Power Saw Buying Guide - How to Choose the Right One for the Job
There’s a multitude of power saws on the market, and choosing the right one to add to your toolbox can be a bit of a minefield. Compared to using a hand saw, a power saw is far superior in terms of speed, accuracy and ease of use - but only if you purchase the right one for the job at hand. In this extensive guide we’ll go through some of the most popular types of saws on the market and explain the differences between them.
As with many power tools, you’ll find several variations of power saw, all designed for slightly different applications. There’s plenty of overlap between what each type of saw can do, so before you make your investment, you’ll need to know the sort of jobs you want to tackle around the home and garden. As with anything, the more ambitious your DIY projects, the more variants of power saw you’ll end up needing.
What We'll Cover in this Piece;
Material and Type of Cut
We’ve put together this quick selection of tables to help you choose the right type of saw for the specific cut you want to perform. The tables feature four of the most popular power tools on the market; jigsaws, reciprocating saws, circular saws and mitre saws. We’ve rated each tool in each category depending on how suitable it is for the cut in question. There are 4 separate tables to compare each of the most commonly used materials.
Wood/ MDF & Plywood
|Shape||Excellent||Good||Not Possible||Not Possible|
|Bevel Cut||Some Jigsaws||Poor||Some Circulars||Excellent|
|Straight Line||Good||Good||Not Possible||Poor|
|Shape||Good||Good||Not Possible||Not Possible|
|Piping||Fair||Fair||Not Possible||Some Mitres|
|Shape||Good||Good||Not Possible||Not Possible|
|Straight Line||Good||Good||Not Recommended||Not Recommended|
|Shape||Good||Fair||Not Possible||Not Possible|
|Pipe||Good||Good||Not Recommended||Not Recommended|
Types of Power Saw
For professional quality straight cuts in wood, you can’t have a better tool in your box than the trusty circular saw. You can use your circular saw free hand, with a parallel fence or mounted in a saw table. The larger the blade of your circular saw, the thicker materials you’ll be able to handle and the more versatile your saw will be. Almost all circular saws have an adjustable cutting depth, so once you’re set up, you can cut similar pieces of wood again and again.
Jobs you might use a circular saw for:
- Cutting across large pieces of wood and sheet materials
- MDF doors, shelves, laminate flooring, worktops and decking
- Making slots, grooves or shallow cuts
Milwaukee HD18CS-0 18V Circular Saw
The Circular Saw is ideal for a range of applications from plumbing, electrical, framing, carpentry and finishing. The high performance ensures the most durability in a cordless saw. Alongside this is the powerful 3,500 RPM motor which cuts through tough materials with ease such as LVL headers.
An easy-to-read aircraft aluminium shoe provides a light weight durable shoe and greater accuracy in rip cuts.The blade is protected from drops with the magnesium upper and lower guards. Superior comfort and balance for easy and controlled cuts is achieved with the soft-grip ergonomic handle.
Makita DHS680Z 18V Brushless Circular Saw 165mm
This Circular Saw from Makita provides high speeds of 5000rpm thanks to the highly efficient brushless motor. This powerful model is equipped with automatic speed control to ensure optimum performance is delivered when under a load. Allowing you to increase or reduce the speed of the saw ensuring that it only uses the amount of energy needed when required. This enables for optimum operation, meaning you get the most out of your saw, blade and battery.
Milwaukee M18CCS55-0 18V 165mm Fuel Circular Saw & Free Blade
The Milwaukee M18CCS55-0 Circular Saw has 50° bevel capacity with magnesium upper and lower guards which provide the user class durability for impact resistance. Maximum durability is achieved with the circular saw with the magnesium shoe which also helps to reduce the weight of the saw.
Safety is integrated into the machine with an integrated dust blower which keeps the cut line clear and hang hooks for safe storage of the tool. The saw uses a powerstate™ motor which gives the user up to 2x more cuts per charge and 3x longer motor life.
Ryobi ONE+ RWSL1801M 18V 150mm Cordless Circular Saw
The powerful Ryobi 18V ONE+ circular saw has an impressive 45mm maximum cutting depth at 90° and a useful 50° bevel capacity. Featuring simple blade changing with the spindle lock and high performance cutting courtesy of an ultra thin TCT blade. This saw is specifically designed for reducing power drain and high performance applications. Boasting all the added extras you'd expect from Ryobi, the built in laser for enhanced cut accuracy gives you the ability to cut true time after time.
