In terms of power tools, circular saws are actually pretty simple…
They’re physically small (compared to something like a table saw or miter saw), making for less features overall.
They’re basically circular blades powered by a motor – with a few other fancy features to aid safety, accuracy, durability, and so on.
In this article, we’ll run through a quick breakdown of all the important circular saw features, so you could learn how to use a circular saw properly.
The motor is the heart of a circular saw (or any power saw) – it provides the power to drive the blade, and it’s a crucially important feature to consider when choosing the best circular saw for you.
You need to make sure a saw has enough power to do the job you have in mind – if you’re doing small-time craft or hobby work, then a less powerful saw will probably serve you just fine.
If you’re a professional and tackling a range of jobs (particularly dealing with tougher materials such as brick, concrete, or dense lumber) then you’ll want to consider something with a lot of power – perhaps even a worm drive saw.
After ensuring the power output is enough, you can pretty much be sure that a motor will do what it says on the tin.
The motors are old technology, meaning they’ve been refined – they’re generally quite reliable.
Some of the more expensive saws come with brushless or hypoid motors, which make for a longer lifetime and also increase the time between necessary maintenance. So that’s something else to keep in mind!
Saw and blade adjustments
Most circular saws will have settings for cutting depth and for a bevel angle.
The cutting depth is generally controlled by a locking mechanism – loosen the mechanism with a lever, set the depth by moving the blade up or down while checking the depth gauge, and then lock it in place with the lever.
Bevel angles are usually set by tilting the saw base. Again, it’s pretty easy – unlock with a lever, adjust to the correct angle using the gauge, and relock in place.
Some of the cheaper or mini circular saws won’t come with an ability to bevel, but almost all will have some cutting depth adjustment.
Something to keep an eye out for here is that the cutting depth is sufficient for your needs – keep in mind too, that this will generally be larger on saws that run larger blades.
Check out our circular saw blade guide to get help and choose the right one for you.
You should also check that the levels for adjustments are easy to unlock and relock and that they’re secure and accurate.
When using a circular saw, you generally need to lean over it a little to see your cutting line clearly.
Some saws make this easier for you than others, and worm drive saws make it much easier than standard circular saws.
This is something else to keep in mind and to check – make sure it’s a comfortable sightline for you to your cutting line.
This one is pretty simple – generally, the more expensive and professional-grade saws will be more durable.
Not only do they come with a higher build quality and use sturdier materials, but they are also durable in other ways.
For example, the motor in a worm drive saw (which is aimed more at professionals than hobbyists) is a direct drive motor which needs less maintenance, making it more durable.
Many saws also include hypoid or brushless motors as I mentioned above, which helps with durability.
Of course, it’s particularly important to consider durability if you’re a professional or if you otherwise use a circular saw frequently and for a variety of tasks.
Circular saws have two safety features which are most important – blade guards, and blade brakes.
The blade guard is probably the most important circular saw safety feature – it’s the physical barrier between you and the very dangerous blade.
The blade guard usually covers the blade fully, and slides back only when you’re pushing the saw into a cut. After finishing a cut, the guard will generally slide back into place.
A blade brake will engage after you finish a cut to slow the blade down. This is a great safety feature, as a blade can keep spinning for a long time after the power has been disengaged, and it’s still very dangerous.
As compared to other power saws, circular saws are pretty simple to understand. They basically consist of a blade, motor, base plate, and handles.
It’s important to make sure a saw is capable enough for your needs (enough power, and enough ability to cut to the right depth and bevel as needed), but carefully considering the features we’ve outlined in this article.
You should first think about what you’ll be using your saw for, then decide what features you need, and then choose the best saw for yourself based on these criteria.
It’s easy to underestimate the jobs you’ll be doing, and get a saw that’s not capable enough – but it’s just as easy to overestimate and waste money buying a saw that’s just overkill.
Take a little time to learn about the circular saw features, and it’ll pay you back by helping you choose the very best circular saw for your needs.