Circular Saw Comparison
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Circular Saw Buying Guide
What is a Circular Saw?
A circular saw is a popular tool among do-it-yourself-ers, construction workers and handymen that makes quick straight cuts across a board or other material or lengthwise (called rip cuts). They can also be used for making bevel cuts which are cuts that are angled. They are probably one of the most popular tools and even those who may not do much woodworking at all usually have one lying around somewhere. There are several different types of circular saws available and each is better for a particular type of cutting job.
The First Saw
The very first circular saw was called a worm-drive saw and was made in 1924. The reason it was called a worm-drive saw is because of the internal drive system that was within the saw. This internal system is shaped like a spiral. A little later on, the sidewinder saw was created. For about 60 years, people had only two choices of saws: the sidewinder and the worm-drive.
There are three different types of circular saws available today: the worm-drive, the sidewinder and the trim saw. Each of these saws has a specific kind of task that they work best for. Because of this, make sure that you know what kinds of jobs you will be using your circular saw for when you go to buy one.
Worm-Drive Saw – plunge cuts are much easier to make due to the spiral shape of the worm saw. It’s strong and powerful motor makes even tough jobs simple. Wide stacks of lumber cut easily with the extra length it has. It makes a great saw for projects that involve sawhorses because it can be heavy for to hold for extended periods of time. Worm-drive saws weigh about 13 to 15 pounds. These are the saws that are most often used by professionals for projects that are very large. The worm-drive circular saw has the motor behind the blade.
Sidewinder Saw – The sidewinder’s motor is either on the left side of the blade or the right which makes them good for left and right handed people. When the blades are on the left, a right-hander will find them much easier to use since the view isn’t blocked. This will also be true for left-handers in the opposite position. These saws are lighter than worm-drive models, weighing between 6 and 10 pounds on average and can be used for even overhead cutting due to this lighter weight. They are great for DIY projects. Materials that sidewinders are good for cutting are plywood, wet lumber, studs and concrete too.
Trim Saws – This 4 to 7 pound saw is not as commonly used as the worm-drive and the sidewinder but it still has its place in the circular saw world and makes a great saw for lightweight jobs and infrequent use. They are extremely light and very easy to control, making them good for inexperienced users who just want to do some finish work on carpentry or for cutting thin materials. Out of the three types of saws, the sidewinders are probably the most versatile, and are good for both large projects and do it yourself jobs.
Which is better: Corded or Cordless?
If you have a lot of heavy-duty projects that you will be working on, you will more than likely end up wanting to get a worm-drive circular saw. These saws come in corded varieties only but the sidewinder and the trim saws offer a choice or corded and cordless. How do you know which is best? Just like with most things when it comes to choosing the right style of circular saw, the types of jobs you will be using it for as well as the frequency of those jobs are a factor.
Corded – Corded circular saws provide more power than their cordless counterparts. Even though you have to account for and watch not to accidentally cut through the cord, since they give more torque, they are good for harder jobs. In addition, since there is no worry over the battery dying, if you have jobs to do that require long use, you will not become frustrated with a dying battery when you have a corded circular saw.
Cordless – One of the biggest draws about a cordless circular saw is the convenience of being able to take it anywhere to do a job. They are not as powerful as corded models so these are not good choices for heavy jobs and large projects. They do rely on battery power so you will find using cordless saws much more appealing if you invest in an extra battery or two to switch out with while the others are charging. If you have a lot of little jobs that don’t require long usage, a cordless circular saw may be the perfect choice for you. Some popular uses for cordless saws are:
Batteries for Cordless Saws
When it comes to getting the best battery you can for your saw you will want to invest in a Lithium ion battery which will hold a charge longer than the other types of batteries will. Lithium batteries are more expensive, but they are worth it in the extended power they possess. You can get a battery pack as well. They usually come in a slide-in version or plug-in version. Most people who plan on using their cordless circular saw often purchase a backup battery to avoid long down times while the battery is charging.
Different models of circular saws have different features and while some might be available on multiple types of saws, what is the most important thing to look at is the kind of features you’d like to see included with your saw. Once you know what features you’re looking for, you can narrow down the search a bit and focus only n those saws that have the features you want. Below are some of the ore common features that wither corded or cordless circular saws can have and some information about each of them.
Electric Brake – This is a safety measure that many saws have that automatically stop the blade as soon as the trigger of the saw is released.
