Review: PortaMate PM5000

Miter Saw BlissIf you have a nice, big shop, you might not need a portable stand for your miter saw. I don’t have a workshop though. I just have my patio with a small area for storage. When I got my miter saw, I had to set it up on some scrap plywood straddling a couple of saw horses. And because it is a small patio, I sometimes had to move the saw one way or the other or take it all apart and move the saw horses and plywood and saw… You get the idea. It was a real hassle.

With precious little usable lung tissue, I had to come up with a solution that didn’t involve me expending a great deal of energy moving the saw around. Back in my floorcovering days, I had a good quality saw mounted on a great stand. It folded up nice and compact and was easy to move – I just told the employees where to set it up.

Well, it’s just me now. No more flooring business and no helpers to boss around. I’d like to be able to fold the unit up for storage and unfold it and move it easily to the most convenient location for my projects. The PortaMate PM5000 seemed like the best solution. The price was good, only $147.95 at Apex Saw Works in Reno, NV. It’s also available at places like Amazon.com, but I like to deal with real people – very knowledgeable and friendly people. And any problems I have can be solved quickly with a short drive.

Not a cup holderSpeaking of problems… maybe not worth making that drive, but there were a few things I want you to be aware of. First thing I do is look over the product manual, assembly and use instructions. All the literature and product packaging touts the handy little cup holder. I enjoy a good cup of coffee. Not that city-slicker coffee, but some good ol’ American Columbian coffee. So I get my 3 day old coffee cup (why wash it, I’m just gonna put more coffee in it), unpack the PM5000 box, unfold them legs and try out the cup holder. Okay, well maybe my favorite cup is bigger than the average cup. Nope, not a one of my cups fit that cup holder hole. Is this a sign?

The Portamate is packaged well and seems to be wrapped for protection and security. Steps 1, 2 & 3 are no brainers. Just press the buttons to unfold each leg and let it snap in place. Then turn it over to its upright position. But here’s where the first of several steps are left out. Step 4 shows the direction to install the “T” support, but the outrigger support is already installed. Trouble is, the outrigger shows the “L” tube pointing down, but the website and other pictures show the “L” pointing up. Which is correct? The answer is either, depending on the height of your saw’s table top. If I had positioned mine up, the roller support in its lowest position would still be higher than my saw’s table top.

Some filing requiredEasy enough for me to figure out, but let’s not forget this product is targeting the DIY market and not necessarily pros with thousands of hours of tool and equipment experience. These things need to be explained. So, I guess that’s what I’m doing for them. I determined that the outrigger supports needed to be slid into the corresponding base tubes of the table. Rather SHOULD slide in, but they don’t. In their quest for speed of manufacturing and low factory wages, they didn’t test fit a tube before giving it the stamp of approval. Neither outrigger tube fit into the table tubes because there was a bit of welding slag or burred metal where they attached the mounting point for the adjusting knobs. This had to be filed smooth so the outriggers were fully adjustable and operable inside the table tubes.

As a side note, they could have added some kind of marking line to indicate where to stop pulling the outrigger tube out. The outrigger is not stable enough fully extended. The inner tube should be at least an inch or two past the point where the adjustment screw hits the tube. It’s hard to tell where that is until you pull it out too far. Markings or etchings would prevent that bit of hassle.

Check for missing partsEverything goes pretty smoothly up to step 8, 9 and 10 of the instructions. The biggest reason I bought this miter saw stand is its portability – the wheels. They left out the part where you must insert the axle into the wheel and snap on the retaining clip so the wheels stay on the axles. Maybe because they shorted me one retaining clip. Maybe they thought I would just assume snapping the wheel/axle assembly into the axle brackets was how the wheels stay on. Some people might think that. But it will be irritating having to keep picking up the dang axle every time it drops on the floor when you hold the wheel wrong. So, off to the store to get an extra retainer clip.

Bolt or angle stop?Now I’m up to step 11, where it’s time to attach the machine mounts to the miter saw. They provide 4 large stove bolts for this – they are about 2½” tall. This might be the right size for some saws, but for my saw, it’s about 1¼” too long. When mounted, the bolts prevent my saw from cutting as much as a 50° angle, as it was designed to do. Even if it only did 45° cuts, I can just see my fingers getting tore up whenever I adjusted the angle stops near those tall bolts – or when I felt it necessary to use the saw’s own supports by raising or lowering the tension clips right over those tall bolts on the back.

There are no other bolts for this, so off to the store again to get shorter bolts (only I have to get 4 bolts, 4 washers and 4 nuts because the store doesn’t carry metric stove bolts, only American Standard. I needed the washers too because they include some really wide washers that won’t sit flat on my miter saw’s mounting points.

The saw really does mount securely on the table with the machine mounts properly engaged. It’s easy enough to slide the miter saw from one end of the table to the other. You may need to do this to get the most out of the distance from saw blade to roller support. Don’t be fooled by the claim of 116″. That is the distance between rollers when they are fully extended. That isn’t the amount of support you will have when you need to cut a long, heavy board on one end, while the other end goes way beyond the limits of the one roller that will support it on the left or right. Moving the saw to one end of the table or the other will add more distance.

When the Portamate PM5000 is parked and the miter saw is positioned properly, it provides a firm support that I feel is more than adequate for cutting long and heavy boards. With the wheels in the lower position, on the legs of the table, the whole unit is portable. But their claim to be able to handle rolling over a 2×4 or an electrical wire is pure exaggeration. Don’t try it with your expensive saw mounted. The legs feel rickety. They move and jiggle when you lift one end or the other. Pushing or pulling the table when you raise the end up is slow going and extreme care must be taken or you may bend one of the legs. The wheels stop rolling when encountering a very small chunk of wood or a pebble. The table feels a bit unstable in the rolling position, so take care.

Listing hazardUpright hazardForget about trying to roll this thing in the folded up position. It does not work as designed. You must raise the outrigger and “T” support on that end because it is in the way of the wheels. If you plan to store the thing on end with the saw attached, you’ll just have to find someplace to lean the outrigger until you pull the stand out of storage and set it up again. This is the biggest disappointment for me. I have so little space to put my tools – I don’t want my patio to look like a makeshift workshop when I have company over to enjoy a beverage and a lounge.

Hard to believe, with all the complaints I have listed here, I like this tool. It will do nearly everything I need it to do, just not very gracefully. I’m over the too long bolts, the missing clip, the bit of filing to make parts fit right and the ill fit for my coffee cups. It’s a decent tool for the money. It will give me more time doing what I truly enjoy and less time moving tools and equipment around.

Portamate PM5000 Miter Saw Stand

2 Responses to Review: PortaMate PM5000

  1. Jim McClain says:

    Just wanted to mention that the review above was actually written in May 2011. I must be the champion procrastinator, since I didn’t finish editing the pictures until yesterday. And now I have a new miter saw stand to write about because I didn’t like how wobbly and difficult to move this stand has been. Look for my comparison article soon (yeah, right, it won’t take another year to write that one).

  2. Yvonne says:

    Well done you ! I try to do everything myself …. Many botch up’s . Most men are hopeless 🙂 impressive x

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