what is a circular saw

There are many different types of saw used in DIY, woodwork, and construction today. One of the most common is the circular saw. In this article, we answer the question ‘what is a circular saw?’. We also discuss the interesting history of this tool, how to use a circular saw, and the different types of saw available.

Circular Saw – A Basic Definition

The basic definition of a circular saw is a powered saw that uses an abrasive or toothed blade to cut material using rotary action. Pretty simple right? This type of saw has three main components – a motor, a blade, and blade teeth. There are manual circular saws, but these are antiquated and require too much effort. Therefore, a motor is usually the central part of the tool. The motor powers the blade and provides the rotary action to create a cut.

The other main component is the blade. Typically, the blade has teeth. The teeth are on the edge of the blade disc. It is these sharpened teeth that cut the material when spinning at fast evolutions.

The Different Types of Circular Saw

The above is just a basic definition and shows the essential features of a circular saw. There are, however, two distinct types of a circular saw. It is important to distinguish between these two blades as they have very different uses and designs. These are the handheld circular saw and the table saw.

Handheld Circular Saw

One of the most common types of a circular saw is the handheld version. This type of saw is used in general construction, woodworking shops, and for home DIY. They are much smaller tools and have a smaller blade diameter than table saws. The following are some of the different types of handheld saw:

  • Multitool
  • Carbide Saws
  • Concrete Saw
  • Mitre Saw

The most common design is the standard handheld circular saw. This device typically has a base plate that allows you to set the depth of the cut and guide the blade to make accurate rip cuts and bevel cuts. The blades are usually covered by a protective guard to reduce the chance of injury. Also, the blades are attached to a motor that powers the tool. They also usually have two holding points. One point above the blade that you hold from a downward position and the other is at the rear. The rear handle is also where the trigger or power button located.

To use a circular saw like this, we advise wearing a dust mask and protecting your hands. These tools are easy to use once you understand the basics. The base plate allows you to follow your cutting line easily, and you can make accurate cuts through various materials.

Another feature of the handheld saw is the ability to set the blade depth. There is usually a simple key or link that you can loosen to alter the blade depth. It means that you can make a range of cuts through different thicknesses of materials. Handheld circular saws can make cuts in wood, metal, ceramic, and even concrete when using diamond blades.

Table Saw

The other common type of circular saw is thetable saw. It is a fixed-position saw that is not used handheld. Instead of holding the saw, you hold the material and guide it onto the blades to create a smooth and straight cut. The following are two common types of table saw:

  • Radial arm saw
  • Full table saw

A radial arm saw is a smaller table saw. This type of saw can sit on top of a workbench. The blades are attached to the motor via an overhanging radial arm. You then either pull the arm down to cut through material or the arm is low enough and in a fixed position so that you can guide the wood or metal onto the blades.

Alternatively, the full table saw is a much larger machine. This type of machine has a flat top board through which the blades are secured – part of the blade will protrude from the top of the board. You then simply use a pedal or power button to turn the machine on to cut wood and metal. You then guide your workpiece along with the board and onto the blades to follow the cut line.

These machines are used for heavy-duty jobs involving larger materials like full sheets of metal or wooden logs. For quick and effective cuts, table saws are excellent devices, and they can make clean cuts without the need for a tape measure. They are also versatile as you can adjust the depth of the cut and use a diamond blade to tackle harder materials.

When Was the Circular Saw First Invented?

Since you understand the basics of the circular saw, let’s take a look at where this invention came from. Did you know that the circular saw has been in use since the 18th century? There are various claims to the original invention, but all come from the 1700s and 1800s.

One of the best-known claims is from Tabbitha Babbitt. This Shaker woman is most commonly associated with having the original idea for the circular saw. Babbitt lived in a Shaker community in 1813. After watching men struggling with traditional sawing methods to cut lumber, she envisioned a revolutionary improvement that utilizes her spinning wheel! The main issue was that the men were only cutting wood on the forward stroke. The energy was expended on the reverse stroke without any cutting – this made the technique incredibly inefficient.

Essentially, she attached a circular blade to her spinning wheel. When the pedal was used, the blade would rotate fast and thus create a cutting action. It would improve efficiency and reduce the intense labour involved in using a traditional lumber saw. After her initial design proved successful, improvements were made, and it was turned into a larger machine used for heavy-duty lumber cutting.

What Can a Circular Saw Be Used For?

The different types of circular saw products are used in a range of industries. They are some of the most versatile power tools available due to the wide range of designs and configurations. The following are some of the common uses of circular saws:


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Home DIY Use

For DIY enthusiasts or renovators, a circular saw can prove to be a valuable tool. The two-handed handheld circular saws are a little large, but if you have a dedicated garage, shed, or workshop for your tools, you can comfortably accommodate one.

People often use circular saws at home to cut wood and for basic carpentry tasks. They are even used for cutting patio slabs for gardening projects or ceramic tiles for bathroom and kitchen renovations. If using any type of power tool at home, it is always advised to wear safety glasses to prevent shards from damaging your eyes.

In Sawmills

Huge table saws with immense cutting blades are the mainstay of sawmills. These industrial factories are capable of cutting huge volumes of lumber per day. Without effective circular saws, they would not be able to cut such a large volume of material.

In sawmills, table saws are set up in long production lines that allow for an efficient flow of material from delivery to the finished cut material. They may also incorporate smaller handheld saws for more intricate work and specialist orders.

For Carpentry and Woodwork Tasks

If you enter a carpenter’s workplace, you will most likely find a circular saw. It is the primary power tool for cutting wood. Without a powerful circular saw, a carpenter would struggle to make different cuts like bevel cuts and crosscuts.

This type of power tool may not be used for intricate detail work. Instead, carpenters would use smaller tools or even a hammer and chisel. However, a circular saw with a laser guide is an important tool for cutting the overall shape of the wood to be moulded in finer detail.

General Construction Work

Finally, you will often see circular saw blades on construction sites and building projects. Contractors usually order materials to exact specifications – no cutting is required. However, there are often instances where materials don’t fit. Or there may be instances where the material needs adjustments.

This is where a circular saw proves invaluable for construction. It can be used for everything, including cutting wood, tiles, piping, tubing, and even concrete. This type of tool can make a great difference for contractors who need flexibility.

Circular Saw FAQs

Can a Circular Saw Cut Through Concrete?

Yes, but only to a limited depth. Most circular saws have a cutting process with a fixed depth, and you cannot exceed this. As a result, you would first use circular saws to create a guideline and cut as deep as possible when cutting concrete. After this, you would need to use other tools like a sledgehammer if you wanted to break a large concrete piece.

Are Circular Saws Safe to Use?

Usually yes. However, a power tool is only as safe as the operator! Handheld circular saws have protective blade guards that prevent you from getting too close to the carbide blade with your hands. Also, many of the tools have a safety trigger or built-in safety features to prevent accidental powering.

Are There Corded and Cordless Circular Saws?

Yes! Both have their advantages and disadvantages. Cordless saws give greater freedom and movement. Alternatively, corded saws have a constant power source, and you do not have to recharge a battery continually.

Time to Upgrade

What is a circular saw? It is a powered tool that uses a toothed blade to saw different materials using rotary action. There are different types of circular saws, so choose the right one for your needs. Whatever you are using it for, don’t forget always to practice safety.

Have you used a circular saw before? What projects have you completed using this tool? Send us a message below.

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