PLUNGE CIRCULAR SAWS WITH GUIDE RAILS
QUICK NOTE: To buy any product reviewed below, click on the Buy Now button to go directly to the appropriate page on another secure site to get more information on that product and/or make a purchase. The “Bob’s Pick” logo below indicates which of the products below has earned Bob Gillespies highest purchase recommendation. Below the reviews is a SIDE-BY-SIDE COMPARISON CHART and, finally, an article by Bob Gillespie on important features to consider when shopping and why.
DEWALT DC520SK TRACKSAW WITH 59” TRACK
Accurate as a table saw, portable as a conventional circular saw, and as capable as a panel saw, the Dewalt DC520SK Tracksaw makes perfectly straight, splinter-free cuts in plywood and other sheet materials. Track adjustment is fast and precise and clamps are not needed due to friction strips on the bottom of the track. Just plunge into the cut and push it effortlessly along the 59-long track. The saw has an anti-kickback capability. The blade is 6 1/2 in diameter. An additional 46 track is available for $79.99 additional and two or more tracks can be connected end-to-end with the use of a track connector ($19.99) additional. The 59 track alone will easily cross-cut a 4 foot-wide plywood sheet at 90 degrees. Connect the 46 track and you can rip the entire 8-foot length with a total track length of 105. The track can be tilted in order to make up to 47-degree bevel cuts with your circular saw.
The edge of the track is the precise location of the cut and this exact proximity of the track to one side of the cut is what prevents the splintering common to most circular saws. The anti-kickback feature allows the circular saw to travel only forward along the track. However, this feature can be turned off at the option of the operator, should a particular plunge cut require backing up the circular saw slightly to the actual start point.
The circular saw includes a standard 1 1/4″ dust port for connection to a shop vacuum and when this is done, up to 90 percent of the sawdust can be collected from the cutting point. The saw comes with a precision-ground 6 1/2, 40-tooth ATB carbide blade for smooth, precise cuts. Maximum cut depth at 90 degrees is 2 1/8 and 1 5/8 at a 45-degree bevel. The maximum output of this saw is rated at 1300 watts / 12 Amps. The no-load speed range is 1750 to 4000 RPM. The saw weighs 12 Lbs.
FESTOOL TS55 EQ PLUNGE CUT CIRCULAR SAW WITH GUIDE RAIL
This is the smaller of two plunge circular saws made by Festool. This one has a 6 1/4″ blade which allows the circular saw to make 90 degree cuts as deep as 1 15/16 and 45 degree cuts at a depth of 1 7/16. Without the guide rail, the saw can cut as deep as 2 1/8 at 90 degrees. Keep in mind that the saws 20mm arbor may require buying your saw blades from Festool or another foreign manufacturer. The circular saw blade completely retracts into its housing, making plunge cuts into the middle of a sheet of plywood safe and easy. This saw and its big brother the TS75 (below) both use Festools zero-clearance guide rail which insure absolutely straight, splinter-free cuts on both faces of the sheet stock. Clamping of the rail is not necessary although the rails have the provision for non-interfering clamps if so desired. Special clamps are available at extra cost.
The circular saw blade can be locked in the extended position and restricted from turning to make blade changes easy. A spring-loaded riving knife extends and retracts into the housing with the circular saw blade. The splinter guard prevents splintering on both sides of the cut, preserving both the good piece and the waste piece. Alignment cams underneath the saws base plate adjust so that there is zero play between the saw and the track which is guiding it.
Festools bevel tilt mechanism (that is built into the tracks) keeps the straight edge of the zero-clearance guide rail on the cut line at all times, regardless of the bevel. A 48-tooth circular saw carbide blade is included along with a Plug-it 13-foot power cord, a plastic splinter guard, an FS/2 limit stop and a Systainer case. Power consumption is 1200 watts / 10 Amps and the circular saw blade speed range is 2000 to 5200 RPM. Saw weight (alone) is 9.92 Lbs.
A 55 guide rail is included. Other guide rails are not included with this saw but are available at extra cost, as follows: 32 = $65, 42 = $85, 55 = $98, 75 = $175, 106″ = $270, 118 = $300. $197 = $500.
FESTOOL TS75 EQ PLUNGE CUT CIRCULAR SAW WITH GUIDE RAIL
Much of what was said above concerning the smaller Festool TS55 EQ Plunge Circular Saw applies to this larger circular saw model. The differences are mostly in relative size and capacity, so I will talk only about the differences to prevent repetition. This circular saw comes with an 8.25, 36-tooth fine-cut carbide blade. Its motor produces 1600 watts / 13 Amps and the circular saw blade speed ranges from 1350 to 3550 RPM. Bevel cuts can be made from zero to 45 degrees.
