An In-Depth Circular Saw Buying Guide

A Circular Saw Buying Guide [In-Depth]

​Circular saws are much more intricate and elaborate than they used to be and knowing what's even out there is only half the battle! Some of the features are amazing and having a bit of knowledge on how they work, what the main differences are and what saw is better for what can help out tremendously!

​Circular Saws Parts And Features

​Depth Adjustment: ​The depth adjustment is located on the back of the saw (usually) and is either a flange type mechanism (shown in illustration) or a threaded type of bolt with a "T" on the end (mainly found on cordless models)

These have indicators on them, ​that ​tell you ​what ​depth your cut will be. These can range from 0" and go as deep as 2.75" but usually the maximum depth is around 2.5" or so for most models.

Depth Adjustment On Circular Saw

​Bevel Adjustment: ​The bevel adjustment is used to make the saw tilt and the range is anywhere from 0°, all the way up to 57° on some models.

This adjustment is always on the front of the saw and uses a lock and unlocking mechanism of some type. There is usually a dial that reads the degree and an indicator that shows you what angle you are set on.

Bevel Adjustment For Circular Saw

​Shoe: ​The shoe (or baseplate) of the saw is really the flat piece of metal that acts as the base and what the saw rests on. These are perfectly flat and can be made from steel, aluminum, magnesium or a strong plastic material.

The aluminum, magnesium and plastic shoes are lighter than the steel ones but are also not as strong and tend to bend easier than a steel one. The shoe also has guides for making rip cuts which are represented by numbers and use inches as their measurement (USA).

Shoe On Circular Saw


​Blade Guard: ​The blade guard is made up of an upper and lower section and the upper blade guard is fixed and doesn't move while the lower blade guard retracts on its own while you're cutting. There is also a lever that controls the guard retraction, which you can do manually but use extreme caution when using the retraction lever manually.

You want to make sure that the blade guard has a smooth action to it and doesn't get caught up and ​stuck while you are ​in the process of cutting.

​Blade Lock Mechanism: ​The blade locking mechanism is exactly what it sounds like and it locks the blade in place so you can remove or install ​the blade. Most saws have one of these mounted on the circular saw somewhere in the picture on the right illustrates one type of button, although they can look a little bit different than this one they all serve the same function.

It is rare that he saw would not have a blade locking mechanism on it but if it does not you will have to manually stop the blade from spinning in order to loosen the nut holding the blade on.

Blade Lock

​Blade Nut: ​The blade nut simply attaches the blade to the circular saw's arbor and is usually a half-inch nut, ​in most cases but can also be an allen wrench or a special type of mechanism.

These typically have reverse threads on them so to tighten the knot you would rotate it counterclockwise and to loosen the nut you would rotate it clockwise. This is because of the rotation of the blade while the saw is running.

Blade Nut

​Primary & Secondary Handles: ​The primary handle on a circular saw is the handle that has the trigger mounted onto it. This is the main handle and controls the power (on/off) on the saw and will control your cutting speed.

The secondary handle is optional and is used to stabilize the saw while cutting. This usually comes in handy when making a longer cuts like ripping a piece of plywood.

Primary And Secondary Handles

​Oil Fill/Check (if applicable): ​Some circular saws will require that you add gear oil every now and again, especially if you use it on a regular basis. Most of the time, these are simply just a nut that you unscrew and you are able to check the fluid level and drain/fill through the same hole.

Be sure to buy gear oil that is specifically made for circular saws and it is always recommended to use the manufacturers specified lubricant.

Oil Fill Location

​Brush Location (if applicable): ​Some saws will utilize brushes for their motor and knees will need to be replaced every so often and some manufacturers make this really easy to do and is simply a matter of unscrewing a cap, pulling out the brushes replacing them and re-installing ​new ones.

The tools needed, procedure and recommended intervals for changing out your circular saws brushes are different according to different manufacturers, see what they recommend and go from there.

Replacing Circular Saw Brushes


​Blade Wrench (if applicable): ​More often than not these days saws will come with their own blade wrench for changing out your blade and will be stored somewhere on the saw usually so you won't lose it and it makes it really easy and convenient to change out a blade as well.

