When our friends at ToolNut asked if I wanted to review a Mafell circular saw, I was hesitant, but open-minded.
I own and have reviewed Festool tools before, which typically have a learning curve, thick manuals, and “tips and tricks” types of add-on booklets you can download.
A kitchen remodel, workshop remodel, finding a new balance after my daughter was born, and suffering almost constant colds and upper respiratory setbacks all Fall had delayed my test schedule quite a bit.
I had cracked open the Mafell Systainer and thought I was ready to go.
But first, thanks to our friends at ToolNut for the loaner! I’ve ordered from them in the past, and they’ve proven to be a great tool dealer. Not everything has been perfect, but I was always satisfied with the way they handled my orders and business. I wouldn’t hesitate to order from them again, and can recommend them.
They recently started carrying a selection of Mafell tools and accessories. Here’s a link to the various Mafell circular saws they carry, and the KSS 300 they sent over for review consideration:
Mafell Circular Saws via ToolNut
Mafell KSS 300 Cross Cutting Circular Saw System via ToolNut
Here’s a quick intro video from Mafell:
Mafell is Not Festool
I had made the mistake of assuming that Mafell tools would be just like Festool’s. Well, they’re not. There’s a learning curve, and they’re not going to hold your hand through it in the same way.
The KSS 300 was relatively easy to figure out, but the manual could stand to be better.
Pass the tool along to someone without the manual, and they’ll likely be lost.
Mafell’s knobs could stand to be color coded. I remember it taking me a few minutes to figure out where the depth adjustment lock was.
$1000 of Engineering?
Once my “this saw is so small!” shock had worn off, I quickly appreciated the finesse of the saw’s design and engineering.
I can’t tell you if it’s worth a full grand, but I can tell you that Mafell seems to have engineered the KSS 300 circular saw system without holding back.
This is what you get when tool quality is valued over price point.
They could probably do things cheaper, but is it really worth sacrificing anything for slight cost savings? Realistically, when you’re talking about a $1039 tool, it’ll take a lot of cost cutting to attract much more potential buyers.
The short guide rail is awesome. Once I figured out how to disengage the saw, I immediately fell in love.
Shortly after I received the saw, I drafted an email to our ToolNut contacts. I thought the guide rail was coming in a separate shipment. Nope! Both the short rigid guide rail and long flexible guide rail fit into the tool box.
Up next (soon I hope) is a review of Festool’s portable circular saw system, which works in the same way as the KSS 300, and I believe its bigger brothers the KSS 400 and MT 55 CC.
The KSS 300 is a little track saw for cross cuts of up to around 13″. Cutting depth is 1-9/16″ at 90°, with the guide rail.
The KSS 300 also comes with an edge guide and 55″ Flexi-Guide rail that folds up for easy transport and storage.
I love the small guide rail, the Flexi-Guide rail is just okay. Yes, it fits inside the same toolbox for easier carrying, but it also works differently than regular track saws. The flexible guide rail has raised nibs that a notch in the saw’s plate ride along.
The KSS 300 seems to be a very nice tool, but for special uses. It can cut dimensional lumber – barely, and is said to be great at cutting trim, flooring – stuff like that.
It was described to me as being capable of handling many of the tasks a miter saw would be used for.
That brings me back to what’s been stumping me.
How the heck do I review this saw? I have no idea!
It’s an excellent saw, no doubt about that. But who to recommend it to? For what sort of tasks?
I guess it’s a nice compact plunge cutting tracksaw for those who want to fit everything in a single Systainer tool box.
You can handle larger cuts with the flexible guide rail, but my appreciation for the rigid mini guide rail has me wishing I had instead received the KSS 400 to review, with its 15-3/4″ cross cutting capacity.
The saw needs to go back to ToolNut pronto, so I had better figure things out quick!
Plenty of reviewers will describe this saw as the best thing since sliced bread. But I’m just not there yet. I can’t find a good context to recommend it, at least not yet. That’s mostly the point of this post – to ask for your help in understanding this tool.
It’s not a tool I would buy, which is true for lots of tools, but in this case it really hampers my understanding of it.
