with drafting triangles, once done, make some test cuts on scrap to verify. No problem. For one week...

The following week the thing went out of square again. I pulled one of the bolts and found the problem. No thread locker. Dabbed thread locker on the bolts, went through the rigamarole again and tested again. Cuts good and accurate, still square to this day...

So the issues I have had with this saw thus far are...

#1. Laser tends to get gummed up with sawdust fast. Not really a problem though. I don't like using laser guides anyway...
#2. Several fasteners, fence, and hinge set screws etc... have worked their way loose. I found no thread locker on any of it. I put a dab of blue thread locker on and readjusted the saw and it has been perfect since.
#3. Dust collection has been, typical of miter saws, abysmal at best... I have made several updates lately that I blogged about yesterday that should help a LOT...
#4. Have I mentioned it's big? The measurement from the back of the saw, to the front of the saw base feet in the fully rearward position is 30", add another 10" for the parts out front including the table, and lock down knob. No it is NOT space efficient. However it IS using a common, proven, reliable slide design. While there are designs that put the rails facing forwards, allowing the saw to take up about a foot less depth, those saws start at about $600.00, and skyrocket in price from there. The budget won't permit for that much expense for one miter saw!
#5. I have some concerns the bushings the head assembly rides on the tubes with might be hard to replace if and when they go bad, however I have calipers, and a McMaster Carr online catalog available, I can rig something up!
#6. The rotating mechanism for the blade guard can get gunked up with sawdust (I mentioned like pretty much every other miter saw, dust collection from this is awful). Keep it clean, and occasionally lube it with some dry lube like Graphite powder and you should be fine.

If I were looking for one of these now, I wouldn't pay a penny over $75.00 for one. The newer model with a double beveling head can be had for $129.00 with the coupon. Not as cheap as $109.00, but I only have single bevel! I would also insist on a prime condition saw. Any blemishes, or signs of abuse, and the price drops, fast...

While there is some temptation to replace this saw with the newer double bevel model, I have yet to need the double bevel feature, and honestly, this saw works so well, and is dialed right in that I just don't want to mess with it. The bench I built is designed with this specific saw in mind. I would have to do yet another rebuild for gaining so little function.

The saw as it sits ready for use in late February 2014.

If you are on a tight budget, need a large slider and can live with the foibles of this saw, I wouldn't hesitate to buy one again, but being used with no warranty don't pay a penny over $75.00 for this thing!

So let's summarize.
The Good:

  1. Once set up, and locked down, the saw cuts very cleanly and very precisely.
  2. Durable. I use this saw on pretty much every project not involving band saw or lathe. 
  3. Reasonable noise level. 
  4. Fit and finish, while the castings and machining aren't perfect, this machine is far above par for the money paid, or even several times the price.
  5. The head lock is very secure, and once understood, very easy to operate.
  6. The dust port is close to a standard size, far closer than other miter saws I have used, to connect shop vac hoses to.
  7. Rail slide mechanism is smooth and accurate. 
  8. Calibration of this saw is easy to perform, although be prepared to donate a bit of scrap stock dialing it in.
  9. Once thread locker is used on the adjustment bolts, it holds settings well.

 The Bad:

  1. The original blade, at least on mine, was complete and utter garbage. Don't bother.
  2. Dust collection is terrible. The bag is completely worthless.
  3. The lack of thread locker from the factory makes this saw need readjustment far too soon!
On a 5 star rating scale, I would give this saw an overall rating of 3.5. Half a point docked for each the blade, the dust collection, and the thread locker issues. Once you get past those issues, and I do not want to minimize the facts of the issues. You MUST replace the blade. I was honestly scared for safety with the stocker, you MUST improve dust collection, or use it outdoors with the wind blowing away from you, and you MUST fix the thread locker problem to keep the saw accurate. But once those issues are addressed, the saw works out quite nicely. I have no regrets buying this saw, but am also very glad I didn't pay more than I did... 


  1. I've been jealous of all these newer saws with laser guides so I modded my Delta Shopmaster miter saw to add one. Delta Shopmaster saw laser guide mod

  2. Thank you! Your photos and instructions helped tremendously.. Funny thing is that after I understood what you were saying - then - the manual made sense.

  3. Just told by Harbor Freight that NO PARTS ARE AVAILABLE FOR THIS SAW! WOWW. First time I have run into this. Good saw, but no parts? Ugh.

    1. Harbor Freight power tools have no replacement parts available....at all. Yes, I found that out. Either buy the extended warranty for money or keep returning them for new within the 90 day warranty period. I have the new replacement model 12" saw and it is I feel an improvement over the previous saw, the one reviewed here. (my friend has one like in this review)I have not replaced the OEM blade and probably should but I have had no problems with mine so far and I've had it for two years as of 3/2016. I am a home DIY so can't saw what the saw would be like on a job site. To revisit the replacement part issue with HF. I have several of their higher end power tools and have never had a problem with any of them failing. I bought their cheap corded sawzall with the rotating head for a little over $20.00 and really abused the tool. It kept on cutting and works fine to this day. Looks like crap but runs like a Timex. They may not have the slick design or cache' of the more expensive well known brands but the tools I do have performed as I needed.

    2. At the price point of HF tools, especially on sale with a coupon, they can be counted on as disposable. HOWEVER, one thing to consider is for the most part they are copies of other much more common tools. You might be able to take your busted part of whatever to your local say Grainger outlet, and match it up with a good piece. Much of the upgrades that went on my Harbor Freight 14" bandsaw are from a Grizzly band saw...

  4. I never knew what a miter saw did – great review! I am ignorant with power tools so any guidance helps

  5. I never knew what a miter saw did – great review! I am ignorant with power tools so any guidance helps.

  6. I never knew what a miter saw did – great review!

  7. Thank you because of useful article!
    This is an article provided summarize the good and the bad of Sliding Compund Miter Saw.
    Best sliding miter saw reviews.

  8. This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

  9. I am sure that the informative you shared through your post is useful for people. I am impressed with the way of writing. It kept connected me all the time.

  10. Good article, thanks. Looking for a replacement fence that busted when a piece of flooring kicked back and busted it. Any ideas where to get a new fence? Chicago Electric model 61970

  11. Good article, thanks. Looking for a replacement fence that busted when a piece of flooring kicked back and busted it. Any ideas where to get a new fence? Chicago Electric model 61970