SKIL 7-Inch Wet Tile Saw with HydroLock System

Cut tiles with ease, and without any mess.

SKILSAW 7-Inch Wet Tile Saw with HydroLock System

SKIL 7-Inch Wet Tile Saw with HydroLock System

If you only need to cut a couple of tiles to repair a damaged ceramic floor or a backsplash you can use a manual (snap) tile cutter. You could even use tile nippers if a clean edge isn't critical. Otherwise, you'll want to use a wet tile saw. They're easy and safe to use, cut very fast, and deliver smooth chip-free cuts. The saws come in various sizes, but for the DIYer, a 7" saw will do the job quite nicely. Most tool rental outlets have them available for around $35 to $40 per day. If you plan on tiling several rooms then it will likely be more convenient to purchase a tile cutter. You'll find that they are not only good for cutting ceramic – you can also use them to cut marble, porcelain, natural stone, engineered stone, and glass.

Skil's latest wet tile saw, the model 3550-02, features their new 'HydroLock System' that helps to keep the water and dust from dispersing around the work site. It also has a couple of other nice features that make this tile saw a good choice for the DIYer.

Compact, light weight, easy to use

The 3550-02 is compact, and at just over 20 pounds, light in weight. It's powered by a 5 amp motor that I found sufficient to cut through ceramic tile and 5/8" marble very easily. The ribbed aluminum work top is durable, rigid, and rust-resistant. The table itself is 16' by 16" and the plastic outrigger (which can be mounted on either the right or left side of the saw) adds another 4" of with. However, you can extend the plastic outrigger 5-1/4" to get a 25-1/4" work surface, wide enough to accommodate even the widest tiles. There is an imperial scale printed on the top and bottom edges of the table that makes it quick to align your tile for the correct cutting width.

The fence is reasonably quick to adjust, and clamps firmly in place. A removable plastic miter gauge rides atop the fence for making angled cuts from 0° to 45°. The gauge is easy to adjust and slides smoothly across the fence. However, the scale isn't very easy to read - black scale on a black background. You think these companies would have learned to use a different colour combination.

The HydroLock System

Wet tile saws typically use a diamond coated cutting blade that grinds through the tile. The blades are about 1/8" thick, so this creates a lot of dust. A water bath is used to reduce the build-up of heat, which can damage the tiles, and to contain the copious amount of fine dust that's produced. The result can be a wet mess. Skil's HyrdoLock System, which also serves as a wheel guard, does a remarkably good job of keeping the dirty water contained within the water trough, rather than sprayed around the work area. This means you can use the tile saw right in the room that you're tiling, rather than outside the house or in the basement. You'll still want to place a drop sheet under the tile saw for the times you make beveled cuts, where water is more prone to spray about somewhat.

The HydroLock guard is essentially a clear plastic shroud that hangs over the blade. A black rubber seal surrounds the mouth of the guard. As the blade grinds though the tile it pulls water up from the reservoir. The water cools the tile, and 'pulls' the dust down into the reservoir. Normally you'll want the guard to swing freely, so it rests right on top of the tile. However, a small red locking button at the back of the guard lets you lock the guard at whatever height you choose.

Water reservoir

The water reservoir holds about a liter or so of water and requires regular topping up if you use the saw to cut more than a few tiles. There is an overflow hole in one corner of the reservoir through which you empty the waste water. Sludge settles to the bottom and you'll have to to scrape it out by hand. I found that a 2" to 3" wide plastic spatula works well. Still, it would be a lot more convenient if the reservoir could be removed for cleaning.

Easy blade installation

The blade is quick and easy to install. Skil lists a 3/4" depth of cut for this saw, but the blade extends a full 1-3/4" above the table. Theoretically then, you can cut much thicker material. Practically however, most tiles are under 1/2" thick. Even the marble tiles I've been using are only 3/4" thick.

The 3550-02 comes with a diamond coated blade that works fine. Replacement blades can be had for around $12.

Reservoir cover serves as the bevel table

While most of the cuts you make will be straight and flush, occasionally you'll need to make beveled cuts. The reservoir cover serves as the bevel table. There are two folding table legs under cover, that can be set to make either a 22.5° or 45° cut. Before you raise the bevel table you'll want to lock the guard in the uppermost position.

Convenient power cord wrap

There is a handy power cord wrap on the side of the saw. The power cord is only 6' long, which means you'll likely need to have an extension cord on hand.

Easy straight and miter cuts

Making either straight or miter cuts is very quick and easy, and as you can see in the photos above, virtually mess-free. Even thought there is very little dust that gets into the air, you should still wear a fine dust respirator.

Beveled cuts take practice

As you're making a beveled cut the front end of the tile tends to dip down onto the work table (as the leading edge of the tile is ground away) putting the tile out of alignment. To prevent this you need to gently bear down on the back (uncut) section of the tile. I had to make half a dozen test cuts to get the knack of it.

Easily cut other natural and synthetic material

Cutting a marble tile went just as smoothly as cutting ceramic, but just took a bit longer. Regardless of what kind of tile you're cutting, you need to let the blade do the work. Push the tile with moderate pressure - you shouldn't have to force the tile against the blade. When you have to exert a lot more effort to push the tile, or you notice sparking, then the blade needs to be replaced. Again, notice that there is very little water on the work top or around the base of the saw. 

Sludge build-up

The blade grinds away quite a bit of material on each cut, so at the end of your cutting session there can be a fair amount of sludge in the reservoir. I do the clean up outside, first scrap out most of the sludge, then placing the saw on it's side and rinsing the reservoir with a garden hose. 

The Skil 3550-02 is a very nice tile saw made even better with the HydroLock System, which does a stellar job of keeping the water contained within the reservoir, and not all over you, the saw, and your work area. I like it's durable rust-resistant table top, and the extendable outrigger, which makes it easy to support wider tiles. The saw is easy to use, and gives excellent results. If you plan to do more than a few square feet of tiling, and particularly if you'll be spreading the work out over a few months, then you'll want to get yourself a Skil 3550-02. 


  • Motor: 5 amp, 3,600 RPM
  • Blade diameter: 7"
  • Depth of Cut: 3/4"
  • Bevel capacity: 22.5°, 45°
  • Aluminum table
  • Table size: 18" by 18"
  • HydroLock System
  • Cord length: 6'
  • Weight: 22 pounds
  • Warranty: 3 yr limited, with registration
  • Includes:  Diamond blade, side extension, rip fence, miter gauge, blade guard, blade wrench, instruction manual

SOURCE:Retail Locator
August 2014

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