Cutting depth (with the guide rail) is 2 3/4 at 90 degrees and 2 1/8 at 45 degrees. With out the guide rail, the cutting depth is increased to 2 15/16.The arbor size is 30mm, not a standard, American size, so you will probably be roped into buying your blades from Festool or another foreign manufacturer. This bigger circular saw weighs 13.6 Lbs. as opposed to 9.92 Lbs. for the smaller model.
An on-board kickback stop prevents kickbacks during plunge cuts. A rotating dust port allows better freedom of movement when the circular saw is attached to a vacuum. A triple-bearing motor improves the smoothness of the circular saw when cutting and means longer life for the motor.
Guides used for this Festool saw are the same as those used for the TS55 EQ circular saw so the prices quoted above apply here as well. A larger, 75 guide rail is included with this larger saw.
MAKITA SP6000K1 6.5-INCH PLUNGE CIRCULAR SAW / GUIDE RAIL
This circular saw includes a 55 rail and a 6.5, 48-tooth carbide blade. Its motor is rated at 12 amps / 1300 watts and has an electronic soft-start feature for smooth operation. Bevel capacity is -1 to +48 degrees with detents at 22.5 and 45 degrees. Magnesium components contribute to the light, 9.1 Lb. weight of this saw.
A locking lever aids in blade changing. An included wrench is inserted through a hole to tighten and loosen the arbor nut. An electronic brake contributes to productivity because, with this circular saw, it is not necessary to wait very long for the circular saw blade to cease rotation. A 1 7/16 dust port directs sawdust away from the operator and can be attached to a vacuum cleaner. This circular saw features a built-in depth stop.
The plunge release lever is conveniently located for ease of operation and the depth adjustment is easy to set because of a large scale. This circular saw has dual front and rear bevel supports for increased rigidity and precision and rubberized handles for comfort.
WORM-DRIVE CIRCULAR SAWS FOR CONSTRUCTION
BOSCH 1677MD 7 1/4” WORM DRIVE CIRCULAR SAW
This worm-drive circular saw has a motor rated at 15 Amps and a top blade speed of 4400 RPM. Its left blade design gives the operator a clear view of the cut line. It has an anti-snag lower guard and a magnesium foot plate for greater strength. The magnesium housing saves on weight. The 1677MD circular saw has a 50 degree bevel capacity and a positive stop at 45 degrees. It also features large adjustment levers and a spindle lock to make blade changes easier. The brushes are easy to service on this circular saw.
Bosch has included a diamond-shaped arbor for non-slip blade performance. Maximum depth of cut at 90 degrees is 2 3/8, at 50 degrees, 1 13/16 and at 45 degrees, 1 15/16. The saw weighs 14 Lbs.
SKIL SHD77M 7 1/4″ MAGNESIUM WORM DRIVE CIRCULAR SAW
The Skilsaw worm drive circular saw used to be the industry standard and had no competition. Even though times have changed and there are now models available from competing manufacturers, the SkilSaw is the saw most woodworkers think of when they hear the words worm drive. This circular saw comes in larger and smaller sizes and in steel as well as light-weight magnesium models. Here, we are looking a 7 1/4, 15 amp, 4600 RPM magnesium saw. The motor on this famous circular saw has been recently up-graded with more power and heat-resistant wiring for longer life. Blade speed is 4600 RPM. A 24-tooth carbide circular saw blade means quick, smooth cuts through 2x4s and an anti-snag lower guard reduces or eliminates annoying hang-ups while making cut-offs. The tough, worm-drive gearing lasts 5 times longer than hypoid gears. Depth of cut at 45 degrees bevel is 1 15/16 and 2/38 at 90 degrees. Saw weight is 14.4 Lbs.
MAKITA 5377MGR MAGNESIUM HYPOID SAW
This saw is similar in design to a worm-drive saw but uses hypoid steel gears instead of bronze alloy gears to deliver greater power to the saw blade through greater gear surface contact. A sealed gear housing and built-in fan insure better oil bath covering for the gears during use.. The blade-left design allows for improved cut line visibility. Even though this circular saw has a powerful, 15 Amp motor, it weighs only 15 Lbs. Bevel cut range is zero to 50 degrees.
This circular saw features externally accessible, replaceable brushes and a thick base plate that is chemically treated for rust resistance. Its 7 1/4″, 24-tooth, carbide-tipped circular saw blade is designed to smoothly power through construction lumber.
MILWAUKEE 6477-20 WORM DRIVE CIRCULAR SAW
Milwaukee worm drive citcular saws are known for both power and performance among professional carpenters and woodworkers. The 15 Amp, 4400 RPM motor delivers strong, smooth power for production efficiency. The shoe is made of composite material that combines strength with a surface that will not easily mar delicate surfaces. A sight glass lets you know when additional oil is needed for lubrication of the hardened steel worm drive gears. Depth and bevel scales are easy-to-read. Cut line visibility is excellent. A 24-tooth carbide blade comes with the circular saw. The circular saw arbor is 5/8 and the 19 cord is 2-wire, 12 gauge.
