When you decided to shop for a cordless circular saw, you probably had a battery-powered tool in mind. But a few decades ago there were gas-powered circular saws, and if you go back even further in time, you could even classify a water-powered sawmill (think Little House on the Prairie) as a cordless circular saw. Probably not what you had in mind!
Of course, a water-powered circular saw isn’t exactly portable or maneuverable, two of the primary reasons to go for a cordless model. As you shop for a battery-powered cordless circular saw, let our reviews help you narrow the field. And who knows? Maybe someday we’ll review the water-powered versions!
|Makita XSS02Z||8 lbs||4.8/5|
(Best for the Money)
|PORTER-CABLE PCC660B||8 lbs||4.3/5|
|Hilti 3482502 SCW||25 lbs||4.2/5|
The DeWalt DCS391B circular saw is super-popular and with good reason. Its 5,250rpm motor makes quick work of most household or job site cuts. With a 6 ¼” blade and 2 ¼” cutting depth, it offers a superb combination of power and versatility, plus the 5/8” arbor means you have access to a huge variety of blades. Compatible with the fleet of DeWalt batteries (sold separately), it can last all day, and since it only weighs 7 lbs., you won’t wear out either. It handles bevel cuts up to 50 degrees, comes with a basic carbide-tipped blade, and features a blade brake. On the market for over five years, the vast majority of complaints about this tool can be traced back to human error. It is the most expensive saw on our list, but worth every penny.
A close second to our Top Pick is the Makita XSS02Z saw. Users are happy with the power generated by the 3,700rpm motor and the cutting options provided with a 6 ½” blade and 2 ¼” depth of cut. At just over 7 lbs., it’s lightweight and maneuverable yet feels sturdy in your hand plus it’s relatively quiet (for a power saw). Like the DeWalt, it comes with one blade and can cut up to a 50-degree bevel. But it lacks a blade brake and Makita fans struggle to sort out which of the manufacturer’s batteries do or do not work with this saw. But if you’re already vested in the Makita family of tools and accompanying batteries, this is an excellent choice.
The Black + Decker BDCCS20C is an astoundingly good deal on a cordless circular saw. At roughly half the cost of our Top Pick, which is a bare tool, this B+D comes with not only a battery but also a charger. It is on the smaller side, with a 5 ½” blade included, but its weight (7.5lbs.) gives it heft without sacrificing portability. Although not suitable for professional or job site use – it’s not the most powerful saw you can buy – it is a welcome addition to any household tool arsenal. You could easily pay this much money for just a battery pack from another manufacturer, plus you’ll be able to use this saw almost right out of the box. If you’re shopping for your first circular saw, or if you’re worried about cutting off your own arm with one of these, this is an easily justified choice.
On paper, the Porter-Cable PCC660B shares many attributes with our more favored models. Its 6 ½” blade offers 2 1/8” cutting depth and up to a 50-degree bevel cut. It has a 4,000rpm motor, presumably for power, but at 6.5 lbs. is lightweight enough to be easy to use all day. And like most cordless power tool manufacturers, PC offers a fleet of interchangeable batteries. But in reality, this saw lacks any real cutting power and it feels flimsy instead of merely lightweight. It also has some significant design flaws. The safety mechanism for the trigger is exhausting for users, the blade is hard to get on and off, and anyone leaning over to keep an eye on their cut line is likely to get a face full of sawdust. If you’re already vested in the Porter-Cable family of tools, this might be the right choice, but otherwise, you’ll want to think twice about this model.
The first thing you are likely to notice about any Hilti tool is the sky-high price and their 3482502 SCW cordless circular saw is no exception. It seems to offer what most of our other saw listed here do – a 6 ½” blade with a max cutting depth of 2 ¼” and a max bevel angle of 50 degrees. This Hilti does come with an electric brake, which is not always the case with a cordless drill, plus it also comes with not one but two batteries, a charger, and a bag. But there’s no reason for the homeowner or hobbyist to spend this kind of money and even a general contractor probably doesn’t need to pony up for one either. Hilti tools are aimed at the heavy-duty construction site, and although it apparently provides legendary customer service to those users, it’s just overkill for even a busy contractor.
Before you commit to a cordless circular saw, be sure to think about the plusses and minuses that come it. Neither is inherently better than the other, but, as always, a little thought ahead of time about what you need from your tool goes a long way toward helping you pick the right one. Here’s a quick rundown on the corded versus cordless choice.
This is the number one issue in the corded/cordless debate. Although there are some powerful battery packs out there, none of them can compete with a plugged-in tool. If most of your work is small or around the house jobs, or you plan to use your saw primarily for easy tasks like plywood and 2x4s, you can definitely find a cordless saw that will never make you miss a cord. But if you’ve got heavy duty cutting ahead of you, corded is the better choice.
In part a function of power, size is another factor to keep in mind. Cordless saws are on the smaller size, with smaller blades, thus limiting their cut depth. You’re unlikely to find the largest circular saws without cords. If you anticipate needing the larger blades, corded is the way to go, but for most standard tasks, you can probably make the smaller blades do what you want.
Some would argue that the choice of blade is as important as the choice of saw. You can greatly enhance (or hamper) the effectiveness of your saw with your choice of blade. Conveniently, many blade manufacturers write the relevant information about the blade right on it, making it easy to figure out its size and what it’s designed for.
Blades for wood come with clearly defined teeth, ranging from over 100 small ones down to around 24 large ones. Large and few models are best for rough cuts that don’t need to be neat or pretty, like framing, and small and many are used when you need to be smooth and precise, like for plywood or cabinetry cuts. Because wood is the most common material being cut with circular saws, you’ll find the greatest variety of blades classified for wood.
