Circular saws are affordable, flexible, and easy to use, making them one of the most popular items in a tool chest. Knowing which design is perfect for which job is the first step. Once you’ve learned which saw is right for you, shop for it either online or in-store.
Circular saws make quick, straight cuts across a board (crosscuts) or along the board's length (rip cuts). You can also set a circular saw to make bevel cuts (cuts made on the edge of the wood). Standard components in a circular saw include:
Circular saw blades are usually classified by the diametre of their blades. Sizes of 5 1/2 to 7 1/4 inches are the most common. There are also many options available on circular saws, so pick the one based on your specific needs.
Sidewinder, or inline, saws are the most common, traditional saws. The motor is located along the same axis as the blade. A shaft runs directly from the motor to drive the blade. Sidewinder saws are more compact and lightweight than worm-drive saws and are well-suited to most circular saw applications.
Worm-drive saws have their motors positioned at a right angle to the saw blade. The motor uses gears to increase the torque transferred to the blade, which makes the saw well-suited for heavy-duty use. Worm-drive saws are longer than sidewinder saws and tend to be quieter.
Corded circular saws don't depend on batteries for power and are better suited for tough cutting jobs like masonry, steel, and continuous woodcutting. These models are available in many sizes, but the most common is 7 1/4 in. A corded circular saw requires a suitable extension cord.
Cordless circular saws are convenient when working in areas where extension cords are difficult to use. And, since they are smaller than most corded saws, they work well in confined spaces. Cordless saws are best suited to cutting wood and wood products, due to the limitations of their batteries. They typically range in size from 5 3/8 to 6 1/2 in.
Once you've decided on the design and power source, compare the features.
Amps on corded saws and volts on cordless saws measure power. Higher amps and volts mean more cutting power.
This determines the maximum depth of cut. The most common blade diameter is 7 1/4 in. Most saws with blade capacities of 6 in. or more can cut through 2 in. dimensional lumber at a 45 degree angle in a single pass. A 5 3/8 in. saw can cut through 2 in. dimensional lumber in one pass at 90 degrees but requires two passes at 45 degrees.
To reverse the flow of electricity in the motor, release the trigger. Reversing the current stops the blade's momentum quickly. Electric brakes can stop the blade in as little as two seconds, much quicker than a blade on a saw without this feature.
The shaft lock immobilizes the shaft and blade, making it much easier to change the blade.
Bevel capacity indicates the maximum bevel the saw can make, while bevel stops are presets that allow quick adjustments for bevel cuts.
Laser guides help improve cutting accuracy by projecting a beam of light onto the work piece.
A key part of the saw is the blade. Different blades are available for different applications. When purchasing a blade, make sure it's compatible with your saw. The four most common blades are: high-speed steel blades, carbide-tipped blades, tile-cutting blades, and masonry blades.