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Best Worm Drive Saws – Reviews & Buyer’s Guide 2020

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a worm-drive saw in actionThere is an age-old debate among carpenters and construction workers about which is the better circular saw: direct drive or worm drive? Often attributed to a geographical or generational difference, it’s a topic that’s sure to bring up strong opinions among craftsmen.

In our wide experience testing tools, though, we’ve seen that worm drive circular saws are unparalleled in their ability to produce accurate cuts and handle large volumes of wood. That’s why we’ve put together this list of reviews for the best worm drive saws, complete with a handy buyer’s guide to fill you in on everything you need to know before buying your first worm drive saw.


Summary of our Favorites (updated in 2020)

ModelPriceBlade SpeedEditor Rating
DeWalt DWS535
DEWALT DWS535
Best Overall

Check Price
4,800 RPM4.8/5
SKILSAW SPT77WML-01
SKILSAW SPT77WML-01

Check Price
5,300 RPM4.7/5
Makita 5477NB
Makita 5477NB
Best Value

Check Price
4,500 RPM4.5/5
DeWalt DCS577B FLEXVOLT
DEWALT DCS577B FLEXVOLT

Check Price
5,800 RPM4.3/5
Milwaukee 6477-20
Milwaukee 6477-20

Check Price
4,400 RPM4.0/5

The 5 Best Worm Drive Saws

1. DEWALT DWS535 Worm Drive Saw – Best Overall

DeWalt DWS535

DeWalt consistently produces power tools that are the envy of home DIYers and professionals alike – and their DWS535B worm drive circular saw is certainly no exception. Quite lightweight for a worm drive saw, it’s one of the easiest to use and most accurate and stable circular saws we’ve ever had the pleasure of testing.

The DWS535B’s powerful 15-amp motor produces an impressive 4,800 RPM blade speed under no load, with enough torque to easily handle even the toughest of hardwoods. A quick blade change mechanism allows it to easily adjust to working on drywall, plastic, or metal without skipping a beat.

A good portion of magnesium components in this worm drive saw’s construction make it lighter than almost any other saw in this review. But don’t think that means it will be any less durable: Magnesium is harder and more resistant to corrosion than the aluminum used in less expensive saws.

Overall, there’s nothing that the DeWalt DWS535B doesn’t do exceptionally well. We’re continually impressed by its thoughtful design and safety features and give it our highest recommendation as the best overall worm drive saw you’re likely to find.

Pros
  • Rugged and long-lasting 15-amp motor
  • Fantastic torque makes for quick, accurate cuts
  • Ergonomically designed handle
  • 53-degree bevel
  • Quick blade changes
  • Electric brake
Cons
  • None

2. SKILSAW SPT77WML-01 Worm Drive Saw

SKILSAW SPT77WML-01

The closest direct competitor to the DeWalt worm drive saw that takes our top spot, the SKILSAW SPT77WML-01 has a lot to offer. Matching feature-for-feature in almost every area, it’s a powerful saw that’s well-equipped for even the most heavy-duty jobs around. If it were more ergonomically sound, it may well have stolen our top spot – especially since it’s nearly 3 pounds lighter than many other worm drive saws in our review!

Featuring a magnesium-laden construction and robust 15-amp motor – with a maximum blade speed of 5,300 RPM – the SPT77WML definitely means business. Plus, it’s equipped with dual copper windings that keep the motor cool even during extended operation, making it a perfect saw for professional jobsites.

In the end, however, you’ll need to have rather strong hands and forearms to operate this worm drive saw accurately. The vibrations it produces are more intense than almost any other saw we tested, and the lack of comfortable gripping surfaces on the handle made it hard to hold onto for any considerable amount of time.

Pros
  • 5,300 RPM blade speed
  • Dual copper windings keep the motor cooler during operation
  • Big 2⅜-inch maximum cutting capacity at 90 degrees
  • 53-degree bevel with a positive stop at 0 and 45 degrees
  • Easy blade changes thanks to the onboard wrench
Cons
  • Expensive
  • Excessive vibrations and lack of a comfortable grip

3. Makita 5477NB 7¼” Hypoid Saw – Best Value

Makita 5477NB

Featuring what may be the most comfortable design of any worm drive saw we’ve tested, the Makita 5477NB Hypoid saw is enjoyable to use despite its nearly 15-pound weight. Offering a robust 15-amp motor, it’s powered by hypoid gears that increase surface contact, and therefore torque as well.

All of that is enough to grab anyone’s attention – but when you see the price tag, you may not believe your eyes. Significantly less expensive than any other worm drive saw in our review, it’s an excellent choice for anyone on a tighter budget.

As far as downsides, this saw has quite a few plastic components that don’t always fair so well on the job site, and its combination of a heavier build and powerful vibrations can make it hard on your shoulders. At a price this good, though, it’s easy to see why we consider the Makita 5477NB the best worm drive saw for the money, flaws and all.

Pros
  • Hypoid gears give it even more torque than most worm drive saws
  • 15-amp motor provides enough power for any job
  • Amazing power for the price
  • Comfortable, ergonomically designed handle
Cons
  • On the heavy side
  • Plastic components aren’t very durable
  • Strong vibrations can make accurate cuts more difficult

4. DEWALT DCS577B Worm Drive Saw

DeWalt DCS577B

Can any battery-powered saw truly offer the same utility and cutting power of their corded brethren? For a long time, we would have thought the answer to that was a resounding “no” – until we found the DeWalt DCS577B, that is.

