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Best circular saw

Best circular saw
(Image credit: @George Pastushok on Unsplash)

The best circular saws are a key item in almost every tool kit, thanks to their ability to make fast, accurate cuts in lots of different materials. When it comes to choosing the best circular saw for you, it’s important to keep in mind the type of work you expect to use it for as well as how often you expect to use it. We spent more than 80 hours researching and performing hands-on testing of the best circular saws on the market right now. Here are our recommendations. 

Best overall

SKIL 5280-01 Circular Saw review

(Image credit: Amazon)

SKIL 15-amp 7-1/4-inch circular saw

Perfect for DIY jobs

The SKIL circular saw is lightweight and easy to use, with lots of features including a laser guide for safer and more accurate cutting, and an advanced dust blower. The anti-snag lower guard is a nice touch too.

Pros:

  • Laser guide
  • Excellent dust removal
  • Spindle lock

Cons:

  • No rip fence
  • No electric brake

It has a safety lock and you need both hands to turn it on. This is handy for preventing the saw from starting accidentally.  It’s also well-balanced and easy to handle and maneuver. It features a spindle lock to hold the shaft in place while you change the blade, using a single hex wrench that you can store on the tool itself. It does sit towards the lower end of the scale power-wise so it’s not the best choice for heavy lumber work, but it can reliably work through DIY jobs.

Best cordless

Best circular saw

(Image credit: Amazon)

BLACK+DECKER 20V Max cordless circular saw

Battery-powered model

This circular saw from Black+Decker doesn’t restrain you with a bulky power cord. Instead, it runs on a rechargeable battery pack to give you 20V of high torque motor power to tackle big jobs no matter where they are. You do need to purchase the battery packs separately. 

Pros:

  • Cordless design
  • Adjust angle and depth

Cons:

  • Batteries and charger not included
  • Hard to replace blades

This saw is compatible with battery packs used for other BLACK+DECKER cordless tools. It’s easy to adjust this circular saw to accommodate different cut depths, or for clean and precise angle cuts. However, it is difficult to remove and replace the blade with several pieces needing to be removed before you can access the blade release button.

Best compact

WORX circular saw

(Image credit: Amazon)

WORX WORXSAW compact circular saw

Cuts wood, tiles, and plastic

This smaller-sized saw has the same power and ability as standard-sized circular saws with a powerful motor and a rotation speed of 3500 rpm. The dual handles of the WORXSAW saw give you great control that results in more straight cuts and better safety outcomes. 

Pros:

  • Multiple blades
  • Dual handles
  • Vacuum adapter

Cons:

  • Too small for large cuts

The Worx saw comes with two blades to cut soft and hardwoods, plastic, and harder materials like tiles. However, because of its more compact size, it can't handle thicker or larger materials unless you plan multiple passes to cut through. This saw has a vacuum adapter.

Best professional

Makita 5007MG Circular Saw review

(Image credit: Home Depot)

Makita Magnesium 7-1/4-inch circular saw

Several professional features

From highly durable magnesium components to a powerful 15-amp industrial motor, the Makita Magnesium circular saw creates clean cuts while also being lightweight enough to prevent aching wrists on long jobs. Features include a built-in dust blower and built-in LED lights to illuminate the line of cut.

Pros:

  • Magnesium components
  • Large cutting capacity
  • Powerful motor

Cons:

  • Loud

The Makita circular saw comes with a carbide-tipped blade that powers through nail-embedded wood. It easily tackles a wide range of work whether it involves dense structural panels or framing walls, floors, and roofs in a range of dimensional lumber. It is one of the loudest circular saw we tested.

Best value

Black & Decker BDECS300C Circular Saw review

(Image credit: Amazon)

BLACK+DECKER 7-1/4-inch circular saw

Good cutting power

This BLACK+DECKER circular saw is also one of the lightest on the market, weighing in at just 7 pounds. This is particularly useful if you suffer from sore joints or expect to be using the saw on long jobs. The 13-amp motor offers enough power for most cutting jobs, and the laser guide is a useful feature for more precision cutting. 

Pros:

  • Laser guide
  • Lightweight
  • Spindle lock

Cons:

  • No trigger guard

A spindle lock allows for quick and easy blade changes. This saw doesn’t come with a carry case. It also doesn't pack the power of some of the more professional-grade saws. But it's affordable and for DIY jobs this saw is more than adequate. Upgrading the blade will provide a better performance.

What to look for in a new circular saw 

Design

It’s easy to think that sheer power makes the best circular saw. It’s the smaller things, such as dust chutes, cord length, spindle locks, rip fences, and electric brakes, that make all the difference. A saw can cut at 6,200 RPM, but if it doesn’t include any of these features, it’s going to be a pain to use in the long run. These features enhance the durability and versatility of the tool in a profound way. An accessory as simple as an included carrying case makes the saw more portable, and therefore more useful.

