Three Things to Consider Before Buying a Circular Saw

If you work with wood, a reliable, powerful circular saw might just be the most valuable tool in your arsenal.

Circular saw cutting wood
Circular saws are must-have items even if you plan to do just a little bit of carpentry around the house.Skil

Of all the common power tools in a home shop, none pull as much weight as the circular saw. For cross-cutting and ripping lumber into the manageable components on any project, a circular saw is often the first tool we reach for. There are many factors to consider before investing in this quintessential home-improvement workhorse. In fact, professionals and serious do-it-yourselfers usually have more than one circular saw. Whether you are buying your first saw or adding to the arsenal, think about these key factors.

The Case for Cordless

circular saw
For quick and dirty tasks that require a saw, it’s hard to beat a cordless model.DEWALT

If you only own one circular saw, make it cordless. When the time comes to take on larger or more demanding construction projects, then you may want to invest in a corded tool. But lithium-ion battery technology has given us cordless saws that are capable of handling virtually any home-improvement and most professional tasks. Power packs for modern cordless saws are commonly pumping out 18 to 20 volts, which is plenty. However, batteries with identical voltage are available with various amp-hour ratings, so buy the highest amp-hour battery you can afford to ensure that you don’t run out of power in the middle of a job. And look for a cordless saw sold with a thin-kerf blade, which will make it more efficient.

Worm-Drive vs. Sidewinders

Circular Saw
A worm-drive motor means faster blade speed and greater torque.SKILSAW

Contrary to traditional sidewinder saws, which have the motor and spindle in line with the center of the blade, a worm-drive motor is positioned in the rear of the tool and utilizes a series of screw-like gears to turn the blade. This results in reduced blade speed but greater torque—which is just what you want for heavy cutting. That said, worm-drive saws and sidewinders have different weight and handling characteristics, and they typically configure the blade on opposite sides of the base plate, which affects both balance and line of sight to the cut. All of these factors can make a big difference depending on whether you are right- or left-handed. Try to get your hands on one of each type of saw before deciding which style is right for you.

Blade Size

Circular Saw with Single Beam Laser Guide
The most common blade size is 7¼ inches, though there are some available for smaller or larger jobs.Skil

The traditional blade size on a circular saw is usually 7¼ inches. But the advent of cordless technology has produced an array of blade options that can be confusing. Standard 7¼-inch blades are still the most versatile for DIYers; however, saws rated for blades ranging anywhere from 4¼ to 6½ inches are useful for delicate tasks, such are trim, cabinetry, and countertops. On the opposite end of the spectrum, saws as large as 16 inches make cutting big timbers much easier than, say, trying to nibble through a pressure-treated 6x6 with multiple passes of a smaller blade.

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