Tool Test: Sidewinder Circular Saws
The best saws combine speed, visibility, and a guard that opens in any cutting position.
Synopsis: A circular saw is probably the most common tool on a job site. In this article, tool tester and industry writer Michael Springer shares what he learned after putting 14 sidewinder saws through several tests to determine relative power, to determine cutline accuracy, and to assess the retraction of blade guards in various cutting scenarios. To eliminate differences in stock blades, he outfitted each saw with a new Irwin Marathon blade. His top performer was the DeWalt DW369CSK, and the best-value model was the Ridgid R32021. In addition to detailed profiles of seven of the saws, Springer offers a list of features shared by the top saws and how compromises on these features can affect performance: cutline indicators, blade visibility, bevel adjustments, baseplate, guard retraction, saw-to-baseplate connection, and depth adjustments.
The circular saw is arguably the most common power tool on a builder’s or remodeler’s site, and it probably endures more trigger time than most other tools. For a lightweight, well-balanced saw that’s easy to use with one hand and that offers the best cutting accuracy, nothing beats a sidewinder saw. This statement isn’t intended to fuel the East vs. West rivalry between sidewinders (perpendicular-motor, direct-drive circular saws) and worm drives (inline-motor, gear-driven circular saws); rather, it’s based merely on my experience over the years. I have found sidewinders more manageable and better suited to my style of cutting.
I tested 14 saws for this review, opting to include the top-of-the-line model(s) from each brand. As a user who appreciates moving fast with a saw, I ordered versions with blade brakes when available. The saws are standard 7 1⁄4-in.-blade framing saws, with the exception of a lone 6 1⁄2-in. model designed to compete in the same market.
Street prices for these tools vary from about…