Buy Now(via ToolNut)
I had never considered buying a Mafell tool, mainly because there was slim availability in the USA, and because it seemed the specialized in the same types of tools as Festool, and I’ve been happy with my Festool purchases. What could be better? (Aside from imperial depth settings, which were recently implemented.)
Is great quality, performance, and user experience enough to balance the $1039 price tag? I’m just not seeing this as the king of compact cross cutting tools, despite its many positives.
I’d kill for one of these. I’ve seen them on floor sites twice and want to try one bad.
Questions you can answer in your review.
What size blades do the KSS300 and KSS 400 use since I cannot find info on that?
Does it fit your CT vac out of the box?
Can it really replace a miter saw?
Blades are nearly impossible to find locally. Timberwolf Tools are about your only option and they ain’t cheap. Just about the only downside with this little saw. I’ve had one for three years and the words “cold dead hands” come to mind if anyone wants it off me.
The blades are 120mm with a 20mm arbor, 1.8mm kerf. There are no third party matching blades. Freud (among others) make a 4 3/8″ blade with a 20mm
arbor and they are very good. You lose a few mm on depth and it won’t cut through a 2×4 but work great on sheet goods and are about 1/4 the price of the Mafell blades. This saw is wasted on rough framing anyway.
I like and use this saw more even than my MT55, which itself is in a different league from all other track saws. No regrets at all with this saw.
The kss 400 is the better saw as it has more power and more cutting depth . The kss 300 is an amazing panel cutting saw like for cutting wainscott panneliong with the 54 inch flexi guide. You can dont have to clamp the straight edge and it cuts to the line. Also for cutting something something to nothing like a jamb extention or a door the long way the kss 400 is the shit. The kss 300 doent cut 1 3/4 deep so you would have to flip the door over , but you dont have to score the door.
Geez, I’m wondering how to justify the Festool HKC55 and it’s difficult, there is no way I could justify this Mafell. Their self-driven panel saw looks cool, but I think I’m going to keep all circular saws regardless of the features firmly in the “no more than $700” category.
I’ve got the HKC55 and it is a splendid tool to use. The Mafell looks awesome but I’m already vested in the Festool cordless line so the associated cost was mitigated by my ownership of batteries. The Mafell is really expensive and even if I did not have the HKC55 I’d not consider the Mafell because of the price point. But that’s it. There is no questioning the quality of Mafell tools.
Some of the Mafell tool prices seem to be more in line with their Festool counterparts. Looking at one of my old inventory lists – I see that we paid about the same price that Festool gets for Domino XL – for a Mafell Duo Doweller.
The Mafell track works much better than Festool’s track. The Festool track will fill with sawdust and get caught at not quite the back, and it’s tough to clear the jam. Mafell’s design doesn’t fill up- I used my KSS50 framing and cut hundreds of boards without a problem. Add to that, the depth adjustment and bevel adjustment, and it gets even more clear.
I think what you have is a speciality flooring/trim work too. because it sounds that’s what they expect it to be used for. So perhaps review it with that in mind.
All the demos look like flooring, trim or sheet goods – and the sheet good is sub 3/4.
I don’t know what blades come with it but that might also be a sort of guide – IE it’s made for laminates or ?
One problem with specialty tools is how someone not familiar with their particular use can review them honestly. I’ve seen tools that were obviously of high quality that frustrated even the most expert craftsman, and others where I wondered if they were worth the price, but once I saw it being operated by someone familiar with its proper use I could detonate!y see the appeal.
PS. Is it just me or is the blade set way too deep in the still picture above?
I have limited experience with Mafell.
When timber framing suddenly became a bit of an in-thing in one of our high-end areas – and a few of our clients wanted to tackle some jobs – I got my best carpenters together – we decided to see if we could volunteer on a few jobs and learn something about the trade. There was some church work that we found that helped. We ended up hiring some folks who had a skill-set we needed and we started looking at Mafell timber framing saws, planers, portable band saws and the like. I thought that the timber-framing fad might pass (and it did in our area) – so I choked a bit on the prices that Timberwolf was getting for the Mafell tools. Having seen a few of the Mafell planes and timber saws in use, I was favorably impressed but we went mostly with Makita for their big (16-15/16) beam saw, their 12+ inch and 6.75 inch planers, their wheel sander and then an Oliver portable band saw. We initially decided to forego a chain mortiser in favor of a big router – but then decided on a Makita for this work as well based on price. I don not believe that any of the Makita tools we bought were near as good as their Mafell counterparts but the jobs we got – paid this tooling off. The guys still use some of it – mostly for landscape timbers – and the clientele that wanted timber framed rooms/houses have shifted their focus to million dollar kitchens, extraordinary landscaping and infinity pools as a way to show off their wealth.