Cutting features

The most important test we conducted was for handling efficiency. Our reviewers used each saw for several hours and compared their experiences to come up with a percentage score. Additionally, they looked at how deeply you can cut at 90- and 45-degree angles. They verified the bevel capacity, the wider the better, so you can cut to whatever degree you want. Positive bevel stops are also an important consideration since they allow you to quickly adjust the shoe for common angles.

How thick can a circular saw cut?

Circular saw blades range from about 6 1/4 inches to 10 1/2 inches in diameter. Generally speaking, the most common blade diameter is 7 1/4 inches, which can cut wood up to 2 inches thick. You can also cut materials up to 2 inches thick with a 6 1/2-inch blade, but 7 1/4 inches is still the most popular.

Still, less common, larger blades may come in handy if you work on projects that involve larger wood beams. Mayer mentioned the thick slabs needed for building tables and benches specifically.

Beyond size, there are other factors to consider as you choose the right blade for the job. Look for masonry blades when you need to cut brick or cinder block and tile-cutting blades for your flooring project. Also, you may need blades made of specialized, durable materials for certain projects. There are high-speed steel blades, which stay sharper longer than normal blades, as well as carbide-tipped blades that stay sharp even longer. Diamond tips can improve the quality of cuts on tiles.

How we tested circular saws

We subjected each circular saw we reviewed to a battery of hands-on tests. Our team of reviewers verified the accuracy of the manufacturer's specifications and tested the circular saws for accuracy, power, and ease of use.

Testing involved cutting 2-by-4s and plywood, similar to what a typical consumer would be working with, at various angles and depths. We assessed the sawdust/dust chute effectiveness, laser guide visibility, accuracy, and wood splintering.

These tests gave us a feel for each tool and firsthand knowledge of the advanced features that make them easier, safer, and more effective than their counterparts. Part of testing was evaluating the subjective aspects of these tools, such as using the electric brake and checking the blade stability to make sure it does not need tightening frequently.

We also recorded decibel readings to compare the volume of each tool. We compared the splintering on each tool using a high, medium, and low standard. We also cut plywood, allowing longer cuts to check for laser and LED light accuracy, sawdust collection, and general handling.

As a control test, we exchanged the blades that came with the saws for generic store-bought blades, verifying that the cuts were no different using other blades and that the saw itself performed consistently. Our testing also looked at how easy each tool was to assemble.

Why trust us?

At Top Ten Reviews, we evaluate products and services with hands-on tests designed to simulate your real-world use. When we tested circular saws, we judged the tools by comparing their design, cutting features, power features, and support options. Each product was subjected to a battery of tests, and results were combined with the subjective experiences of our team of reviewers.

We also reached out to the maker community. The maker culture combines do-it-yourselfers with technology enthusiasts to create original items for themselves, family, friends, and clients. Vincent Ferrari of Suffern, New York has a maker studio with an exhaustive array of tools “literally every [woodworking] tool under the sun with the exception of a jointer.” He creates everything from game and TV show props to unique picture frames, bookshelves, and much more.

When we discussed circular saws, he told us that he mainly uses them to cut down sheet goods like plywood and media density fireboard. He said he bought his saw because it fits well with the other tools he had from that brand. He did express a preference for models with a brushless motor, a larger blade, and more power.

Suffern emphasized that you’ll need to invest in a high-quality blade. In his experience, the blades that come included with most circular saws are inadequate. Spending the money to get a high-quality blade means that it will wear out less quickly and deliver a better-quality cut.

We also looked into the best safety practices while using a circular saw. Circular saws are dangerous and can cause major injuries, especially to your hands. If you misuse your tool, you can end up slicing off a finger or cutting into your palm, which can disable you or require surgery to repair.

A 2010 study published in the Journal of Trauma Management and Outcomes stated that circular saw injuries cause an average of 8.8 days of in-house treatment and an average of 52 months of follow-up. Additionally, subjects of the study missed an average of 14.8 weeks of work. So, it’s a financial blow as well as a physical one.

According to the Canadian Centre for Occupational Health and Safety, you should wear safety glasses, a face shield, a dust mask, and hearing protection when you operate a circular saw. Make sure you take every precaution to protect yourself when using a circular saw.

Stevie is a freelance digital consultant, copywriter and photographer. She's worked for brands like the Radio Times and Wallpaper*, and has also written for Amateur Photographer, Clash Magazine and Flash Pack, amongst others. Stevie's bylines cover all things related to the home - from air conditioning units to refrigerators to gas grills (and everything in between).