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The Mag423 is a great value for the woodworker.
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Porter Cable MAG423 Circular Saw

Light and Loaded

Text and Photos by Tom Hintz

   Porter Cable's venerable PC 743K, 7 ¼" circular saw had been one of the best values in power saws for years. The MAG423 left-bladed (MAG324 - right-bladed) arrives in the marketplace with a slew of updated features, and a few brand new ones that are sure to be useful to virtually any woodworker, hobbyist or professional.

Though Porter Cable may have designed the MAG423 with the construction industry in mind, everyone else from the basic homeowner to dedicated woodworkers will appreciate its accuracy, ease of use and versatility.

Initial Observations

   Despite being loaded with new features and technology, the MAG423 retains the classic Porter Cable look of solid quality. The logo treatment on the blade guard has a retro look that belies the advanced concepts around which the MAG423 is based.

The MAG423 feels very good in the hand, well balanced and comfortable. Weighing a trim 9.6 lbs, this is an easy saw to hustle around a job site or wood shop.

The positionable dust port is very handy and works great. Shoot the dust back into the guard housing to be dumped at the rear or aim it where you want it.
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   The controls are logically placed, easy to get to and function as expected. Markings are clear, easy to read and just as easy to set accurately. Fit, finish and manufacturing quality are all up to the high standards we have come to expect from Porter Cable.

Features

   While it may have been tempting to re-invent the circular saw, it appears that Porter Cable took the widespread customer support of the 743 model to heart, revising many of the base mechanics and then adding the new technologies to that package. Most of the new features appear designed to enhance ease-of-use and accuracy.

Plenty of Power

   A very stout 15-amp motor spins the blade at 5800 RPM. Though capable of powering a reasonably sharp blade through thick stock with ease, the motor is surprisingly smooth and quiet. If this motor is not strong enough for the task, a much larger - and stationary - machine is required.
   
   More industrious users may notice that there are no motor brush access ports on the MAG423. Porter Cable recommends having an authorized service center handle that inspection and related parts replacement after approximately 100 hours of use. If you consider the actual amount of time the saw is in operation to cut a slice off of a 4X8-foot sheet of plywood, the frequency of this maintenance procedure works out to close to never for those who actually stay on top of brushes. I suspect for the vast majority of users who have never seen motor brushes and are in no hurry to do so now, this is a moot point. Forget I mentioned it.

No-Tools Blade Change

Changing blades is fast, easy and tool-less on the Mag423. This ingenious system seems to hold the blade very securely.
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   If you managed to squeeze a little extra break time on the job site out of having to "find" a wrench to change circle saw blades, the MAG423 probably isn't for you. A new no-tools blade changing system not only eliminates the wrench, but also the skinned knuckles that often immediately followed that wrench slipping.

   On the MAG423 you depress the shaft-lock button, slide the spring-loaded lever out from the retaining nut and twist it loose. The nut and a special washer beneath it with interlocking serrations make this finger operation possible and secure. The washer has a squared hole that fits over a similarly shaped shoulder on the blade shaft that further prevents the assembly from spinning loose.

   This system is easy to use and simple enough to make one wonder why it took so long to reach the mainstream tool market. The important thing is it is here, it works and we can stop putting our knuckles at risk.

New Blade Design

The new Razor blade design cuts cleanly and appears to last a long time.
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    The MAG423 came with a 20-tooth, 7 ¼" version of Porter Cable's new Razor line of saw blades. Aside from some very cool screen printing, the Razor blades feature C3 tungsten carbide tips, one of the best carbide variations for cutting wood. C3 carbide not only takes a very sharp edge, it tends to retain that sharpness longer than most other carbide formulas.

The Razor also has multiple tooth designs on each blade, grouped in segments. One design is meant for fast cutting and the other smooth cutting. The blade body that supports the carbide tips is precision laser cut and hardened to increase rigidity, a property that also helps produce smoother cuts.

Porter Cable claims this combination cuts 1 ½-times faster and doubles the lifespan of their nearest competitor. After using the MAG423 in my shop, I see nothing that suggests they are stretching the point with those claims.

Cool Shoe

The bevel (Top) and cut depth (Bottom) adjusters are easy to use and well marked. They are also very accurate.
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   The rugged, cast magnesium shoe is 6 ½"-wide and 12"-long with 3/8"-tall sides all the way around to insure solid control when guided by a fence. To keep things simple when clamping a guide fence in place, the shoe extends 1 ½" to the left side of the blade and 5" to the right providing easy-to-remember offsets.

