When you cut thick timbers and beams, do you make one full-depth cut with a circular saw across one side, carefully flip the piece over (without breaking it at the cut), make a second full-depth cut in line with the first, and then finish up with a recip saw connecting the two saw kerfs? Do you crosscut with a recip saw or a chain saw as carefully as possible? For rough-cut faces that end up hidden from view, these methods may suffice, but for straight, smooth cuts—and in a lot less time-a deep-cutting beam saw is the tool for the job. Enter Skilsaw’s new Super Sawsquatch.

I recently used this big saw to cut 5x5 and 6x6 landscape timbers, 5 1/4-inch LVLs, and 5 1/8-inch glulam beams (you can get by with the original Skilsaw Sawsquatch 10 1/4-inch wormdrive saw for about $300 less if 4-by material is the thickest that you have to cut). The Super Sawsquatch (Model SPT70V-11; $699.00) comes with a 16 5/16-inch (414 mm) blade, and will cut to a depth of 6 3/8 inches straight down and about 4 1/4 inches at a 45-degree bevel.

I weighed the saw at just under 33 pounds with the blade and cord; the plastic base it’s clipped to adds another 4 1/2 pounds. The purpose of the base is to protect the lower guard when you set the saw down in between uses, and also to securely contain the saw during transport and storage since – at over two feet long - it’s really too big for a tool case. The handle on top of the saw’s motor is positioned well for carrying the saw with one hand, but when you lift the saw from the base to use it, you have to be careful not to inadvertently pull the trigger. Unfortunately, the rear handle is undersized for fitting four fingers on the grip below the trigger when handling the saw.

The Super Sawsquatch clips into a plastic base that protects the blade and guard during transport. At the upper right on the blade guard is a vacuum port for dust collection.
The big saw is designed to be operated with both hands.

The Super Sawsquatch tilts to 47 degrees, and to make sure the cutting angle stays set securely over its length the saw features pivots with locking levers at both the front and rear of the upper guard. For accurately setting the saw for 90-degree perpendicular cuts, there are adjustable stops at the front and rear also.

There is no front handle mount on the right side so the saw is intended for use with your right hand on the trigger, but there are two different front handle positions to the left. The upper position feels more comfortable and lets you easily hold the lower guard open while your hand is securely on the handle. The lower front handle position made me feel like I was practically hugging the saw and a bit too close to the spinning blade. This lower grip is designed to be better for bevel cutting since it is attached low on the saw’s shoe and therefore doesn’t tilt along with the body of the saw like the upper handle does. But in my experience, it wasn’t useful, since I couldn’t reach the lower guard lever with my hand in this position. It also spreads the grip too wide from front to back, pulling your body uncomfortably close to the blade.

Power. According to Skilsaw, the wormdrive motor on the Super Sawsquatch is the largest they’ve ever made for a saw, making it even stronger than the one on their full-size portable table saw. The no-load speed of the saw is 2,500 rpm, which moves its big blade 12.5 percent (or over 10 feet per second) faster than a 7 1/4-inch wormdrive Skilsaw running at 5,300 rpm. This allows the saw to move at a surprisingly quick pace through 5-inch thick plus wood, and I never had the feeling that the saw was holding me back from cutting as fast as I wanted, regardless of the material. An electric brake quickly slows the big blade down after the cut.

Guard Action. The only time the saw felt like it was pushing back was when the lower guard was running into a lot of resistance. It is designed with a nice curved lobe on its right side to help push it open against the material being cut without snagging, and as long as I cut with the dropoff to the left during thin shave cuts I didn’t experience any hangups. But the amount of force the extra-large guard takes to open against the material can stop you dead in your tracks at times. Between the guard’s strong return spring and the great amount of friction various rough timbers and laminated beams apply to the nose of the guard, I found the best way to ensure that it didn’t get stuck was to manually hold the guard open at the beginning of a cut.

With its 16 5/16-inch blade, the Super Sawsquatch has a depth of cut of 6 3/8 inches.
With its 16 5/16-inch blade, the Super Sawsquatch has a depth of cut of 6 3/8 inches.

Accuracy. The blade-left configuration of this saw provides very good visibility of the blade at the cutline, so I never had to rely on the multiple guide notches in the cast magnesium base. But the 90-degree markers seemed accurate enough whenever I glanced at them during a cut.

