Circular saws are important tools for many workshops, capable of custom cuts in a wide variety of materials including metal, concrete, wood, and plastic. However, some have bulky motors that limit flexibility. To solve this issue, compact circular saws are smaller and easier to use with just one hand, so you don’t need to sacrifice accuracy when cutting in tight spots.
The best compact circular saw for your workshop or garage should have a comfortable, ergonomic grip and a lightweight build that is easy to maneuver. This guide will explore some of the most essential factors to consider while shopping for this versatile tool and explore several of the top products on the market.
- BEST OVERALL: TACKLIFE Circular Saw with Metal Handle, 6 Blades
- RUNNER-UP: Rockwell 4-1/2” Compact Circular Saw
- BEST BANG FOR THE BUCK: Makita SH02R1 12V Max CXT Lithium-Ion Cordless
- BEST SIDEWINDER: SKILSAW Southpaw SPT67M8-01 15 Amp 7-1/4 Inch
- BEST WORM DRIVE: SKILSAW SPT77W-01 15-Amp 7-1/4-Inch Aluminum Worm
- BEST LIGHTWEIGHT: WORX WORXSAW 4-1/2″ Compact Circular Saw – WX429L
- BEST FOR PROS: WEN 3625 5-Amp 4-1/2-Inch Beveling Compact Circular
What to Consider When Choosing the Best Compact Circular Saw
Whether you’re removing an old laminate floor, putting up drywall, or cutting through sheet metal, using a compact circular saw—paired with the most appropriate blade—is necessary for clean cuts and to reduce the risk of injury.
Before choosing a new compact circular saw, consider factors including motor type, speed and amperage of the saw, and safety features. Also, think about whether the power of a corded model or the increased mobility of a cordless circular saw would be more suitable for your projects.
Sidewinder vs. Worm Drive
There are generally two types of circular saws based on the placement of the motor. Sidewinder circular saws are designed for high blade speeds, so they have a motor mounted on the side in which a spur-gear powers the blade up to 6,000 rpm. Sidewinders are short and wide, with more of a square shape that can be difficult to maneuver through tight spaces. However, they are usually more lightweight and can reduce hand and arm fatigue during long jobs.
Worm drive circular saws have a motor that attaches to the back, creating a slim profile that can more easily navigate corners and narrow areas. These saws engage the blade through two gears in the motor that transfer energy to the blade, driving it to a speed of about 4,500 rpm. Due to the larger gears, these circular saws produce more torque, making them ideal for heavy-duty cutting, such as working with concrete.
Corded vs. Cordless
As with many power tools, a compact circular saw can be connected to an electrical outlet with a power cord or powered with a battery for cordless operation.
Corded compact circular saws are limited in range by power cord length, the location of an electrical outlet, and availability of an extension cord. A corded compact circular saw has several benefits including stable speed, continuous electrical power (with an electrical outlet), and increased torque. However, the hanging power cord can be a tripping hazard and lead to serious injury.
Cordless compact circular saws are better for movement and versatility in outdoor locations, since there is no need to worry about finding an outlet or tripping over the cord. The obvious drawback is their reliance on battery energy. When the battery runs dry, the saw will have to be charged, which can be frustrating part way through a project.
Speed and Amperage
Speed and amperage are both measurements that can be attributed to the motor:
- Speed is measured in revolutions per minute (rpm), and is generally higher for sidewinder circular saws. By driving the blade at a higher speed, a compact circular saw makes cleaner cuts through wood, plastic, and some thin metals. The best compact circular saw will offer a balance of speed and torque so the blade cuts cleanly through a wide range of materials.
- Amperage refers to the electrical power output of a motor. This output increases the speed and torque of the blade so the saw can cut through the target material. Compact circular saws range in amperage from a small 4-amp motor to a 15-amp motor that is more common with standard-size circular saws.
Blade Size and Types
The size of the compact circular saw will generally determine the size of the blade that needs to be paired with it, with very little room for variation between the saw and the blade. It’s also important to note that just because a blade measures 7.25 inches in diameter, doesn’t mean the saw is capable of cutting to a depth of 7.25 inches. Check the product details and the information provided by the manufacturer to determine the maximum cutting depth of a compact circular saw.
The type of blade is the main factor in determining the kinds of material the saw can cut. Compact circular saws use a variety of blades for cutting wood, metal, plastic, tile, and even concrete. Typically, the saw blade will be labeled with the broad category of material it will cut, but make sure to check the manufacturer’s information to be certain.
When using a power tool, safety should be a key concern, especially when the tool in question has a sharp and rapidly rotating blade. To reduce the risk of injury, many compact circular saws contain retracting blade guards and blade brakes that bring the blade to a quick stop when the trigger is released.
Compact circular saws may also incorporate a secondary trigger switch, so the blade doesn’t start up unless both trigger switches are simultaneously engaged. This helps prevent accidentally starting the saw with a slip of the finger. Another essential safety feature is a built-in vacuum port that allows a small vacuum hose to connect to the saw to pull dust and debris from the work area, increasing visibility and improving air quality.
While the main features of the best compact circular saws are the type of blade and motor power, several extras can make this tool much easier to use:
- Laser guides are mounted on the top of the saw, so the laser is directed at the surface of the material being cut. The laser is usually red and allows the user to accurately line up the saw to ensure straight cuts.
- Bevel and depth adjustments to the blade allow users to change the cutting angle and depth, as well as customize the project to meet desired results.
- Protective carrying cases protect the compact circular saw and accessories like batteries and chargers, preventing damage when not in use. They also keep the saw and accessories neat and organized.