When it comes to making tricky, intricate and artistic cuts you can’t do better than a jigsaw. With the thinnest blades of all the saws featured in this guide, a jigsaw can accurately follow curved cut lines. Jigsaw blades can even fit through a drill hole, meaning you don’t need to start at the edge of a project like you do with a circular saw. Although you can make a long, straight cut, this isn’t the ideal tool for the job unless you use a fence as a guide. If you’re going to be making straighter cuts we’d suggest choosing a slower cutting speed and a wider blade to prevent the tool from binding. More advanced jigsaws will have an orbital cutting action for quick rough cuts. Many saws have a pivoting base for making cuts at an angle, which can be useful for making joints.
Jobs you might use a jigsaw for:
- Awkward shapes in sheet materials and tiles
- Cutting shelves, worktops, skirting boards, laminate flooring
- Making your own jigsaw puzzle and wooden toys
Ryobi ONE+ R18JS-0 18V Cordless Jigsaw with Flush Cut & LED Light
Powerful, accurate, reliable and completely cordless, courtesy of the Ryobi ONE+ battery system, this popular 18V jigsaw is packed with innovation and features.With up to 3,000 strokes per minute and class-leading 4 stage pendulum cutting action, you get flawless cuts. Flick through speed controls, one-handed, with the convenient speed selection dial. Match the material application to the speed settings and get a perfect finish every time.
Makita DJV182Z 18V Brushless Jigsaw
The DJV182Z Jigsaw from Makita features brushless motor, which in turn provides up to 50% more runtime, increased power, speed and overall tool life. Boasting a maximum of 3500rpm no load speed this innovative motor system reduces the blade speed when no load is detected, allowing you to easily trace cutting lines. This Jigsaw also features an electronic push power button and variable speed dial for greater flexibility. It's built-in blower function keeps cut line clear of sawdust, keeping your work space easier to navigate.
Also known as a sabre saw, reciprocating power saws are designed for heavier duty tasks than jigsaws and utilize an oscillating cutting action for more aggressive cutting. You use a reciprocating saw with both hands, meaning it’s far easier to cut overhead or vertically than with most other power saws. The oscillating action means that the blade moves back and forth as well as up and down, resulting in super quick cuts, even in tougher materials. This extra speed does come at the expense of the finish, making reciprocating power saws popular for demolition work and making pre-cuts.
Jobs you might use a reciprocating saw for:
- Demolition work, removing old windows, bathroom renovations
- Fence posts, decking boards, stud partitioning
- Wood embedded with nails
Milwaukee M18CSX-0 18V Fuel 0-300spm, 28mm Recip / Sawzall
This saw is equipped with a gear protecting clutch that extends the motors life and gear due to it absorbing high impact forces that can be caused when the blade suddenly locks-up. It also enables the user to change their blade easily, safely and quickly with the fixtec blade clamp. An adjustable shoe can also be used for optimal use of the blades and a bright LED light is also on the machine for maximum usage of the saw.
Ryobi ONE+ RRS1801M 18V, 22mm Cordless Reciprocating Saw
The powerful cordless 18V reciprocating saw from Ryobi is the perfect multi-purpose cutting device for any keen DIY enthusiast. The variable speed settings are simple and intuitive, whilst the adjustable shoe makes for a clean cut, every time. The GripZone, pozi-grip mouldings work together with Ryobi’s Antivibe technology to maximise cut quality and keep the tool comfortable to use.
Milwaukee M18FHZ-0X M18 18v 22mm Fuel Hackzall
The Milwaukee M18FHZ-0X Fuel Hackzall gives you 22mm stroke length, for controlled cutting with a no load stroke rate of 3000 spm. The cutting positioning can be optimised with the use of the pivoting shoe. Using a powerstate™ brushless motor this saw provides increased efficiency and delivers maximum power. The blades can easily be changed thanks to the patented fixtec clamp. This hackzall is compatible with all M18 batteries.
A mitre saw is a bit like a circular saw on a large pivoting head, which is pulled down onto the work piece via a spring loaded hinge. The base plate has a fence that can be adjusted and set at a specific angle so you can deliver straight cuts through wood at any angle. With a compound mitre saw you have the added bonus of being able to do a bevel cut, meaning the pivoting head can be angled too. This therefore means you can do more complicated skirting joints, boxing in and MDF work. Other features you may or may not find useful are things like a laser guide and dust extraction. Neither feature is essential, but these features do improve cut line visibility and therefore the quality of your cuts.