My take on Mafell is that they are a bit like German sports cars – well engineered with interesting features – sometimes perhaps best-in-class – that may not be practical or cost-effective for all users. I also think that importer (I still believe that it is Timberwolf) earns a pretty penny – with a healthy markup over what the tools sell for in Europe. The Mafell semi-automated tracksaw (panel saw) impresses me – but if its almost $3800 price tag is more than impressive.
Stuart I own two Mafell saws myself, the P1cc and MT55cc. I only bought them after doing a lot of research myself and that includes going over Festool. They’re great saws but the KSS300 from what I could tell is really, really specific in its uses. Kind of like the MT55cc is purely a tracksaw that you don’t want to use off a track freehand without a guide (No front handle, a bit awkward to me with no riving knife either when it has no front handle for control)
Try building something small and square of dimensional 1x, 2x and ply with the KSS300, I know that’s one of the things it’ll excel at since it cuts through a 2x but not with the saw tilted.
The saw blade compatibility and availability question seems kinda paramount.
I just bought a Bosch 12v saw with a 85mm blade from AmazonUK and the only darn blades I can find in the good ‘ol US of A are Makita. And just barely.
Otherwise I’ve never seen a floor installer look like they “needed” your test saw. But maybe they’ve just adapted to small chip saws.
Fun quandary you’ve got. Like considering whether to buy a Patek Phillippe watch when any Casio or iPhone is waay more available, cheap and accurate.
Betteridge Jewelers used to run a radio advertisement where Terry Betteridge talked about his father coming into the store with his Patek to have the concrete that he’d been mixing cleaned off of it. I think that the point of the ad was to make a Patek seem attainable, just as useful as a watch (at this price point they always say “timepiece”) as it is as a piece of decorative jewelry and something that’s passed on from generation to generation. I did not succumb to the ad – but my wife inquired if it was something I’d like. My response was to show her the $50 Casio on my wrist and tell her that I did not wish to add any more gold watches to those already in the safe-deposit box- both I and the kids not wanting to wear them.
MY wife does wear one of her gold watches from time to time (mostly dress-up events) – even though she regularly wears a Citizen Eco-Drive
I bought a Mafell MT55cc from ToolNut to build new kitchen cabinets. The saw is excellent.
No matter the price or quality of the brand, the limited availability is a major issue to me. I question the amount of time and effort it might take to resolve any issues that might arise over the life of the tool. Sourcing parts and consumables is a concern to me that limits my interest and has a major impact on the tool budget.
The question of how to review the tool doesn’t help improve my outlook on the brand either and smacks of a lack of involved marketing or true interest by the manufacturer in our particular sand box. I love a good quality tool that will stand the test of time, but most important, it must be able to pay for itself in form, and if there ever is a problem, it must have a short term resolution in process. I do not get that feeling from just seeing marketing videos and believe I would have to physically both see the tool in actual operation as well as inspect it myself, to confirm viability of use in my kit. There are exceptions out there, but this one doesn’t read that way to me.
Some brands are less modern when it comes to marketing, others might have the take that the tools sell themselves.
I wouldn’t take less marketing efforts to indicate a lack of interest in the US market.