Blades for wood are also described by the type of cut you expect to use it for. In addition to the above categories, you can get particular blades for rip cuts or cross cuts, although you can also get a combination blade that can handle either (if you don’t like the prospect of changing out the blade every two seconds). Cross cut blades usually have more teeth than a rip blade.
Blades for stone and other masonry have no teeth and are covered in the same abrasive material often used in sandpaper. You can cut concrete and brick with a coarse abrasion blade or marble and tile with a fine abrasion blade. In either case, wet-cutting will extend the life of your blade and can be as simple as getting a buddy to hold the hose over your work area.
Blades for metal-cutting will also be toothless but will have channels sliced into the edges to allow heat to escape. With the right blade, you can cut through copper, aluminum, bronze, and a variety of other metals.
To cut through plastic, you can use a wood blade with a high tooth count as long as you tackle the cut slowly to avoid creating kickback.
Blades will be made out of steel and those that are carbide-tipped will last longer but will cost more. You can also get diamond-tipped blades for super-long lifespan (but of course they will also set you back more).
Kerf – the width of the cut – is another blade consideration. A thin kerf blade results in less material being cut so these are easier for weaker saws to handle. The spectrum of saws that use these blades includes table saws with multiple horsepower motors, so your handheld cordless circular saw qualifies as weaker. Your saw and your blades will last longer if you choose thin-kerf blades (although thin-kerf blades don’t last as long as their thicker counterparts).
As you may have now guessed, if you already have a mitre saw or a table saw and you get a circular saw of the same size, you might be able to use the same blades. That interchangeability can save you some real money on blade purchases.
If you expect to be cutting the same material day in and day out, you’ll only need to invest in one good blade for that task and not worry about changing it. But if you foresee switching around the blades frequently, be sure to look for a saw that makes it fast and easy to do that. Many models, for instance, come with an onboard attached wrench that you need to change the blades – having it right there, on the saw, all the time, might save you time and frustration rooting through your pockets, your toolbox, or under the front seat of the truck looking for one.
With a reliable power source, you and your corded saw can go all day. With a cordless saw, though, you can only go as long as your battery lasts. How long the battery lasts will depend on what you’re doing as well as the initial strength and charge of the battery. If you’re the kind of woodworker who forgets what day it is, you’ll struggle to keep up with transporting and charging batteries on a regular basis – it’s easy to forget the battery altogether, or forget to charge it, but you can’t exactly forget the cord or the outlet. With no power at your fingertips, you won’t be sawing anything. But if you’re the person who always has three back up tape measures and extra gasoline in the bed of the truck, you won’t even notice adding battery upkeep and transport to your daily routine.
Even a top-of-the-line corded saw won’t work at a job site that hasn’t been wired for power yet. If that’s the kind of place where you do most of your cutting, you’ll have to go with a cordless model. But if your saw never leaves your basement, you can go either way. Every cordless saw is more portable than its corded cousin.
A cordless saw, by itself, is likely to be lighter than any corded saw. Adding a battery pack will tack on some extra weight, though, and the more juice in your battery, the more weight you’re going to add. Do you do a lot of cutting over your head or in front of you? Are you sawing exclusively day in and day out, or do you break it up with other tasks that use different muscles? A cordless saw, even one that’s a little heavier than a corded model, is going to be better for contortionist-style sawing. But if you’re always sawing at a sawhorse, you may not need the ability to hold it over your head for minutes at a time.
It may seem obvious, but one of the safety features inherent in a cordless saw is that not only can you not saw through the cord, no one else can, either. If you’ve got multiple fellas working in a small space, it will be a challenge to avoid tripping over each other’s cords let alone cutting through them. Cordless tools are easier and safer in crowded workspaces.
No one has yet invented a cord that is a joy to deal with. They get dirty, they get tangled, they get warped, and at the end of each day, you have to gather them all up and somehow store them. Cords are a hassle, but battery packs just line up snugly on the outlet back home, charging for the next day. Throwing all the battery packs into a bin is a much easier way to end your day than managing all the cords.
All the major tool manufacturers offer an array of battery packs that fit all their cordless tools. If you stick with one brand, you can build an arsenal of tools that all use the same few batteries, saving you money and hassle in the long run. But interchangeable battery packs don’t help you if you’ve got five different brands in your shop – you only get the flexibility from being brand loyal. Some toolmakers do a terrific job at making it easy to switch out batteries and offer them with a vast array of power at a variety of price points, but others aren’t quite as polished. And of course, none of this applies to corded tools, since they each have their own dedicated cord.
You can find corded and cordless saws at a variety of comparable price points but be sure to check if the cordless model you have your eye on comes with a battery – many do not. If you already have an interchangeable battery from that family of tools, no problem, but if not, factor in a battery purchase to the price of the cordless model.
The DeWalt DCS391B is our Top Pick cordless circular saw. It delivers powerful cutting performance, is easy to maneuver, and can saw all day long with the right battery. This is a solid choice for the both the DIY-er and the professional.
Coming in at Best for the Money is the Black + Decker BDCCS20C. Sold with the saw, a battery, and a charger means one-stop shopping and this model delivers enough performance for any garage woodworking enthusiast.
In this day and age, you don’t have to sacrifice performance to get a cordless tool. Batteries have come a long way and offer a versatility and flexibility you cannot get when attached to a power cord. When you’re ready to add a cordless circular saw to your stash of tools, you can be confident that our reviews will help you find the right one for the job.