For many amateurs, a saw is a saw as long as it can slice. But, technically, there are several types of saws out there, like circular saws. In this article we will cover everything about circular saws and how they work, it will be the perfect start for the beginners.

What is a circular saw used for?

A circular saw is a portable mechanical tool used in DIY jobs to cut large pieces of wood, plastic, metals, concrete and other materials like tiles and bricks. It can make curvilinear and straight cuts. It is very popular among DIY enthusiasts and professionals for its high sawing capacity and high precision. Whether in a workshop or in a construction site, it is an effective instrument for carrying out various tasks.

makita circular saw

Circular saws use a round blade that is lined with sharp metal teeth. The blade rotates to cut the wood smoothly. Circular saws also have a handle with a trigger switch, a nut to hold the blade in place, and a guard for safety purposes.

One thing is certain: the circular saw is a real easy solution for almost all the works you intend to undertake and requiring sawing materials. Depending on your objectives, it adapts perfectly from small jobs to large construction sites. We explain everything you can learn from it.

circular saw components

A circular saw can be manual or electric. But no one is using the manual one, everything is now automated and electrical. Electric circular saws are more complex, the main components are the blade, the motor, the outer frame and the dust blower. Compared to a manual saw, circular saws are more pleasant to use and offer extremely precise cutting and sawing


Even if your carpentry tasks are limited to a casual project this weekend, you may need to cut a narrow piece from a long board or sheet of plywood. Sawing long boards is easy if you have a table saw. But you can also do it precisely with a good circular saw. In fact, it is usually easier to cut long pieces of plywood with a circular saw.

A circular saw will not cut as easily as a table saw, but with a few techniques, a little finesse and a little practice; you can cut almost as accurately as a table saw. We will show you how to use a circular saw to quickly and accurately cut long boards and plywood, and we will give you blueprints for a handy cutting guide for your saw.

How to choose a circular saw?

Choosing your circular saw is an easy process, you can do it yourself, but it is necessary to know these few characteristics concerning that choice like: its power, its use as well as its accessories. Above all, it is important not to rush to purchase such a device and think carefully about why you want to use a circular saw!

The criteria for choosing a circular saw:

The power: for small carpentry work in the house, a power of 900 Watts should be enough for you. Beyond 1,700 Watts, the circular saw will allow you to cut firewood or other large material like concrete and metals.

The frequency of use is an essential criterion when choosing your saw. There is no need to choose a high end saw if you use the saw infrequently. But for an expert carpenter the choice of the circular saw must be done according to the desired work.

The brake system: There are two types of brake systems, the manual system and the electric brake system. Before we dive into the difference between these two types, I have to say that they are both safe and secure.

The electric brake system uses the electric current that is being supplied to your saw to stop the blade, the blade will be stopped just in 2 seconds, while the manual system doesn’t use the current to stop the blade, it only leaves the blade to stop by itself and it takes about 5 to 7 seconds to stop.

This video will show you the difference between the electric brakes and the non electric brakes and how they stop. The video is provided by the famous power too brand DeWALT

In my personal opinion, the only advantage for the electric brake system is that it makes your maneuverability more flexible so you can go from a cut to another quickly.

Other accessories such as blades should be also taken into account when making your choice. You have to choose the blade according to the material you are going to cut, for example: if you are planning to cut wood pieces you can use a carbide blade, but if you want cut concrete parts, tiles or even bricks, then you have to choose diamond-tipped circular blades.

makita blade

So, it will be important that you take the time to study the various security features and read reviews. Even if you are perfectly comfortable with your choice, it is essential that the model you choose can be used without any danger.

 Finally, to choose a circular saw, it is also important to know about how easy it is to do other stuff like changing the blade or replacing a part because some devices are incredibly easy to use and the blades can be changed in a few seconds, while others are unfortunately much more complex, which could have a real impact on your final satisfaction.

How does a circular saw work?

