How to Choose The Best Circular Saw
Circular saws can make a range of cutting jobs easier. They’re especially useful for rip cutting (cutting a long length of wood along the grain), but are also great for cutting logs to make firewood, crosscutting, and creating bevels. Some people opt to use a circular saw for jobs when using a handsaw might get too tiring.
When buying a circular saw, there are a few points to bear in mind. Working out which design features are most important to you can help ensure you get the best circular saw for the job.
The Benefits of Owning a Circular Saw
Cutting timber with a handsaw is slow, tiring and hard to do well. If you want to avoid waving cut lines and a sore hand, a circular saw could be your answer. Here are some of the main benefits of using a circular saw:
- Generally, circular saws are not overly complicated to use and you don’t need to be an expert DIYer to get the hang of using one. With a bit of practice and a little know-how, you’ll be able to start cutting through wood.
- Some circular saws can cut through more than just wood. You’ll be able to find saws that can cut through hardwood, plastic and even mild steel without even changing the blade.
- They are portable tools so if you don’t have any space on your workshop table, you can use a circular saw in the garden or on the driveway.
- It’s possible to make straight, freehand cuts with a circular saw (although you’ll still need to use some form of guide).
If you think a full-size circular saw is too big for the job, or you need to get into tighter spaces, take a look at my guide to the best mini circular saws. They’re one of the handiest tools you’ve probably not thought about adding to your tool kit.
Different Design Features
Corded or Battery Powered?
The quality and reliability of battery powered tools have come a long way in the last few years. As battery life has improved, more and more professionals and savvy DIYers have switched to cordless circular saws, drills, and even table saws. They’re convenient, incredibly portable and you can use them just about anywhere, as long as your batteries are charged up.
But if you’re the sort of person who wants to know that your power tool is ready to go at the flick of a switch, or you don’t need to work off-site, then corded saws are the way to go. Corded circular saws are generally less expensive and offer more power than battery powered tools as well. It’s all about how you plan to use your circular saw.
Base Plate Material
The base plate is the rectangular base of the saw. It sits on top of the surface you are cutting.
Most budget/mid-range circular saws have an aluminium base plate. These are sturdy enough for the job, and help make the machine more light weight. However, they are not as strong as a magnesium alloy base, which are frequently used for upper-end machines.
If you intend to use your circular saw a lot, and not just for occasional use, a magnesium alloy base will be more hardwearing. However, these saws are generally more expensive than a circular saw with an aluminium base.
Making Bevel Cuts
Whilst most circular saws can make bevel cuts, the angles that they can achieve may vary. For making either bevel or mitre cuts, a cutting angle of 45° will be commonly required. The majority of circular cutting saws can achieve a 45° angle, but it’s worth checking before buying the machine just in case.
Choosing the Right Blade
Circular cutting saws can be equipped with different blades depending on what they’ll be used for.
Generally speaking, when cutting wood, a blade with around 24 teeth will be sufficient for most jobs.
Occasionally, when cross cutting or cutting plywood, the blade may start to splinter or create very rough edges. In these instances, using a finer blade with more teeth may come in handy. There are blades that are specifically intended for cutting plywood or cross cutting; they have many smaller teeth – up to 140.
Before buying a different blade, or changing the blade over, always check with the saw’s user manual to make sure you are doing everything according to the manufacturer’s recommendation.
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Circular Saw FAQs
What’s the ideal cutting depth for a circular saw?
A circular saw with a maximum cutting depth of around 6 cm should be optimal for most jobs. This is generally sufficient to get through most pieces of wood. You can adjust the cutting depth before sawing to make sure that it is properly configured for the wood you are sawing.
How do I change my circular saw blade?
Check your user manual for the precise steps, but the common way to change a circular saw blade is as follows:
- Always start by making sure that your saw is unplugged/the battery is removed.
- Press and hold the spindle lock to stop the blade from spinning and use the included Allen key to undo the nut that holds the blade on.
- Swap the blade out and replace the nut once the new blade is in place. Make sure that the blade has been put in the right way round.
- Ensure the blade is securely tightened to stop it from slipping.
What type of circular saw blades are available?
One of the best ways to get the most out of your circular saw is to choose the correct blade for the job. Most blades are tungsten carbide tipped (TCT) and usually, the higher the number of teeth, the finer the cut it makes. Multi-material blades are available if you need to cut through plastics, metals and other materials besides timber.
Do I need any accessories for my circular saw?
A roofing square or speed square can come in handy if cutting angles. This is a simple metal triangle with a stop on one end; you can hold it on a piece of timber as a guide and guarantee a 90° or 45° cut every time. A decent set of clamps can also be useful to have.
Do I need to wear any special safety gear when using a circular saw?
You should wear the correct personal protective equipment whenever operating power tools. Even though most circular saws have basic safety features such as a blade guard, and are relatively quiet, you should wear appropriate ear and eye protection. A dust mask can also protect from inhaling wood dust.
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