Best Circular Saws in 2023 – Buyer’s Guide, Reviews and Comparison
Inexhaustibly versatile — the circular saw is an essential power tool in every serious DIYers armory. Whether you need a rip cut, cross-cut, or bevel — these saws deliver. Their round blades with evenly-spaced teeth tear through plastics, timber, and sheet metals with ease. While corded types deliver more grunt — many users opt for battery-powered models as they’re more portable and reduce the risk of cord cuts. And, although circular saws require a little practice for perfectly clean finishes — they can be wielded by the complete novice.
Circular Saw Categories
Circular Saw Information
Circular Saws Categories To Choose From
Sidewinder or In-Line
The most common form, and most budget-friendly, of circular saw on the market. These machines are distinguishable by a motor located to the left of the blade — making them highly compact. Featuring few movable parts, they are low on maintenance and power efficient. These units are ideal for use in confined spaces or completing overhead work.
For more heavy duty or intricate projects — you need a worm drive. These saws possess powerful motors located behind the blade — driving it through a complex gear system. While this lowers speed, it cranks up the grunt — making lighter work of tougher materials. Furthermore, their elongated design improves sightlines, allowing for precise control.
Like a worm-drive — hypoid models have a motor behind the blade. Their difference is that they use non-intersecting, beveled gears. What that means for the user, is these circular saws deliver the same heft as worm drives — but require no oiling, little maintenance, and are quieter in operation. Perhaps their only downside is that they can be heavy and induce hand fatigue.
Circular Saw Top Picks
|Check Price at AmazonMakita 5007MG Review Makita 5007MG Review|
|Check Price at AmazonDeWalt DWS535 Review DeWalt DWS535 Review|
|Check Price at AmazonMakita 5377MG Review Makita 5377MG Review|
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How Does a Circular Saw Work?
Circular saws are popular handheld power tools that are a must-have addition to any carpenter’s or builder’s collection. We want to show you how exactly a circular saw works. Since this is a very powerful automatic tool, it is best to take precautions at all times. Read on and learn more.
Finding the Best Circular Saw – Buying Guide
If you’re planning on purchasing a circular saw, there are some things you should pay attention to in order to get the best deal possible. If you don’t know what to look for, you could consequently end up with a unit that either doesn’t do what you wanted it to, or costs more than it should. Both scenarios are pretty bad, especially if you’re on a limited budget. Take a look at this guide, and you’ll get a much better idea of what to look for in these machines.
Different Types of Circular Saws
Sidewinder or In-Line
The sidewinder circular saw uses a motor with spur gears. Because of the nature of these gears, the motor has to be in line with the spinning blade — hence the name, in-line. What this means is that the blades spin quite fast, at around 6000 RPM. The position of the motor makes these saws desirable, as it makes the unit compact and lightweight.
The blade is usually on the right side, while the weight is on the left. Thanks to this design, the weight of the tool is on the board instead of being above the cut. The downside of this is the fact that it’s hard to see the cut line while you’re making the cut.
As far as safety goes, this type is one of the safest, because both hands usually stay sufficiently far away from the blade.
In comparison to other types, the biggest advantages of the sidewinder circular saws are their compactness and lack of weight. Ease of use is also an element to think about — in-line circular saws are usually the easiest to operate and don’t require much experience.
When it comes to pricing, there are many different scenarios. In other words, you can find a cheap one, but it isn’t likely to fulfill your expectations or needs. However, the high quality models are quite affordable and accessible, even if you are on a tight budget. Therefore, even though you might not have a lot of money to spend, you can still find a decent unit with a couple of helpful and much-needed features.
With the blade on the left side of worm drive machines, this leaves the majority of the weight on the right side. This particular design alters the way the blade is installed, meaning it’s not the same principle found in other types. The main advantage of this design is that you can see the cut as you’re making it, but it can be hard to get used to it if you’re transferring from a sidewinder unit.
A lot of people who use worm drive machines usually take advantage of the unit’s weight by cutting wood in a handheld position. The length of these machines also helps with cutting wide stacks of dense lumber. Furthermore, plunge cuts are much easier with these than with in-line types.
The worm drive power transfer method makes these units one of the most powerful within this category. Thanks to the lack of auxiliary mechanical parts, the worm drive system is able to deliver impressive amounts of power and RPM, thus easily cutting through wood of any density. However, these machines tend to struggle with smaller cuts. So, if you’re looking to achieve extraordinary precision with small cuts by using a worm drive machine, we have some bad news for you — it’s not going to meet your expectations.