The front edge of the shoe has a pair of "sighting" notches, one used with the blade in the "zero" position and another that indicates the cut line with the shoe at 45-degrees of bevel. Both notches are properly placed, corresponding very closely with the actual blade path.

The bevel and depth adjustments have new over-sized levers that are easy to operate even with work gloves on. Both the bevel and depth scales are cast-in making them easy to read.

The bevel scale has a range of 0 to 50-degrees with an adjustable zero and a positive stop at 45-degrees. To get above 45-degrees, the locking handle has to be lifted in the slot slightly to access the additional travel. This ingenious mechanism allows fast setting to the more common 45-degree angle but lets the operator access the additional bevel for when cheating a miter is necessary to fit trim around those "other than 90-degree" corners.

The cutting depth can be adjusted infinitely from zero to a maximum depth of 2 5/16" at 0-degrees. At 45-degrees the MAG423 is capable of a cutting depth of 1 13/16".

Both the bevel and depth adjusters feature large handles that make positive locking effortless. The handles are also positioned and sized for easy operation with gloves.

Guard the Sharp Stuff

   The all-magnesium blade guard incorporates a unique dust control system that is effective with or without a vacuum system attached. A new built-in positionable outlet lets you direct sawdust through the guard housing for discharge at the rear or it can be aimed in the best available direction within in a 205-degree arc. Porter Cable offers an accessory for connecting the outlet port to a dust collection system.
   The lower guard is fully retractable using a large handle that keeps your fingers far away from the blade. The nose of the lower guard has a downward spur that helps keep the guard from catching on slightly irregular surfaces below the shoe.

Getting a Grip

The handles are nicely designed and very comfortable when used left or right-handed.
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   Even the handles have been massaged so you won't need one after using the MAG423 all day. Both grips are shaped and sized nicely to be comfortable to bare or gloved hands. The grips are shaped so that they are comfortable using the saw right or left-handed. The primary grip has a soft rubber insert that extends over the contact area that absorbs the vibrations of the blade against the wood. The rubber insert also has a non-slip quality that gives a solid feel of control.

The on/off trigger switch is shielded in an opening that, while large enough to be accessed with gloves on, protects the switch to help prevent accidental starts. The spring-loaded switch has a pull-through detent that, while easy to operate, provides more than ample warning that you are starting the saw.

Storage Case

The case does a good job of protecting your investment.
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   To protect the MAG423 from all the bad things that can happen to it when not in use, Porter Cable sends along a rugged blow-molded plastic case. Aside from securing the saw safely, there is also a place for the instruction manual so you can find it later.

In The Shop

   All of the new features, engineering and the new blade look very nice but are meaningful only if the package actually works when put to the wood. And work it does!

Regardless of the type of wood being cut, the MAG423 handles easily and predictably. The motor and blade combination sliced through everything I could find with ease. Even 2 ¼"-thick cherry had no distinguishable effect on motor speed as long as I did not get foolish with the feed rate.

The Mag423 performed great in every test I could think of. Notice how effective the dust port is. Even when not hooked up to a vac, you can shoot it where you want it!
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   The large baseplate follows clamp-on guides accurately. Its alignment to the blade is very precise which means the saw does not tend to wander away from the guide. Even with the saw at a 45-degree bevel, the baseplate helps keep the saw stable and on line. Visibility of the blade path is very good and combined with the superior handling means it is very easy to follow layout lines accurately.

I did not hook the dust port to a collection system but considering the amount of debris being emitted, I suspect it would work very well. Just being able to aim the dust in an out-of-the-way direction is itself a big help. The area surrounding the cut line stays reasonably clear, allowing most cuts to be completed without having to stop to clear dust from the area manually.

The cut quality from the Razor blade is first rate. The sawn edges are very clean and there is surprisingly little chipping along the corners of the cut. Though I cut a considerable amount of wood with the included blade, there has been no evident degradation of its performance.

   The Porter Cable MAG423 should be a welcome addition to any woodworking shop. We all need to reduce the size of sheet stock and long boards to make them easier and safer to process with our power tools. The MAG423 handles these tasks accurately and easily.

The MAG423 is a very good value and will be a welcomed addition to any tool collection.

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