Compared to other worm drive saws we’ve tested, the DCS577B actually has a higher maximum blade speed: an outstanding 5,800 RPM. Add that to a 2400-watt maximum power output, integrated dust blower, electric brakes, and up to 53 degrees of beveling, and it’s clear that this saw is ready to handle any job.

Where the DCS577B loses serious points with us, though, is in the one-two punch of weight and price. Once the battery is installed, it’s the heaviest worm drive saw we’ve ever used. And at a price that’s leaps and bounds beyond most other saws in this review, it may be out of the reach of most casual woodworkers.

Pros
  • Cordless and battery-powered for maximum portability
  • Powerful 2400-watt output produces 5,800 RPM blade speed
  • Dust blower makes it easier to see cuts, increasing accuracy
  • Long battery life
  • 3-year warranty protects your investment
Cons
  • Quite expensive
  • Heaviest worm drive saw we’ve used
  • Batteries sold separately

5. Milwaukee 6477-20 Worm Drive Circular Saw

Milwaukee 6477

At first glance, the Milwaukee 6477-20 would seem to give any other worm drive saw a run for its money. Its torque-heavy 15-amp motor delivers up to 4,400 RPM of blade speed, and the magnesium construction is built to last. Throw in a composite shoe for good measure, and it seems like a reasonable competitor for your attention.

That’s about where our positive evaluation of the 6477-20 ends, though. Even though it’s made in China, this saw is no less expensive than any other on our list. And at nearly 19 pounds, it’s as heavy or heavier than any saw on our list – including the battery-powered saw from DeWalt.

In short, there are too many other great worm drive saws for us to strongly recommend this one for most buyers.

Pros
  • Powerful 15-amp motor
  • Composite shoe and magnesium construction
Cons
  • On the expensive side
  • Far too heavy
  • Uncomfortable handle design

Buyer’s Guide

a worm drive sawIf you’re wondering whether a worm drive saw is the right choice for your workshop, we recommend studying up on everything that they’re capable of. Once you know what exactly you’re looking for, it’s easy to choose – so let’s take a look at the following pre-buy considerations in more detail:

Who Can Benefit from a Worm Drive Saw?

Equipped with much greater torque than a sidewinder circular saw, the worm drive saw is generally better suited towards heavy-duty construction and woodworking jobs. The balanced motor placement tends to make them produce more accurate cuts, as well as cleaner edges on each cut made.

Worm drive saws are a powerful and versatile addition to any woodworker or DIY enthusiast’s toolkit and can do far more than just make quick rips and crosscuts. In the hands of a skilled user, the right worm drive circular saw can be used for cutting framing lumber, roofing, metal, and sheet goods, or making quick work of demolition projects.

What to Look for In a Worm Drive Saw

Just because worm drive circular saws are considered an option suitable for professional use doesn’t mean that they’re all created equally. In our quest to find the best worm drive saws out there, we found the following qualities to be the biggest determinants of overall value:

  • Power, in the form of both maximum blade speed and torque, is the easiest way to differentiate one worm drive saw from the next. Only the best saws will consistently deliver excellent power from reliable motors.
  • Ergonomics can make or break your experience of using a worm drive saw. Because they often weigh in on the heavier side, you should always look for designs that reduce or limit vibrations, as well as saws that leave off excess accessories that only serve to add to the weight.
  • Cutting Capacity is where a worm drive saw can really shine, both in overall depth and degree of bevel. A 45-degree bevel is standard, and any cutting capacity that nears 2 inches is excellent.
  • Accuracy may be the hardest quality to measure in a worm drive saw, as it is a result of the combination of several features. A stable metal foot, low vibration, and powerful dust blower will all contribute to the overall accuracy of the saw.

worm drive gear

What Is a Worm Drive, Anyway?

Designed specifically to produce higher torque, the worm drive consists of a worm – a gear in the form of a screw – that meshes with a worm gear. This gear configuration allows for an indirect transfer of force that differentiates it from a direct drive saw.

Worm drives have the advantage of requiring a much smaller gearbox than those used for spur gears, which is what allows them to be placed directly behind the blade in worm drive circular saws.

Worm Drive vs Direct Drive Circular Saws

When deciding on the right saw for your needs, it’s useful to understand the unique advantages and disadvantages of both worm drive and direct drive circular saws.

In short, worm drive saws have a greater cutting capacity and produce more accurate cuts but are also heavier and pricier. Direct drive saws are lightweight, inexpensive, and easy to use, but not nearly as accurate or powerful.

For a complete discussion of the differences between these two types of saws, check out our article on worm drive vs direct drive circular saws.

Conclusion

For the best in cutting power and unstoppable durability, no other saw in our reviews can beat out the DeWalt DWS535 7¼” 15-Amp Worm Drive Circular Saw. It’s a beast of a circular saw, easily capable of cutting through the densest hardwoods and man-made boards thanks to its 4,800 RPM blade speed. If you’re looking for the absolute best worm drive saw around, it’s definitely worthy of being your first consideration.

Home DIY enthusiasts with smaller budgets might enjoy the Makita 5477NB 7¼” Hypoid Saw as a low-cost alternative to our top pick. It’s surprisingly powerful and performed will on rips and crosscuts in our testing, making it perhaps the best worm drive saw for the money. Anyone with more casual requirements for their worm drive saw will enjoy its cost-effectiveness and versatility.