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A Beginner's Guide to Buying a Circular Saw

A Beginner's Guide to Buying a Handheld Circular Saw


There are many woodworking tools you need in a workshop. However, a circular saw is perhaps the most flexible tool because it can cut in straight lines or create rounded incisions. There are many types of circular saws available, but each comes in handy for certain projects. Here are some factors to consider before buying a circular saw.


Hands guiding circular saw through board

Power Sources


Corded Circular Saws

Corded circular saws should be the go-to option for professional craftsmen and those who plan on spending a long time cutting project materials. 

Benefits & Uses...

  • Power for hours - With a corded circular saw, you can plug in and cut for hours at a time without having to recharge or replace a battery.
  • Less is more - Corded saws don't require bulky, heavy battery packs, charging stations and other accessories that can really weigh you down around a jobsite.
Corded circular saw being guided through lumber

Cordless circular saw being guided through lumber

Cordless Circular Saws

With a cordless circular saw in your collection, you'll have the freedom to go wherever the project takes you without having to worry about having a dedicated power source nearby.

Benefits & Uses...

  • Wireless freedom - If you're an on-the-go worker who needs to be able to pack up quickly and get to your next project, cordless saws can help you travel faster and more efficiently.
  • Endurance - Just because cordless circular saws don't have a power cord doesn't mean that they can't handle demanding projects. Before a long day on the job, just be sure to charge the battery and some replacement power packs.

Drive Types


Worm Drive

Worm drive-style motor placement is less common in certain regions of the country, but offers a handful of distinct advantages over the sidewinder.

Benefits & Uses...

  • Sight alignment - Since the blade is on the left of a worm drive saw, lining up your cut can be a lot easier depending on your cutting hand.
  • Extra torque - Due to the nature of the engine design, worm drive saws offer reduced RPMs, but make up for the loss with extra torque.


Worm drive circular saw cutting project materials

Sidewinder circular saw cutting through lumber


Sidewinder-style circular saws are probably the more common of the two motor placements. These compact saws are lightweight and powerful.

Benefits & Uses...

  • Size - Because the motor on a sidewinder saw is direct-drive, there are less components overall, leading to a more compact tool.
  • Weight - Sidewinders are great for cutting overhead or in tight spaces, since their light weight makes them easier to control from a variety of different angles.


Common Blade Types


Circular saw ripping blade


Ripping blades are specially designed for cutting with the grain of natural woods. 

Circular saw cross cut blade


Crosscut blades are best for, as the name implies, cutting across the grain of natural woods and through composite materials.

Circular saw combination blade


This is your general purpose blade. It's ideal for switching back and forth between ripping and crosscutting.

Circular saw finish blade


The high tooth count on finish blades provides a cleaner cut for visible edges and delicate materials.

Features of Handheld Circular Saws



Bevel Angle - An adjustable bevel angle allows you to cut materials at varying degrees, generally ranging from 90 to 45 and many integers inbetween.

Depth of Cut - If you're trying to cut into, but not through, a piece of wood, then adjusting the depth of cut appropriately will prevent the blade from slicing too far.


Handheld circular saw demonstrating bevel adjustment

Hand adjusting blade guard on circular saw

Safety Settings

Blade Guard - A retractable blade guard covers the saw blade anytime it's not in use. As you cut, the guard will automatically retract and reposition itself when you're finished.

Blade Brake - Electronic blade brakes automatically slow down the blade's momentum and quickly bring it to a stop when the saw's trigger is released.

Riving Knife - You may not find these on ever handheld circular saw, but they can help prevent the saw or board being cut from moving uncontrollably in the case of kickback.



Do more with your circular saw...

learn how to straight cut with a circular saw

learn how to change the blade on your circular saw