It’s difficult to gauge what levels of interest companies in general have, especially if they are using a word of mouth model to sell tools. Yes, I should not pre-judge intentions, but I think the long term limited access of their products speaks volumes. When living in Florida I would visit the International Woodworking Fair every time it was held in Atlanta. It’s a great venue for judging a manufacturers interest by their presence alone as well as what lengths they would go to show off their available offerings. I first began to take Dewalt seriously after visiting their booth at that show the year they introduced the cordless finish nail guns. I don’t remember ever seeing Mafell at the show. It’s possible they may have been there, but that I never felt their presence like many other tool producers that use that venue. It goes back to being able to put hands on and visibility in the market as well as on the job. It’s great that ToolNut sent you a sample to review, but they are a retailer, that as I understand it, does not source directly from Mafell. I should also not believe everything I read on the internet, but that also goes hand in hand with my attitude about not wanting to purchase a highly expensive item only based on what I have viewed in a marketing video on the internet. Reviews may help or detract as they may. The total package of what I see leaves me with my stated opinion, that they are not overly serious about the market here in the states.
The Tool Nut sources Mafell directly from Mafell USA
And by that you mean Timberwolf?
Fine cut blade, works close to the wall, cutting length of the short track perfectly suited to crosscutting lengths of laminate / timber flooring, skirting boards and architrave. Flexibility to handle framing and sheet goods for built in storage. Small size and weight so it’s easy to carry into apartments – especially three floors up with no elevator to help you move your mitre saw …
My 10 cents … this is a tool for craftsmen doing renovation and refit work in city apartments and possibly offices.
They are going to be driving small vehicles that are easier to hustle and park around the city. They may well be working solo. They’re not going to want to haul a mitre saw from the vehicle to the place of work.
I think Alick nailed it. I wish they had sent you the track saw kit (especially since you’re familiar with Festool’s) or their jigsaw. Both probably have a larger audience if price wasn’t a concern.
I can say I have their track saw and love it. But again, you pay dearly for comparatively small improvements over the competition.
Yes – I guess a side-by-side comparison of the Mafell general purpose track saws versus the Festool offerings might be of greater interest. When I bought my TS 55 REQ (right after it was introduced) – I really did not do much more than a fleeting look at Mafell – doing more reading to compare the Festool to Dewalt and Makita offerings. Time marches on – and what I’ve learned to like and dislike about the Festool – might have me take another look if I were buying today.
What I like about the Festool is company and user-group support. The easy availability of theirs and other manufacturer’s blades (Forrest , Freud, Tenryu, CMT et. al.) and the availability of aftermarket add-ons from folks like Betterley, Seneca, Woodpeckers et. al.) is also a big plus.
I’m very pleased with the saw and how my cuts turn out using it – mostly with hardwood veneered plywood. Maybe it’s a bit underpowered if you push it (I could have bought a 75 if I really needed it), maybe it could do better with melamine – if scoring were more automatic – but overall I find that it cuts very well.
What I don’t like are things like how their rail connectors perform. For what you pay for them they are a joke IMO. In the shop you can connect 2 rails together, and then fuss with them – back and forth so to speak – to get them into perfect alignment. On a jobsite (for me now mostly my kids’ houses), out on a lawn or in a driveway it becomes frustrating. I ended up buying a FS2700 (106 inch long) track – paying a hefty price (over $300) for it – because of my frustrations with trying to connect shorter rails accurately in the field. Carrying the 2700mm track in its oak box around is not my favorite thing. I see that Betterley now sells a $100+ jig (SLC23) to purportedly solves this issue – but I feel that Festool should have solved it themselves.
Looking at Festool Owner’s Group forums recently, I’ve seen comments about the Mafell track saws. Some seem to praise easier blade changing (not too big a deal IMO), easier scoring, greater power, and superior track performance – including how they connect. For me – my pet peeve about the track connection issue might tip me towards Mafell if I was buying today – but I’d have to weigh that against other pros and cons including price.
Yup. After watching most of the video I linked further down, I think you’re right on. I think Mafell understands their intended use case and market. You’ve got people who need to do precise and quick work but need a tool that doesn’t take up much space and is easy to transport and store.
It’s basically a “no compromises” tool for those in their intended market. People will gladly pay $1000 to have exactly the tool they need. For those people, it replaces a mitersaw, tablesaw, circular saw and a few specialty flooring saws.
I think you already answered your question. If its not a tool you would buy and you dont know how to review it or for who, then it is not worth talking about. Now add in $1000 and I can pretty much guarantee that no one wants this tool no matter how cool it may be.
Not necessarily. There are plenty of interesting tools I personally don’t like or care about, but see value in reviewing or previewing.