Depth of cut at 90 degrees is 2 7/16, at 45 degrees, 1 25/32 and at 50 degrees, 1 9/16. The saw weighs 14.3 Lbs.
RIDGID ZRR3210-1 WORM DRIVE CIRCULAR SAW
This 15 Amp, 7 1/4 worm drive circular saw has the blade mounted on the left side for clear cut visibility. Bevel capacity is 51.5 degrees and there is a spindle lock to make blade changes easy. The bevel and depth scales have high visibility markings for easy reading. Heavy-duty worm gear construction coupled with a 15 amp motor means greater power and torque for construction use. Magnesium construction is the reason forthis circular saws light weight.
This circular saw also has over-sized levers for easy operation. A strong aluminum base gives excellent stability. Brushes are easily accessible for easy maintenance. The circular saw arbor is the diamond type for positive no-slip connection to the blade. Maximum depth of cut at 90 degrees is 2 3/8, at 45 degrees, 1 ¾ and at 51.5 degrees, 1 9/16.
STANDARD CIRCULAR SAWS
BOSCH CS20 7.25-INCH CIRCULAR SAW
The remarkable thing about this circular saw is its direct connect feature… a simple but elegant solution for frayed and/or lost power cords plaguing some competing models. With direct connect, you simply plug any extension cord right into the circular saw. No other power cord is necessary. The CS20 is rated at 15 Amps and has a blade speed of 5600 RPM. A powerful blower keeps the cut line clearly in view at all times. The upper and lower guards are made out of magnesium for lighter weight without sacrificing strength. A convenient spindle lock aids in blade changes.
MAKITA 5007 MGA MAGNESIUM CIRCULAR SAW
This saws powerful 2300 Watt motor allows it to cut quickly and efficiently, even on deep cuts. Quick, one-handed adjustments are made using large, rubberized levers. Over-sized setting and ruler markings make adjustments of this circular saw fast and easy.
The 5007MGA can cut as deep as 2 1/2″ at 90 degrees. Its 56-degree bevel range has positive stops at 22.5 and 45 degrees. Two built-in LED lights illuminate the cut line as a chip blower sends the sawdust flying away. An electronic brake stops the circular saw blade quickly for increased productivity. Blade, rip fence, wrench and tool box are included.
SKIL 5680-01 2.5HP 14 AMP SKILSAW WITH LASER
Ball bearing motor construction assures smooth running and long life. The power rating of this circular saw is 14 Amps or 2.5 HP. A single beam laser lets you know where you are with reference to the cut line and an LED light lets you know when the saw is powered . A 24-tooth carbide circular saw blade is included with the saw. Saw blade speed is 5300 RPM. Depth of cut at 90 degrees is 2 7/8 and at 45 degrees, 1 15/16. Saw weight is 10.6 Lbs.
SIDE-BY-SIDE COMPARISON CHARTS: CIRCULAR SAWS
|Guide||Port?||90 Deg.||45 Deg.||Recond.|
|DeWalt||DC520SK||12||1300||1750-4000||6.5″||59″||1.25″||2 1/8″||1 5/8″||12||$519||n/a|
|Festool||TS55 EQ||10||1200||2000-5200||6.25″||55″||1 7/16″||1 15/16″||1 7/16″||9.92||$525||n/a|
|Festool||TS75 EQ||13||1600||1350-3550||8.25″||75″||1 7/16″||2 3/4″||2 1/8″||13.6||$655||n/a|
|Makita||SP6000K1||12||1300||2000-5200||6.5″||55″||1 7/16″||2 3/16″||1 9/16″||n/a||$430||n/a|
|Guide||Port?||90 Deg.||45 Deg.||New||Recond.|
|Bosch||1677MD||15||n/a||4400||7 1/4″||n/a||n/a||2 3/8″||1 15/16″||14||$190||n/a|
|Skil||SHD77M||15||n/a||4600||7 1/4″||n/a||n/a||2 3/8″||1 15/16||14.4||$200||n/a|
|Makita||5477NB||15||n/a||4500||7 1/4″||n/a||n/a||2 3/8″||1 3/4″||13.9||$199||n/a|
|Milwaukee||6477-20||15||n/a||4400||7 1/4″||n/a||n/a||2 7/16″||1 25/32″||14.3||$190||n/a|
|Ridgid||ZRR3210-1||15||n/a||4400||7 1/4″||n/a||n/a||2 3/8″||1 3/4″||15||n/a||$120|
|STANDARD CIRCULAR SAWS|
|Guide||Port?||90 Deg.||45 Deg.||New||Recond.|
|Bosch||CS20||15||n/a||5600||7 1/4″||n/a||n/a||2 7/16″||1 7/8″||10.4||$140||n/a|
|Makita||5007MGA||15||2300||5800||7 1/4″||n/a||n/a||2 1/2″||1 3/4″||10.1||$180||n/a|
|Skil||5680-01||14||n/a||5300||7 1/4″||n/a||n/a||2 7/8″||1 15/16″||10.6||$90||n/a|
ALL ABOUT CIRCULAR SAWS
While there are many types and sizes of circular saws on the market, I would like to discuss what I believe to be the three most important circular saw categories. They are: plunge circular saws with guide rails, worm drive or hypoid circular saws for construction use and standard-drive circular saws suitable for both home and construction use. Before I delve into all of that, however, Id like to take a quick look at some circular saw basics.