The saws in this category tend to be a bit more expensive than in-line models, but it’s not a massive difference. It all comes down to what you want to do with it and whether it’s the right tool for a particular application.
The main difference between worm drive and hypoid units is in the gears. The hypoid type utilizes gears that are conical shaped, while the worm drive uses worm-shaped gears. It may not sound comprehensive, but the differences are quite subtle.
The main advantage of these models is the torque. The fact that the motor is parallel with the blade means it’s transferring power directly to the blade, thus lowering the RPM and increasing the torque. Increased torque is also a great benefit to the stronger gear assembly.
When it comes to application versatility, hypoid machines do well. These machines have a longer length because of the orientation of the motor, which results in an increased cut length and a different feel, due to the position of the handle.
A slight downside of hypoid types is the weight increase in comparison to other types. They weigh a few pounds more, but the weight can be used to your advantage, especially if you’re used to cutting with lumber resting on a foot.
The blade is positioned on the left side of the unit, which might be a problem to some people who are used to working with standard models. However, it’s a minor difference and you should get used to it quite quickly. What’s good about hypoid saws is that they usually don’t require manual lubrication.
Makita is one of the most popular manufacturers of hypoid saws, and their units contain oil that doesn’t require frequent maintenance. These units aren’t the easiest to use, but learning how to operate one shouldn’t be an issue if you follow the manufacturer’s instructions, particularly if you have previous experience. As far as prices go, you can expect a slight increase in comparison to standard models.
Thing to Consider When Choosing the Best Circular Saw
Before you opt to buy a particular product, it’s a good idea to take a moment and conduct research about its capabilities and efficiency. Apart from this, there are plenty of other elements you should consider before deciding to invest quite a lot of money in a single power tool.
Therefore, in order to avoid unpleasant scenarios, such as overpaying for a mediocre model, we’ve put this guide together to help you. It is designed to help you make an important decision, based on the specifications and our prior knowledge of these tools. If you don’t have any experience with these machines, we strongly recommend you take a few minutes to read this article.
The first choice you need to make is what type suits you the most, which usually depends on the nature of your project. For example, if you’re looking for a decent machine without too many auxiliary features, go with the sidewinder type. That way, you’ll save some money and purchase an easy-to-use unit.
On the other hand, if you’re more into professional applications, make sure to invest in a trustworthy product that’s capable of coping with the pressure. The key is in balancing the power of these tools. We don’t recommend that you buy an overpowered machine, but be careful to avoid one with insufficient power for your needs.
Bevels, capacity, angles
Cutting capacity and depth are crucial. Look for saws that have 0 degrees of maximum cutting depth. Furthermore, the max bevel cut should be at least 45 degrees, especially if you’re planning on cutting miters and angles. For more demanding angles, you should get a miter saw — the circular ones simply won’t do the job well.
Blade quality is something many people oversee and neglect. However, it’s a huge mistake because the quality dictates efficiency and performance. In other words, if you install a cheap blade, don’t expect a miraculous performance — it won’t happen.
Speed and Control
Even though many people don’t care about max RPM, it’s quite an important number. The math behind this is pretty simple — the more RPM, the more power, that’s it. Naturally, the more power you have in the blade, the cleaner the cuts. Also, more power equals more control. Therefore, you can cut through tougher and dense materials due to the increased control over the machine.
Important Features to Look in a Circular Saw
While most people consider this feature somewhat irrelevant, it’s actually pretty important, especially if you’re a professional. Even though there aren’t many power deviations on the market, the difference between a 10-amp and 15-amp motor is massive.
However, people who occasionally use these tools probably don’t need more than 10-12 amperes for standard wood cutting. On the other hand, the professionals do need quite a bit of power if they want to reduce downtime and increase productivity. The standard amperage for particularly powerful models is around 15 amps.
Ease of Use
Most of these machines look quite similar to each other. However, there are some crucial differences that you need to look for. The burden here is that you can’t really do it online. Instead, the ideal solution would be to pay a visit to a hardware shop and look at the different models in person. That way you can pinpoint the exact thing you want instead of guessing based on online reviews and descriptions.
If you can’t visit a hardware shop in person, make sure to look for the easy-to-use models online. Professionals already know what to do when it comes to choosing the right unit for their projects.
Design and Build Quality
Even though the design is solely a matter of personal preference, there are some things you should avoid. For example, if you find a model with a lot of plastic parts, there’s a good chance that it’s prone to vibration. Some manufacturers alleviate the problem by putting cushions and buffers over the plastic parts. It usually works fine, but there are some shortcomings, such as tearing and wear.
