When you set out to purchase a circular saw you really don’t want to settle for anything but the best circular saw. It is one of the most important and often one of the most commonly used tools in any workshop. There is a great big world of different options out there and it can be difficult for a novice user to really know what features to look for. These saws come in different shapes and sizes which will all be better suited to particular projects or sets of hands, so what’s important before you buy is to identify the product that is suited for you!
In addition to your own specific requirements, we are going to look at the most important features that absolutely all of the best circular saws should have in one form or another. Often times it is the little things which make all the difference in the world, and some features should be considered requirements. Some of these are things you might not even think of, so read on and I’ll tell you exactly what you need to know.
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What are circular saws?
Let’s get the basics out of the way first. A circular saw is a power tool which is ideal for fast, straight and precision cutting of all kinds of materials. Most commonly they are used to cut wood, but even tile, sheet metal, or sometimes concrete can be cut with the right saw and blade. The first thing a buyer has to identify is what they will need to cut, and if you have absolutely no intention of needing to cut through concrete and metal you can pretty safely save a bit of money on a less heavy-duty tool.
It is an alternative to a table saw for many users, so what are the differences there? The first and most important thing for most of us is obvious: it is compact and lightweight, and can therefore be used in a wider range of roles or brought along to a job site. A table saw can be a more powerful tool when it is really needed, but a circular saw can do almost anything a table saw can in a much smaller package with a much lower price.
Why do we need to get the best circular saw?
Quality cannot be understated when it comes to the circular saw, both when it comes to the motor and in regard to the blade itself. You don’t want to cut corners here just to save a few dollars, because a cheaply made model is so much more likely to cause problems or break down and that will end up costing you money in the long run.
All of this is, of course, relative to your own needs. It certainly doesn’t mean that you have to buy the most powerful and expensive best circular saw out there if you aren’t planning on using it to cut through very thick and strong materials. When you have identified your own needs you will know what classification to look at, and the very low end of that price range is usually best avoided if you want a quality tool.
It’s not all about strength and power. The best circular saw is the one that best fits your own requirements, and you will find in many cases that a smaller saw with only one inch of cutting depth can be a perfect match. While such a saw can’t be relied on for major cutting jobs, if it is capable of doing the job you need it to you should find that these smaller, lighter saws are easier to use and handle, and that might mean straighter cuts and less fatigue during big projects.
What are the important features of circular saws?
There are not many accessories and things of that nature to worry about with circular saws, as these are typically straightforward and effective tools. However, there are a few features which are very common and should be found on many of the finest models, so look out for these when you are making a purchase to make sure that you are getting a complete package.
I would not recommend you take safety lightly, but if you buy a tool which has built-in safety features which look out for you then you won’t have to focus on that aspect as much while you work. Accidents sometimes happen, but with these features in place those accidents can be minor cuts and not trips to the emergency room!
I always look for a saw with a brake, so that the moment my finger releases that trigger the blade will be made to stop. This is one of the most simple and effective safety features, and if a model doesn’t come with this protection the only excuse is that they have added an even greater safety feature.
A blade guard will cover the top of the blade and protect you from a part of the saw that doesn’t need to be exposed at all. Floating blade guards can be adjusted or moved out of the way for things like plunge cuts or just to better see the cut you are working on, but in most situations you should take advantage of your blade guard.
Finally, a simple safety switch which has to be turned on and off in order for the trigger to function is a great way to ensure safety when your saw is idle. You wouldn’t want to be surprised when you pick up your tool without thinking about the trigger, and these things do happen, so better safe than sorry.
Some specific saws and manufacturers have their own safety features which can be as good or even greater than these basics, but if a saw doesn’t seem to make safe operation a priority it is advised that you move on to the next option. Most of the best circular saws will have all of these safety features.
There are two kinds of features which a lot of the best circular saws include these days, so if you want the best out there you should keep your eyes open for at least these two wonderful time-savers which just make your jobs easier and more pleasant.
First there is the dust blower, which does exactly what the name implies. As you are working you will find a lot of sawdust building up along your line, and while this is not normally a major problem and shouldn’t make the cut more difficult from the perspective of power, it can certainly make it harder to see what you are doing. Having that dust blown away as you make your cut ensures perfect visibility.
Laser guides and lights also help to make the working area more clearly visible, and lasers are particularly useful. They will save you a lot of time in lining up your cuts, showing you when you have a perfectly straight line and making certain that it stays that way. I can’t tell you how happy carpenters the world over were on the day these became common.
One highly useful accessory I will recommend is a rip guide or rip fence, which will improve the flexibility and precision. Many are now sold with a rip guide as a standard feature, but if the model you want is sold without one you might want to consider whether buying a rip guide would benefit you.
Additionally, a vise or screw clamp comes in very handy if you don’t already have one in your workshop. These will allow you to firmly hold down the piece of wood you are working on, which is a requirement of working with a circular saw for almost any purpose. Again, some models will take care of this for you, but you will definitely need some sort of a clamp at your disposal.
What else should we keep in mind when purchasing?
