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Lots of features, lasers and a very good price!
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Porter Cable TwinLaserTM 10" Miter Saw (Model #3700L)

High-tech accuracy

Text & Photos by Tom Hintz

   The Porter Cable TwinLaserTM 10" compound miter saw combines the technology of laser cutting guides with an array of tried and true design features that have served the needs of contractors and woodworkers for decades. With the release of their model #3700L, Porter Cable adds an economically priced saw to their line that uses a super-accurate TwinLaserTM system that closely brackets the actual kerf. No more having to remember which side of the cut the little red line is supposed to be on.

(Top) In nearly all lighting conditions the TwinLaserTM beams are easy to see and to align with the cut.
(Bottom) In very bright, direct sunlight the beams can be difficult to see. Turn the saw a little to cast a shadow and that problem is solved.
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Initial Impressions

   The Porter Cable TwinLaserTM features the clean castings that have long been a hallmark of Porter Cable tools. Fit and finish throughout is very good and the largely aluminum saw arrived without that aggravating layer of thick protective grease we see so often these days.
   The form-fitting foam packing in the shipping carton did its job well as the Porter Cable TwinLaserTM arrived without a scratch, ding or dent.

Instructions

   The multi-lingual instruction manual is clearly written and features many photos that illustrate the procedures.
   A nice addition to the basic instructions is a separate 4-page booklet that describes the process of cutting crown molding with a good balance of text and illustrations. The last 3 pages of this booklet are filled with charts that provide the miter and bevel angles necessary to properly cut crown molding for a large range of wall corner angles. If math is not your favorite thing in life, safeguard this booklet! It will save lots of time and frustration.

Assembly and Setup

   As it comes from the box, the Porter Cable TwinLaserTM requires little in the way of assembly. The 6"-long table and fence base extensions must be installed and aligned with the main table before inserting the moveable fence, its retention screws and the dust bag to complete the unit.
   The instruction manual describes the procedures for checking the alignment of the saw blade angles and the laser guides. My Porter Cable TwinLaserTM came out of the box with the blade angles right on the money. One side of the laser needed a very small adjustment to get it perfectly horizontal to the edge of the kerf. This is a simple exterior adjustment, done with the supplied Allen wrench.

The 15-amp motor has plenty of power to cut even the hardest of woods.
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Motor

   The Porter Cable TwinLaserTM is powered by a stout 15-amp motor that turns the blade at 5000 RPM (no load). This motor has more than enough power for cutting all types of wood. If cut performance falters, check the sharpness of the blade first and the motor last.
   In place of a button-type spindle lock the Porter Cable TwinLaserTM uses an included Allen wrench inserted in the end of the motor to retain the shaft for blade changes. Remember that the blade retaining bolt has left-hand threads. Turn the bolt clockwise to loosen, counterclockwise to tighten.
   The motor brushes are not readily accessible, as is the trend these days. Porter Cable recommends having them inspected by a service center after 100 hours of use.
   Brushes have become a non-issue for most users, as the vast majority never checked them regardless of how easy it was. Besides, if we take the few seconds required to actually make a cut with this type of saw and extrapolate that out to 100 hours, most users will be too old to drive the saw to the service center anyway.

Angles & Detents

The detents and indicators are easy to read and very accurate.
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   The miter scale has mechanical detents at the traditional 0-15-, 22.5-, 30- and 45-degree angles to the left and right. Checking the detents with a digital angle finder showed all are accurate with under 1/10th of one degree being the maximum error noted.
   Though the instruction manual (page 19) indicates detents (miter scale) at 31.62-degrees, the angle used for cutting crown molding, there is actually a diamond marker at that position on the scale.
   While the discrepancy between the manual and saw is probably a simple editing whiff, having the diamond marker rather than a detent is a plus in my estimation. In the real world, this angle usually requires "tweaking" because true 90-degree corners are seldom found. Carefully aligning the miter scale pointer with the center of the 31.62-degree produces a very accurate cut just in case you actually encounter a real 90-degree corner.

The knuckle has easy to adjust stops for depth, 0 and 45-degrees.
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   The bevel scale has positive stops at 0 and 45-degrees. Like the miter function, a diamond marker (no detent) helps set the bevel angle to 33.86-degrees for the complimentary angle when cutting crown molding. The bevel angles check out to be as accurate as the miter scale.
   The knuckle on which the Porter Cable TwinLaserTM cutting head pivots has solid but easy to adjust stops for depth, 0 and 45-degrees of bevel. A large hand-operated knob releases and tightens the bevel angle.
   The spring tension for the plunge motion and tightness of the mating knuckle surfaces are both adjusted externally.