These locations will vary, I have seen some stored on the shoe of the saw, by the motor and even on the handle. These can either be an open end ​wrench style or an allen wrench.

Blade Wrench

The Different Types Of Circular Saws

​What the different types of circular saws really comes down to is where the motor is located on the saw, among other things but is basically the easiest way to identify which type of saw is what. They also have different types of transmissions, gears, speeds and other things that make them stand out as well.

Worm Drive Circular Saw

Worm Drive: A worm drive circular saw has the motor located on the back of the saw and is typically more narrow than the other two types of saws. Worm drive saws also have ​good amounts of torque available and usually tend to operate in a little bit slower speed (around 4,500 rpms) ​compared to a sidewinder saw.

These saws use two gears to transfer power from the motor to the blade and will require a little bit more maintenance than any other saws because you will have to check and add/replace the oil used to lubricate the ​gears.

Hypnoid Circular Saw

Hypnoid: ​Hypnoid saws are very popular nowadays because they combine the ​torque of a worm drive circular saw with the low maintenance aspect of the sidewinder saw. The motor is also located on the back of the saw, like the worm drive but uses a sealed system which requires no oil to be checked or maintained.

These saws also use a different ​gear than the worm drive models and their gear is more of a spiral type of ​gear that is beveled which makes it run more efficiently, needing less power from the motor and ends up producing less noise too.

SideWinder Circular Saw

Sidewinder: ​Sidewinder circular saws (aka Inline Saw) are some of the lightest saws out there and the motor is mounted on the side of the saw, (either right or left) but is typically mounted on the right side of the saw. Most cordless models (nearly all) are a sidewinder type of saw. These are the lightest types of saws and operate at a pretty high speed (around 6,000 rpms, on average) compared to the other types.

Most of these have sealed motor systems too, which means that you do not have to add oil, making them more maintenance-free. These tend to be more popular among consumers and are usually a little less expensive than the other two types.

​Different Metrics Explained:

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Amps: ​This metric is less significant, in the fact that it does not show the amount of power produced by the saw but how much the motor draws. Usually though, a 15 amp motor will have more power output than a 10 or 12 amp motor because a motor that draws more will produce more (in general).

​Horsepower: ​Horsepower is usually associated with the amount of torque the saw produces but this number is represented with no load (nothing being cut) which usually slows the rpm and produces less HP than specified.

​Arbor Size: ​The arbor is the threaded bolt (in most cases) that the blade sits on and is what spins on the saw itself. Arbor sizes can vary but typically they are a standard 5/8" on corded circular saws and 

​Blade Diameter: ​The standard blade diameter for most corded circular saws is 7.25" and is what you will see most of the time. There are saws that use a 6.25" blade but are less common and finding blades this size will be harder, at least to find the variety that you do compared to a 7.25" blade.

7.25 Inch Circular Saw Blade
6.5 Inch Circular Saw Blade
5.5 Inch Blade
5 3-8 Inch Blade

Cordless circular saws tend to use a 6.5" blade but manufacturers now are making more and more cordless circular saws that use a 7.25 inch blade. These are the typical blade sizes for 18 V, 20 V and higher cordless saws and blades diameters may very depending on the voltage of the tool for instance a 12 V circular saw may run a 5 3/8 of an inch blade diameter instead of a 6 1/2 or a 7.25 inch.

​Cut Depths: ​Cut depths are usually measured in two different ways and these are when the saw is resting at ​its natural position (90°) and when the blade is ​beveled at a 45° angle. When you​r saw is beveled, the maximum cutting depth gets reduced quite significantly but most of the time saws are designed to cut through ​2x dimensional lumber, even at a 45° bevel.

​Bevel Capacity: ​The bevel capacity is the amount of bevel that the saw is able to achieve, maximum. Usually a 45° bevel is suitable for most projects by the majority of saws nowadays go past 45° and into the mid-50° range.

​Weight: ​Weight is pretty self-explanatory and is the weight of the saw. This may or may not include the ​weight of the blade. Remember shipping weight and ​tool weight are two different things and you will want to look at the actual tool weight instead of the ​shipping weight.

​RPM: ​RPM (rounds per minute) is the number of times the blade will rotate in 1 min. time. Worm drive and hypnoid ​saws will have lower RPMs then a sidewinder.