Remember that there are a wide variety of blades available to bring these essential cutting functions to all kinds of materials. There are also many different sizes of the best circular saws available, and the cutting capacity– how deeply the saw blade can cut– is indicated by the blade diameter, with the most common size being about 7.2 inches. If you want to make a cut at an angle to create bevels, be aware that the maximum cutting depth of any circular saw will differ depending on the angle.
What to look for when buying a circular saw
Purchasing the best circular saw for your individual needs doesn’t have to be a difficult procedure as long as you know what type of saw you are looking for, understand the saws limitations and determine the type of jobs that you will be undertaking.
Most types of DIY projects can be completed using an inexpensive sidewinder saw or even a battery powered saw. If you are not going to be using the saw on a regular basis then these types of saws will not only save you money they will also get the job done quickly and easily.
For regular DIY enthusiasts and professionals, the high end sidewinders, worm drives and hypoid drive saws would be a better option. They produce more power and can easily rip through most types of wood and other materials with comparative ease. They are also built to withstand job-site abuse and have a longer duty cycle.
Types of circular saw:
Sidewinder circular saws are the most common types of circular saw. The motor on a sidewinder sits either on the left or right of the blade and connects directly to the blade arbor. The most common placement of the motor is on the left hand side of the saw, although there are some right handed placements available such as the Bosch CS5.
Worm drive saws tend to be slightly heavier than sidewinders due to the gearing mechanism. A worm drive saw has the motor is oriented parallel to the blade in and uses a worm gear to power the blade, this has the advantage of increased torque but the disadvantage of a heavier saw. Worm drives are also more expensive than sidewinders. Worm Drive Reviews
Hypoid saws are similar in design to worm drives. The difference between hypoid saws and worm drive saws is the gearing system and the fact that worm drives have an oil reservoir that can be replenished and hypoid saws have a sealed gearing system. The Gearing on a worm drive is a worm gear and on the hypoid it is a conical gear. Similar to worm drive saws, Hypoid’s tend to be heavier than sidewinders but offer more torque. Hypoid saws are in a similar price bracket to worm drives. Hypoid Drive Reviews
Circular saws are most often categorized by the diameter of the blade. The most common size of blade is 7-1/4 inch. A wide variety of blades variations are available in this size for cutting a variety of materials including wood, metal and stone.
The power of circular saws is most often expressed in amperage. 15-amp saws are the standard and can power the blade to between 5,000 and 6,500 RPM on a sidewinder saw.
Corded or Cordless:
Circular saws have two types of power supply, corded and cordless. Selecting the most appropriate type is dependent upon the demands of the project. Many professionals now carry both types of saw, and will use one or the other depending upon the type of job to be done.
Corded Circular Saws:
Corded Circular Saws are a lot more powerful than their battery counterparts, allowing you to cut many different types of materials a lot faster. Another plus point with the corded saw is that there are no batteries, meaning, no downtime waiting for the batteries to charge. Batteries also have a re-charging duty cycle which means that they will eventually need to be replaced and they can be very expensive items.
Corded saws also tend to be cheaper than cordless due to the lack of expensive batteries.
Cordless Circular Saws:
Cordless circular saws are less powerful than corded saws and tend to have smaller blades. Although, due to improved battery and motor design cordless circular saws are continually getting faster and more powerful. Many professionals are now using them in conjunction or instead of corded tools.
Cordless saws tend to be smaller in size than a corded, making them easier to handle and ideal for small jobs. They are the best type of circular saw for cutting wood in small, tight areas where a big corded saw would get in the way.
The major selling point to the cordless saw is that they can be used anywhere, there is no need for a mains outlet or long extension lead.
Most Circular saws come with a carbide-tipped wood cutting blade. This might be OK if you are ripping some rough timber or boards, but there are many other types of blades available for different types of material. You can buy circular saw blades for cutting wood, tiles, concrete and even plastic. If you are planning to do a lot of work requiring clean cuts, you should consider buying a blade with more teeth.
The blade brake is a safety feature that instantly stops a circular saw blade from spinning when the power trigger is released. Without a blade brake the blade will continue to spin for a few seconds after the trigger is released. This is a very effective safety feature that you should seriously consider.
Changing the blade on a circular saw can be tricky, the blade will keep moving round when the operator tries to undo the blade retaining nut. The shaft lock stops the blade from rotating by locking the drive shaft into position, allowing the user to easily change the blade.
The laser guide is a useful feature that provides a laser powered line as a cutting guide. However, opinions are divided within the woodworking community as to its effectiveness and whether the laser guide is a bonus or just a gimmick to sell the tools.
Once you are able to identify your own set of needs it should not be very difficult at all to find a whole selection of the best circular saws made for people just like yourself.
While that range may still be quite broad, once you have gotten that far it’s a matter of weighing overall power and features that promote ease of use against your budget, and without sacrificing the quality of the tool or its safety features.
This isn’t the kind of purchase where you really want to cut corners and pinch pennies, but good deals can be found once you know exactly what you are looking for.