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Circular Saws

Circular Saws: Power and Versatility

The circular saw is the carpenter's all-around tool, and is among the most versatile and widely used of all saws. Circular saws can be used for crosscuts, bevel cuts and ripping such materials as plywood, hardwood and softwood. Although they are commonly designed with a wood-cutting blade, they can also be fitted with blades to cut masonry, metal or plastic.

Types of Circular Saws

The two main types of circular saws are worm-drive and sidewinder. You also have the option of corded or cordless models, as well as trim saws. Keep in mind what materials you plan to cut, and how much power, performance and convenience you want when evaluating which type of circular saw is right for you.

Worm-drive Saws

Worm-drive saws can easily cut through studs and plywood all day, making them a traditional favourite among professional carpenters. The motor on a worm-drive saw is located parallel to the blade, delivering enough torque to cut through wet lumber or concrete time and time again. However, in the case of a worm-drive circular saw, heavy-duty also means heavy weight. If you don't think you need the heavy weight power of a worm-drive saw, consider a saw that is lighter and easier to hold and carry.

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Sidewinder Saws

Sidewinder saws, also known as traditional or inline saws, are popular on many construction sites and tend to be the overwhelming choice of many homeowners. The motor on a sidewinder is perpendicular to the blade, making for a more lightweight design, and delivering enough power for most woodcutting tasks. If you need a circular saw for medium-to-heavy-duty cutting, without the extra weight of a worm-drive saw, look for a sidewinder saw with helical gearing to supply some extra torque.

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Other Considerations

Corded Vs. Cordless

Cordless circular saws offer easy portability, eliminating the need to haul around bulky extension cords or portable generators, an important factor if you travel regularly between jobsites. They also weigh considerably less than most corded models, but may have a smaller blade diameter than the standard corded size of 7-1/4", reducing the material thickness you can cut, and will have to be charged occasionally. Corded models, on the other hand, generally provide more torque and offer unlimited run times.

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Laser Guides

Some circular saws have built-in laser guides to help with precise, straight cuts. A laser line is projected on your workpiece, eliminating the need to clamp a straightedge to guide your path of cut. With a laser alignment system, you can first lay out your cut in pencil, and then travel over the pencil line as you cut for improved accuracy and efficiency.

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Trim Saws

Circular saws with smaller blade diameters, usually between 3-1/2" and 5-3/8", are commonly known as trim saws. Designed for finish carpentry work and other applications that involve thinner materials, trim saws are a smart choice for smaller craft and home improvement projects, and a variety of professional applications.

Circular Saw Blades

Circular saw blades

Circular saw blades come in a variety of sizes and can be designed for a number of different applications, from cutting wood to cement, to crosscutting blades and general-purpose blades. Choosing the right blade for each job will not only help improve your results, but workplace efficiency as well. Therefore, always look for blades that are designed for the material you intend to cut.

Blade diameters typically start at 3-3/8", with the most common size being 7-1/4". Generally, blades with more teeth will yield a cleaner cut, while blades with fewer teeth will deliver faster cuts, but rougher edges. Circular saw blades are typically constructed of steel or carbide-tipped steel. Consider the benefits of each:

Steel & Carbide-tipped

Steel: Steel blades are a more economical choice, but require frequent sharpening to extend their lifespan. The teeth can dull quickly, so they might be better suited for occasional use.

Carbide-tipped: Carbide-tipped blades are extremely durable, with their long life often compensating for their higher price tag. For masonry and metal applications, look for an abrasive wheel or diamond blade.

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Bevel Capability

Bevelling capability allows you to tilt the base to make angled cuts. Look for tool-less adjustment and positive stops for improved efficiency and accuracy when adjusting for common angles.


A clear view of the cut line is critical. If you are right-handed, but prefer a saw with a blade to the right of the motor, look for a notch in the upper blade guard to enhance visibility.

Electric Brake

An electric brake stops the blade quickly when you release the trigger, enhancing safety and helping you get ready for the next cut more quickly.

Easy-Change Blade System

Some saws offer one-step blade changes, either with or without the use of a tool. This is especially important to minimize downtime if you switch blades frequently.

Magnesium Housing

Magnesium housing protects the motor, extending tool life without adding a lot of weight to the circular saw.

Dust Blower

A dust blower removes dust from the cut line, enhancing visibility, and a dust port allows connection to a shop vacuum or dust bag to collect sawdust as you cut.