The Ultimate Buyer’s Guide For Circular Saws
If you want a saw that can quickly rip through or cross cut some wood, then a good general purpose circular saw is just the ticket. We have reviewed the best circular saws currently available in the UK market.
Circular saws are the most popular choice for this type of work and the biggest seller in the power saw market today. When these were first released, most people could simply not afford them at all. Today you can pick one up from about £25, though if you want something that will last, and have the important features, then allow a budget of about £50-100
Circular Saws gain their popularity as they are inexpensive and versatile. These types of portable saw can be used for a wide range of tasks such as bevelling, plunge cuts, ripping and cross cutting all of which can be done with great ease. All you need to figure out is the task you wish to accomplish and I will help you determine which device suits your needs to accomplish it.
Below I have provided a buying guide that should help you out. I have also done some individual reviews on some of the most popular choices for people which I have included right below.
Our Recommended Circular Saw Buy
The Evolution Rage-B Multi-purpose is the best buy right now because of its range of uses and a decent price point of around £55. Buyers at Amazon UK have also given this model an excellent rating of 4.7 out of 5 stars.
This model is easy to use, and you can adjust the depth of the cut and do 0-45 bevels. So with that capacity, a good rating a good price point and a 3-year warranty, this one becomes our number one choice.
The video below gives a very good explanation of what it can do.
A Cheaper Alternative Circular Saw
The winner in this category is the VonHaus 1200 Watt 185 mm multi-purpose which also comes with a 2-year warranty and only costs about £27 on average. As it happens buyers at Amazon have also rated this one at 4.7 out of 5 stars, so clearly they like it a lot.
It is similar in many ways to the Evolution model shown above. It is compact and light in weight and has a pretty distinctive look and feel to it. Like the model above it also uses a 1200 watt motor to power the cutting.
The people who tend to buy this one are people who want to cut up pallets, floor a loft, do decking and general purpose work. When we checked this one out it worked really well for almost all of the normal cutting jobs. It did take a bit of setting up, but not that long to get it done.
If Money Were No Object Circular Saw Choice
And if you are in the lucky position where money does not matter, then the only saw to pick would be the Dewalt 240 Volt 165 Mm Compact Circular Saw.
This one is priced at £75 and all the buyers have given this one a 5-star review. And yes it is that good. Like the other 2 models it has a 1200 watt motor which is powerful.
It is very light and compact which is exactly what you want with one of these and it comes with a rip fence which is great. This one performs flawlessly and makes any wood cutting job a very simple task to accomplish.
Like all Dewalt products it is as tough as old boots and can withstand drops and just about anything you can throw at it.
Best Compact Circular Saw
If you are looking for something that you can hold in one hand, and still have all the power and cutting capability, then check out the Worx Worksaw XL.
These are becoming a popular choice, when you don’t want to have to set up the full blown circular saws and tables. This one comes with 3 blades allowing you to cut through wood, metal and all types of masonry.
General Information On These Types Of Powered Circular Saws
The circular saw comes in various makes and models, as is always the case when buying any power saw or tool. I would recommend a circular saw that allows easy adjustment and blade visibility as seeing where you’re cutting is vital when making the most accurate of cuts. This is a feature that is often over looked, and yet it remains for me, the most important thing when you come to actually using the saw.
Understanding Their Uses
The best circular saws will have a high base alignment and kerf indicators that ensures a smooth operation when cutting on any type of Job. There are a few things to consider when buying this type of saw, it really depends on the user. Some will want one for DIY home improvements whereas someone else who works in the wood working/construction business and professionals will want something robust and powerful.
We will cover below some aspects which make some circular saws stand out from the others. This saw is nothing more than a motor with a blade attached. The wheel then spins very quickly and takes all the manual effort out of sawing through different materials such as wood, plastic and various types of metal.
They can be a dangerous tool and you do need to be really careful when you are using one. I have saw some pretty horrific accidents as a result of not being careful when using one of these.
Circular saws come in many different sizes, power sizes and styles with multiple different features. Yes it can get confusing, but the good news is that there is guaranteed to be one, that will suit your own particular individual needs.
On a regular basis, manufacturers are adding features to these, to try and make their brand stand out and be different from the others. Our advice here is to ignore the advertising and marketing hype and just focus on the important features that you will need to complete the jobs you need doing.
The Basic Component Parts of A Circular Saw
What Can A Circular Saw Be Used For?
This is a general purpose saw that takes the work out of sawing and you can, or should be able to use it, to cut through any type of wood, irrespective of how dense the wood is, or what condition it is in. By this I mean if the wood is damp or heavily filled with knots. It is used extensively in the construction and building industries, and many home owners, will have one of these in their workshop, tool shed or garage.