With this one, the nature of the tool, the unfamiliar brand, and high price all throw everything info uncertainty.
Over a year ago I saw a pretty detailed video comparison of four track saws including a Mafell and a Festool, I think a Bosch and one other.
The site was not English language but the reviewers were proper users, not wannabe TV presenters.
The Mafell was their favorite primarily because of build quality and MUCH greater ease of blade changing. I have handled ( not used) a couple of Mafell saws myself (including the model with the roll up guide rail) and reckon they are one of the top 3 if not the best in class wherever they offer a tool. This based on design and build quality regardless of price.
My personal benchmark for quality is the original Swiss made Elu tool family before Dewalt bought them and crucified a classic brand.
Mafell are not too common in the UK but are becoming better known. They sell for a modest premium over Festool. On the few occasions that you see a used one listed, they fetch wicked high resale prices.
30+ years ago some Elu routers competed head to head with Porter Cable for being best in class. Now Porter Cable is a second-tier brand for Black and Decker and Elu – as you say has almost been forgotten absorbed by Black & Decker into their Dewalt flagship brand.
I believe you mean this Dutch video?
Mafell clear winner, Festool second
Their opinions are rather one-sided, and they are very quick to judge. However, the video is so valuable because you can see all the tools in action in real world tests.
They have a jigsaw video too: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=W3U9iHDJbZo
Again, Mafell clear winner, Festool dissapoints! VERY interesting video to view if you’re considering a Festool jigsaw.
Cool saw. Never looked to closely at Maeffel. Seems like a very specialized product, someone who does finished carpentry at a clients home and is very space constrained.
Being a DIY/Woodworker doesn’t seem versatile enough to buy considering the price.
Reviewing this unit will be tough with no task for which it was designed, With the limited width and toping out at 2x material it looks like it would be aimed at people building decks and things of that nature. Cutting off rafter tails, etc. all seem right up its alley.
You can review its cut quality and if you are looking for a non ambitious project, you can build a closet organizer. Tear out the bar, buy some melamine and cut all of it using this saw. You can talk about how easy (or difficult) it was to do the angles and the quality of cut in the material.
I made my own closet organizer by splitting the closet into thirds. 1/3rd is a full length bar (salvaged from the bar I removed), the middle third is for shelves and the last third has two bars (once again from the bar I removed) for hanging pants and shirts. It took me about 3 hours to knock out. It is surprisingly functional, the materials are inexpensive, and it will let you use your Ferrari of a tool like a Ford.
Great idea for a sample project , also gives a chance of the saw to outshine its competiton as chip free cuts in melamine are a tough task.
I’d call it “useless”, because of its price tag, also “uglt” based solely on its looks.
I mean, I kind of knew that a boutique saw designed for the 1% would eventually hit the market and here we are! Like all other things designed to just be expensive without offering anything to back up its cost, the $1000 price tag is likely to be the only “feature” that would stand out above all other peasant-oriented power tools such as Milwaukee, Dewalt and many others… With all seriousness: based on specs it’s just a regular power tool sold for a cool thou to attract those that value bragging rights above all else! What’s funny to me is if the only thing you can brag about is the price that you paid, doesn’t that make you a fool who just got conned into spending a thousand bucks on something the rest of us usually buy for less than a quarter of what you just spent, trying to look cooler?.. I don’t know, sometimes I really wonder about the reasons people do or, in this case, make things.
Seems like a “do it all” saw designed for the European market.
Something that I think most in the US don’t understand is that woodworking is a very different hobby elsewhere in the world.
I think Drew has hit on an important point. While tools like these are aimed at professionals not hobbyists (an extra couple of hundred dollars is easily justified if a tool really saves you time on every job, eg being able to cut something cleanly enough that no further finishing or trimming is needed) the difference between countries is really important.
In the European market, population density is high, land prices are high because of this and a great many people live in older buildings and apartments. These can be limited in size but high value and (re) fitted and furnished to a very high standard. There are building trades that cater to this market and Mafell and Festool sell to these trades.
