Looking on the market at all of the different circular saws, I can see why it would be hard to find the best one. However, finding the best circular saw doesn’t have to be complicated.
With this guide, I am going to give you everything you need in order to help you find the best …
The Different Types of Circular Saw
There’s more than just one type of saw, so starting out, I’m going to go over the different type of saws that you can choose.
First on my list, I have the good old worm drive saw. With the worm drive saw, the motor will be in line with the blade, offering enough torque for the user to saw through something as tough as concrete, or even wet wood.
For this reason, if you have a major renovation job to do, a worm drive saw should be at the top of your list. This type of saw has a handle that is farther back, making it less prone to kickbacks.
Blades on worm drive saws are usually sitting to the left of the motor, making it easy for right-handed users to view.
In order to transfer power from the motor to the blade, worm drive saws use two gears.
Also, these type of saws are going to require a tad bit more maintenance than the other saws because with most of them, you will be required to add/replace the oil in order to make sure the gears stay lubricated.
Cordless Circular Saws
In the past, when I thought of a cordless power tool, I thought of a tool that didn’t have a whole lot of power, but now, times have surely changed. Looking on the market at cordless saws, I find that the power packs have gained some voltage, which makes them a great tool to use when you don’t have access to electricity.
Just remember, while cordless tools have improved, they still have limited run time and won’t produce as much torque as a corded saw.
Sidewinder Circular Saws
With a sidewinder saw, the motor is sitting alongside the blade, and in return, this makes the saw lighter makes the saw lighter. To give you an idea, the sidewinder saw usually weighs 11 pounds or less.
Since this type of saw is so light in weight, it makes it great for using for an extended period of time, because this means you’re not going to get exhausted from using a heavy saw. The sidewinder saw is in direct competition with the worm drive saw.
Most sidewinder saws have motors that are sealed. This means that you don’t have to add oil, making them practically maintenance-free. These saws are usually cheaper than the worm drive saw.
Small Sidewinder Circular Saw
If you want a smaller sized saw, then the small sidewinder might be suitable for you.
When choosing a saw that fits you, you have to consider the balance, weight, and handle size. If you’re a slight-bodied individual, then a small sidewinder may be better than a full-size sidewinder.
The hypnoid saw is popular due to the fact that it is a combination of the sidewinder and the worm drive saw.
It has the low maintenance portion of the sidewinder saw, and the torque of the worm drive saw.
Like the worm drive, the motor can be found in the back of the saw, but it has a sealed motor system that doesn’t require oil or maintenance.
The gear on this saw is different than the worm drive style. The gear is a spiral type that’s beveled.
For this reason it doesn’t require as much power, runs more efficiently and isn’t as loud as the other saws.
A trim saw is useful for paneling or finish work. The blades are small and range from 3 ½ to 4 ½ inches.
The Blade Size and Capacity
The size of the circular saw is usually based on the saw blade diameter. The most common size is 7-1/4”. Normally, the blade depth can be adjusted, but you won’t be able to put a large diameter blade in a saw that is made solely for small diameter blades.
For this reason, you need to check the maximum wood thickness the saw is capable of cutting through and make sure you can use the saw on the types of wood you plan on working with. For example, if you plan on cutting 2×4 lumbar, a saw that has a maximum capacity of 1-1/2” isn’t going to work.
Circular Saw Features and Parts
The bevel adjustment is responsible for tilting the saw. The range of bevel adjustment can be anywhere from 0 degrees, all the way up to 57 degrees, depending on the model you’re using.
The bevel adjustment will always be located on the front of the saw and it will use some type of lock and unlocking mechanism.
Normally, the bevel adjustment is a dial that shows the degree along with an indicator that shows the angle you have the saw set on.
On most saws, you can find the depth adjustment on the back of the saw. It will either be a threaded type of bolt that has a “T” symbol on the end or a flange type mechanism.
This is responsible for telling you which depth you will be cutting at. These can range anywhere from 0” to 2.75”, but normally, the maximum depth for most models currently on the market is nesting around 2.5”.
The shoe, also referred to as the baseplate is the flat piece of metal on the saw that acts like the base – this is what the saw sits on.
The shoe can be made of aluminum, steel, magnesium, or a strong type of plastic and they are perfectly flat.
The magnesium, aluminum and plastic shoes have a tendency to be lighter than the steel shoes, but you also have to consider the fact that they’re not as strong as the steel shoes and may bend easier.
On the shoe, you will find a guide that can be used for making rip cuts – they are represented by numbers and for their measurement, they use inches.
The blade guard on the saw is made up of a lower and upper section. The lower blade guard moves while you’re cutting, but the upper blade guard doesn’t move as it’s in a fixed position.
