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A circular saw is one of the most common power tools in use today. With the appropriate blade, circular saws are capable of cutting wood, steel, masonry and ceramic tile. Learn how to find the circular saw design and features that will make your projects a success.
Circular saws make quick, straight cuts across a board (crosscuts) or along the board's length (rip cuts). You can also set a circular saw to make bevel cuts. Standard components on a circular saw include:
Circular saw sizes are usually classified by the diameter of their blades. Sizes of 5-1/2 to 7-1/4 inches are the most common. There are also many options available on circular saws. Choose your saw based on your specific needs.
You'll have two basic designs to choose from:
Sidewinder or inline saws are the most common, traditional circular saws. The motor is located along the same axis as the blade. A shaft runs directly from the motor to drive the blade. Sidewinder saws are more compact and lightweight than worm drive saws and are well-suited to most circular saw applications.
Worm drive saws have their motors positioned at a right angle to the saw blade. The motor uses gears to increase the torque transferred to the blade, which makes the saw well-suited for heavy-duty use. Worm drive saws are longer than sidewinder saws and tend to be quieter.
In addition to straight lines, circular saws can make several other types of cuts. Watch our DIY Basics video: What's That Cut Called?
Where and how you use your circular saw will help determine the power supply you need. Two types are available:
Cordless circular saws are convenient when working in areas where extension cords are difficult to use. And, since they are smaller than most corded saws, they work well in confined spaces. Cordless saws are best suited to cutting wood and wood products, due to the limitations of their batteries. They can cut tough materials, but the extra power needed for those applications drains batteries quickly. Cordless saws typically range in size from 5-3/8 to 6-1/2 inches.
Corded circular saws don't depend on batteries for power and are better suited for tough cutting jobs like masonry, steel and continuous woodcutting. Corded saws are available in many sizes, but the most common is 7-1/4 inches. A corded circular saw requires a suitable extension cord. Follow the device manufacturer's recommendations for compatible extension cords and see Power Cord Safety Tips.
Once you've decided on the design and power source, compare the features:
Always unplug corded power tools and disconnect the battery on cordless power tools when servicing them.
A key part of the saw is the blade. Different blades are available for different applications. When purchasing a blade, make sure it's compatible with your saw. Some common blade types are below:
Always follow the device manufacturer's operating, maintenance and safety instructions, including instructions on safety gear.