Capacities and the Table

   The Porter Cable TwinLaserTM crosscuts 4X4 and 2X6 stock cleanly. At a 45-degree miter it cuts a 2X4 laying flat on the table in one pass. If an auxiliary fence is attached, capacities naturally decrease by its thickness.

The table surfaces and fences are sized well. The 6" table extension and work clamp are included.
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   The machined worktable surface is 18"-long, including the 6" extension that comes with the kit. The front-to-back width is 3 ¾" at the narrowest points.
   The worktable surface is 3 ¾" above the saws mounting flange. This makes it easy to build supports by stacking two pieces of common 2X4 (1 ½" by 3 ½") and one layer of 1" (3/4") material. This is a very handy design feature, as we almost never have a good work stand handy when we need it but always seem to have plenty of scraps.

Dust Collection

   Trying to coerce sawdust to fly directly into an accumulation port is a daunting task. The wood being cut is in the way and provides multi-faceted surfaces that deflect the dust in all directions except the one in which we want it to go.
   The Porter Cable TwinLaserTM dust system works as well as any I have tried but as with all of the others, there will be some escapees.

(Top) Beneath the cover are two laser emitters in solid mounting bosses.
(Bottom) The only adjustment available on the laser unit is for vertical alignment with the kerf line using the included Allen wrench. In most cases, this is a one time adjustment if it is needed at all.
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The Lasers

   The Porter Cable TwinLaserTM has two laser emitters housed in the upper blade guard. The lasers are powered by three "AA" batteries that snap in a compartment in the handle. A spring-loaded (normally off) button controls the laser function, greatly extending battery life.
   Adjustments for vertical positioning are provided though should be needed very rarely. The horizontal alignment, or how parallel the beams are, is adjusted at the factory and no user adjustment is provided. The lasers on my Porter Cable TwinLaserTM came out of the box nearly perfect though I did make a very small adjustment. The instruction manual describes in detail how to check and adjust the vertical alignment of the lasers if necessary.
   The beams produced by the Porter Cable TwinLaserTM are bright, narrow and wrap around the front of all but the widest stock that can be cut safely. Under all lighting conditions except direct sunlight, the lasers are very easy to see. I moved the Porter Cable TwinLaserTM into the open under a cloudless sky, positioning it so the cut area was directly exposed to the sun. The laser lines were faint but remained visible. Turning the saw less than 90-degrees produced enough "shade" to make the laser lines easy to see.

In The Shop 

Porter Cable includes a 40-tooth (carbide tipped) RiptideTM blade that cuts very cleanly.
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  The Porter Cable TwinLaserTM handled a full range of common and not so common cuts easily. The motor has more than enough power and the supplied carbide-tipped, 40-tooth (ATB) Riptide blade sliced hard and soft woods cleanly, leaving a very smooth surface with very little splintering when exiting the wood.
   All of the miter and bevel cuts came out as indicated on the scales or detents. The miter locking system has just enough drag when released to allow "bumping" the adjustment when small changes are needed to perfect a cut.
   In the course of testing, the Porter Cable TwinLaserTM was repeatedly cycled from "0" to various miter and bevel angles and back. Each time the return to "0" remained accurate. After the initial check during setup, no alignment adjustments have been necessary.
   The Porter Cable TwinLaserTM guides make aligning the blade with a layout line very simple. The fine laser lines bracketing even very thin layout lines let you place the saw kerf on the line or to either side with a very high degree of accuracy, even at odd combinations of miter and bevel angles.

VIDEO - Click the image above to see a short video of the TwinLasers in action!
(Windows format video.)

   The standard fences on the Porter Cable TwinLaserTM are 2"-tall on the right and 3 ¼"-tall on the left side at their lowest points, more than sufficient to support most common stock sizes.
   The left-side fence extension is adjustable left and right, sliding in a groove atop the fixed rails. The shape and thickness of the extension makes clamping the workpiece to it easy for more control and safety.
   Both sides of the standard fence are drilled for attaching shop-made auxiliary pieces when more height is required to safely cut tall stock.
   A material clamp is included in the Porter Cable TwinLaserTM kit that plugs into bosses on either side of the blade. The coarse-threaded hand screw makes securing material fast and easy.

Conclusions

   With a street price of $199.00, (10-13-2004) the Porter Cable TwinLaserTM (#3700L) brings many high-dollar features in a package that will cut everything but the budget. The TwinLaser feature means you will make those cuts more accurately - and faster - than ever before.
   For contractors on the job site, woodworkers or do-it-yourselfers, the Porter Cable TwinLaserTM is a very good, affordable tool with a solid group of features that will make your work easier and more accurate.

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