Like many builders, I am used to holding a triangular rafter square down with my left hand to guide my circ saw when cross-cutting. But the Super Sawsquatch is much too big for this technique. Instead, I clamped (or tacked down) a straight piece of board to guide the saw’s shoe against whenever I needed the assurance of a straight and plumb cut. That way, I could concentrate on keeping the saw shoe flat and stable instead of focusing on following a line. To know how far over from the cutline I need to tack the guide board, I wrote the distance (6 9/16”) on the front of the shoe in permanent marker for quick reference. If I was smart, I’d cut my straightedge board to that width to mark against with no measuring.

Bevel Cutting. With the saw tilted to a 45-degree angle, it was like wrestling with a different beast. It took a slow and deliberate approach to make sure the saw’s shoe was planted flat on the wood, and despite my best efforts to ensure stability, freehand bevel cutting was the only time I bound the blade and enacted the blade’s rudimentary safety clutch. If tensioned properly, the arbor washer will let go of the blade enough to keep the motor from stalling, but you don’t want to run this way very long. After only a few seconds of the blade slipping while I was trying to get back on track, a hot, angry motor smell reminded me to let off the trigger fast.

To make these tricky cuts with less anxiety, two things really helped: Guiding the saw against a straightedge firmly attached to the work; and holding the lower guard open at the start of the cut. Otherwise, the force of the guard’s return spring pushing diagonally against the saw in the bevel cutting position lifts the saw up off the work while simultaneously deflecting it sideways away from the cutline. You won’t have to force the saw if you remove the interference of the lower guard, at least until it rotates all the way open.

Use Tips. The Super Sawsquatch won’t get through the thickest 6 3/4-inch glue-lams and 7-inch engineered lumber beams in one pass. But if you have to connect two cuts to get through your wood, here’s a tip: Make the shallowest cut you need from one side first, then follow up with the deep connecting cut. This leaves more strength in the wood if you have to flip it, and you can even use a standard size circ saw for half of the work.

Another tip: If the drop piece is big and heavy, make sure it is well-supported and balanced so that it doesn’t pinch and stall the blade, land on your feet, or try to launch the saw like a catapult at cut-through. This also ensures that the drop piece won’t tear out or break the end of the wood before the saw cuts all the way through. For cutting without sure support, a shallow scoring cut along the bottom of the cut will prevent the drop piece from ripping fibers from the face of the wood as it falls. It means flipping the wood over in between cuts, but it may be worth the effort to preserve the looks and integrity of large and pricey materials.

Other Uses. There is only so much you typically do with a beam saw, and it might only be needed to make a handful of plumb crosscuts on a job. So to test more of the capabilities of the big Skilsaw, I put it to work making a super-duty seating bench sculpted from a leftover LVL chunk. This gave me the opportunity—or rather the excuse-to make finicky 45-degree tapered bevel cuts not commonly used on the ends and edges of engineered lumber beams. But these cuts may have relevance in crafting sturdy pergolas, arbors, and other decorative work in timber frames.

I also found the saw useful for squaring up the sides of thick slabs from the sawmill to make them more useful for making benches and tabletops. Any wood that can be cut straight with a chain saw can be cut straighter and smoother with this beam saw, as long as the wood offers a flat surface to guide against,

Blades. When the Skilsaw brand was owned by Bosch, they usually offered two versions of their premium saws: one with a stock blade, and one with a Freud Diablo blade. But now that the company has changed hands, there is no such tie-in for this latest saw. However, Diablo already makes two different blades that fit this saw, and it’s a good thing too since Skilsaw doesn’t yet offer any 16 5/16-inch replacement blades.

The author tested the saw using both fine-cut 60-tooth (left) and rough-cut 32-tooth (middle)  Freud Diablo blades. The saw comes with a standard 32-tooth Skilsaw blade (right).
The author tested the saw using both fine-cut 60-tooth (left) and rough-cut 32-tooth (middle) Freud Diablo blades. The saw comes with a standard 32-tooth Skilsaw blade (right).

I did most of my testing with the stock blade that comes with the saw. The Diablo blades are available in 32 and 60 tooth models, and I tried out both of them during my testing too. The carbide teeth are larger on these aftermarket blades which may allow for another sharpening or two, and the higher tooth count finish blade did produce noticeably smoother cuts as expected. Both 32-tooth blades are fine for general cutting, but for exposed cut ends and timber-frame type joinery cuts, the finer tooth blade may give you an advantage. www.skilsaw.com.