Circular saws – the top 3 things to think off when choosing one Need to cut wood? You need a circular saw. It really is that simple. Of course choosing the one that’s right for you is a bit more complex. So let’s unpack what circular saws are good for; what different kinds you get and what you should consider in deciding which one makes the cut.
What is it? What’s it good for?
As the name suggests, the circular saw is a handheld saw that has a spinning circular blade. Its main aim in life is to crosscut and rip wood quickly, easily and accurately. Whoa! Not so fast. Crosscut? Rip?For those of you completely new to the world of DIY, crosscut simply means cutting across the grain of wood – as in cutting a plank across its width. Ripping means cutting a piece of wood with the grain – as in sawing a piece of wood in half lengthwise. There may be other saws you could consider for crosscutting, but for long rip cuts you really do want the power and accuracy of a circular saw.It’s greatest application is making straight cuts, but circular saws can also cut at angles – the very popular 45-degree angle is a breeze. (What it really can’t do is curves.) Wood is also not the only thing circular saws can cut. Plastic, metal, brick, stone, tiles, granite and concrete can all be tackled with a circular saw, as long as you use the right blade. With these basics out the way, let’s dive straight in to the three most important things to consider when choosing a circular saw.
#1: CORDED OR CORDLESS?
It’s the age-old power tool conundrum. In days gone by, cordless was almost always associated with decreased performance. While it’s still true that corded electric models (especially the larger ones) deliver rip-snorting power, cordless technology has come a long way both in terms of power and battery life. Corded may offer you continuous operation, but cordless offers you complete freedom of movement and performance that is more than adequate for the average DIY enthusiast. Whichever you choose, look at the power output. If it is corded, you really don’t want a model that delivers less than 15 amps or runs at less than 5 200 rpm. If you choose a cordless one, you want an 18-volt battery. Also watch out for the amp-hour rating of the battery, which can vary from 5 to 9 amp hours. Longer is always better.
Metabo Circular Saw 1200W with 1.6m Guide Rail (KS 55 FS set)
R 3,735.00 R 4,250.00
#2: MOTOR ALIGNMENT – SIDEWINDER OR WORM-DRIVE?
Next to the blade or behind? It’s all about where the motor is mounted and it makes a big difference. The standard and most popular circular saw is the sidewinder where, as the name suggests, the motor is mounted next to the blade (which is generally on the right) and the handle is above the motor. The blade in this model is driven directly by the motor shaft. The worm-drive circular saw has its motor mounted behind the blade and the handle is behind the motor. Its saw blades are also driven by a worm gear. This gives it greater torque, which makes it especially good for heavy-duty work, but it’s also slower and heavier. The worm-drive model also needs oil to lubricate its gears, implying some degree of maintenance. For your average DIY application you just can’t beat the speed, lightness, compactness and maintenance-free convenience of the more standard sidewinder model.
Ryobi Plunge Circular Saw 1200W (RT-1200)
R 3,139.00 R 3,450.00
Ryobi Cordless Circular Saw 18V Li-Ion Excludes Battery & Charger (XCS-165)
R 1,335.00 R 1,750.00
#3: BLADE SIZE AND TYPES
Circular saw sizing is based on the diameter of the blade. Compact saws can use anywhere from 85mm blades to 165mm blades. But these models have limited application and come with a limited number of blade options. A much better choice for DIY enthusiasts is the more standard 185/190mm blade size which can cut to a depth of about 70mm. This is also the size that is supported by the widest choice of different blades. Talking of different blades, best choice is a model that comes with a standard all-purpose carbide toothed (not steel) blade. These blades generally have 24 teeth. It will melt through wood (plus many metals and plastics), but will deliver somewhat rough edges. So we also recommend you get a finish-wood blade that has more teeth (generally 40), which gives a considerably finer cutting result. For cutting masonry and metal, all-purpose abrasive blades are needed. They’re fairly inexpensive, but they do wear quite quickly, so best have a few of these on hand. For cutting surfaces like tiles or stone, diamond blades are the way to go. They’re pricier, but very durable.
Ryobi Circular Saw 1500W (RCS-1500)
R 1,125.00 R 1,325.00
OF LASER SIGHTS & WORK LIGHTS…
There are other features to consider in choosing the ideal model, but these are nice-to-haves not have-to-haves and should not influence your overall decision. Some models come with laser sights, particularly handy in helping you cut a straight line, especially if you are a novice. Rail-guided models deliver even greater accuracy than laser sights. And if you’re a day older than 18 and your eyesight no longer 20/20, you may just find a model fitted with a work light handy. Take your time and once you have the BIG 3 decisions out of the way read the finer points of each model.
Bosch Circular Saw 1400W 184mm (GKS 140)
R 1,695.00 R 1,850.00
Of course circular saws are mean cutting machines. Wear earplugs and protective glasses. Try to stabilize cutting surfaces with clamps. And whatever you do, don’t look away!