Help Me Find the Right Hand-Held Circular Saw for Me

| 2/5/2011 10:23:34 AM

Tags: saws, tools, power tools, circular saws, diy, steve maxwell, Steve Maxwell,

I want to buy a hand-held circular saw for the upcoming building season, but I’m confused by all the choices. What do you recommend? 

If you think a circular saw has a place in your life, then make the commitment to get a good one. Here’s the essentials you need to know.

Basic Saw Design 

There are two basic circular saw designs in the world:

  1. worm-drive
  2. sidewinder

Figuring out which type suits you best is your first job. To see what they look like side-by-side, check out my circular saw video tour.

Blade Size and Quality 

Most circular saws spin 7 1/4-inch diameter blades, and this is a good choice for serious homestead use. Many cordless saws often come with 6 1/2-inch blades which are fine for many jobs, though you will occasionally miss the extra depth of cut. Far more carbide circular sawimportant than blade size, however, is blade quality. It’s a strange fact that many top-quality power tools come from the factory with second-rate blades. Circular saws are no exception. To get the most out of your saw you’ll need to upgrade to a carbide blade made to last. The word carbide refers to hard, visibly-distinct alloy inserts that form the teeth of the blade. Expect to pay $15 to $35 for a good 7 1/4-inch carbide blade. Today’s best carbide blades are even designed to slice through the odd nail without complaining. Where regular carbide saw blades might chip a tooth on an unseen nail, nail-friendly blades are a renovator’s best buddy.

Amperage Draw 

Circular saws are often required to do heavy work, like cutting 1 1/2-inch thick framing lumber along the grain, or slicing 3/4-inch thick plywood. If you feel the need to own a circular saw, then be sure you get one that has the power to do all the usual construction site work. One measure of tool power on corded models is amperage draw, a figure you’ll find stamped on the nameplate of every power tool. If I were recommending a saw to a friend, I’d choose from machines that draw at least 10 amps of current, and preferably closer to 15. Anything weaker is only suited to light-duty specialty work. You might as well use a handsaw. As for corded saws, you’ll find 18-volt models are lightweight and deliver good service for light and medium-duty jobs. 24-, 28- and 36-volt cordless saws are able to handle most work that corded models can.

nails cut circular sawBrush Access 

John Yahootas
9/7/2011 4:06:32 PM

I've had a Makita worm drive saw for about 10 years, much better than my old DeWalt sidewinder, and better than others I've used. Heavier than some others, but great balance. Make sure you buy your saw from a good lumberyard, and not home depot or lowe's. The brand may be the same, but these stores have manufacturers make them a cheaper grade that won't last half as long!

larry mathews
9/7/2011 1:52:27 PM

for my use a left handed circular saw is best; the blade is located on the left side of the motor like a worm saw. Even though I'm right handed the LHS is easier to use because you can view your cut line without leaning over the saw.Using the LHS in the right hand all you have to do is look down at the cut line and not around or over the saw it self to follow the cut line.

9/7/2011 8:13:13 AM

... also, before I forget... always be sure your blade is sharp get the right blade for the right job.. it pays to use the correct blade and a sharp one too!

mother earth news fair 2018 schedule


Next: April 28-29, 2018
Asheville, NC

Whether you want to learn how to grow and raise your own food, build your own root cellar, or create a green dream home, come out and learn everything you need to know — and then some!