Circular Saws, Corded and Cordless Buying Guide

Circular Saws, Corded and Cordless
  • Getting Started

  • One of the most popular power tools you can find on all job sites and in most home workshops is the circular saw. They can be used to cut masonry, wood, steel, ceramics and other materials. A traditional saw includes foot plate and a blade guard, and you can adjust depth and bevel. However, there are so many different types of saws that you need to prepare yourself before buying one. Here is a comprehensive buying guide that will help you find the best circular saw.

  • Types of Circular Saws

  • If you ask a professional about a saw, they will probably name a mitre saw, a circular saw and a jigsaw. However, hobbyists and beginners don’t need the mitre saw and jigsaw. What they definitely need, though, is a circular saw. They can be divided into two types: in-line and worm drive. The design depends on the amount of torque the motor provides and its location. In other words, the most powerful saw is not necessary the best.

    In-Line Saws

    In-line saws that are also called sidewinder saws have the motor placed perpendicular to the blade. They are really popular among homeowners since they are lightweight and compact. The motor is often on the right, which allows left-hand users a good view of a cut line. But you can also find models for right-hand users.

    The main benefit of these saws is a small motor that allows for incredible portability of the tool. However, it also means lower torque. That’s why these saws are often used for small projects. For heavy-duty projects, it is better to get a model with higher torque.

    Worm-Drive Saws

    While the in-line saws are more popular, the worm-drive saws are the main choice of professionals. They are heavier than the previous type of saws and can put strain on your arms. Most models are corded because batteries can’t handle the large motor.

    The worm-drive saws can handle every project that requires a saw. It can quickly slice though concrete and stone.

  • Power Sources

  • Like other power tools, you should choose between a corded and cordless circular saw. A corded saw doesn’t need any batteries and you don’t waste time on charging them so you can work for as long as you need. They are better for cutting steel, masonry and other challenging applications. While you can’t go far from the power outlet, you can get an extension cord to work outside the house.

    A cordless circular saw, on the other hand, can be used in places where a corded one cannot reach. Most cordless saws are smaller than their corded counterparts, which is necessary for work in confined areas. However, you need to charge batteries and most of cordless saws can only cut wood.

  • What to Look For in a Circular Saw

  • High Cutting Power

    Whatever model you choose, it should be able to cut wood without bogging down. For hobbyists, a 15 amp in-line saw is enough to stand up to the densest types of wood. In-line saws run at lower speeds than worm-drive saws, thus ensuring more power on each push. However, not all in-line saws can handle tough wood like lumber; you will have to get a worm-drive saw to manage these projects.

    Quality Blade Guard

    You should make sure the blade-guard is snug-free. Blade guard can also be quite annoying when it accidentally stops the saw. This will happen if you’re trimming a small piece off. Many professionals pin back the blade guards, or even remove them. However, you can’t be fully protected if the blade-guard is disabled. Thus you should choose a model with a blade guard that can handle all angles and depths. Those models that have a large protruding lobe often work the best.

    Speaking of safety, you should check the spindle lock that keeps the blade from moving when you switch them. You saw should also have a safety switch to prevent starts. Some models have an electric blade break which makes the blade to quickly stop. If your saw doesn’t have this feature, you will have to wait until the blade stops spinning.

    A Reliable Base Plate

    A base plate is the part that breaks down most often. Those plates that are made of stainless steel can become a headache because they bend easily. Cast aluminum or magnesium plates are more durable but they will crack if you accidentally drop the saw. Fiber-reinforced plastic plates are the most durable; they are ribbed and thick.

    Good Connection between the Blade and the Plate

    Whether model you choose, its motor will be connected to the base plate. It allows you to adjust the depth and the bevel angle. Older models can have the pivot point placed in line with the blade guars, which will give you the bevel you don’t want. Models that don’t have a pivot point in line with the handle are more stable.

    Smooth Bevel Adjustment

    If you’re going to do framing work, especially roofs, you should get a saw with a smooth bevel function. The base should pivot without problems, too. Modern models have bevel stops that can be used in angles, but you should also be able to set the bevel to any angle you need.

    Convenient Depth Adjustment

    To handle many projects, you will need to adjust the depth of your cuts. Thus, you need to be able to move the base plate without problems. It is not that easy to do on circular saws with inboard levers that are tucked between the guard and the handle. Thus, it is better to get a model with outboard levers and keep one hand on the handle while adjusting the blade depth. Besides, you can quickly grasp the levers when they are coated in rubber. The depth scale should be marked – the larger the numbers, the better.

    Clear Cut-line Visibility

    If you want to make clear cuts, you need the cut-line marker to be aligned with the cutting edge of the blade. The best models allow you to cut either to the left or to the right of the line. However, when you can’t see your cut-line, your saw should provide a clear sight to the blade.

    Electric Brakes

    Electric breaks stop the motor within seconds after pushing the trigger, while saws without electric brakes require between 10 to 15 seconds to stop. The electric brake can quickly revise the flow of electricity to make the tool stop. The main reason why many choose electric brakes is to save limbs and fingers. Quickly stopping the brakes means less likely to get hurt or damage your work. Besides, most modern models have it anyway.

    Blade capacity

    Just like other tools, circular saws have a wide range of blade sizes. But if you’re getting a corded model, you will probably get 7, 1/4 inches but cordless drills have two popular options, the 7, 1/4 inches and 6, 1/2 inches. Your choice should depend on your needs. For example, larger blades are heavier but allow you to make fewer cuts. Besides, it is more convenient to make angle cuts with bigger blades.

    Shaft locks

    A shaft lock is a button that you can press to hold the blades still. Make sure your model has this feature because it makes blade changing much easier. Cheaper models usually don’t have shaft locks but middle-class and professional saws have.

  • Useful Extras

  • There are saw models that come with additional features that are not crucial but can be quite useful sometimes. For example, professionals often choose saws with storage. Another useful feature is a LED light. And cordless models should have a battery gauge.

  • Cost Considerations

  • If your budget allows, you would love having both corded and cordless saws. Sooner or later you will start a project that requires both of these. Sometimes, you will need a corded saw and the next time you won’t be able to manage without a versatile cordless saw. Therefore, consider getting both of them.

    The more expensive models usually have better quality parts and will last for generations with proper care. And if you use your saw on occasional projects, a good circular saw will deliver everything you need for decades.