How To Choose a Circular Saw

circular saw intro pic

The circular saw is the loyal mutt of power tools. It’s the go-to for everything, from houses, decks, garden sheds and tree houses, to smaller things like furniture and shelves. You’re also more likely to spot a circular saw at a construction site than other power tools. From cutting 2×4’s to ripping sheets of plywood, a good circular saw will tackle all types of jobs and wood.

Corded vs. Cordless

cordless circular saw

Like most of the other power tools, circular saws come in both corded and cordless models. It was just a few years ago when you couldn’t find a cordless circular saw that could keep up with a corded model on a job. That said, technology has surged forward and now the choice isn’t so cut-and-dry. Cordless (above), of course, gives you a greater freedom of movement without being dependent on a plug, while the corded ones never run out of juice.

corded circular saw

What it boils down to is, it depends on how you use the tool and what projects you’re more likely to be working on. Knowing the benefits and drawbacks of each, though, is great for anyone shopping for one. My two cents, if you can get both, even better!

sidewinder circular sar

Circular saws are divided into two primary categories: Sidewinders (shown above) and worm-drive units (below). On a sidewinder, the “spur-gear” motor sits directly next to the saw blade which makes them small, lightweight, and great for jobs around the house. It’s especially good for jobs overhead. Worm-drive saws generate more torque because of a beefy spiral gear that dispatches power to the blade more efficiently, and it is notably heavier. Also on the worm-drive, the motor sits behind the blade. Advantages of a worm-drive saw include its line-of-sight visibility and its power.

worm-drive circular saw

So, which one to get? The truth is that one saw isn’t better than the other, it just depends on what kind of work you’re doing. For example, if you’re working on the rafters or stairs, the worm-drive would probably suit you better, while on the other hand you’d reach for the sidewinder for the opposing bevels. If you do a variety of light and more involved DIY projects, you’re eventually going to own both. Of course, the worm-drive will be more expensive, but the added torque and heft will carry you through the toughest jobs.

There is one other alternative for small jobs, too. Compact saws like the Chicago Electric Double Cut Saw (as seen below) provides ample cutting power for minor jobs around the house. They’re lighter and easier to maneuver in limited spaces.

double cut saw

Before buying a circular saw, make sure you actually pick each up and heft it. Take note of the weight, balance, grip and motionability. Do this with different models and you’ll get an idea of which is the most comfortable for you. In the case of the cordless models,  do this exercise with a battery attached, as that changes the weight and balance significantly.

As with any power tool, safety comes first. Always wear proper eye protection and read through the safety manual that comes with your saw. And in your journey, be sure to visit your local Harbor Freight Tools where you’ll find great deals on circular saws, blades, gloves and more!