Our Top Picks
The following models were chosen using several criteria, including affordability and overall quality, factoring in the shopping considerations listed above. Keep reading to discover some of the best compact circular saws on the market.
Ideal for working with a range of materials, this corded circular saw includes two 4 1/2-inch wood blades with 60 teeth, two 4 3/4-inch wood blades with 24 teeth, and two 4 1/2-inch blades with diamond cutting edges. The 8.27-pound saw features a 5.8-amp motor that drives the blade to a maximum speed of 3,500 rpm, allowing it to cut through wood, metal, tile, plastic, backer board, and cement with relative ease.
This TACKLIFE model provides a top-mounted laser guide so the user can cut in precise, straight lines. The versatility of this saw permits setting the cutting depth to a maximum of 1.7 inches and adjusting the blade angle from 0 to 45 degrees. An ergonomic handle reduces hand fatigue. To prevent accidents and injuries, the saw can’t be turned on unless both switches are activated at the same time.
This compact Rockwell circular saw is designed for maneuverability; a rear-mounted motor helps balance the 5-pound tool from front to back for enhanced control. Depth and bevel adjustments allow the saw to be set at a maximum depth of 1.7 inches or alter the cutting angle up to 45 degrees.
The corded saw houses a 5-amp motor that drives the blade up to 3,500 rpm, ensuring clean cuts through the target material. The Rockwell saw also includes a 4 1/2-inch wood cutting blade and vacuum adapter to keep the work area clean while aiding visibility.
The Makita compact circular saw weighs just 3.5 pounds, but it can drive the 3 3/8-inch wood blade at up to 1,500 rpm through plywood, MDF, pegboard, particleboard, melamine, and drywall at a maximum depth of 1 inch. The cordless saw kit also includes a blade, battery charger, two batteries, and a carrying case to protect each item.
This bundle is ideal for bringing to and from worksites due to the lightweight tool, case, and additional battery, which can serve as a backup when there is no outlet access. This compact saw boasts an ergonomically designed handle with a rubberized grip that increases comfort and control. A tilting base allows for angle adjustments, and an LED charge-level indicator reveals when the battery is low.
The SKILSAW sidewinder saw features a side-mounted, 15-amp motor that drives the blade at a powerful speed of 5,300 rpm, allowing for clean cuts through wooden material. Lightweight magnesium construction makes the corded saw easier to control and maneuver, weighing in at 10.6 pounds. It includes a 24-tooth carbide blade measuring 7 1/4 inches in diameter, ideal for working with soft, hard, and engineered wood.
This compact sidewinder saw is designed to cut on an angle, with a 56-degree maximum bevel capacity and preset stops at the 0-degree and 45-degree points. The cut is adjustable to a maximum depth of 2.45 inches, allowing this saw to quickly cut through a 2×4.
Worm drive circular saws are a good option for tasks that require torque and accuracy. This SKILSAW model boasts a powerful 15-amp motor for slicing through hardwood and unfinished lumber. The blade reaches speeds up to 5,300 rpm, allowing for clean cuts without catching and shifting.
The rear worm drive motor offers a narrow profile, designed for easier balance and accurate cuts in tight spots. The blade cuts to a maximum depth of 2 3/8 inches and can be angled up to a 51-degree bevel, allowing wide customization for a range of projects. This corded saw is slightly heavier at 14.2 pounds.
This corded saw is particularly adept at maneuvering in narrow corners, with a simple paddle trigger on the bottom and a lightweight, 4.4-pound body. Make precise cuts to a maximum depth of 1.7 inches with the included 4 1/2-inch carbide-tipped wood cutting blade.
The WORX saw contains a 4-amp motor that can drive the blade up to 3,500 rpm. This high cutting speed allows it to slice through softwood and leave a clean, smooth finish. While it’s designed for lumber, it will also cut through plastic, tile, and metal. This saw also has a safety switch that requires pressure for the trigger to activate the blade, preventing the tool from being turned on by the slip of a finger.
This WEN circular saw features a corded design that is ideal for a busy workplace where users may not have time to wait for a battery to recharge. The saw weighs just 5.1 pounds, so it’s comfortable to hold, control, and maneuver with just one hand for long periods of time. A 5-amp motor drives the 4 1/2-inch blade up to 3,500 rpm and the top-mounted laser guide ensures smooth, precise cuts.
This compact saw contains a 24-tooth, carbide-tipped wood cutting blade. A dust extraction tube connects the vacuum to a built-in port. The molded plastic construction of the included carrying case keeps the saw and accessories protected and neatly organized for easy storage.
FAQs About Compact Circular Saws
Working with a compact circular saw provides more freedom of movement, which makes accurate cuts easier. Remember that any power tool can be a hazard when used incorrectly. To learn more about these powerful and versatile tools, take a look at some of the most frequently asked questions about compact circular saws.
Q. How deep can a 7.25-inch compact circular saw cut?
A compact circular saw designed for a 7.25-inch blade can cut to a maximum depth of 2.5 inches.
Q. Can I cut concrete with my compact circular saw?
Yes, you can cut concrete with a compact circular saw if it is equipped with a diamond blade.
Q. How do I maintain my compact circular saw?
Properly maintaining a compact circular saw isn’t difficult. Follow these guidelines to take care of your tool:
- Inspect the circular saw before use to ensure the power cord isn’t frayed and the battery isn’t leaking.
- Check the blade to ensure it’s secured.
- After use, clean the blade to prevent rusting and clean the saw with a vacuum to remove any accumulated dust.
- Store the circular saw in a safe location with low humidity to help prevent rusting and corrosion.
Q. How long will my compact circular saw last?
A compact circular saw can last between 10 to 20 years if it is properly maintained.