  • First, to get a clean result, make sure the blade is sharp and suitable for the work to be done;
  • Then adjust the depth of your cut, which should be about 5 mm larger than the thickness of the wood;
  • Make the work piece stand still by securing it with clamps or a vise so that it will not move or vibrate while cutting. But again, start a check that the saw will not encounter any obstacles during cutting;
  • Hold the saw with both hands, turn it on and wait for the blade to rotate at full speed;
  • Put the nose of the saw on the cutting line and move slowly. Your progress should be done on a regular basis, no forcing at the beginning of the work. Time must be allowed for the machine to obtain a good cut.
  • The material falling on the ground will then show that the sawing is complete. The protective cover will then be put back in place to ensure the protection of the user.
  • It is held in two hands thanks to a large rear handle and another at the front allowing a good balance when cutting;
  • Some circular saw have a laser guide so you can create cuts with perfect precision that could make your job easier;

Types of circular saws

Actually, there are two main types of circular saws, the sidewinder circular saws and the worm drive circular saws.

The main difference between these models is the place of the motor relative to the blade and the gear.

makita circular saw

Worm drive circular saw

Sidewinder circular saw

The worm drive circular saw has its motor in the rear of its blade and the rotating power of the motor is transmitted to the blade by a set of gears. This has its advantages and disadvantages, it decreases the speed of the blade, so it may reach a top speed of 4500 RPM but on the other hand, it increases the torque. Nearly all the worm drive circular saw has its blade on the left side. In addition, it is a little bit heavier than the sidewinder circular saw, and the shoe is thicker. If you are living in the west coast, you will probably see that kind more often than the other one.

The sidewinder circular saw uses a motor technically called “a spur gear” meaning that the motor is inline with the blade as you see in the picture, this delivers very strong power to the blade up to 6000 RPM. Also the sidewinder circular saw has its blade on the right side. The sidewinder circular saw may have its blade on the right side or on the left side, so it depends on your preference.

The position of the blade whether it is on the right or the left will affect your performance depending on being a right handed or left handed because sidewinder circular saws

It’s all about the blade

circular saw blades

The blades are differentiated by their teeth and their diameter. You choose the blade to be mounted on the axis depending on the material that you will cut, knowing that the more the teeth the blade will have, the more the cut will be precise and fine, it will be perfect for finishing, but the cutting process will be slower.

On the other hand, the blades with less number of teeth, lets say 24 carbide teeth, will give you a much rougher cuts but you will feel that you are cutting through the material more quicker. The diameter of the blade is also important because it affects the depth of cut. To create rough cuts quickly, a blade of 24 carbide tipped teeth will be good whereas to saw a melamine board, a blade of 48 teeth will not be too much. In general, tungsten carbide blades between 12 and 48 teeth are a good for sawing most surfaces and materials.

The most common blade size is the 7 ¼ inches circular blade, but when you use a cordless circular saw, you will find other blades of sizes like 5 and 6 ½ inches. There are also bigger diameters like 8, 10 and 12 inches out in the market.

Finally, it is important to say that there are saws that are designed for specific type of work. So it is important to choose a circular saw blade according to the job that you are working on.

Maintenance of circular saws

Although the circular saws are durable power tools, it is essential to take care of it to ensure proper operation and longer life span. You can use a small brush or compressed air to effectively remove sawdust and accumulated in the machine.

 To clean the blade and remove the wood resin, just spray household oven cleaner on both sides of the blade after you disassemble it. Leave on for about 20 minutes then dry it with a piece of cloth. Apply a very thin layer of oil to your tool before storing it to protect it from rust.

Circular saw safety procedures

The circular saw is a powerful power tool. Therefore, it is a dangerous tool, the use of which requires taking few precautions in order to carry out careful, safe work. In order to protect yourself, you MUST wear safety equipment while using it. Moreover, the use of this tool can cause a lot of dust, so you should protect yourself by using a mask or a pair of safety glasses although some types of circular saws come with a built-in dust blower.

Before you continue reading these safety procedures, I just want you to read about circular saw kickback and how to prevent it

Checklist before running your saw:

  • Check the stability of the sawhorse or the workbench that you have.
  • Check that your blade is also perfectly fixed.
  • Hold your saw firmly with both hands
  • Wait for your circular saw to reach maximum speed before making your cuts
  • Keep power cords away from your cutting area;
  • Do not put too much pressure on your saw;
  • Wear all the appropriate safety equipment (glasses, gloves, dust mask and hearing protection)
  • For even cleaner, precise and straight cutting, choose a circular saw with a laser guide.
  • wait for the saw to stop completely before putting it down.