What Is a Circular Saw?


A circular saw, also known as a table saw or a chop saw, is a power saw that can be used to cut different materials with a toothed round blade. It can be either handheld, which is the typical model for woodworking because it is portable and lightweight, or mounted on a machine. This tool is a useful addition to your toolkit because, with certain specific blades, it can cut through plastic, metal, and tile. However, it is most commonly used for wood because of its efficiency and precision in making quick straight or curvilinear cuts over and over again.

What is a circular saw used for?

The circular saw is the preferred tool for carpenters and other woodworkers. It is most commonly used for making three types of straight cuts on wood boards and sheets of plywood. The first one is called a rip cut, and it is a long cut that goes with the grain of the wood. The second type is the crosscut, which goes against the grain and is usually used to trim boards to size. The last one is called a bevel cut, which is an angled cut that can be made with an adjustment of the tool that allows you to set the blade angle up to 45°.

Circular Saw

When not to use a circular saw?

Even though it is rather easy to operate and control a circular saw, you should be careful when handling it because it can be as dangerous as any other power tool. You should not use a circular saw if you:

  • do not have protective gear. Gloves, safety goggles, hearing protection, and a dust mask or a full-face shield are essential to protect you against sawdust, debris, and loud noise.
  • are wearing loose-fitting clothes or jewelry as they could get caught in the blade and cause injury.
  • have not firmly secured the piece you are working on. Everything should be clamped to your workstation to avoid dangerous slips.
  • have a dull blade. A sharp blade will cut your workpiece easily and safely, but a dull one will tear through it, which could send debris in your direction. You would also risk getting kickbacks.

How much money does a circular saw cost and where do I buy one?

As with any other tool, the price of a circular saw varies depending on the brand, and the features. On Amazon, small handheld models start at $40 USD, and for an extra $5 – $10 USD, you can get one with a laser guide system to improve cutting accuracy. Heavy-duty models range from $50 USD to over $800 USD for the most powerful ones. You can buy a circular saw at any hardware store such as Home Depot or Lowe’s, and even at Walmart!

Which circular saw should I buy?

You might find yourself a bit overwhelmed at how many options your hardware store offers, but do not worry! Here are a few key features to consider when you go shopping for your new circular saw.

First, you will have to decide whether you will choose cordless or corded technology. Traditionally, corded models are more powerful because they do not rely on batteries, so they’re best suited for cutting tough materials. Cordless saws are vital when working on sites without power or in small spaces where extension cords are inconvenient. However, they should only be used for cutting wood because the batteries can drain quickly with tougher materials. The higher the amperage (amps) or voltage (volts) on the corded or the cordless saw respectively, the more cutting power.

Next is the design. There are two options available: the sidewinder and the worm drive. While the former is the perfect choice for most applications because it is compact, and light, the latter is the one for heavy-duty jobs because it’s stronger. They might look similar when you come across them for the first time, but you can tell them apart by looking at where the engine is placed: on the same axis as the blade in the sidewinder, and on the right side of the blade in the worm drive. Another clue is that worm drives are bigger, heavier, and more expensive.

After choosing the appropriate power source and design, you can compare the different features the different saw models offer. Some of them include laser guide technology to mark the place you are going to cut, and built-in lights to illuminate your workspace better.

Man stowing circular saw blade.

Which circular saw blade should I buy?

To get the best out of your circular saw, you need the right blade. There are different types and each one is specifically designed to perform a certain job. Choosing the right one can be difficult, but you only need to consider the nature of the cut and the material you will be working on. After that, you must look at the TPI (how many teeth per inch it has) and the material the blade is made of.

First, you should know that the more teeth or higher TPI a blade has, the smoother and more precise the cut will be, but the process will be slower. Conversely, the fewer teeth or lower TPI it has, the rougher but faster the cut will be.

Let us start with the blades that are best suited for the three most common uses we have mentioned before: rip cut, crosscut, and bevel. While rip-cut blades have lower TPI and make quick, rough cuts along the grain of the wood, crosscut blades have higher TPI and work with precision to give a smooth look. Either of them can be used for a bevel cut, and which one you will choose will depend on the surface finish you want to achieve on your workpiece. There is another blade type called combination or general-purpose blade that can make rip cuts or crosscuts, and it is a good choice if you are going to use your circular saw for a variety of purposes and not for a specific job.

Now let us consider blade materials. The steel blade is the most common one, and it is designed for cutting almost any kind of wood. Even though it dulls fast, it is rather cheap to replace. The carbide-tipped blade is tougher than the steel one, and a bit more expensive, but it is perfect for any depth of wood. The tungsten blade does not need to be sharpened as often as the others, so it is perfect for cutting plastic, and non-ferrous metals such as aluminum, and copper. The diamond blade is the strongest one, suited for cutting materials like stone, concrete, and masonry.

Lastly, always remember to choose the blade size that fits your saw!

Conclusion

From cutting logs into firewood to trimming boards to cutting stone, there is nothing this powerful beast cannot do. The circular saw is an essential tool for the woodworker, the carpenter, and the DIYer alike because of how versatile and how easy to use it is. Just remember to always follow the safety guides and to choose the right blade for the task and you will be just fine.

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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