Best Porter Cable Trim Saws on the Market

Porter Cable had its start in 1906. Like most tools companies which have been around for a while, there have been some ups and downs. Over the years, Porter Cable made a number of acquisitions, and the company went through a few owners. Now, it’s owned by Black & Decker. Porter Cable is known for delivering innovative products at competitive prices. Besides helping to popularize the portable sander and the helical drive (sidewinder) circular saw, Porter Cable trim saws have achieved legendary status.

There are two types of circular saws. The sidewinder circular saw has its motor to the side of the blade for direct drive with helical gear. The worm-drive saw has its motor to the back of the blade in a worm screw and wheel configuration. Worm-drive saws are more expensive to produce, but they can deliver much higher torque with a lower rpm.

On the grand scheme of things, trim saws are technically circular saws. They are called trim saws because they are most useful for trimming and have smaller blades which would not be ideal for cutting anything much thicker than a 2x4. Circular saws with 5.5” or smaller blades are known as trim saws. Since trim saws are circular saws, they can be sidewinders or worm-driven.

Porter Cable Trim Saws

The Porter Cable 314 was a wildly popular trim saw. It’s long gone out of production but the pre-owned Porter Cable 314 still sells on auction sites for a multiple of its original retail price, making it more expensive than today’s high-end trim saws.

The venerable Porter Cable 314 is a worm-drive trim saw with 4.5” blade. It is much more compact and therefore, much handier in tight spaces than full-size circular saws. Nonetheless, it proves to be almost as powerful thanks to its smaller and thinner blade, despite its relatively small 4.5A motor.

Larger blades have to be thicker to increase the metal stress limit, while smaller blades can be made thinner which can result in smoother cuts and less tear-outs when cutting thinner materials.

You can expect today’s Porter Cable trim saws to be even better than the 314. Unless you’re a collector, you should go for a new one. The real question is, should your saw be corded or cordless?

1. Porter Cable PCE381K

The Porter Cable PCE381K is a compact 4.5” trim saw powered by a 5.5A electric motor. It is a worm-drive saw with a longish motor housing at the back. This saw is built for one-hand operation featuring the trigger and a single handle in the middle, unlike full-size worm-drive saws that have two handles.

The debate is endless about worm-drive vs. sidewinder. One has higher torque but you have to hold it with two hands, and the other features higher rpm and one-hand operation. You could say that the Porter Cable PCE381K delivers the best of both worlds.

Actually, the Porter Cable PCE381K looks just like the Rockwell RK3441K trim saw. This coincidence is not that curious considering that Rockwell used to own Porter Cable from 1960 to 1981.

trim saw cuts with porter cable saw

The Rockwell RK3441K is a hot seller because of its low price and it’s more readily available than the Porter Cable PCE381K, which has become harder to find these days. But if you can find one at a price you can afford, you really should pick the Porter Cable PCE381K. It features a higher build quality and a bigger motor (5.5A vs 5A).

The 5.5A motor operates the 4.5” blade at 3500rpm. The variable bevel angles range from 0 to 45 degrees. You can cut lumber up to 1-11/16” thick with this saw. You can cross cut a 2x4 (which is 1.5” thick) easily in one pass. Considering the size of the blade, the Porter Cable PCE381K delivers fairly good rip-cut performance on surfaced 2x lumber as well.

The Stock Porter Cable PCE381K comes with a 4.5” 24-tooth carbide-tipped blade, rip fence, and vacuum adaptor. The vacuum adaptor goes between your vacuum and the saw’s dust port to keep the work area clean.

Other 4.5” Porter Cable blades are widely available and affordable. You can get a 120-tooth TCG blade for plywood, a 24-tooth TCT blade for metal, and a 20-tooth riptide blade.

The Porter Cable PCE381K’s ultra-smooth trim cuts and maneuverability make it a worthy addition to any workshop. But do you need one if you already have a full-size circular saw? Not exactly; but if you wish to improve on your trim jobs, we’d advise you to get one.

Pros

  • Worm-drive and thinner blade kerf make this trim saw almost as powerful as full-sized circular saws
  • Cuts 2x4s in a single pass
  • Compact and highly maneuverable one-hand operation
  • The prestige of owning a worm-drive Porter Cable trim saw

Cons

It is getting harder to find and some places are selling it for more than the original retail price

2. PORTER-CABLE PCE300

The PORTER-CABLE PCE300 is a 15V lithium ion battery-powered trim saw with 7.5” blade. It is a sidewinder design with the motor located next to the blade in a direct-drive configuration.

For some reason, sidewinder circular saws are built with the blade on the right and worm-drive circular saws are built with the blade on the left. But why does it have to be this way with a circular saw?

The answer is that it doesn’t have to be that way. The Porter Cable PCC661B, for example, is a sidewinder saw with the blade on the left, which can give better visibility when cutting, especially if you’re right-handed.

The 7.5” blade at 5,500 rpm is rated to cut lumber up to 1-7/8" thick. This trim saw comes with a multi-purpose 20-tooth carbide-tipped blade. The PORTER-CABLE PCE300 cuts 2x lumber and ½” plywood with consummate ease, and its low weight can only help when you have to make cut after cut. This trim saw weighs only 9.5lb.

Unless purchased as a kit with other Porter Cable cordless tools, the PCE300 is usually sold without a battery. You can buy original Porter Cable 15V lithium-ion batteries as small as 1.3Ah or as big as 4.0Ah.

What’s more, Porter Cable is such a popular brand that there are compatible third-party batteries with large capacities up to 5.0Ah available for less than the cost of the original batteries. Go with a 4.0Ah or larger battery, and you’ll be able to use the PCE300 all day between charges, even with fairly heavy use.

Part of the reason that this trim saw is so light is its extensive use of plastic parts. There’s nothing to fear there, though. In our opinion, the Porter Cable PCE300 doesn’t feel cheap at all. The thick non-slip ergonomic handle and sure trigger are quite confidence inspiring.

Pros

  • Left-hand blade for better visibility
  • A plethora of battery options
  • Lightweight, yet fairly powerful and well-built
  • Excellent price-to-performance ratio

Cons

  • This is not a saw for heavy-duty cross grain cuts. More suitable for home than professional use
  • Lots of plastic parts, no apparent reliability issues.

Summary

We are going to make it easier than 1-2-3 by turning the best Porter Cable trim saws into a 1-2 punch. One: the PCE381K is the best corded Porter Cable trim saw on the market, and two: the PCE300 is the best cordless Porter Cable trim saw on the market. This is all you have to know for the final exam.

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