To control the guard retraction, there’s a lever on the saw. You can do this manually, but you need to be cautious if you choose to manually retract the lever.
The blade guard should have a smooth action to it and it shouldn’t get stuck or caught up while you’re cutting.
The blade nut is responsible for attaching the blade to the saw’s arbor.
Usually, the nut is a half-inch. Blade nuts usually have reverse threats, which means that if you would like to tighten them, you would need to rotate them counterclockwise and to loosen them, you’d rotate them clockwise.
Blade Lock Mechanism
Surely, you can guess what the blade lock mechanism is …it’s exactly what it sounds like – this is responsible for locking the blade in place, allowing you to install a new blade or remove one.
Most saws have a blade lock mechanism somewhere on it.
On circular saws, you will have primary and secondary handles. The primary handle is the handle that has the trigger on it. This is the handle that controls the power of the saw and it will also control the cutting speed.
As for the second handle, this is an optional handle and is used to keep the saw stabilized while you’re using it. When making a longer cut like ripping plywood, the second handle will come in handy.
Not all saws will have a blade wrench, but when you get a saw that has a blade wrench, this is used for changing the blade. A blade wrench is normally stored on the saw in a place that you won’t lose it, making it convenient and easier to change the blade. The locations of the blade wrench are going to vary, but I’ve noticed that most blade wrenches are stored on the shoe, on the handle, or by the motor.
Some circular saws are going to require you to lubricate them from time to time, especially if you use them on a routine basis. Many times, this simply consists of a nut that you unscrew so that you can check the fluid and drain/fill it through that hole. If you have a saw that requires this type of maintenance, make sure you use the gear oil that is specifically made for your circular saw.
Blades for Circular Saws
A saw isn’t a saw without a blade. With that thought in mind, you cannot forget about the blades – there are different types available that you can use for different applications.
When you’re looking for a blade, just make sure it will fit properly on your saw. Some of the common blade types include:
Carbide-Tipped – These blades have carbide tips on their teeth. These type of blades have a tendency to have a higher price tag on them than the other blades, but the price is worth it, because they stay sharp for a long period of time.
High-Speed Steel Blades – These are great, and stay sharp for a long period of time, but not as long as the carbide-tipped blades.
Masonry Blades – These are made of abrasive material. This is the type of blades you would use if you are working on cutting cinder block, brick, concrete, and other masonry materials.
Tile-Cutting Blades – These type of blades are designed for cutting ceramic tile. The better type will have diamond-tips.
There are five types of teeth on blades.
Flat top – These teeth are great for ripping soft and hard woods.
Combination Tooth – Great for both ripping and crosscutting.
Alternate Top Bevel – The teeth alternate between left-handed and right-handed bevel. These are useful for making smooth cuts when working with veneered plywood and natural woods.
Triple Chip Grind – Cuts plastics, laminates, non-ferrous metal and MDF.
Circular Saws FAQ
Is a circular saw a good idea?
If you work with wood, whether around the house, or on a construction site, then yes, a circular saw is a good idea. There’s a reason why circular saws can be found in almost every woodworkers shop.
Is proper blade depth important?
Blade depth is very important. If you set the blade depth too deep, it can cause various problems. Starting off, setting the depth too deep is much more dangerous than a correctly set blade due to the fact that the blade is more exposes while you’re cutting with it.
Secondly, if the blade is set too deeply, the saw is more likely to kick back. Safety problems set to the side, when you have the blades properly set, the cut will be more efficient.
Before you start using the saw, figure out the blade depth. With the saw unplugged, hold it next to the board you’ll be cutting (make sure the blade guard is retracted).
Adjust it so that the blade extends around ¼-1/2 inches below the board you’re cutting. Now, tighten that knob or lever and you’re ready to start working on your project.
What type of blade should I be using?
The type of blade you use will all depend on what you’re using the saw for. If you’re looking for a fine, more precise cut, then go for a crosscutting blade.
If you’re looking to make some rough cuts, then a ripping blade will do the trick. If you’re in need of different cutting applications, then a combination blade would be great.
Take note that there are blades that are designed for cutting specific types of wood, such as plywood (plywood blade), dimensional lumber (thin kerf blade) and lumbar (dado blade).
Are coated blades worth spending the extra money on?
That all depends on your preferences. Do you care how the wood looks after you’re done cutting? There are times when blades leave burn marks because they’re too hot while they’re being used.
If you’re trying to avoid those burn marks, then spending the extra money on a blade that is coated would be a good idea.
When you’re using a blade that has a coating on it, you’ll be reducing the heat and friction, which means the chances of a blade leaving burn marks on the wood are slim.
