By Rick Schwolsky

I remember my first cordless circ saw. It had a tiny blade and cut halfway through one clapboard before it ran out of gas. Today, there's a full range of blade diameters and voltages to match more and more applications. But it'll be a while before carpenters won't have to plug in their saws, leaving punch-out, remote cuts, and trim work as the best applications for these tools. That's why smaller diameter saws like the Bosch 5-3/8-inch, 18-volt model 1659 still appeal to me.

Bosch's cordless saws have the same high-quality features and construction as its electric models. The 1659 is fairly heavy for a tool this size (8.6 pounds), but the balance is good and the adjustments are top-notch. I really like the shoe-depth adjustment at the rear of the housing. It's as smooth an adjustment as I've found on any saw – and maybe easier than most I've used. The bevel adjustment is pretty standard, but is well marked and allows for up to 50-degree cuts. You can cut 2x material at 90-degrees, but the maximum 1-inch plus depth of cut at a 45, keeps this tool in the trim saw category. That's not a negative – just a reality.

The tools operation is smooth and powerful. Western carpenters and right-hander's will welcome the left-side blade for a great view of your cut-line. The trigger safety switch is well placed and easy to reach for even-handed operation. This feature is not found on all cordless circ saws. Another nice bonus is a spring-loaded dust collection port for attaching a vacuum. And the guard operates without a hitch, through 90-degree cuts as well as bevels. While this saw can't do most of the cuts I need while framing, I think I'd have it handy as soon as I start trimming out. The 1659 comes with a too-huge plastic case, charger, two batteries and a rip guide. It sells for about $290. Contact: Bosch Power Tools, 877-267-2499,

Published in Hanley-Wood's Tools of the Trade magazine, May/June 2002