As far as build quality is concerned, there’s not much to talk about because you’ll probably be able to recognize a poorly-built unit right away. Aim for those that contain as many metal parts as possible.
Although this isn’t a feature per se, it’s quite important. We cannot give you a lot of tips when it comes to the price, but one thing we can say is – avoid buying cheap models. It’s never a good idea, even if you cannot invest more money than you have in your pockets. Cheap tools usually break quickly, but the more important thing is that they can be a serious safety hazard, due to the lack of safety mechanisms.
Top Circular Saws from Each Category
Our Rating: 4.6
This high-powered Makita saw is a conventional design, packed with useful features that aim to alleviate the hassle of cutting dense wood. Due to its power, good balance, and lightweight design, you won’t have an issue making clean cuts. The 15-amp motor delivers up to 5800 RPM and guarantees durability and efficiency.
If you’re a woodworking enthusiast, then you may already be aware of Makita’s quality and endurance in their machines. Accuracy is aided by two integrated LED lights that are designed to help calibrate the cut line.
The cutting capacity is okay, but not particularly impressive. This model features positive bevel stops, allowing you to cut various angles without too much effort. The bevel capacity is 0-56 degrees, with positive stops at 22.5 and 45 degrees. While we call it a versatile machine, there is still room for improvement, especially with the bevel stops. However, the included ruler makes up for some of the shortcomings.
When it comes to advantages, there are many of them. The most obvious one is build quality, especially comparing it to the affordability of this unit. It’s made of durable and reliable materials, meaning you won’t have to worry about sudden malfunctions.
One big disadvantage of this model, according to many critical reviews, is the absence of dust control.
The machine is quite easy to set up and use, even if you’re not experienced. Make sure that you read the user manual first, though, regardless of your previous experience with these machines. The Makita 5007MG is a worthy investment both for professionals and enthusiasts.
Our Rating: 4.7
Our Rating: 4.7
The magnesium construction of this particular model provides optimal handling for the user, regardless of their expertise. As you can assume, the Dewalt DWS535 is very easy to use, lightweight, and powerful enough for a vast array of applications.
DeWalt is a well-respected brand among power tool enthusiasts — the company has been manufacturing quality tools for many years. Needless to say, this particular model is a great example of the overall quality, precision, and cost efficiency of DeWalt products.
The motor spins the blade at around 4800 RPM while in the no-load regime. The spindle lock on the top of the model allows you to change the blade within minutes, thus drastically reducing downtime.
There are plenty of useful features in this model. For example, the Toughcord system protects the cord four times better than any other, allowing you to use the machine safely without thinking about potential hazards regarding electricity.
Safety is okay but not impressive. One can’t say it’s not a safe product, but there’s always room for improvement. For example, we would love to see a transparent blade guard on this unit instead of a plain metal one. On the other hand, it’s more of a personal preference than a safety issue.
One of the things many users praise is the balance of this unit. Even though some might not comprehend the importance of balance, it is quite crucial, especially if smaller cuts are in question. Therefore, small cuts are a piece of cake for this model.
Another great thing is the sheer power coming from this unit. If you’re looking for a saw that’s able to cut through anything like a hot knife through butter, the DWS535 would be a good choice. The DeWalt DWS535 is an affordable piece of equipment, there’s no question about that, but it’s not an all-around unit.
Our Rating: 4.5
Once more, Makita excels in power, accuracy, and compactness. The 5377MG model is quite similar to the 5007MG, but with some differences, the most noticeable of which is the design. However, the features stayed more or less the same. As far as build quality goes, Makita never ceases to amaze its customers with its high-end quality for an affordable price.
The powerful 15-amp motor spins the blade at 4500 RPM, with the help of an innovative process called compressed winding. It’s a pretty straightforward principle and yet quite effective. It allows the size of the machine to stay the same while delivering heavy-duty performance.
Hypoid gears are known for their durability, and they don’t prematurely wear out, which is quite important, especially for professional use. Longevity is one of the main advantages of this model.
However, hypoid units require constant lubrication, which can sometimes be a burden if you are in a hurry. However, thanks to the oil bath technology, this particular model stays lubricated at all times during operation, so you don’t have to think about it.
The levers on the unit are rubberized, so, instead of utilizing sharp and rugged levers, you have the comfort of using the more comfortable rubberized ones. On the other hand, the hand grip isn’t cushioned or rubberized, which is disappointing. Even though the machine doesn’t vibrate too much, the lack of cushioning is still noticeable, especially during prolonged use.