If you don’t really care what the wood looks like when you’re done cutting it, and burn marks aren’t an issue for you, then it’s okay to stick with a blade that doesn’t have a coating.
Tips to Using Your Circular Saw
In this section, I’m going to share my own secrets and tips to using your circular saw …
Inspect the Saw
Before you use the saw each time, go over a safety check on the saw. Look over the blade for broken or chipped teeth (if you find damages, replace the blade) and make sure the lower blade guard is working properly.
If you have a corded saw, check the cord for cracks and damages. If it’s a cordless saw, make sure the battery has a full charge to it. Remember, before you tighten, loosen, or change the blade on the saw, make sure you remove the battery or unplug the cord.
The Proper Saw Position
When it comes to which direction to make the cut, there’s really no rule. However, whenever you can, try positioning the saw so that the motor is facing the larger piece of the board that isn’t falling when you make a cut. This way, the base plate of the saw will be supported during the duration of the cut and you won’t need to hold up the weight of the saw.
Whenever you’re cutting sheets of panelling or plywood, you need to make sure the wood is properly supported in order to reduce the risk of kickback that can happen if the blade were to get pinched during the cut.
To do this, take four 2×4’s and place them under the sheet of wood you’re cutting. Space one of the 2x4s near each side of the cut line. When you’re cutting, both halves of the plywood are going to be fully supported by two of those 2x4s during the cut.
When you’re cutting wood on sawhorses, instead of planning the cut between the sawhorses, plan the cut outside the sawhorses. The shorter piece should fall away, while the long piece of wood remains supported by the two sawhorses. If you were to cut between the sawhorses, the wood is likely to pinch the blade as it’s falling.
Safe Bevel Cutting
Regardless of the circular saw you’re using, you should be able to adjust it so that it can make angled bevel cuts that go up to at least 45 degrees.
However, if you have the base plate tilted over, then the lower guard could get hung up on the edge of the board. If you have this happen, don’t push on the saw. Instead, stop what you’re doing and let go of the trigger, raise the blade guard, then continue the cut.
Once the blade has cut an inch into the lumbar, you can release the guard.
When the Saw Wanders
Cutting in a straight line isn’t exactly easy to do. This is something that took me awhile to master. Once you have the blade lined up and you’re cutting along a line, it doesn’t take a whole lot of effort to keep the blade on the right track.
However, if you start off on a crooked pathway, it will be difficult to get the blade back on line. Some try to steer the blade onto the line and that is where they go wrong.
Instead of doing this,s top what you’re doing, give the blade time to stop spinning, take the saw away from the cut, then line it up and start again. With a little bit of practice, you should be able to cut in a straight line each and every time.
Stack, Clamp and Cut
There will be times when you would like to cut more than one piece of wood that is the same size. Have you ever heard of gang cutting?
With gang cutting, what you will be doing is taking four sheets and putting them on top of one another. Make sure you have the edges aligned perfectly with each other, then clamp the pieces together.
Next you will need to make adjustments to the saw blade in order to make sure you can cut through the sheets of wood at the same time.
Make Accurate Crosscuts
Believe it or not, it is easy to make square crosscuts with your circular saw, it’s just going to take some practice. You can guide the saw using a layout square.
Hold the saw so that the blade is sitting directly on the cut line. Slide the square against the base plate of the saw and press tightly against the edge.
Make sure the blade isn’t contacting the board, and then squeeze the trigger and let the saw reach full speed.
Guide the saw along the square and you’ll make a nice square cut.
Prevent the Wood from Splintering
When the blade goes through the bottom of the board then exits through the top, splintering can occur on the surface. When cutting wall studs and all of that, this isn’t anything to be worried about, but when you’re sawing hardwood-veneer plywood or expensive wood, it’s a problem.
I have a solution for preventing wood from splintering! Take the panel or board and place it so that the surface is facing down. This way, when it splinters, it will splinter on the back or top side.
When trimming doors, you’ll want to make sure you eliminate splinters from both sides. Put the best side of the door face down – this means the side of the door that will be visible once you have it up.
Using a sharp utility knife, score the edge of the cut line. When you make the cut, the fibers are going to cleanly break off at that scored line, which will leave the cut splinter-free.
Whenever you’re using a circular saw, or any power tool, it is important that you keep yourself safe. Wear the appropriate safety equipment, this includes hearing protection, glasses, gloves and clothing.
Also, I understand that the blade guard can get in the way sometimes, but you should never use something to keep the blade guard propped up in an open position because this is going to leave the blade exposed.
In the end, make sure your blades are sharp, because a dull blade is more likely to kickback.