Jobs you might use a mitre saw for:
- Angled cuts when laying floor, perfect for tiles, laminate wood floors ect
- Repeatable Cuts, put a stop on one end of the work surface and butt your work piece against that stop, this will allow you to make cuts at the exact same length
- complicated skirting joints
Milwaukee MS216SB 216mm 110V Slide Mitre Saw
The Milwaukee Mitre Saw has a 216mm blade which delivers large and accurate cuts. The powerful frame-less motor delivers 6000rpm providing fast cutting power. To cut lines perfectly and quickly, the mitre saw is fitted with an adjustable laser. For repeat accurate cuts, the steel detent plate with preset angles is ideal to use along with the lock lever.
Ryobi EMS254L 2000W 254mm Compact Sliding Mitre Saw
The Ryobi compact mitre saw is surprisingly compact and lightweight. It benefits from forward sliding bars allowing you to work against a wall. Despite the compact size, this saw holds its own in terms of versatility and power; extra wide side extensions provide support when working with timber, and a 2000W motor provides 4,500rpm for seamless cutting.
Corded or Cordless Power Saws
Now you’ve managed to choose between the different types of power saw, your next big decision is whether you want a mains powered tool or a battery powered tool. It was once the case that if you wanted a powerful tool, you needed a corded saw, but with a new generation of lithium-ion powered battery tools, you have a bit more to choose from.
Most standard power tools with come with a pretty short cord, maybe under a metre long. Trailing cables and extension leads can be dangerous, especially when you’ve got an incredibly fast moving saw blade in your hand. There's no risk of damaging your power saw cable with a cordless option.
Being free from electrical outlets will give you far more options for where you can carry out a project than a corded alternative. If you want to be able to carry out a job in your home, attic, shed or the bottom of your garden with an equal amount of ease, a cordless option might be right for you.
When you’re actually making a cut, you’ll find that a cordless option is easier to follow a cut line without trailing cables or an uneven weight distribution. This means that your sawing might actually be more accurate with a cordless tool.
Initial start up costs with battery tools can put people off from investing in a cordless alternative. A new tool, plus a couple of batteries and a charger will normally cost more than a simple plug-in-and-go style power saw. In addition this extra cost can be offset by the fact many power tools have interchangeable battery systems.
Batteries, however, run out - which can be less than convenient during longer DIY jobs. Therefore corded tools are a great alternative if you don't have the funds to buy multiple batteries. They can run your tools for as long as needed with out having to change power supplies. Corded is also particularly good for stationary saws such as the mitre saw that doesn't need to be moved about.
Brushed or Brushless
Both brushless and brushed electric motors have magnets that are responsible for the rotary motion of the motor shaft. In theory if you were to try to push a N magnet up against a S magnet, a force is created that pushes the magnets away from each other. This is the driving principle behind electric motors.
The traditional brushed motor has four basic parts: carbon brushes, a ring of magnets, an armature, and a commutator. The magnets and brushes are stationary, while the armature and commutator rotate together on the motor shaft within the magnets. A charge travels from the battery, when the motor is energised, through the brushes, which are spring-loaded to maintain physical contact with the communicator. The commutator then passes the charge on to the armature, which is made up of copper windings, which is then magnetised by the charge and pushes against the stationary ring of magnets that surround it. Thus forcing the armature assembly to spin. This spin then doesn't stop until the charge from the battery stops. A brushed motor will always run as fast as it can while in use.
Milwaukee M18BSX-501B 18v Heavy Duty Recip / Sawzall, 5Ah Battery, Charger & Bag
The Milwaukee M18BSX Sawzall delivers 28.6mm stroke length and 3000 strokes per minute for extremely fast cutting. The powerful 4-pole motor delivers maximum power whilst maximising the power to weight ratio. The sawzall has a patented Fixtec clamp for easy and fast keyless blade changes.
A brushless motor, however loses the brushes and the commutator. The the magnets and windings locations are reversed: with the magnets on the conventional motor shaft and the copper windings of the armature are fixed and surround the shaft. Instead of brushes and a commutator, a small circuit board coordinates the energy delivery to the windings. Because the electronics communicate directly with the stationary windings, the tool adjusts according to the task. For example, if you're using a brushless drill to drive screws into Styrofoam, it more readily senses the lack of resistance and begins to pull only what little charge it needs from the battery. If the tool then starts putting 3-inch screws into mahogany, it will adjust accordingly and draw more current.
Milwaukee M18CSX-501 18V Recip/Sawzall, 5.0Ah Battery and Rapid Fast Charger Bundle
The reciprocating saws motor gives the user around x5 longer motor life and up to 30% faster cutting. The saw also enables the user to change their blade easily, safely and quickly with the FIXTEC blade clamp. An adjustable shoe can also be used for optimal use of the blades and a bright LED light is also on the machine for maximum usage of the saw.
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