Good point. I recall noticing a contractor’s van in Luxembourg City last year. I noticed it because of how very small it was compared to anything that we had in our fleet that included step vans. With parking at a premium in many European cities, 5-story walk-ups not uncommon and apartments small – easily transportable tools probably command a premium. The KSS 300 also sells for as low as € 635 on Amazon.de and that includes VAT
My miter saw and table saw together cost $100 less than this saw. I built my kitchen cabinets with them. So far me it’s a no brainer. But, this saw wasn’t aimed at me.
Hmmm… A straight 2×4..some clamps and a $50 Menards circular saw will do the same 🙂 🙂 🙂 … no but this is insane. If i get rid of one of my Ferraris i’ll pick one up.
I think I can speak for anyone who does flooring & trim carpentry when I say There’s no way I’d trade up the convenience & accuracy of my miter saw for some half-assed track saw. Especially for the money they’re asking. Yeah, it looks nice & has some bells and whistles,but I don’t see $1000 worth of tool here. Their R&D obviously didn’t pin point what market or skillset this saw would apply to. It looks like a corded circ saw with a cordless circ saw blade. Why? What market were they going for? They could’ve at least made an 8′ folding track, although it still wouldn’t justify the price.
I don’t think trim is necessarily the function of a circular saw. You’re the pro, but I’m not sure why anyone would opt to miter narrow relatively narrow pieces (i.e. trim) with a circular saw–or any power tool besides a radial arm or miter saw.
I’d think this aims more at cutting off doors, sheet goods, countertops, glue-ups, etc. You’d probably need a massive European sliding table saw or industrial-class radial arm saw (costing three times a mortgage payment) to get a tool that performs as well as a high-end tracksaw (and presumably this Mafell) does.
Anyway, I’d think it about as useful for trim carpentry as a Leigh dovetail jig would be for stick framing.
As some others have said – the European market and needs of flooring installers there may be much different than in the US. The saw is also only 2/3’s the price in Germany – including the 19% VAT that Germans are accustomed to pay.
I knew flooring guys that I subcontracted with – who continued to use old Delta Sidekick sliding compound miter saws which only had a 6-1/2 inch blade. There may well have been some appeal for their continued use (it wasn’t compact size like the Mafell) beyond them being too cheap to replace the Sidekick with a more general-purpose modern miter saw.
Festool nor Mafell is worth the bloated US Price. Cheaper to fly to Germany and buy there, no VAT if you ship without taking possession.
I’m just a home tinker and grabbed this as it can do most everything I need and it’s light.
It’s fantastic. Grab a 2x, hold it up in the air, knock the end off. Boom, it snaps back and ready for another. No need to mark lines. Perfect every time.
Pull the crosscut foot off in one second, throw the guide rail thingie on or slap it on the flexi thingie (ja, amateur hour here) and rip stuff quickly and very nicely. If you bought the longer guide rail, you could rip a full sheet of ply without having to move the flexi. Recommended.
Plunge cuts are doable but a little tricky. Not my specialty anyway.
My only gripe was that doing a 45 degree cut moved the edge of the plastic guide edge on the crosscut foot, so 90 degree cuts were no longer correct. I swear some mafell video said it held that line at any angle, but it doesn’t. Ate the plastic in another mm on the angle cut. They sent me two free ones to replace it, and were very cool.
I do understand that they’d have to dial in each machine to do that right. So I just do angle cuts without the foot. No biggie for me, I rarely make them.
Impossible IMHO to review a power tool without pulling it apart. Disassemble a Festool plunge saw and you will find a few very nasty surprises. I haven’t pulled apart a Mafell but I fully expect that they cut corners somewhere like every other brand.
I appreciate that opinion, but looking at individual components without context is meaningless. You can look at say the wire gauge inside a Festool plunge saw and criticize it, but if it’s properly spec’ed for the power it has to carry, it really doesn’t matter. Sometimes the components matter, but the sum of the parts of a tool shouldn’t be completely dismissed.
Everything is subjective when it comes to reviews. I sure y’all have seem AVE’s teardown of the Festool TS 55 – if not, here it is: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=oezp-_DcUgg
I’d trust it regards to quality and commentary on both the mechanical and electrical aspects of a tool. He doesn’t pretend to be a carpenter and so function doesn’t really come into it.