Circular Saw Guide

Circular Saw Guide: Introduction

A circular saw is a must-have piece of kit for every woodworker, whether keen amateur or seasoned professional. These machines enable one to cut various materials with efficiency and precision.

With a vast range of circular saws available, buyers need to equip themselves with knowledge and expertise before parting with their hard-earned cash to acquire one.

This guide to the revered circular saw covers everything one might need to know about these devices so that you can make an informed decision about which circular saw is right for you and also how to make the most of it once it’s in your possession.

Image used in review of Makita 5007MG Magnesium 7-1/4” Circular Saw

What Is A Circular Saw?

Also known as a ‘buzz-saw,’ a circular saw features a toothed-disc or blade which revolves rapidly to cut materials, including wood, masonry, plastic, and metal. The toothed-disc or blade revolves around an arbor, which is a cylindrical shaft driven by a motor.

Circular saws may be handheld or mounted on to a surface, and they can differ in size. Depending on the material being cut, different blades can be used within a circular saw. The majority of circular saws are powered by electricity (usually from a mains supply), but there are gasoline-powered and hydraulic circular saws available on the market too.

What makes the circular saw an indispensable part of every tradesman’s toolkit is that they can make several distinct types of cuts:

  1. Crosscuts
  2. Rip cuts
  3. Plunge cuts
  4. Mitre cuts
  5. Bevel cuts

The aptly named crosscuts are those that cut across the wood’s grain while rip-cuts cut along the grain of the wood. Less commonly used and arguably the hardest of the cuts, plunge cuts involve cutting by lowering the blade of the saw onto a material, such as lumber or plexiglass. Mitre cuts are angled cuts on two surfaces that can be joined to former a flush corner while bevel cuts involve cutting a non-perpendicular angle against the material’s top.

Types Of Circular Saws

Circular saws are available in all manner of varieties, but the three most common types are described here: Worm drive circular saw, sidewinder circular saw, and hypoid circular saw.

What Is A Worm Drive Circular Saw?

Worm drive circular saws make plunge cuts and the cutting of broader materials easier due to the machine’s increased torque. Its high torque, but lower blade speeds, is achieved by the positioning of its gears, which direct the power from the rear-mounted motor to the saw’s blade.

What Is A Sidewinder Circular Saw?

The most common type of circular saw the sidewinder features a motor mounted on the side of the saw. Lightweight and more compact than other types of circular saw, the sidewinder can be used for cutting materials overhead, and in requiring minimal maintenance, they offer convenience.

What Is A Hypoid Circular Saw?

The term ‘hypoid’ refers to the gear mechanism used in these types of saws. The hypoid gear mechanism can reduce vibrations and improve blade-to-surface contact without compromising power. They are often significantly heavier than sidewinder saws, but they are preferable when cutting long pieces of wood.

How To Use A Circular Saw

Indeed, a circular saw is a versatile piece of machinery. But how does one use it for basic cuts? Outlined below are basic instructions (including crucial safety tips) for making a cut measured with a combination square.


  • Wear Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) when operating a saw. Goggles, ear defenders, and dust masks are essential.
  • Keep the cutting area free from debris.
  • Keep the saw’s electrical cord away from the blade.
  • Carry out safety checks on the saw itself, checking that the blade is sufficiently sharp to avoid slipping and that the blade is aligned correctly.
  • Only operate the saw on a stable surface held firmly in place with a device such as a clamp.
  • Keep children and pets away from the workspace.
  • Do not operate machinery if under the influence of alcohol or drugs.

Image of circular saw in use, used in circular saw guide

Making A Cut:

  1. Measure and mark the materials to be cut. Accuracy here is key to success when any type of saw.
  2. Fix the material to be cut onto a suitable work surface, such as a saw table.
  3. Set the blade of the circular saw to the desired cutting depth.
  4. Adjust the angle of the blade if you wish to make beveled cuts.
  5. Position the saw carefully against the material to be cut.
  6. Often, circular saws have base plates marked with numbers to help with positioning. Align the zero markers on the base plate with the cut line you measured and marked earlier.
  7. Pull the trigger to send power to the blade.
  8. Steadily push the saw along the cut line.
  9. Careful observation is critical, and be sure to keep your hands a safe distance away from the blade.
  10. Release the trigger once you have completed the cut.
  11. Power-off the saw at the mains and store it safely.

The above steps outline the basic process for making simple, straight-line cuts. This process may vary slightly depending on the type of cut you wish to make and the material you are cutting. For example, to cut heat-sensitive materials like plexiglass, it may be necessary to apply coolant to the blade before cutting.

Image of circular saw in use, used in circular saw guide

Maintaining A Circular Saw

As with any power tool, circular saws require regular maintenance checks to ensure their safe and efficient operation. Necessary maintenance checks include cleaning and checking that the power cord is free from damage. Blade changes should also be regularly undertaken as worn or blunt blades can be unsafe for use and inefficient in operation.

How To Change A Circular Saw Blade

Changing a circular saw blade is a reasonably straightforward process. Typically, it involves the following steps:

  1. Disconnect the circular saw from its power supply.
  2. Engage the arbor’s lock button and rotate the blade carefully until it locks.
  3. Using a special blade wrench, remove the arbor holding the blade in place.
  4. Pull away the saw’s blade guard and remove the blade.
  5. Insert the new blade onto the arbor. Make sure the teeth point the same direction as rotation.
  6. Tighten the arbor.
  7. Avoid tightening it too much.
  8. Re-position the blade guard and unlock the arbor.
  9. The circular saw should now be ready for use with a new blade.

circular saw blade

How To Sharpen A Circular Saw Blade

On occasions, one might wish to sharpen a circular saw blade rather than buy a new one as a cost-effective way of keeping your tools in tip-top condition. By maintaining sharp blades, you reduce the risk of making shoddy cuts and wasting precious time.

Steel-toothed blades (once removed from a saw) can be sharpened using a hand file or a mechanical sharpener. The process for sharpening steel-toothed blades begins with a thorough cleaning to remove debris from the blade, which ought to make sharpening it easier.

It is then advisable to mark one of the blade’s teeth to enable you to establish your starting point and prevent sharpening repeatedly. Begin sharpening every other blade. Then, flip the blade over and sharpen all the remaining blades.

Finally, carefully file the tips of each blade until shiny, bright steel is visible, indicating sufficient sharpness. Reattach the blade to the saw’s arbor to complete the process.

While steel-toothed blades can be sharpened easily, carbide blades will likely require professional sharpening because they are very robust and need specialist equipment, namely a diamond wheel sharpener.

Moreover, carbine blades cut materials using the full surface area of the teeth (the tip of the teeth and the sides). The increased cutting area makes sharpening carbide blades that little bit more complicated, so expect to pay a professional if you own carbide blades.

Circular Saw Guide: Summary

Circular saws are indispensable tools that provide the versatility of application and simplicity of maintenance consumers demand. Able to make numerous types of cuts in various materials, circular saws should be in the tool kits of most professional tradespeople and ambitious DIYers.

For those new to circular saws, revisit this article to remind yourself about the different types of circular saws and their advantages and disadvantages before buying one. Also, refer back to this guide’s safety tips and ‘how-to’ sections to ensure you get the most out of your circular saw.