Other people will use it for cutting through metals such as those used for trunking, conduit and light aluminium. It is a versatile saw and a good one to have in your garage or workshop as and when you need it.
What Are The Different Types & Designs of Circular Saws?
There are several designs when it comes to circular saws. but in essence there are:
- The Sidewinder
- The Worm Drive
The main difference is really where the motor is positioned, and then how that motor transfers the power to the gears, and eventually to the blade. Below I have gone into a little more detail on both.
Understanding The Sidewinder
The sidewinder is also a more compact saw due to this design. This design also means that the average speed the blade turns at will be about 6,000 rpm which is pretty fast. It does however have less torque than the worm drive. The sidewinder usually has the blade located on the right hand side.
Understanding The Worm Drive
With the worm drive, the position of the motor is at the rear of the tool and it then uses two gears, at right angles to each other to spin the blade. The average speed of this blade will be around 4,500 rpm, but the actual driving torque is much higher. Due to the rear position of the motor, a worm drive circular saw is longer and much heavier than the sidewinder version. The worm drive usually has the blade located on the left hand side.
Your First Key Decision?
So which type should you get? The sidewinder has the blade on the right, so if you are right handed, the weight of the saw will be able to rest on the wood that is being cut, which is good. However the trade off is that the actual sight line of where you need to cut is a little restricted. The sidewinder is a great choice if you need to do work overhead. It is also a good choice as both of your precious hands are kept well away from the cutting area. generally speaking the sidewinder is a great deal easier to handle. With the worm drive the blade is on the left hand side, which means the motor weight is on the right.
To follow a cut line is really easy when using a worm drive. This one is great for ripping sheets of wood, framing, major renovation work, or for cutting when you are holding a piece of wood. My favorite use for a worm drive is doing plunge cuts and these are made simple using a worm drive circular saw. It is also a more powerful saw for heavier types of sawing such as going through wet wood. The worm drive will also need oil from time to time and that is not required with a sidewinder type. On the other hand, they are also a lot quieter to use.
Worm Drive vs Sidewinder Summary
The worm drives I think tend to be more heavy and unbalanced, though having said this they are filled with an enormous amount of power (Mr Professional). Sidewinders obtain their name from the protruding motor which is situated from the side of the blade these are much cheaper and tend to be a lot lighter (Mr DIY). Other types of highly portable saws are the trim saw which is simply a scaled down version of the circular saw and not to forget the portable cordless saw. We have covered those off in separate articles.
Which Is Best?
This debate has gone on for years in the building industry. it comes down to personal preference and both Roy and I use the sidewinder, as it is lighter, more versatile, needs less maintenance and has been able to handle any job we have ever used it for. You can also get a cordless version of the sidewinder, and that is the one that is by far the most popular. The sidewinder is also cheaper than the worm drive version, so here at the Saw Doctor, we say if in doubt, go with a sidewinder. So, now that we have gotten that decision out of the way, what else should you be considering. We think the next big question is this.
Corded or Cordless Circular Saw?
This just comes down to where you plan to be using your saw. If it is in different places then you need the saw to be portable so the choice has to be cordless. The disadvantage of this choice is that you will always need a charged up battery. If you plan on doing most of your work in a workshop or garage, then get a corded one and you never have to worry about having a saw ready to use.
If you opt for the corded version, then you will need an extension cord or lead almost always, as the leads that come with these are never long enough. We are lucky in that we have each type so the best of both worlds, but if I had to pick just one, it would be the cordless. Not only do you not have to worry about trailing power leads, but I can saw just about anywhere I like.
The cordless versions are however slightly more expensive, but for a few extra dollars, you get a whole lot more flexibility. Corded versions are better for heavier work like tiles, stone, masonry or if you plan on regularly cutting lots of wood. Hopefully this narrows down your choices even more for you.
The Features & Benefits Of Circular Saws
I have put together this guide to help you decide which circular saw is best on the market and suits your specific needs. If you can decide on a sidewinder or worm drive, you have made the first important decision. If you have then decided whether it is to be corded or cordless, then another huge step has been taken. Now we want to look at the other features that may help sway your final decision. This is where you really get into the nitty gritty features, some of which are important, and some of which are nice to have. If you plan on buying just a single saw, then get one with all of the important features, and if you can afford the nice to haves, then that will be a nice bonus.
Circular saws come in different blades sizes which are:
The most popular is the 7.25 or better known as the 7 1/4″ blade. What difference does the blade size actually make anyway? It comes down to the depth of cut that you will be able to get. The bigger the blade, the deeper the cut you will be able to make.
Now you will need different types of blades for different cuts, but the actual blade size is what will determine the depth that you can cut through. Saws with blades of 6″ or more can handle standard 2″ wood even at an angled cut. If you wanted to get through a 4″ piece of wood with an angle, you would need a bigger 12-14″ blade.