Ball Bearing Motor – Ball bearing motors are much more durable than those without them and they last longer as well because of this.
Adjustable Handle – Not everyone has the same grip so having a handle that adjusts to different angles or heights is a major feature when it comes to user comfort.
Heavy-Duty Base – When they base is a heavy duty one, made from cast metal and reinforced steel, it resists bending which can occur during use in those with a lighter material construction.
Magnesium Housing – When the housing is made of magnesium, it provides a lot of protection for the motor without adding bulk and weight to the circular saw itself.
Depth Controls – Your depth controls need to allow for easy access, simple adjustments that are easy for even newbies to make and good visibility.
Bevel Capability – This feature makes cutting bevel cuts much simpler and more accurate as well. They have a tool-less adjustment and positive stops that also improve the efficiency of the saw itself.
Laser Guide – Laser guides help the user align the blade with the correct cutting line. The benefit to this is more accuracy. These will need to be calibrated occasionally.
Carbide-Tipped Saw Blades – Carbide-tipped blades are much more durable and last longer than regular steel blades. They also cut through materials more quickly.
Hook- This sounds like a simple feature but when it comes to storage convenience, having a hook to hang your circular saw on can be a great thing, especially if you’re looking to save space. Some models include two hooks.
Notched Blade Guard – This feature improves the user’s visibility and precision when cutting. With a notched blade guard, the user can see the exact position of the blade’s teeth against whatever It is that is being cut.
Oil Site Glass – When you need to check the oil level in your circular saw, having the oil site glass feature can be really handy. It makes checking the levels fast and easy. Some models may use a dipstick method or even a pre-filled removable oil stick.
Sight Lines – Site lines are a type of guide marking that make measuring and cutting straight, much more accurate and that gives better results.
Twist Plug – This is a handy little feature that allows the plug to rotate to accommodate many different outlet styles or positions.
Wrench Storage – wrench storage is great for circular saws that require wrench adjustments. This is called onboard storage when the wrench compartments are hidden on the body of the saw somewhere.
Dust Port – This is an opening at the rear right hand side of the blade guard that gets the dust out of the way of the cut line. On some of them, a tube can be hooked up to it for added disposal of the dust.
Long power cord – When a saw has a 9 or 10 foot cord it can eliminate the need for extension cords. Many users like the long cords for this reason just be careful not to accidentally cut it.
Blade capacity – This measures the depth of cut that your circular saw can achieve. The larger your blade is the deeper the cut will be. Saws with smaller blades in general are easier to control and weigh less but the cuts will be shallower as well.
What are You Looking For?
Take your time when looking for the right saw for your workshop or jobsite. There are many models out there, so it can get a bit overwhelming which is why we focused on the top three popular circular saws on the market. These top three have many features that users look for and the quality on all of them is excellent as well. When you start shopping for your circular saw you want to look for some key points that will make using the saw enjoyable rather than a nightmare. These include:
- Good balance
- Roller or ball bearings
- Motor brushes that are easily accessible
- Powerful AMPs
- Comfortable grip
- Clearly Visible Blade
- Cutting Guide
- Easy Blade adjustment
- Easy on/off switch
You may not be able to try the tool out in the store of course, but if you can, go to a home improvement store and at least pick up one if they have models out for display as many of them do. Getting the tool in your hand gives you a chance to check the weight, how it feels to hold it and also how easy it will be to use the features it offers.
Circular saws have many different kinds of blades that they can be used with. Blades can be bought separately, so you can get many different kinds that can accommodate many different materials. The more expensive blades tend to have both increased durability and better performance. You will usually find that inexpensive blades will dull faster and require replacement sooner.
Kerf will let you know how thin or thick the blade is. There are a range of choices available when it comes to kerf. In general, thick-kerf blades are much more durable and last longer than thin-kerf. Thin-kerf blades are much sharper but since they dull quickly you’re not saving money by using them. A benefit to thin-kerf blades is that they remove less of the actual material that you are cutting, Another benefit to thick-kerf blades is that they resist wobble and can hold up to cutting through nails much better than the thin-kerf blades do.
