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From thick boards to thin panel, a circular saw, with its spinning, toothed blade, makes it easy to cut through wood either with the grain or across it. Says Audrey Van de Castle, Senior Manager, Technology and Maker Initiatives with Stanley Black & Decker, “Circular saws are mostly used for straight cuts. Depending on the blade, you can get finer-cut or rougher-cut finishes on wood, as well as cut a variety of other materials. Circular saws are the top choice for trimming down plywood to fit a space or trimming 2x4s to length.”
These versatile power tools are a must for any DIYer who does a lot of woodwork, including framing a deck, furniture building, or even building a doghouse. There are both battery-powered and corded circular saws; battery-powered are more portable, but corded tend to have more power. Which you choose depends on your project and how often you plan to use it.
Other considerations when choosing a circular saw are blade size—the most popular for DIYers is 7-1/4-inch, but for heavy-duty work, you'll do best with a saw that takes 8-1/4-inch blades—motor power, which ranges from around 10 amps for light-duty tools up to powerful 15 amps, and positioning of the motor.
Here, the best circular saws on the market.
Best Overall: SKILSAW SPT67WL-01 Circular Saw
Power: 15 amp | Blade Size: 7-¼ inch | Max. RPM: 5,300 | Max. Cutting Depth: 2-7/16 inches | Blade Side: Right
Only 8.6 pounds
10-foot power cord
Few complaints that depth adjustment isn't easy to set
Billed as one of the lightest Pro circular saws on the market, the SPT67WL-01 is only 8.6 pounds. While working on all-day projects, you will easily notice the difference a lightweight saw can make. A 10-foot power cord will extend your range without having to worry about running out of power with a battery.
The saw comes with a standard 7-1/4-inch blade that you can tilt up to 56 degrees for a beveled cut. The till locks at a 45-degree angle, which speeds up common cuts. If heat is a concern, the Dual-Field motor will allow the saw to continue running longer while staying cooler.
Best Budget: Skil 5180-01 Circular Saw
Power: 14 amp | Blade Size: 7-¼ inch | Max. RPM: 5,300 | Max. Cutting Depth: 2-3/8 inches | Blade Side: Right
Spindle lock for easy blade changes
Excellent for DIY or occasional projects
Few complaints that safety trigger is awkwardly placed
Conventional circular saws can quickly get up there in price if you're looking for the latest and greatest. For people with the occasional weekend or DIY project, most expensive saws won't be the right fit. The Skil 5180-01 is an excellent budget option since it will give you reliable cutting power and durability at an affordable price. At just 7.2 pounds, it is a couple pounds lighter than the other top picks. With the standard 7-1/4-inch blade, this saw will easily handle the typical 2 x 4s and plywood that most small projects rely on.
For the price, this saw is also a good match for dusty worksites. With the built in dust blower, you will be able to keep the cutting area clear of the small types of debris that can ruin the 14-amp motor.
Best Laser-Guided: BLACK+DECKER BDECS300C Circular Saw with Laser
Power: 13 amp | Blade Size: 7-¼ inch | Max. RPM: 5,300 | Max. Cutting Depth: 2-1/2 inches | Blade Side: Right
Laser guide for accuracy
Easy blade changes
Enough power for most DIY projects
Cord is only 6 feet long
Included blade is not highest quality
A laser guide can give you a clear and visible reference point when making long cuts that need to be completely straight. The BLACK+DECKER BDECS300C’s built-in laser makes it a breeze to accurately straight-cut typical 2x boards, rip-cut plywood, and make miter or bevel cuts on typical 2x boards.
The 13-amp motor is not the most powerful on the market, but is more than adequate for most DIY or home uses. The bevel adjusts from 0 to 45 degrees, and when it’s time for a blade change, the spindle lock means no struggles. Plus, at only 7 pounds, the saw is light enough for easy portability and maneuvering, and it’s extremely reasonably priced.
If you often work with long boards, this is the saw to keep your cuts straight and true from beginning to end.
“When using power tools – ALWAYS be sure to review the safety information provided by the manufacturer. Be sure to have a clear workspace, verify that everything is in proper working condition before operating, and it is generally best practice to make sure whatever you are working on is either heavy enough that it won’t move, or if not, make sure your work is properly secured with clamps or
fasteners. Power tools are just that – powerful! Never underestimate the power that can come out of the business end of your tools.” Audrey Van de Castle, Senior Manager, Technology and Maker Initiatives with Stanley Black & Decker.
Best Lightweight: Rockwell RK3440K Versacut Circular Saw
Power: 4 amp | Blade Size: 3-3/8 inch | Max. RPM: 3,500 | Max. Cutting Depth: 1-1/16 inches | Blade Side: Left
Perfect for lightweight projects
Portable and easy to maneuver
Includes three blades
Weighs only 4 pounds
Not for heavy-duty or big jobs
Few complaints of kickback if not handled carefully
Anyone looking for a highly versatile and ergonomic circular saw should look at the Rockwell RK3440K Versacut. Its streamlined design makes the Versacut easy to control with just one hand. But while small, it's still powerful enough to handle a wide range of common DIY tasks around the house or garage. It even has a built-in laser guide for accurate cutting.