​Warranty: ​Warranties are another pretty self-explanatory item but what you do will look for is what type of warranty comes with the saw. This will tell you what is included as far as what the warranty actually covers. Not everything may be covered so you will want to look on the manufacturer's website to see what their specific criteria are.

Cordless Vs Corded

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Corded Circular Saws: ​Corded saws provide some of the most powerful cuts out there and do not require to be recharged so they are essentially constant power source if you have the power available. Corded saws are much cheaper in comparison to cordless models once you factor in the batteries, the saw, the charger and so on.

Cordless Circular Saws: ​Cordless saws have come along way and they can provide a solution for projects that don't require a lot of cutting power or building sites that don't have established power yet and can come in really handy. Most cordless saws will have the power to cut consistently like a corded model would but there are newer saws out there that use 36 V and 60 V that are very comparable to corded models.

​12 Volt Cordless Saws: Coming Soon!

12 Volt Circular Saw

​18 & 20 Volt Cordless Saws: Coming Soon!

20 Volt Circular Saw

​​36 Volt Cordless Saws: Coming Soon!

36 Volt Circular Saw

​60 Volt Cordless Saws: Coming Soon!

60 Volt Circular Saw

​Circular Saw Features To Look Out For:

​Some circular saws have special features integrated into the design that can be very helpful for some people and are definitely worth taking a look at to see if some of these can help you out.

LED Lights: ​LED lights are usually mounted somewhere on the handle towards the front of the saw and the whole purpose of these is to illuminate the cutting path of the saw to help you see the line better.

Not all circular saws use LED lights but some models have one single light and others have two or more.

Insert Image

​Laser Guide: ​Laser guides can come in really handy and work especially good for longer cuts, so long as the laser is adjusted properly and is accurate.

Most of the time these lasers will be red because red is usually pretty easy to see and ​you will want to make sure that your laser can be adjusted so if it does get out of adjustment at any point in time you can readjust it later. They also sell aftermarket lasers that you can mount onto your circular saw ​if your saw did not come with one out of the factory.

Laser Mounted On Saw

​Saw Hook: ​These songbooks are very handy to have and make hanging the saw very easy, eliminating the need to set it down constantly. These allow you to hang with a little higher so you don't have to bend over every time you pick up your saw and prevents damage to the ​saw which is sometimes caused by setting it down too hard or too fast on its side.

These are a must, in my book for framers especially when working on a roof because they​ hang on 2x dimensional lumber very nicely.

Circular Saw Hook

​​D​ust Port: ​The dust port is a little tube that comes off of the ​saw somewhere, usually located around the guard and allows you to hook up a vacuum hose to it in order to eliminate a lot of the dust that ​is produced in the cutting process. Not all saws have this port and is more of an optional type of accessory.

They do make aftermarket​ ports that you can attached to nearly any circular saw but they tend to not work nearly as well as a model that has one integrated into the design.

A Dust Port

​​​​​​​Dust Blower: ​Sometimes, they saw will come with a built-in dust blower that keeps your line of sight clear ​from any sawdust. These are usually located somewhere around the front of the saw on the upper blade guard.

These are a really nice addition to have on a saw and it comes in really handy when cutting plywood or ripping a board lengthwise.

Built In Dust Blower

​Circular Saw Variations:

​Compact Circular Saws: ​These are a lot smaller than typical circular saws but will cut 2x lumber at 90°. As you can see from the picture this particular many saw uses a 4 1/2 inch blade and many of these are controlled using one hand, similar to an angle grinder.

Mini Circuar Saw

​Large Circular Saws (Beam Saw): ​Beam saws are much bigger than a standard circular saw and many of them use a 16 inch blade or larger. These are designed to cut through bigger pieces of lumber like 4x or 6x pieces of wood, without having to flip the board over and cut the other side or sides.

Beam Saw

Track Saw: ​Track saws are pretty neat and they actually ​use their own version of a large ruler of sorts that guides the saw to make a perfectly straight cut. The ​saw rides in track​ guides that are located in the track and is why the ​saw is called a track saw. The track comes in many different lengths and it always buy more to expand the distance you can cut with one of these saws.

Track Saw

​Specialty Circular Saws: Coming Soon!

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