A circular saw allows you to take a relatively small tool to a large workpiece and cut it without too much back-breaking labor. In the past, the price for this convenience was inaccuracy because there was no really good way to force a circular saw to cut straight along a pencil line. For rough construction work like roofing and decking, this was no problem. For fine woodworking, however, the circular saw was not the tool of choice. Most woodworkers rely on the table saw to get the long, straight cuts they need and for good reason. The fence on a table saw gives the constant reference point needed for straight cuts.
Sometimes, however, using a table saw to trim the top of a huge conference table, for instance, turns out to be an impossible task, especially when trying to trim off the ends at 90 degrees to the sides. Thats when a very carefully planned approach using a circular saw seems to deliver the best final result. I would draw a pencil line using a long straightedge exactly where I wanted the cut of the circular saw to go. I would then carefully measure the distance between the inside (or outside) of the circular saw blade and the edge of the foot plate of the saw. The next step would be a second pencil line, parallel to the first one and separated from it by the distance I measured between the inside (or outside) of the saw blade and the edge of the foot plate. I would locate an absolutely straight board (ripped straight on the table saw, if necessary) and clamp this across the table top as a guide along the second pencil line. Then, I could make a pretty straight cut along the first pencil line. I would then repeat this for the other end of the table top.
In the past few years, this process has become a whole lot easier. There are now several makes and models of plunge circular saws that run along metal guide rails, cutting right next to the edge of the rail without cutting into the rail itself. The guide rails dont even need to be clamped to the surface being cut because they have material underneath that keeps them from sliding around. If you feel more comfortable clamping down the guide rail, this can be done, as well. Its a simple matter to lay the guide with its edge along the cut line and then to take the circular saw and run it down the rail, cutting right next to the lip of the guide.
Because these saws are all plunge-type circular saws, you can begin and/or end a cut in the middle of a sheet of plywood. You could cut out a window or door opening, for instance, and have it come out clean and square every time. The best thing about using these track saws is the confidence they give you: You KNOW you can do a perfect job, quickly, accurately, over and over again.
Another kind of circular saw Ive used a lot over the years, mostly for construction, is the worm drive circular saw pioneered by Skil. A framing carpenter needs to be able to cut a lot of lumber all day long. While accuracy is always desirable, it is not as critical to the framer as it would be to a finish carpenter or cabinet maker. Speed is the thing that the framer wants on his side and he (or she) does not want to be saddled with a circular saw that cant cut the mustard, so to speak. He doesnt want his circular saw to bog down in the middle of cutting a 2 x10 joist or have the sole plate hang up every time it goes across the edge of another board. He does not want to have the circular blade slipping around the arbor of the circular saw. What he wants is clean, fast and accurate cuts: In short, power.
A worm drive circular saw delivers the constant power the framer needs because there is no slack or play anywhere between the powerful motor and the saw teeth that are doing the cutting. The worm gear cuts down on rotational speed and trades that off for increased torque. It is torque, not speed, that powers a circular saw blade through thick, wet wood. A diamond-shaped arbor and correspondingly diamond-shaped hole in the circular saw blade makes it virtually impossible for the blade to rotate around the arbor. Keeping the number of saw teeth down to 18-24 teeth on a 7 1/4″ saw blade also helps speed the cut. The only problem with early Skil worm drive saws was the weight with those large motors and all that gearing inside a steel housing. The solution was to use magnesium instead steel in the construction of the worm drive circular saw wherever possible. The modern magnesium worm drive circular saws weigh only about 14 to 15 pounds which is more than a standard circular saw but manageable in the strong hands of a muscular framer.
The final category included the kind of saw that most people think of as a “circular saw.” It is lighter than the worm drive circular saws and, for most uses, it’s plenty powerful enough. Some of these saws are now also being made out of magnesium parts and weigh just over 10 Lbs. This makes them easy to use by the average do-it-yourselfer. Did I mention that they are a lot less expensive than the other types?