The Versacut is designed to cut a wide variety of materials including woods, plastics, ceramic tiles, and even some metals like aluminum and sheet metal. Unlike most circular saws, which come with just one blade, this tool includes three: one 24T carbide-tipped blade for cutting wood, one 44T HSS blade for cutting aluminum and PVC, and one diamond blade for cutting ceramic tile and cement board.
Best Rail-Guided: Makita SP6000J1 Circular Saw
Power: 12 amp | Blade Size: 6-1/2 inch | Max. RPM: 5,200 | Max. Cutting Depth: 2-3/16 inches | Blade Side: Right
Bevel adjusts from -1 to 48 degrees
If you need the maximum degree of precision possible, the only thing for you to even consider is a rail guided circular saw. While laser guides are good for making accurate cuts, nothing can compare to the solid guiding line of the rail. The Makita SP6000J1 stands out among circular saws since it will give you this level of precision without being tied down like a tablesaw. With a 55-inch guide rail, this saw can also make long and repeated cuts while maintaining the same level of precision.
The 6-1/2-inch plunge blade—this means that unlike most circular saws, which can only begin a cut from the edge of the material, you can "plunge" the blade into the material from any point—and 12-amp motor are enough to handle most types of common cuts found on residential and commercial projects. If you think you will be cutting different types of material and thicknesses in one setting, the variable speed control dial will also help you match the speed of the blade to the material you're cutting.
Best Professional: SKILSAW SPT77WML-0 Circular Saw
Power: 15 amp | Blade Size: 7-1/4 inch | Max. RPM: 5,300 | Max. Cutting Depth: 2-3/8 inches | Blade Side: Left
Magnesium construction for durability
Accurate adjustments of cutting depth
Weighs less than 12 pounds
Professionals often place more rigorous demands on their circular saws than the average DIYer, and so their tools need to stand up to the typical types of abuse jobsites can throw at them. For people wanting the absolute best in durability and cutting power, the SKILSAW SPT77WML-0 is the only option to consider. With the standard 7-1/4-inch cutting blade, it can cut up to 2-3/8-inch pieces of wood without flinching. The blade can also tilt up to 53 degrees with 0 and 45-degree locks.
One thing that sets this saw apart from other options is the magnesium-based construction. By avoiding the use of lighter metals and plastics, this saw's overall build will survive more abuse than cheaper options. SKILSAW's Cut-Ready system is also handy if you need to make quick and accurate cuts of various depths.
Best Cordless: Makita SH02R1 Cordless Circular Saw
Power: 12 volts | Blade Size: 3-3/8 inch | Max. RPM: 1,500 | Max. Cutting Depth: 1 inch | Blade Side: Right
Light and portable
Good for lightweight tasks
Fits into tight spots
Slow compared to corded saws
Not for heavy-duty projects
While corded circular saws undeniably win for the most power, there are times that portability is key. For those times, you’ll appreciate that not only does the Makita SH02R1 cut the cord, drawing power instead from the included 12-volt lithium-ion battery, but it still maintains a very impressive amount of power, delivering 1,500 rpm to slice quickly through plywood, MFD, pegboard, drywall, melamine, particleboard, and other lightweight materials. The saw itself weighs only 3.5 pounds, so it won’t weigh you down on the jobsite.
The 3-3/8-inch blade has a maximum cutting depth of 1 inch at 90 degrees, and 5/8-inch at 45 degrees. A tilting base lets you make bevel cuts from 0 to 45 degrees.
Best Compact: Genesis GCS445SE Compact Circular Saw
Power: 4 amp | Blade Size: 4-1/2 inch | Max. RPM: 3,500 | Max. Cutting Depth: 1-1/16 inches | Blade Side: Left
Adapter for use with shop vacuum
Few complaints of inaccuracy
Not for heavy-duty projects
Not every sawing job calls for the maximum in size and muscle. A compact circular saw has many advantages over the standard size; it’s easier to maneuver a compact saw in a tight space, and typically, these saws are lighter in weight, making them easier on your hands when working for extended periods. The Genesis GCS445SE Compact Circular Saw is one of the most versatile compact saws available today. With a 4.0-amp motor rated for up to 3,500 rpm, it packs a powerful punch in a body that is half the weight of many larger circular saws; it’s just 4.7 pounds. Plus, it’s designed for one-handed use. But the features don’t stop there.
For messy projects, this saw has a built-in dust port and vacuum adapter to keep the cutting area free of debris. The included tungsten carbide tipped blade is strong enough to cut through any 2x wooden board as well as similar materials, whether cutting straight, rip, or bevel. To use other kinds of blades, all you have to do is remove the existing blade and pop in the other.
