Choosing A Circular Saw

I have spent thirty plus years doing construction and renovations. During that time, we have used and even abused, most brands, styles and sizes of hand held circular saws. (I personally was never involved in the abuse part). Having employees, means having abuse. It’s surprising what some people will do with someone else’s equipment.

The first circular saw I ever purchased was a Skill 7 1/4″ saw, with 2 1/4 H.P. I was eighteen at the time, and had just decided I was going to be a contractor, when I grew up. (if I grew up). The unit I purchased was not my first choice, as it seemed kind of expensive at the time. The owner of the lumber yard I was dealing with, also happened to own a large construction company. When he saw me carrying the saw I chose up to the counter, he inquired how long I intended on being in business.

Me being the cocky sort, said something along the lines of forever. (Failing didn’t seem even remotely possible, at the time). He said if that’s the case, I’d better reconsider my choice of saws. My choice was apparently a poor one. He steered me to the Skill saw I ended up with. Now, thirty years later, the only repairs ever needed on that saw has been two cords, and a set of brushes. The cords don’t stand up well to a saw blade.

That particular saw has a set of bearings in it that will keep the blade spinning for about twenty seconds after letting go of the switch. In the right hands, it will cut a line straight and square. And believe me when I say it’s seen some serious use, in many different hands.

I’ve since bought about every brand and size since then, and have never been as satisfied as I was with that one. Even the 8 1/4″ saw, supposedly the same saw but larger, and about fifteen years newer, hasn’t impressed me as much as the first one. Cutting a straight line with that one has never become second nature like the first. (In all fairness, I personally haven’t done the amount of actual physical work as I did in those early years, thank God). I am still able to cut a very straight cut with the original one though.

That saw wasn’t a worm drive saw. That particular style of saw seems to lend themselves to cutting a straight line rather easily, and have plenty of power. This style is the first choice of many professional contractors, due to there ruggedness. I have, and use this type of saw as well, but I limit it’s use to very abusive situations. They are made to take it.

I’ve bought saws from manufacturers, that were reputed to be very high quality, and were made by the very same people who made some serious equipment, that performed extremely well. After using them for a couple weeks, I just gave them away. Some saws are not designed for the user, but for the ease of manufacture. No thank you very much!

Sometimes I swear that the engineers have never held, used, or researched the very tool they were designing! And the surprising part is they actually make it to the market. You’d think that somewhere along the line, someone would have said, “this is a piece of junk”, and sent the engineer back to school, or at the very least, back to the drawing board. But no!

One of the newer brands on the market, is Festool. While it has it’s limitations for construction, for cabinet making it’s great. With the extendable, non slip, track system, cabinet quality cuts are simple. Even mitering cabinet sides on a job site are no problem. And with the dust collection system hooked up to it, it’s hard to beat. I did notice new users have a bit of trouble getting used to it having a retractable blade system. This lead them to actually having a kick back, and cutting the aluminum guide. This seems especially true for left handed users. And for those with two left hands, forget it.

Bottom line in choosing a saw is first deciding what type of work it will be used for most often. If you’re going to be cutting 2″ x 4″ lumber, forget the Festool. It’s just not worth destroying a good saw for that. Also, stay away from the $39.99 saws, unless your need a curved cut, because straight is out of the question. Anytime you can watch the shaft slide in and out during a cut, you have a problem.

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