So the simplest way to decide which blade you need, is to think of the thickest piece of wood you will have to cut through. If this is going to be an angled cut, then don’t forget that the depth will be wider. The vast majority of people buy a 7.25″ blade which can handle about 90% of all jobs.
Depth and Angle of the Blade – Cutting Depths
Now something you do need to put a bit more thought into is the ability to adjust the depth and angel of the blade as this is one of the most important elements of any power saw. Most Circular saws I have ever come across either use a knob or levers to make adjustments.
I strongly recommend using levers as an alternative to saws with knobs as they are much quicker and easier to use. Using a circular saw with adequate adjustments for the blade to make sure the base edge will remain parallel with the blade so that it won’t veer off when guided with a straight edge.
Top Tip – Firstly I would suggest taking a good look at the blade when the base plate is set at 0° cutting depth; this is how deep you can make a cut while the saw is not being used to cut a bevel. If you wish to cut bevels or mitres with your saw, it is paramount that you get a saw which has the ability to make adjustments to the base plate.
Watch out for the amount it will allow you to adjust, and most saws offer between 45° and 90°. Blades are Vital when it comes to your saws performance, so I would urge you to make sure you are using the correct blade for your task and that your blade depth has been set up correctly for the particular cut.
A key feature I like to consider as professional Carpenter is the versatility of the saw. The real capabilities of any circular saw most definitely boil down to versatility and the cutting style it allows. The ability to make certain cuts really depends on the saw type for your specific needs.
When bevelling, this will call for a saw that has a tilting base to ensure angled cuts. If you don’t plan on doing bevel or angled cuts, then no need to worry, so just get a basic saw. The picture below shows a circular saw being used to make a bevel cut.
You will drop your saw – please remember I said that!!! No matter how protective we are of our tools, they will get dropped and these saws do not bounce. That usually means for a circular saw, that the shoe will get damaged. Some shoes are made of cast iron and they are a lot harder to damage or bend, than a light aluminium shoe.
Cast iron shoes are also heavier, so yet again you have to balance the weight against the durability and decide which will suit you best. I like the lighter shoe material, but then have some ribs built into them that offer a lot more strength to the shoe. For me that is a practical compromise.
I would never have considered this one to be that important, but Roy who uses a circular saw every single day, has told me this is a “must have” feature. The laser shines a beam of light on to the cutting line and makes sure you get an accurate cut. There is no way I am going to argue with Roy.
Brakes – And Electric Braking
If you have used a circular saw without a brake, then you will know that when you release the trigger, it takes a few seconds for the blade to stop turning. One with a brake feature does this in under 2 seconds. Is it necessary? No, but it is a nice to have, and as far as your own safety goes, it is an excellent feature.
Power and RPM
If you have opted for a cordless then Volts (V) is the measurement you should look for. With a corded version it is measure in Amperes (Amps). As a basic rule of thumb the bigger these are the more power. This is however a crude measure as it is more about the torque that gets delivered to the blade, that determines the actual cutting power.
An important thing is power, the rating of the motor should be high for example a 1500 watt motor is fast and powerful, and this results in a high RPM.
You guessed it, the higher the RPM then the faster the blade will spin. That makes life a lot easier when making cuts in relation to the control of the saw. More Power will in turn give you more control – this then gives you the ability to make cuts on more durable materials.
A more powerful motor in most cases will typically give you the option of running a bigger blade. So, pay particularly good attention when reviewing the speed that the blade will travel at.
Blade Changing Is Important
No matter which saw you buy, at some stage you will need to change the blade. If it has a spindle or shaft lock, then it makes this a great deal easier.
Many of the saws come with adjustable handles and this is a nice feature to have. It is not an essential feature, but I have found it to be very useful in terms of comfort, and ease of use.
Making Plunge Cuts
As a man of the trade I make plunge cuts day and daily, so please if you are the same do not even consider getting anything other than a plunge saw. However, if you only make the occasional plunge cut then certainly a circular is more than capable to perform this for you.
Bearing in mind that the saw you have does not have a riving knife or has a removable riving knife and please bear in mind a riving knife is there for your safety. It is a specially designed feature to prevent your circular from kicking back. So, again I would recommend keeping a close out if you have plans on making the rare plunge cut.
This is a very long guide, but hopefully we have covered off the main and most important features to consider, when it comes to buying a circular saw. There is certainly a lot to consider. For most people though, a basic good quality saw is probably all you will ever need.
For the lower end brands you can pick one of these up for around £25-30 and it will do about 90% of most jobs around the house, where this type of saw can be used. Something in a higher brand like Dewalt will cost more at around £75-100, but for that you get a professional saw. It will also last you a lot longer.