When it comes to circular saw blades, the more teeth a blade has, the cleaner the cut will be. On the other side of that, the fewer teeth the blade has the faster the material will cut but it will have rougher edges once it is cut. Depending on what you are doing with your saw, blade teeth will have an effect on the outcome. If you’re doing cross cuts (cutting across the material rather than lengthwise) a small gullet size is best so more teeth on the blade is preferable. If you’re rip cutting boards (cutting lengthwise) a blade with fewer teeth will remove more material and leave larger gullets, but it also reduces clogging and this is a very important thing in lengthwise cuts.
Blades are usually going to be made from steel or carbide-tipped steel. The steel blades are much less expensive but also wear out quickly. For this reason, steel blades are used when the saw is only used occasionally. Carbide-tipped blades last up to 10 times longer than a traditional steel blade and they also require much less sharpening. Below are some different types of blades and the applications in which they are used.
- Crosscut blade – used for cutting wood across the grain
- Ripping Blade – used for cutting lengthwise and should not be used on plywood
- Combination Blade – is the all purpose choice for most wood cutting jobs and projects
- Fine-toothed blade – used for super smooth cuts
- Finish/Paneling Blade – used for cutting Paneling, veneer, plywood, laminates, plastics and other light-gauge materials
- Nail-cutting blade – great for cutting wood that has nails in it
- Metal cutting blade – used for metal sheets and pipes
- Abrasive Wheel – used for Masonry and metals
- Dry-Diamond blade – Used for cutting Masonry and tile
- Dado-cut blades (radial-arm and table saws only) – used for Dado and rabbets cuts in the wood.
Circular saws can be very dangerous if they are used improperly. When looking for the saw that you want, many have safety features such as electric brakes and others, here are some basic safety tips to remember that can keep you safe after you choose your circular saw:
- Wearing goggles and hearing protection is extremely important when operating your circular saw. Not wearing them could result in a persistent ringing in your ears or you might get sawdust in your eyes. It also may not be a bad idea to wear a dust mask over your mouth and nose as well.
- Make sure you use the right blade for the right materials. No matter what kind of blade you buy with your saw, you need to keep it sharp and clean at all times. Also make sure that the blade is flat with no broken teeth and no dings or bends in the blade. Kickback can be caused by a dull blade which means the material is kicked back towards you or goes flying across the garage because it binds the blade.
- It is extremely important to keep the cord out of the path of the saw. Any extension cords that are used should be industrial and be able to handle the AMPS of the saw safely. Any work that is done in damp or wet areas can be dangerous if you don’t plug the saw into a GFCI-protected receptacle.
- It is very important to have whatever you are cutting supported properly. The best way to do this is to have two supports on either side of the blades path. You’ll need more supports if the wood is long and thing like molding or 2x4s. Supporting the wood properly prevents any pinching of the blade during the cutting process and reduces the chance of any kickback. If there’s a chance that something could shift while you’re cutting it, use a clamp to hold it in place. Both of your hands need to be on the saw during use at all times.
- Never force the wood through a cut if the blade starts to bind up or slow down. You will need to stop cutting at once if this happens and especially if you hear a screech of warning that might occur when the blade is getting bound up. Once the blade stops spinning, THEN you can pull the saw away safely. Adjust your wood or the material you are cutting to straighten it out and try again.
- When using power tools, patience is a must. Never set the saw down while the blade is still spinning. Wait until it has come to a complete stop and then set it down. Also never try to adjust something on the saw or pull something stuck on the blade off while it is spinning.
The Importance of Reviews and Customer Feedback
When it comes to understanding a bit more about the specifics of the saws you’re interested in, take the time to read the reviews that have been written about them. You can learn a lot from a review and even more from customer comments although some of them you may need to take with a grain of salt. People have all kinds of personal preferences, so just because one person doesn’t like the saw doesn’t mean you won’t. Take heed though and if you’re looking at a saw that has a LOT of negative reviews, you are better off finding a different model. Most of the saws will have some negative comments because it is impossible to please 100% of the users 100% of the time, but it’s the overall consensus that you can look at to help you narrow down your choices and make a great decision that you will enjoy and be happy with.
Most manufacturers provide warranties and guarantees with their tools, so take this into consideration to. Many have 30 day money back guarantees which give you the chance to try the tool out and see what you think of it in action. If you don’t like the feel of it, then you may be better off with a different model and a guarantee gives you that ability.
- Makita: http://static.bootic.com/
- DEWALT: http://ecx.images-amazon.com/
- Bosch: http://bestcircularsawguides.com/