is a worm drive saw same as circular saw

Worm Drive vs Circular Saw

Last Updated on: 28th March 2021, 05:56 am

What type of power saw should you buy? The answer to that question depends on numerous factors. Some of the factors that can have an influence on your decision include:

  • Your strength
  • Your budget
  • Are you a righty or a lefty?
  • The amount of power you need
  • Are you a professional or a DIYer?

Worm Drive vs Sidewinder Saws

With those thoughts in mind, we’re going to take a look at worm drive vs circular saw. Mind you, what we’re really looking at is whether you should buy a worm-drive saw or a sidewinder saw. You see, both sidewinder saws and worm drive saws are circular saws. However, they’re different types of circular saws – make sense?

What’s the Difference between the Two?

The biggest difference between a worm drive and a circular saw would be the fact that the blade is located in different places in relation to the motor. So, when it comes down to which one you should buy, it all boils down to the type of jobs you plan on using the circular saw for.

If you’re currently looking through the market for a good circular saw, since you’re reading this right now, you obviously know just how important research is. You don’t want to go out there and buy the first saw you come across, only to find that you have wasted your money as it isn’t built for the type of work you need to do. A good circular saw should have the right amount power to be able to slice through everything from dense hardwood to wet lumber without slowing down. If the motor on the saw you’re using slows down, this will cause the blade to dull quickly and heat up. In return, not only is this going to create a low quality cut, it is also dangerous because it could push the saw toward you.

A circular saw is one of those power tools you just have to have as a woodworker. If you go out and buy yourself a good circular saw right now, you can expect to be using it 15 to 2 years from now. In this guide, the sidewinder and the worm drive are going to be going head to head, but first, I want to give you some tips you should keep in mind when you’re out there shopping for your new circular saw …

Size of the Blade

The blade size is definitely a factor you need to keep in mind. Circular saws are categorized according the to their blades diameter. 7 and ¼ inch would be the most useful and common size of blade. Saws that have blades of this size are capable of cutting through wood that is 3 or more inches thick. These type of saws also offer the best variety of choices and may be able to cut material other than wood.

The Power Matters

Often times, the power of saws are introduced in amperage. In this day and age, a 15-amp saw would be the standards. However, for those that don’t plan on using the saw as much a 10 or 12-amp saw should be suitable.

The Style

For as long as I can remember, circular saws have been available in two different styles. Worm-drive saws are long and short, and the handle is located behind the blade, while the blade is located on the left. This makes it visible for those individuals that are right-handed. They have a tendency to be a bit more on the heavy side and have more torque than the sidewinder saws.

For most of us, the sidewinder is the most recognizable style. The handle is located a bit higher over the blade, and the blade is normally located on the right side of the saw. Sidewinders don’t cost as much as worm drives and they are lighter in weight. Not to mention the fact that they also spin at a faster rate. For the home workshop, a good sidewinder would be a suitable choice.


Every sidewinder saw pretty much looks the same from a distance, except for the color. However, once you get close to it, and pick it up, they may have a different feel to them. The only way for you to truly see the difference in the way they feel would be to go to your local tool supplier and test them out for yourself. Does the saw feel comfortable when you hold it? Does the handle fit your hand correctly? Is it the right weight for you? Are you fine with the visibility of the blade?


Corded vs. Cordless

Mind you, cordless circular saws are great, but I really don’t mind the corded ones. Whenever I need to use the saw, an outlet is usually close by, and when it’s not, I have a heavy duty extension cord that I can use. Most home workshops would do just fine with a corded saw, and the longer the cord is, the better it’s going to be. Mind you, those saws that are cheaper have a tendency to have shorter cords, but you can take care of that issue with an extension cord.

Looking at cordless circular saws, they have improved from how they used to be. Now, they’re more powerful than they were when they first came out, and that’s why some professionals choose cordless saws over corded.

The Blades

Most of the saws today come with the popular carbide-tipped blade.  In all honesty, this may be the only blade you need because they serve many different purposes. You can purchase blades for cutting wood, concrete, tile, and metal. If your projects require clean cuts, then you should look into a blade that has a large amount of teeth. Regardless of the type of saw you choose, changing the blade will only take a couple of minutes, if that.

Shoe Styles

Regardless of who you are or the type of wood you’re working with, you’re probably going to end up dropping your saw. This is something that we have all done, even those of us that aren’t clumsy. For those times when you drop the saw, we need to know that it isn’t going to get damaged. You’re in luck with the sidewinder, because there are saws that are protected. On the top surface of some sidewinder saws, there’s cast-metal shoes that contain raised reinforcing ribs, so it’s not going to blend like the flat aluminum shoes if you were to accidentally drop the saw. Just remember that the cast metal is going to add some additional weight to the saw, which is something you should consider.

