Tools are an indispensable part of any DIY enthusiast or professional woodworker’s armoury. With the development of power tools, many skills previously restricted to the professional can now be found in the DIY enthusiast.
One such tool is the power saw which reduces the effort, increases accuracy and increases productivity. Power saws come in a few variants, and one such is the circular saw.
How to choose
While choice is often a subjective thing, there are some practical requirements that need to be borne in mind when choosing a circular saw:
- A carrying case
It’s not just the saw itself, it comes will all sorts of other bits and pieces, batteries, power leads, dust bags, different types of blades and so-on. Lugging all that around in a supermarket plastic bag is not easy or convenient and does nothing for your professional credibility. In addition, it will be easy to lose or leave some items behind. Best if they are kept in a carry case designed to hold everything. Moulded cases will also tell you if an item is missing.
It also helps with storage and keeping things tidy.
This review considers offerings with carry cases only.
- Blade types.
Different type of material, wood, metal, stone need different type of blades. Some blades are universal and will cut anything, including your fingers, but some saws have specialised blades for different materials. Important to know what type of blade comes with the unit, in case you need to buy extra. Also, is it easy to get replacement blades, because they sometimes break or become blunt.
- Bevel cutting
You don’t always cut perfectly vertically, sometimes it is necessary to cut at an angle. Does the unit provide a support framework for holding the saw blade at an angle.
- Guide Rail or Rule Cut
Sometimes you want to cut a precise distance away from an edge so that you maintain a perfect width in the item being cut. Does the unit have a ruler or guide rail that you can use to enforce that cut width.
- Dust Collector
One fact of life when sawing is the wood dust or swarf that covers everything for meters around and hangs in the air. Does the unit has a dust collector that takes all that debris into a bag for easy disposal and keep adjacent surfaces and you free of dust.
There is also a health issue here. Too much exposure to small particulate matter such as wood of metal dust can cause lung problems if inhaled over a long enough period of time.
Now we come to the important stuff. Is the unit powerful enough to cut what you want it to cut. Obviously, stainless steel needs much more power than soft wood.
- Battery or Power Cord
Each has its advantages. A power cord allows you to work for longer, but tends always to be exactly where you don’t want it. It needs to be long enough to be away from the work and not run over it where it could be cut. Or buy an extension cord.
Batteries run out just when you don’t want them to, and unless you have charged spares, you wait while they recharge.
Important things here – is the power cord long enough. What is the typical working time of the batteries, what is the recharge time and is there a charging cradle that allows you to charge spares while you work.
How heavy is it. Will it be too heavy for prolonged use.
The unit must conform to applicable safety standards and provide adequate protection against accidental injury.
They can be quite noisy and blades have been known to shatter and debris fly around like shrapnel. Consider whether you need ear defenders and safety helmet/eye protectors while using it. Gloves to protect those delicate digits might also be needed.
Here are what we consider to be the top three circular saws with a carry case.
If not the leading manufacturer, Makita is certainly among the top manufacturers of professional power tools. The HS7601J continues that fine tradition. It is compact and lightweight, with a powerful 1,200 watt motor that delivers up to 5,200 rpm.
The recently redesigned unit has an aluminium base plate and die cast safety cover offering increased durability and operator safety. There is a single action lever to adjust cutting depth quickly , together with a rear angle guide to assist easy and precise adjustment of the bevel angle, and an optional guide rule for accurate and straight cuts.
In technical terms, the bevel function operates from 0 to 45 degrees offering a cut depth of 66mm at 0 and 46mm at 45 degrees.
To help with dust collection, it has a rear dust exhaust port which blows dust away from the operator. You will need to test it against your domestic vacuum cleaner and have some duct tape handy, but the dust nozzle can connect to a vacuum cleaner.
It runs off the mains and the power cable is said to be long enough for most environments.
A guide rail can be purchased as an optional extra.
It comes with one year warranty, which can be extended to three years if registered with Makita within 30 days of purchase.
User reviews are generally very favourable, with only small niggles being reported. However, some users said it was very heavy.
This budget-priced item is robust and well-built. For the less muscular user it is very light at around 5.5Kg. It comes with a carry case claimed to offer protection to the item in case it is dropped. It is battery-powered with a 4 amp-hour battery and a free-standing charger.
The in-the-box components are:
- The saw itself
- A 4.0 Ah battery
- A one hour fast charger unit, which is claimed to recharge the battery in less than an hour.
- 2 Blades, (115mm 24T TCT)
- Guide Rail
- Hex spanner
- A dust evacuation tube
- Carry Case
- User Manual
It comes with a 24 month warranty, which must be registered.
It is designed specifically for cutting wood, but with the appropriate blade, is claimed to cut metal and tiles as well. Replacement blades can be bought online, but since they are a standard size, enquire at your local hardware store for compatible blades.
One useful feature is the laser guide which really helps in cutting in a straight line. The ability to attach a vacuum cleaner to collect dust is a real bonus.
Users reviews are very favourable, most commenting on the excellent build quality and the features available at the modest price. One user loved being able to rest with a cup of tea while the battery recharged.
This unit is robust and well built. It’s quite heavy, weighing in at nearly 7Kg in the box, though the manufacturer claims the unit itself weighs only 1kg. Users say around 4Kg. Perhaps the attachments make up the difference. It runs off the mains.
It has been around since 2012, and speculation is rife that a replacement is either already available or imminently so.
The box contains:
- The saw itself
- A 24 tooth saw blade. For finer work, a 40 or 80 tooth is needed at least. This toothless blade can make very rough cuts causing bad chips.
- A dust extraction spout. A bit of fiddling and probably some duct tape can attach the unit to the domestic vacuum.
- A rip fence
- A blade spanner
- The carry case.
- Most people who buy it also buy a quick-grip handle and guide ruler. They also buy replacement blades and better cut quality blades online, but since they are a standard size, enquire at your local hardware store for compatible blades.
User reviews are generally very positive. The major gripe seems to be that the 24T blade does not provide a fine enough finish, and a better blade, 48T or 80T is really needed. They also recommended checking the unit before using it the first time. Apparently, some screws and fittings weren’t fully tightened.
The motor power, 1350W is comparable with the other two saws reviewed.
Right now, the offer on Amazon UK makes its selection an absolute no-brainer. It has a better build quality, comes from a market leading manufacturer and is the cheapest of the three. Even at full price, roughly twice the price of the others, it is worthy of serious consideration by the professional who will give it heavy use.
Remember to check prices and offers before coming to a final conclusion.