Black & Cecker VPX Cut Saw

Black & Decker VPX Cut Saw

When I first saw the VPX line of tools (Black & Decker’s entry into the consumer-grade Lithium-Ion cordless tool market) I wanted them. The white plastic and shininess, along with the slightly-futuristic lines drew me in. Fortunately I wasn’t in the market for any of the tools offered at the time and managed to resist the purchasing urge long enough to do some homework on the subject.

The reviews I read were all over the place, but over time I gathered feedback from the more reliable sources and the consensus was that some of the tools were OK, but for a little more money you could do a lot better. This lead me on a search for the perfect (for me) subcompact driver, ultimately deciding on the Milwaukee.

(which of course I can’t afford, so that’s in a holding pattern for the moment)

Anyway time marches on and I forgot about the VPX tools, sexy as they are.

Fast-forward to about six months later. I’m at Menards checking out these cool new (Plano?) cases and at the end of the isle they have a display clearing out the VPX gear. I think to myself “looks like everyone caught on”, but out of curiosity I check it out. Nothing really jumps out at me, but they have the little “cut saw” (what other kind of saw is there?) for only $15.00.

I figure it must be an add-on with no battery, charger, etc. Nope, that’s the saw, a battery and the charger, for $15.00.

To put this in perspective, according to Amazon.com this saw MSRP’s for $114.00, and is currently available on their site for $40.19. The reviews are all over the place, but I remember hearing that of all the VPX tools, this saw was a decent one.

I spent about a week considering the saw (and the box that I was actually there to buy). I decided to buy the box, and in a moment of inspired consumerism picked up the saw as well. I figured even if it sucks, I could probably make use of the battery, charger and motor and come out ahead.

Enough with the back-story, here’s my review of the saw.

You can tell that a lot of attention went into the packaging, at least the design of it. This seems to be a trend in the consumer tool space which shouldn’t be a surprise because it’s a hallmark of most consumer-class products. Anyway the box looks nice, but is somewhat awkward to open because the whole thing is glued shut instead of using a tab/slot arrangement you would expect.

Once the box is open the interior packaging is what you would expect, organized and plain. The instruction manual (I read these for things that come with rechargeable batteries, I don’t want any excuses from the manufacturer if I end up having trouble with the battery) is the same as every other BD manual, and that’s not a compliment. It’s complete, but small and organized poorly (instructions refer to diagrams that are not on the same page as the text, etc.) it would be nice to include a “getting started” card that shows you how to start charging the battery immediately so you can then spend the 6-8 hours of charge time reading the manual.

Not that you need instructions to charge the battery. As it turns out, you plug in the charger, then plug the battery into the charger. The blinking red light is good, it means it’s charging the battery. When it’s done blinking, it’s time to play with the saw.

7.0v VPX battery in charger (right), 18v NiCd and charger (left)

The saw itself was larger than I expected and seems to be fairly solid. One complaint I have about my 18v B&D drill is that under serious torque the sides of the case feel like they are pulling out of alignment and may let loose at any moment. I haven’t had any actual problems with this, but the feeling doesn’t inspire confidence. Based on the feel of this tool (and the application), I don’t anticipate that problem here.

The saw un-boxed (SpinalTramp included to illustrate scale)

I actually did read the manual while I was waiting and even learned a thing or two, but ended up calling it a night before the batteries were charged. The next morning I slapped the pack into the saw and took it for a spin.

The saw comes with two blades, marked with “wood” and “metal” labels in text, which is nice. The blades are the same quick-change type that my jigsaw uses which is convenient as well. They are loaded and unloaded from the saw by pressing a lever and sliding the blade in or out, no tools required.

The first thing I noticed about the saw was how quiet it was, and how little vibration it produces. The best way I can describe it is that it feels and sounds like a sewing machine, and if you’ve used other reciprocating saws before, you can appreciate the contrast here.

The first thing I could find to try it out on was a short piece of quarter-round trim I had laying on the floor. The included wood blade made very short work of this piece and left a reasonably smooth edge. Next found a piece of half-inch-ish plywood and tried using the “keyholeing” technique I read about in the manual.

The idea here is to cut a hole out of the inside of the board using only the saw. I would have used a drill to punch a hole in the board first, then cut out from there, but this is apparently a common technique and thinking about it I remember seeing my father do this with a jigsaw before.

Placing the saw’s guard against the board with the blade free (not in contact with the wood), I spun it up to speed and slowly tipped the blade into the wood. When it first comes in contact with the board it jumps around a bit and requires a little more pressure than I immediately felt comfortable with but sure enough, it grabbed hold and began to burrow through the wood. Once the tip was in the saw tilted easily to a 90 degree angle and I was able to continue on in a straight line with little effort.

1/4 plywood cut with and cross grain

The second test I conducted cut across the grain of the board and required a bit more force and left more of a mess (the first cut was very clean) but this is to be expected. I imagine a less general-purpose blade could do a better job, as well as less haste on the part of the operator.

I didn’t get a chance yet to try out the metal blade, or try the saw with the assortment of blades I have available from my jigsaw. When I get around to this I’ll post an update.

Overall I think this saw performs well within the range of applications appropriate for a tool of this type. As an alternative to manual handsaws, for very light/precise demo work, low-volume jigsaw work (especially in tight quarters or awkward positions where its light weight is a significant advantage), low-speed cutting (plastics come to mind) or as a saw that you can throw in a smaller toolbox and use anywhere this tool shines. I don’t see it as a replacement for high-volume jobs that would tax the lifetime of the battery or for heavy-duty jobs more appropriate for a full-sized reciprocating saw, but for around the house or in the workshop, this is the kind of tool that might get you out of situations where other tools are too large, too heavy or too imprecise.

Is it worth $114.00? Definitely not, and for $40.00 I would still pass but for $15.00, it’s probably one of the best tools for the money that I’ve found.

Advertisements