Buying a Circular Saw

Are you looking for a new circular saw? I am. I have an old, cheap one that I bought at Home Depot about 10 years ago that has just about had it with my torture. So now I’m looking at my options to purchase a new circular saw. Do I go cordless? How much will I use it? What do I need it for? How much power do I really need in my circular saw?

I spoke to my brother Joe about it. He’s a contractor in Buffalo, New York and a huge fan of DeWalt tools. He always goes for top of the line quality in his tools. Joe said that cordless circular saws are good for when you are working up on a roof or at places where there is limited or no power access. As far as strength, Joey says that the newer cordless tools have almost the power of corded tools. Almost, but not quite and certainly not if you are using them to cut framing pieces all day long. Joe has both a wormdrive and a regular circular saw. He pulls out his Skil HD77M wormdrive circular saw when he needs to get through the big stuff. But when he will be cutting 2×4’s all day, he uses the lighter weight DeWalt 368K. And, for cutting up on the roof, he uses his DeWalt cordless DC300K with a NANO battery. Joe said he got into the NANO technology because it gets damn cold in Buffalo and he wants the reliability of Lithium Ion batteries, which will perform just as well in cold temperatures. And the nicest thing about them is that the DeWalt NANO batteries are backwards compatible with all his DeWalt cordless tools.

Hmmm. But what kind of circular saw do I want? While I am not a contractor, I am an avid Do-It-Yourselfer who has a sweet job as the editor of a tool blog. Yup, I get a great discount on the high quality tools that are sold at the Toolking Superstore and you betcha, I’ve been taking advantage of that! (shameless plug ;0) Seriously though, even if I didn’t get the discount, ToolKing has the lowest prices, especially if you go for the reconditioned versions (believe me, I’ve checked around). ToolKing’s secret (for all you e-commerce wannabe’s) is that they purchase in very large quantities from companies like DeWalt and Makita and that leverage gets them a better price deal, which they then pass on to their customer, aka: You.

Anyhoo ~ back to my circular saw purchase.

Corded versus Cordless

I’m debating whether to go with a cordless or corded circular saw. My husband and I bought the crappiest, smallest house in our neighborhood so we are in the middle of remodeling pretty much our entire home. Because we both work full-time jobs, we remodel in spurts. Our circular saw just crapped out on us on the last project. We were framing an outdoor patio area with 6×6’s to lay pavers. Poop, went our circular saw, it had had enough. Like I said earlier, it was old, cheap and from Home Depot. Okay, maybe we were pushing it a bit on the 6×6’s but who doesn’t push their tools to the limit of what they are supposed to be used for? Especially homeowners, who typically don’t have the large selection of tools that a contractor would have, or don’t always have the ‘right tool’ for the job (the right tool for this job would have been a circular saw with a Prazi beamcutter attachment).

After a bit of debate, we decided to go with a corded circular saw or a Lithium Ion battery powered circular saw because we often go several weeks or months between projects. When we need to use the circular saw, we want to use it now. Lithium Ion batteries have a long shelf life, which means they will stay charged even if they sit on the shelf in your garage (in the cold) for several weeks. They are also extremely lightweight. So if we go cordless, we will opt for the Lithium Ion battery powered circular saw. Makita makes a nice LiIon circular saw and you can get one with the purchase of their LXT700 18v LiIon combo kit. The LiIon circular saw included in the LXT700 kit has a 6-1/2 inch saw blade though, not a 7-1/4, which is what we are looking for.

I went into the Toolking store. The ToolKing store has a great setup, Doug and the guys have redesigned the entire layout so now you can touch and hold all the tools. I love that! You can really get a feel for which one you like better because when it comes down to the options, there are a lot of high quality tools available but which one feels better in Your hands? Most of the contractor grade circular saws have a 15 amp, powerful motor, magnesium housing (for lightweight and strength), at least a 45 degree beveling capacity and excellent safety features. I personally need to pick up each one as if I’m using it, and check the position of the handles for comfort and how good my line of sight will be to the blade.

These are the circular saws that I compared:

1. I picked up the DeWalt DW368K. Lightweight at 9.5 lbs, it is durable enough to withstand a 1-story drop. The DeWalt DW368K also has a beveling capacity of 56 degrees.

2. The Makita 5007FAK is a bit heavier at 11.1 lbs but has this cool onboard LED light and a ruler on the foot plate. How many times are you working in a room with the light at your back?

3. I’m a big fan of the Bosch company because of all that I’ve learned about their power tool recycling program and other pro-active environmental projects. The very nice feature of the Bosch CS20 (10.3 lbs) saw is their Direct Connect Cord Management System. The Bosch CS20 doesn’t have a cord, you plug your power cord into it. So you never have to deal with replacing the cord or tossing your tool out because the cord has split. The Bosch CS20 also has a blower in the front that blows the sawdust out of your way as you cut so you can see where you are cutting. The Bosch CS20 also bevels at 56 degrees.

4. Then there was the Porter-Cable 324MAG. Super lightweight, the 324MAG weighs 9.6lbs. Out of the circular saws I looked at, only the Porter Cable brand had an exhaust port for a vacuum attachment, a nice feature for working in the garage or house.

5. Milwaukee makes the 6394-21   Tilt-lok . It is the most expensive of the bunch at $175 but features an exclusive  Tilt-Lok  handle that is probably more adjustable than I am. The  Tilt-Lok  on the Milwaukee 6294-21 adjust to 8 different locking positions, making it easier for working on angles and overhead. The Milwaukee circular saw also has a 10 foot, Quik-Lok cord for easy cord replacement and with a 3-horsepower motor, works as hard as my Polish carpenter father.

A good circular saw should have enough power to cut through wet wood without slowing down or dangerous kickback. A good circular saw should also be lightweight and durable because you inadvertently will drop it on the ground. You should choose a circular saw based on balance, maneuverability and how it feels when you hold it. Good luck!