Dewalts self-proclaimed “classic” saw design has been around for years, with minor model updates elevating performance and Flex-Volt cordless options completing the range. I wanted a saw that would offer repeatability and accuracy in the construction of projects from reclaimed pallet wood, and accurate mitres in small furniture, instrument components, turntable plinths and other similar projects.
The DWS774 is the cheapest model in the lineup and, while sawing performance is decent, cost-cutting shows in key areas. The model on review here is the DWS774-GB, purchased via Amazon at £219.00 at the time of writing.
The DWS774 shares many of the features of Dewalt’s larger models. To my knowledge they were the first to implement the forward-sliding rail system, which makes for a compact footprint as the rails are contained within the saw body itself and don’t protrude from the back of the saw.
The DWS774 is a single-bevel model, with a maximum 48-degree bevel to the left and 5-degree mitres to either side with preset stops at 15, 22.5, 30 and 45-degrees. The quick-release rotating mitre mechanism can be locked but there is no play in the assembly regardless. Loosening the three screws securing the mitre plate gives a few millimetres of adjustment to square the blade to the back fence. You can also adjust the bevel stop points for both 0 (90-degrees) and 45-degrees (full bevel) with the included Allen key.
The saw takes any standard 216 mm blade with a 30 mm bore. A 24-tooth blade is supplied which is fine for cross-cuts in wood and gives a finish that is acceptable, though better results are obtained with a blade upgrade. Even a basic Trend blade, less than £20 via Amazon and other retailers is a marked upgrade in performance. The 1400-watt, 230-volt motor spins the blade at a no-load speed of 4500 RPM, producing an A-weighted sound pressure level of 93dB and a sound power level of 104dB(a). In practice the saw certainly makes a decent amount of noise, but it’s not a voluminous racket that many cheaper saws produce.
The DWS774 has a retracting blade guard for safety with a two-part trigger system. The rear lever sits between your thumb and first finger, and when squeezed raises the guard. With your hand in the correct position on the handle, the pad of your thumb rests on the trigger safety switch which when depressed allows the first and second fingers to depress the trigger. I have heard many complaints of users catching the webbing between their thumb and finger in the trigger lever, but I never encountered this issue and I don’t see how it is possible if you are holding the handle correctly. Lefties will probably found the saw difficult to operate however as the trigger safety switch is on the left-hand side of the handle and is nigh-on impossible to operate using the saw left-handed.
Build quality is great in some areas but so-so in others. On the positive side the plunging, sliding and rotating mechanisms operate smoothly with no play and very little noise. The mitre locking action is positive with no play in any of the preset positions, though tightening the lock knob to ensure stability is recommended. The base of the saw is a cast aluminium construction and the smooth bed surface is raised slightly above the plastic kerf plate, which limits the risk of dirt being trapped beneath the plate skewing the cut. The blade guard is a heavy-gauge plastic which does feel cheap compared to the rest of the saw, but it operates smoothly and is kept well away from the blade so it won’t snag and shatter unexpectedly.
The saw is supplied with a pair of side handles which bolt to either side of the base. They are unnecessarily large and are bolted in such a way that they flex a lot when you use them to move the saw. Picking the saw up without the handles is actually more comfortable, and I can’t help but wonder why Dewalt didn’t simply fit some plastic mouldings to the edges of the base casting. In my opinion the handles serve no real purpose other than to ruin the compact footprint of the saw. The right-most handle holds the Allen key and blade spanner, the latter held by a needlessly over-engineered series of clips beneath the handle. I would much prefer to see the Allen key stored on the body of the saw, and the blade spanner stored in the underside of the saw base itself. Do away with the handles and fit some low-profile plastic grips to the base.
The DWS774 also includes a material clamp which is the same standard accessory dewalt have been supplying for years with one notable downgrade. The foot of the clamp has no cushioning rubber; only a metal plate, which easily causes marks and indents in woods; plywood and softwoods in particular. The clamp can be fitted either to the left or right-hand-side of the fence, but when fitted on the first the saw cannot be lowered as the body of the motor hits the clamp.
The pillar to which the clamp mounts drops into its mounting hole and, when rotated, cannot be lifted free. The action of the clamp then lifts the pillar up and eventually enough pressure is applied to keep it tight. This setup limits the clamp’s ability to secure thinner material, and makes the whole assembly more of a hindrance than a help. Aside from the odd situation where the clamp does come in useful, it is best left to languish at the bottom of a toolbox.
The back fence itself is a single-piece cast design. It has measurement scales machined into the face, though they’re only really useful for rough cuts as the denominated indents are too large to get an accurate measurement. The fence is somewhat adjustable via the pair of Torx bolts that secure it to the base of the saw, though its greatest weakness lies in its single-piece construction.
On my unit the fence was inaccurately machined such that the face of the left-hand fence sat a millimetre or so behind the face of the right-hand fence. This left a gap when a piece of straight material was resting across the two sides of the fence, and caused any cut that was made to be out of square. Aligning the blade to produce a square cut was impossible, as when the blade was aligned to one fence it would be mis-aligned with the other. Thus when using the entirety of the back fence to support a workpiece, producing a cut that was absolutely square was impossible.
This is ultimately when I returned the DWS774. The next model in Dewalt’s range, the DWS777 has a sliding left-side fence, and is presumably machined to a higher standard. I’m sure there are plenty of DWS774s out there in the wild with straight fences. It is worth noting that Dewalt’s 3-year warranty applies to this saw when it is registered online, and that they would probably have supplied a replacement fence on request. For me, however, the combination of the inaccuracy in the fence, the plastic guard assembly and the pointless side-handles all factored into my decision to simply return it. Though this is the cheapest mitre saw in Dewalt’s lineup, it still carries a dewalt name and with that comes an exception that the reputation for quality control will be upheld.