There aren’t many downsides, but the most obvious one is the lack of sawdust control. You will stumble upon this problem a lot with these machines as most manufacturers didn’t incorporate dust control into the units. This may be an issue at times, but it’s usually tolerable.
The weight of this model is a major plus. Weighing only 10 pounds, this particular unit stands out as one of Makita’s lightest. The price is great, too — in fact, it’s one of the most affordable circular saws in this category.
Circular Saw Injury Prevention – Safety First
In a study conducted several years ago, the CPSC found that over 50,000 people were treated in the US for injuries associated with different types of saws. Naturally, the most common injuries involved deep cuts, nerve damage, and even losing fingers. In order to prevent these things from happening to you, there are some things you should pay attention to when operating a circular saw.
Keep Your Eyes on the Saw
A worrying number of people lose focus while operating a power tool. The reasons are usually other people, conversation, or even music. The most important tip here is not to lose focus while you’re cutting a piece of wood, because it can lead to severe consequences. While it’s not forbidden to listen to music or talk with other people while you’re working, it’s recommended that you don’t do it while the saw is working under full load. Those who sacrifice a few minutes of conversation are less likely to have anything bad happen. However, those that don’t are gambling with their lives.
Keep Your Hands off the Saw at all Times
You’ll often hear something along the lines of “Oh, it’s okay, the saw is turned off.” Needless to say, that sentence usually leads to cuts, nerve damage, or a vast array of other unpleasant conditions. Do not clean the scraps off the table with bare hands! Instead, use a stick or a broom to clean the workspace, even if you’ve turned the unit off. The only situation in which you can be certain nothing will happen is when the unit is unplugged from the socket. While it’s plugged in, there’s always a possibility of something going wrong.
Loose clothing and jewelry are dangerous, even though they don’t seem to be. There’s always a chance of a sleeve tangling up and getting caught up under the blade. As you may assume, the consequences are horrible. Rings and bracelets are as dangerous as clothing, if not more. Take your jewelry off and dress accordingly!
Use Appropriate Blades
Many people cut all sorts of stuff with a single blade, which is potentially a life-threatening hazard. The reason is simple — not all blades are designed to work with all materials. For example, if you try cutting aluminum with a blade that’s meant to cut wood, the chances of kickback are enormous. As you probably know, kickback is something to avoid as it can cause serious damage. Also, avoid dull blades — these are the number one reason for a kickback.
Unplug the Unit When not Working
As we already said, the safest way to handle a saw and make adjustments is when it’s unplugged from the socket. Even if your saw stalls and requires a restart, make sure to unplug it. Some models feature a restart button that can be used while the unit is still turned on, but we recommend taking it out regardless.
While clamping isn’t necessarily needed for processing wood, it’s a different story with metal parts or sheets. If you’re cutting metal, always make sure to clamp it first. It doesn’t matter where you clamp it, whether on a table or somewhere else, the most important thing is the fact that it is clamped. The reason for this is quite obvious — you don’t want stuff to move around the table while you’re coming in with a razor-sharp blade spinning at 6000 RPM.
Even though many of the latest models don’t require too much attention, it’s always a good idea to at least clean the machine and eliminate residue. You don’t have to take the whole thing apart, but it’s recommended that you at least take off the parts that aren’t mechanically crucial. For example, unscrewing the blade guard and cleaning it with an old rag takes only a couple of minutes, but is worthwhile.
Things like clogged ports or dirty mechanisms need to be treated before it’s too late. If you’re not comfortable with taking the machine apart, take it to a professional, and they will do it in a matter of minutes. It might cost a few dollars, but it’s well worth the money. You can easily carry out surface cleaning, re-lubing old parts, and so on. It may not seem as effective as the other tips, but rest assured it plays a significant role both in safety and longevity of your machine.
If you’re looking for a new circular saw, take a moment and check our reviews out. We’ve covered a couple of models that we think are worth checking out. It doesn’t matter whether you’re a professional or an enthusiast, you should be able to find something of interest. Every one of the models we reviewed offers affordability, quality, and precision.
If you’re an absolute beginner, make sure to read our supporting articles regarding general safety and precautionary measures. It’s always better to sacrifice a few minutes to read the information instead of skipping it and risking severe injuries.
As far as we are concerned, the units we reviewed are all worthy investments. It all comes down to your personal preferences and professional needs. If you decide to buy one of the products in our best circular saw reviews, you can rest assured that your choice will be a good one.