Aimed at: demanding pro site carpenters who need a capable and hardworking saw.
Pros: big powerful, more sophisticated with a facility to collect more dust if needed.
Hitachi portable circular saws are renowned as the workhorses of the site. Tough, robustly made and expected to cut to the limits of spec when required - i.e. often. I have lost count of the numbers of battered Hitachi saws I have seen on various sites, but their owners always swear by them. The last one I observed was being used by roofers to cut fibre cement soffits and it was being worked very hard – but I was too polite to ask if they had fitted the correct blade!
The Hitachi C9U3 is a replacement for the C 9U2 and is definitely a sleeker and more modern take on the old one, and just a little bit heavier too. No doubt the extra weight is accounted for in a few extra features on the C9U3. So the changes are not just cosmetic – Hitachi has uprated the saw to make the genuine improvements needed for a newer model.
My first impression of the saw is that it is a bit of a monster – it weighs 7.2 Kgs all up. But it does handle well and with good balance, so the weight does not feel onerous. It is now common, thank goodness, to have a cast alloy base on saws like this and the Hitachi version is strong and rigid and with a big flat ground base that sits nicely on the work. It is finished in a dull grey alloy colour, like the upper and lower blade guards and it is genuinely smart looking and has the promise that it will be hardwearing too. A rigid base is easier to work with since it does not flex and makes cutting and saw adjustments more accurate.
Two other features of the base are the adjustable cutting line guides and the blade perpendicularity adjustment. The first of these is easy enough to use – it is just in the front of the base and is adjusted to the cutting line by unscrewing it and then resetting. At this point I should also mention that the side fence is attached to the front of the saw here. The side fence is made from pressed steel, but is more robust than some I have seen, so it will perform under pressure. It has milled slots on the back of the bar for extra grip as well as metric and imperial measurements on the top of the bar, so some accuracy must be expected from it.
More important on a site saw is that the blade should be perpendicular and that it should return to right angles when the users sets it back after an angled cut. Under the base, a grub screw can be adjusted to set the blade at right angles using an engineers’ square. Inaccuracies can creep in on site saws like this, so it is handy to be able to zero it occasionally.
The motor housing and handles are made in the familiar green Hitachi ABS plastic and both handles have generous black rubberised overmoulds to provide grip and some protection from vibration. Included in the kit, is an extra black plastic front handle that can be located underneath the main front handle with a single screw. This provides the user with a grip a little further away from the blade guards, but also lower in centre of gravity terms. This will help in difficult cuts where it is necessary to give a bit more push to the saw.
Both upper and lower blade guards are made from a well finished grey alloy and they are substantial and rigid to provide good protection from the 235mm diameter 20 tooth TCT blade. There is a substantial black riving knife to help prevent binding in the cut and the lower blade guard has a nicely gauged spring loading that is easy to use at the start of the cut as it is pushed into the work, but provides enough snap to get the blade covered asap after the cut is finished.
The upper blade guard also doubles as a dust collector and dust blower. A smallish vent at the back of it spews out a lot of dust when the saw is at full throttle. As we would now expect, there is a dust collection option. A strong black plastic spout can be attached (one screw) over the dust vent. This spout is ribbed so that a standard dust collection hose can be fitted over it. More importantly, with a decent vacuum dust collector attached, the amount of dust collected is very good – not much is left lying around. But you will still have to clean up later because there is no such thing as 100% dust collection on this type of portable saw.
If you do decide to use the dust collection spout you also have to change the little handle that lifts the lower blade guard. The original handle is large and keeps your fingers well away from the blade, but the dust spout handle is a lot smaller so you need to take a bit more care to keep fingers safe.
Just on the front of the upper guard a small plastic hump directs air from the motor fan directly over the cut line so that it remains dust free and easy to see – I do like this feature very much, perhaps I am getting spoilt?
Height and angle adjustments of the blade are really easy to do and the mechanisms for each adjustment are strong. I particularly liked the blade height adjustment arrangement because the substantial knob handle that sticks out under the main handle is easy to reach and grips strongly when tightened so that there is no danger that the saw will suddenly plunge down deeper into the cut. Another nice little touch is the cord holder function under the handle – this allows the user to loop a bit of the cord around the holder so that it can be kept out of the way when cutting.
But was the C9U3 a workhorse? Well I ran it repeatedly through some damp 100x75mm tanalised timber without it so much as a change in motor note. I moved on to some very dense beech and then some old and very twisty elm. Again no problems. In my view, this new version will build a reputation of its own as a robust and accurate site saw that will keep Hitachi aficionados happy and will also gain lots of new fans too.