It doesn’t weigh too much, it’s very versatile, and its motor runs cool while putting out impressive power. That’s why the SKILSAW SPT67WL-01 (view at Walmart) wins our top spot as the best all-around circular saw. But if you need maximum portability, you’ll appreciate the battery-powered Makita SH02R1 (view at Amazon), which has enough oomph for most basic cutting tasks, and lets you work wherever you need to be.
What to Look for in a Circular Saw
Circular saws are available in either a worm-drive or sidewinder style. Worm-drive saws have the motor mounted behind the blade (which sits on the left) and usually offer excellent visibility for right-handed users. Sidewinder (also known as direct drive) saws have the motor mounted next to the blade (which is often on the right). While this can offer more control of the saw, it also can put the saw slightly off-balance, since the motor side will be heavier.
Corded or Cordless
Cordless circular saws offer freedom and flexibility to cut anything, anywhere—which is especially great for an outdoor job site. But cordless models also generally have more limited power and their runtime is limited by battery life. On the other hand, a corded saw will usually give you more cutting power and can run as long as it’s plugged into an electrical outlet.
Corded circular saws have motors rated in amps. A 15-amp motor is the standard for a circular saw capable of handling most DIY tasks. There are inexpensive 10-amp or 12-amp tools available, but those are generally only suited to lightweight tasks.
Cordless circular saws today have lithium-ion batteries, usually 18-volt. You’ll also find more powerful 20-volt models, however, which are a good choice if you use your saw for very lengthy work sessions, or deal with thick or heavy materials.
The most common size of blade for a circular saw is 7-1/4 inches. This is the best size for most DIYers, and can tackle materials more than 3 inches in thickness. But you’ll also find circular saws with 6-1/2-inch blades—these are for lightweight jobs—and 8-1/4-inch blades for more heavy-duty use. There are also circular saws with small blades, often around 4-1/2 inches, that are mostly used for cutting panel or other thin materials.
How do you change a circular saw blade?
If your blade goes dull or becomes damaged, you’ll need to swap the old blade for a new one. Or perhaps you need to switch to a different blade for cutting through metal or other alternative materials. While the process can vary somewhat, particularly on older saws, the following steps work for most circular saws.
- Unplug the saw if it’s corded, or remove the battery if it’s cordless. You want to be absolutely sure that the saw will stay off while you change the blade.
- Lift the plastic blade guard to expose more of the blade.
- If your saw has a lock, depress it to keep the blade from turning while you work.
- Loosen the arbor nut that holds the blade in place. Most circular saws come with a wrench specifically for this purpose; often, the wrench is stored in a small compartment on the saw’s handle.
- To remove the arbor nut, turn your wrench in the same direction the blade spins, which is clockwise. This is one exception to the old, “Lefty loosey, righty tighty” rule.
- Carefully remove the old blade.
- Use a rag to clean away any accumulated dust or sawdust from the upper and lower guards around the blade area.
- Look at your new blade. Typically, there will be an arrow on it indicating the correct direction of rotation. The blade needs to be installed on your saw so that direction is clockwise. Depending on the brand of blade, that might mean with the writing facing towards you, or facing away from you.
- Slide the new blade into place, and use the saw wrench to tighten the arbor nut. The nut should be tight enough to hold the blade securely in place, but not so tight that you won’t be able to remove it next time you need to remove the blade.
- Lower the blade guard back into position. Unlock the blade. Now you are ready to work!
How do you cut straight with a circular saw?
It might be called a circular saw—that actually refers to the round blade—but the tool’s main purpose is to cut straight lines. However, it’s easy to accidentally veer to the side while cutting down a long stretch of board, thus spoiling your perfect cut. Fortunately, it’s not too difficult to keep your saw inline.
If you are experienced at working with a circular saw, and aren’t cutting the length of a large board, you can generally keep things under control by marking the cut line with a pencil, using a tape measure or other straightedge to make sure it's straight, and then cutting carefully along the pencil line.
If you are new to using a power saw, however, or don’t want to take a chance on veering out of line, you’ll need some sort of guide. There are numerous guides available for this purpose; most are a rail or metal bracket that you clamp or screw to the board before starting to cut. You can also achieve the same effect by clamping another board to the board you’ll be cutting, aligning the guide board along the desired cut line, and then making the cut using the clamped board as your guide rail.
Why Trust The Spruce?
This article is edited and updated by Michelle Ullman, the tool expert for The Spruce. She has extensive experience not only in writing about all things related to the home, but also in carrying out various DIY projects, including landscaping, painting, flooring, wallpapering, furniture makeovers, and simple repairs. For this roundup, she considered dozens of circular saws, evaluating each for basic features, extras, and customer feedback, as well as input from Audrey Van de Castle, Senior Manager, Technology and Maker Initiatives with Stanley Black & Decker.