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Circular Saws Review
The Best Circular Saws
Based on our testing, we determined that the Makita Magnesium 5007MGA, the DeWALT DWE575SB and the SKIL 5280-01 are the best circular saws currently on the market. These tools are well designed and have excellent cutting capacities, which makes them versatile and easy to handle. Finally, they have a lot of power, so you can cut through even the most difficult of materials.
How Do Circular Saws Work?
In the pantheon of power tools, an electric saw is high on the list of must-haves for do it yourselfers and carpenters alike. Whether you want to build furniture or frame a house, you need a reliable saw that’s powerful and portable. That's why we've compiled a list of the best electric circular saws available.
An electric circular saw is a powered blade with powerful cutting teeth attached to an adjustable lever, which allows you to cut at various depths and angles. This type of saw is easy to set up. You can rest it on a board or plywood that is supported by sawhorses or a saw table and line up the blade with your measurement mark. Since it is an electric tool, a circular saw needs to be connected to a power source, but it’s still more portable than a chop saw or other type of saw that’s too bulky to take on the go.
If you are looking to add a circular saw to your collection, you might also take a look at other tools that can help you complete your DIY projects such as table saws, laser line levels and cordless drills.
Circular Saws: Consider a Different Type
All circular saws share a few common features; for example, they are portable, have the same basic design and are all relatively high power. However, there are a few different types of power saws, and they each lend themselves to specific projects better than others.
The most common type is the sidewinder circular saw, also known as an inline saw. The blade attaches directly to the motor's driveshaft, which keeps the saw lightweight and compact. All the circular saws we chose to review are sidewinder saws because of their power, design and versatility. However, there are other saw types to consider for different situations.
Worm-drive saws are some of the best portable cutting tools on the market because of their raw power – they use a worm gear to translate the power from the motor to the blade more effectively than a sidewinder saw. They can carve through even the most difficult materials, and the handle rests behind the tool so you can better control kickback if you do meet resistance while cutting. However, these tools sacrifice maneuverability for raw power, making them slightly awkward to handle, especially for smaller cuts.
Cordless circular saws are the epitome of portable cutting tools. This type of saw is less powerful than its corded counterparts, but not having to drag an extension cord with you is very convenient. If you're working in an area where an outlet isn't easily accessible, cordless tools are the most useful.
Finally, mini circular saws, also known as trim saws, are great for finish work or wall paneling because you can make quick cuts on the spot. These saws can rip through a variety of lighter materials, including low-profile lumber and fence boards. To learn more about trim saws, check out our article about the Rockwell Versacut Mini-Circular saw.
Circular Saws: How We Tested, What We Found
As we researched circular saws, we identified the features that are most important to the average user and used them as guides for our testing. We evaluated each product on our lineup with hands-on tests to verify the accuracy of manufacturer information and to see how well its features work, something you can only know by actually using the saw.
We tested each saw by cutting 2 x 4 wood boards and plywood, which are the most common types of wood used by everyday consumers. As we cut each board, we evaluated the saw’s cutting features, cutting depths and angles, and safety features. We also contacted the manufacturer as both consumers and reviewers to evaluate the company’s services and support.
After we tested all of the saws, we used formulas to weigh each of the features based on their importance to you, the consumer. Our rankings are more than subjective; they use numbers and real data to determine which products deserve the top spots.
What You Should Look for in a Circular Saw
When we tested, rated and ranked the best circular saws, we broke down their features and benefits into the following categories to help you see which one is right for you and why.
Power and cutting ability may seem like the most important considerations when buying a new power tool, but design is actually what separates the best circular saws from those that are just good. All the saws on our lineup are accurate and powerful, but not all of them have convenient features like dust chutes and blowers. Devices with dust chutes have an opening on the back that whips saw dust away from the blade, which makes it easier to see and cut. Other saws have a dust blower, which pushes sawdust away from the blade so you can see where you are cutting and maintain an accurate line. Some saws have both, and we found that the combination was particularly helpful during our testing.
We also found it was helpful when the manufacturer included a carrying case. All the circular saws we compared weigh 12 pounds or less, and even though they are lightweight, they are also clunky. This isn’t the sort of tool you want to haul around without something to contain all the pieces. Saws that include a carrying case were easier for us to transport. A case is also good for storage, as it can keep you from losing the included pieces or extra blades, and it can keep the cord from twisting up.
Lastly, some tools included a wrench to help remove the blade. To make it even more convenient, the wrench often stores away neatly in the saw so you don't lose it. This feature is helpful when you assemble your saw, tighten the blade and take the saw apart for cleaning.
Cutting features on circular saws are similar across the board, but there are still important things to note. As we tested, we explored each tool’s ability to cut both 2 x 4 boards and plywood sheets. We found that all of them can cut, but some do so better than others.
The higher the tool’s bevel capacity, the more flexible it is, as it can cut at a sharper angle. Some of the saws also have bevel stops, which lock in your cutting angle – if you want to cut a 45-degree angle, the bevel stop guarantees you accurately and consistently do.
All the circular saws we reviewed are extremely powerful – on average, they have a power rating of 5600 rotations per minute (rpm). Our conclusions from testing power are based on how the tool feels while it runs. For example, we noted how well the saw handled, its speed, and if it stuck or jammed. These are all subjective measurements that reading about a tool's rpm won't tell you. Each of our circular saw reviews breaks down the specifics on how the tool handled during each phase of testing.
We wanted to leave testing with all of our fingers intact, so we took safety precautions such as wearing work gloves, protective glasses and ear covers. However, the tools have additional safety features, which are certainly important.
Professionals and experts may feel comfortable using powerful saws that skimp on safety features, but DIY users and beginners should look for tools that make safety a priority. All of the saws we tested have a blade guard, which covers the blade when the saw is not running.
Some include additional features like a trigger lock, which acts much like the safety on a handgun. When the lock is on, the blade won’t spin, even if you pull the trigger – you must unlock the trigger to use the saw. Additionally, some models have an electric brake feature that slows down the blade quickly so it doesn’t continue spinning at 5000 plus rpm after you finish cutting.
In addition, some saws have indicator lights that tell you when the saw is plugged in. This may seem unnecessary, but people often step away and then come back to their saws to make another cut or adjust an angle and forget that it’s plugged in. It is a helpful feature that your hands and the local paramedics will appreciate.
Help & Support
All the products that made our list come from reputable manufacturers with established customer service, and each tool has a warranty. These saws aren't overly expensive, but a warranty is still nice, especially since they have so many moving parts. Many manufacturers have product manuals and FAQs on their websites to help you narrow down your decision and maintain your tool after purchase.
Contributing Reviewer: Danny Chadwick