Another option is the Sawtec Dekrasaw from Blastrac. According to Blastrac's Inside Sales and National Training Manager Jonn Rippman, "The Dekrasaw is a good saw for any novice. It has adjustable guides for different operator positions and you can make all the cutting depth adjustments," he says.
These adjustable guides are a major benefit of professional decorative cutting saws. Unlike a common circular saw, handheld saws designed specifically for decorative cuts usually have wheels or built-in guides to help contractors keep their lines straight and decrease the chance of human error. The Dekrasaw, Husqvarna 150D and the Mongoose all have wheels or pins to guide the contractor during sawing.
A smaller option still is an angle grinder. "Cutting from an angle grinder is more advanced and an artistic technique," Rigsby says. "It's not what I'd want an entry level person to use for cutting straight lines because they will have a difficult time accomplishing that."
Phillips used to use angle grinders for saw cutting but has since replaced them with professional decorative handheld saws. "We don't use them anymore because with the grinder's guard it's hard to see what you are doing, you don't have any attachments to get a perfect circle cut and they typically don't have good methods for dust collection," he says.
Glogowski, on the other hand, does use an angle grinder, but only for touch ups or small freehand work. "The angle grinder is used in a small proximity. You're not going to run it 20 feet across a driveway because you could wobble," he says. "It's just not practical for long cuts." For those longer lines Glogowski uses his Mongoose.
Because precision cutting is so important in this process, Rigsby points out that no matter what saw a contractor decides to use, small blades are a must. "The saws that get you down to a 7¼-inch blade or smaller are going to do a much better job for precision," she says. "The smaller blades are better for intricate designs; they can turn better and create a smoother line."
Some geometric saw cut patterns will require contractors to cut circles into the concrete. For this, some contractors may prefer to use chalk lines and freehand these circles. Other saws offer an attachment to make circular cutting easier. For example, the Dekrasaw attaches to a pole and weighted base to turn circular cutting into a one-person job. Engrave-A-Crete's Mongoose saw also has a center pivot attachment for cutting circles.
Whether decorative saw cutting is being done indoors or outdoors, one essential piece of equipment all saws need is a dust control mechanism. Most professional equipment will have something for dust control, Rigsby says. And if it doesn't, you should keep looking, she adds.
The Dekrasaw has a dust shroud built around the blade, Rippman says. A vacuum can also be hooked up to the saw. The shroud contains the dust and debris and then the vacuum sucks it up. "Concrete dust is an extremely fine particulate so make sure you have a vacuum with at least 175 cfm and 70 inches of static lift," Rippman says.
The Husqvarna models also have a blade block, says Nevener. This enclosure collects the majority of the dust, and what isn't caught in the blade block can be sucked up by attaching a shopvac or larger vacuum to the saw. Glogowski and Phillips both attach dust extraction vacuums to their Mongoose saws to keep dust under control.
Dust masks and safety goggles are added protection that all contractors should wear, especially when cutting indoors.
Before any cuts are made, a contractor must first define the design and finalize the layout, Rigsby says. She then suggests chalking the design on the concrete. Avoid spraying on chalk lines, though, because if the concrete is going to be stained the sprayed chalk line may show through the stain, Rigsby points out.
As with all concrete, control joints typically must be cut into the concrete to control cracking. When it comes to decorative saw cut patterns, contractors may run into problems when control joints interrupt the desired saw cut design.
The most desirable solution to this problem is to incorporate the control joints into the pattern. "Look at the placement of the control joints and ask 'Can I adjust my design so I incorporate the control joints into the design?' If I can, I do," Rigsby says. This is best done during the planning stages of the design.