Skill Saw Vs Circular Saw: Which one is the best?

If you’ve come across the terms “skill saw” and “circular saw” before, you might have wondered what’s the difference between them. They look identically the same, after all, and the terms are often used interchangeably as well.

There’s actually a tendency to mistake the name of the manufacturer for that of the product. To put it simply, all skill saws are circular saws, but now all circular saws are skill saws.

There are other differences, for example, skill saws are even more powerful than other circular saws, even though their cutting speed is lower.

If you’re looking to buy either of them, and are a bit confused about which one would be better for you, keep reading this article to find out all the information you need, and a detailed comparison between skill saws and circular saws.

First, A Bit of History

Skill Saw Vs Circular Saw

Circular Saws Came First

The origins of the circular saw are rather unclear, and there are many stories about how they came to be. What we can be more or less sure about, though, is that there’s evidence that they date back approximately to the 1700s.

However, those first saws didn’t resemble the circular saws available on the market today. They were originally very big, bulky, and mostly stationary. Initially, they were designed to transform large logs of timber into usable lumber for building purposes.

Over time, this tool evolved a lot, until it became the circular saw we know today.

Then, Skill Saws Were Born

Hundreds of years later, in 1924, Edmond Michel invented the first handheld circular saw and created Michel Electric Handsaw Company, in partnership with Joseph Sullivan, to manufacture the saw. Later on, the name of the company was changed to Skilsaw Inc. Can you see where this is going?

The very first circular saw was the worm drive, and it was mainly used to produce framing cuts and rough cuts. This tool became so popular among woodworkers and contractors, that they adopted the term “skill saw” to refer to the worm drive circular saw.

Other power tool manufacturers copied Skilsaw over the years and developed their own handheld circular saws. Improvements were made, and different models were born, but many people were already used to calling these saws a skill saw and continued to do so.

This led to the terms “skill saw” and “circular saw” being used interchangeably today.

Skill Saw

Skill Saw Vs Circular Saw

Now that the history lesson is over, and that you know where the confusion as regards the saw terminology originated, we can get started on the comparison between skill saw vs circular saw.

To start with, a skill saw is a worm-driven circular saw that has the motor located parallel to the blade, toward the back end of the saw. This type of saws is designed with a pair of gears positioned at a 90° angle that reduces the speed of the blade while transferring power to the blade.

Skill saws are typically used for cutting timber into sizable logs, for straight and square cuts, and to cut across and along the wood grain. They can cut through dense materials like thick lumber and sometimes concrete. But while they’re incredibly powerful, they’re not very accurate.

Woodworkers and contractors who need a power tool that can handle heavy-duty cutting tasks while still being lightweight and easy to operate can greatly benefit from owning a skill saw.

Circular Saw

Skill Saw Vs Circular Saw

“Circular saw” is the umbrella term for those electric or battery-operated power tools that use flat round blades to quickly cut through wood, plastic, and even metal. It’s well-known for its efficiency and precision in making quick straight or curvilinear cuts over and over again.

Different models might have different characteristics, but most have a trigger switch, safety guards, and a feature that allows the user to adjust bevel, height, and depth. We’ve already mentioned the worm drive, but there is also de sidewinder.

The sidewinder circular saw has an engine located at a right angle to the blade, which makes it spin at higher speeds. This kind of saw is more compact and lightweight, but also less powerful.

Skill Saw Vs Circular Saw

When it comes down to it, the motor placement that ultimately divides these two saws and gives each of the specific benefits. In this section, we’re going to discuss some of the key features of the skill saw vs the circular saw.

The power rating of a saw is measured in watts, and it’s what determines the type of tasks you can take on with it. Circular saws are already known for their ability to tackle some of the hardest construction materials out there, but skill saws are probably the most powerful of all.

Skill saws typically have a power rating of over 1200W, which makes them incredibly efficient for cutting dense materials such as timber. Moreover, the 10-inch blade of this saw can easily slice through thick boards, heavy logs, and many other tough materials that most circular saws wouldn’t be able to handle.

As regards speed, we’ve mentioned before that double-geared design at 90° of the skill saw reduces the RPM, but increases torque. The speed of a skill saw can reach up to 4,500 RPM, approximately. In the sidewinder circular saw, the placement of the motor at a right angle to the blade provides more speed, allowing it to reach about 6,000 RPM.

Skill Saw Vs Circular Saw

In the skill saw, there’s nothing to obstruct the view of the user at any angle because the motor is located behind the blade, whereas the location of the motor in the sidewinder might pose a potential disadvantage, depending on which your dominant hand is. For right-handed people, the motor can often block the line of sight.

Lastly, when it comes to weight and size, you’ll find that there are varied opinions out there, especially about the skill saw.

While it’s true that older models leaned more towards the heavier side, nowadays you can find skill saws that weigh ‎11.5 pounds, for example. To be fair, having the motor at the back makes this saw longer than a circular saw, which can often bring balancing problems when you don’t have a steady surface to support the saw.

On the other hand, sidewinder circular saws are more compact and lightweight than skill saws, weighing an average of 11 pounds.

Skill Saw Vs  Circular Saw: Summary

Skill Saw Vs Circular Saw

To make the distinction between these two saws easier, we’ve made a chart with some of the most important specifications.

SpecificationSkill SawCircular Saw
What is it?A brand of a circular saw.A type of power saw.
PowerProbably the most powerful type.Powerful.
Cutting speedLower: up to 4,500 RPM.Higher: up to 6,000 RPM.
Weight and sizeMedium (between 10 lbs. And 16 lbs.). Slightly longer.Light (an average of 10 lbs.)


The main difference between a skill saw and a circular saw is that the former is the name of a brand, whereas the latter is a type of power saw. There are other aspects in which these two tools differ: power, cutting speed, and weight and size.

To choose the saw that serves you the best, you first need to decide whether you need a more powerful saw with lower RPM that allows you to cut the hardwoods into different shapes, or just a regular saw to make a wider variety of small cuts.

Liam Weissman

Hello and welcome to PowerToolGenius! My name is Liam and for the last 9 years, I have worked extensively with various power tools and accessories. I have tested hundreds of different brands and models and understand the industry extensively and have been working with tools my entire life!

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