Ease of Adjustment

Full-round knobs and large cornered level locks can easily be tightened down. This makes it easier and faster for you to change the bevel settings and the depth of cut. It’s much better than those levers and wing nuts that are hard to grasp.

As a carpenter, when choosing the type of saw to get, believe it or not, geography plays an important role in the decision. You see, out West, and in the Midwest, the most common choice are worm drive saws. However, in the East, sidewinder saws rule the world. Many carpenters have both and use them for different applications. What’s the difference between these two saws anyways? Let’s put them under a microscope and see!

Are There Any Mechanical Differences?

Of course there are mechanical differences between the worm drive saw and the sidewinder saw. The difference is the position of the motor as well as the gearing.

On a sidewinder saw, the motor is referred to as a spur-gear. By nature, the motor will need to be lined up with the spinning blade. What this means is that the blade spins fast, around 6,000 rpm. Due to the motor position on the sidewinder saw, you will be dealing with a saw that is fairly compact and light in weight.

On the other hand, the worm-drive motor is located at the back of the saw. Using a pair of gears that are placed at a 90 degree angle, the power is transferred to the blade. Due to this form of gear setup, the speed of the blade is going to be reduced, normally to around 4,500 rpm, but in return, the torque is going to be increased. Due to the position of the motor, you will have a longer saw, but in return, it is going to be a bit heavier than the sidewinder saw.

How Does the Worm Drive and the Sidewinder Handle Differently?

With the sidewinder, the blade is going to be placed on the right of the saw, while the worm drive will have the blade placed on the left. So really, depending on whether you are right handed or left-handed, this is going to have an impact on your working habits and sight lines. So, in this section of the guide, let’s go ahead and assume you are right-handed …

With a sidewinder, as I just explained, the blade will be located on the right of the saw, this means that the weight of the tool is going to be on the left side. With this type of design, the weight of the tool will be placed n the solid part of the board, and not on the cutoff. The tradeoff? Well, it’s not as easy to see the cutline. Typically, cuts are made right on the pile of lumber or on sawhorses. However, for working overhead, the sidewinder is great because of the light weight. Some individuals have stated that the position of the blade is great because it makes it so that both hands can be kept a safe distance. When it comes down to the use, the lightweight, compact sidewinder would be the easiest for you to handle.

As for the worm drive, it has a blade that is on the left side, which puts most of the weight of the saw on the right side. With this design, the way the blade is installed changes and it will be easy for you to follow that cutline, but it can be a bit tricky if you’re the type of person that works with sawhorses.  Many users choose to use a worm-drive saw when they plan on cutting on the stack of lumber. However, they may also take advantage of the weight of the tool by using the handheld position to cut boards. The tool is longer than the sidewinder saw, so it’s useful for cutting long sheets or wide stacks of lumber. Plunge cuts are also easier to do because of the shape of the worm drive.


Let’s recap now. With a sidewinder saw, the motor will be sitting along the blade, which will make it much lighter than a worm drive saw. Sidewinder saws are usually 11 pounds or less, making it easier for you to handle without feeling tired.

Worm drive

With a worm drive saw, the centerline of the motor will be parallel to the plane of the blade. In return, the saw will have a nice narrow profile that makes it possible for the user to get into those spaces that are more confined. There is a longer distance between the blade and the handle, which extends your reach and makes it helpful for crosscutting sheets of wood. The gear teeth on the worm drive are also much larger than the teeth on the sidewinder. This type of saw also has more load-carrying capacity than the direct drive has, so in return, you can count on more power. However, the worm drive is heavier than the sidewinder. On average, the worm drive weighs about 14 lbs.

Righty vs. Lefty

Whether you are right-handed or left-handed, this doesn’t confine you to the type of circular saw. However, you should consider this: The blade on the sidewinder is located on the right, which makes it easier for a lefty to see the cutline. The blade on the worm drive saw is located on the left side, so it will be easier for a righty to see the cutline.

DIYer or Professional

A pro-grade sidewinder will have more than enough power to take on even the heaviest tasks at the jobsite. However, if you’re a DIYer that does work on the side in your home workshop, then the sidewinder saw may be suitable for you because it’s easier to manage and is light in weight.

The Way You Work

What it all boils down to is not whether or not the worm drive is better than the sidewinder – your choice is all in the way your work. Choosing between the sidewinder and the worm drive saws have been one of the most argued tool topics among woodworkers. In all honesty, one saw isn’t better than the other saw. It really all depends on how you will be using it and how you prefer to work. It also depends on what feels comfortable and safe to you. The key details you need to consider would be sight lines, balance, and weight.

The best way for you to determine which saw you should choose would be to go out and give each style a test drive. During this time, take note of the difference you feel.