Circular Saw Vs Angle Grinder: Which Tool Do I Choose?

Last Updated on August 28, 2022 by Barry Gray

The debate between circular saw vs angle grinder is one that I’ve seen highlighted on many websites in recent years. Both tools have their uses and benefits, but which is suitable for your needs? Let’s take an in-depth look at each device’s overall design and purpose and its pros and cons to give you a better idea of which is suitable for your carpentry needs.

Circular Saw Vs Angle Grinder: Making a Choice 

A circular saw is usually a great option if you’re doing basic carpentry or metal cutting and don’t need anything too fancy. They often cost less than angle grinders and can be used for many projects. However, if you’re working with more rigid materials and want to produce delicate curves, an angle grinder is your best option. I honestly believe both are an excellent choice for many different projects.

Pros of a Circular Saw 

I find that a good circular saw has far more advantages than it does disadvantages. It’s one of the most adaptable and useful tool options on the market today and should easily into just about any tool kit. Just a few reasons why I love my circular saw include its:

  • High Efficiency – Compared to other types of cutting tools, the circular saw is incredibly efficient. Just think about its design: it is constantly cutting with its rotating blade. There’s a reason why so many tools copy this blade layout. It’s simply the most effective and efficient way to cut. 
  • Portability – A great circular saw is usually fairly portable, particularly if a hand-held battery-powered model. That said, even bigger and mounted models are pretty easy to get into most work trucks. You will have to do a bit more work breaking it down, though, so prepare for that step.
  • Versatility – With a simple swap of your blade, you can use your circular saw on metal, concrete, and other strong materials. Make sure that you buy a powerful model if you plan on making these kinds of cuts. I suggest around 1,800-2,000 Watts to get the best metal and concrete cuts. 
  • Easy Maintenance – I rarely have to oil, grease, or repair my circular saw. You will have to sharpen your blades from time to time, though, so make sure you buy a saw file to improve your cuts. Beyond that, you don’t have to do much to keep your circular saw in great shape. 

Cons of a Circular Saw 

Though powerful for many jobs, circular saws do have some limitations. So let’s take a look at a few of the most common complaints to help balance out the positives mentioned above:

  • Limited Curve Cuts – While a circular saw is great for straight cuts, its curves are limited. So while you can create some rather broad curves with a circular saw, anything real tight is going to be impossible. As a result, I often end up with a jigsaw or a similar saw when cutting curves.
  • Potential for Binds – If there’s one thing that annoys me more than anything about circular saws, they tend to bind up when you cut. You’ll need a second person to help support your material as you cut or at least a few clamps you can use to keep your boards steady with a cut. 
  • Loud Noise Output – Let’s be honest: no power tool is ever going to be quiet. However, circular saws are louder than most. So you’re going to want earplugs when you use this tool. And you may need to warn other people in your work area, or they might complain about the noise.
  • Rough Cuts – The overall speed and efficiency of a circular saw do have some downsides. Simply put, you might end up with some tears in your material or rough edges that may need to be sanded. While not a huge problem, it can worsen if your blade dulls or if you work too quickly. 

The Pros of an Angle Grinder 

I love my angle grinder for many different reasons. And I think most people will too, particularly if they want advantages like:

  • High Power – Skilled carpenters and metal or masonry workers love angle grinders because of their raw power. You can cut off large portions of material with little difficulty and without worrying about your tool failing on you. 
  • Diverse Range of Uses – Unlike circular saws that can only cut material, angle grinders can cut, polish, grind, and much more. This diverse range of uses makes them indispensable for many of many projects. 
  • Safer Overall Design – I never have any safety issues with circular saws, but I know people who have hurt themselves by misusing them. The two-handle design of the angle grinder minimizes this risk significantly. 
  • Smaller Size – While comparable handheld circular saws aren’t huge, an angle grinder is usually more compact. In addition, their more straightforward design makes them easier to take to many gigs, ensuring that you get great results.

The Cons of an Angle Grinder 

Your angle grinder is not perfect, no matter how much you love it. While I believe that this tool’s downsides are relatively minor, each must be highlighted here. Just a few concerns I have with angle grinders in general include:

  • High Possibility of Error – The overall power and speed of angle grinders are high for many beginners. I’ve seen many of my non-building friends try an angle grinder on a stone project only to lose control quickly. This increased risk of error must be accounted for if you plan on using one.
  • May Overheat Quickly – Some users may find that their angle grinder overheats too quickly. I mostly chalk this up to inexperience with the tool. However, even I’ve run into issues with my grinder and had to let it rest. I suggest working no more than 30 minutes with an angle grinder before giving it a break.
  • Discs May Be Pricey – If you want to use your angle grinder to its fullest potential, you need multiple discs. I have at least five on me at any time. However, diamond discs can be expensive, mainly if you don’t use them properly. And they may not be easy to sharpen while you’re on the job. 
  • Not Always Easy to Learn – In my experience, angle grinders take longer to learn than circular saws. They require a level of precision that many first-time builders may lack. While there are more easy-to-use options available, even these take a while to master correctly. 

Circular Saw vs Angle Grinder: What You Need to Know

An Examination of Circular Saws 

You’ve probably seen a dozen circular saws in your life, as they are one of the most popular types of tools on the market. They are typically a hand-held option, though you can often find mounted ones as well. The circular saw gets its name from its design: it uses a round blade that rotates quickly to cut through wood and various materials. Though most commonly used with wood, you can use them in other ways. 

Typically, a circular saw uses one of two different power sources: battery or corded. I love battery-powered circular saws because they’re easy to take from job to job without worrying about a power source. I always pack at least two or three batteries with me just in case of failure. A battery charger is also essential, though if you have no power source at your job site, you may need to leave it at home. 

However, a corded circular saw is often the best option for many people. You don’t have to worry about your battery running out and can easily transport them from place to place without difficulty. However, you will be limited in your movement if you don’t have an extension cord. And you may trip over the cord if you’re not careful. Try to keep the cord positioned so that it’s easy to move but not underfoot. 

What kind of job goes well with a circular saw? They are a handy all-around tool for just about any carpentry gig. For example, I’ve taken them on big building jobs, where I need to cut a lot of wood at various lengths. Their quick action makes them a great choice for this type of work. And I also love a good circular saw for my at-home work, particularly for DIY home improvement projects. 

When choosing a circular saw for your tool kit, you need to consider multiple elements. For example, you need at least 900-1,700 Watts of power. Above 1,700 is good for cutting firewood and can even be used for concrete and metal if you switch out your blades. You also need to consider the brake systems, with the electric brake being useful for quick cuts and the manual providing more precise stops. 

Personally, I prefer the manual brake because it lets me get the kind of detailed cuts that I love for all of my projects. However, an electrical brake is a great option for people just getting into woodworking and carpentry. It’s a bit like manual versus automatic transmissions in a vehicle. One is more precise and efficient, while the other is simply more convenient.

A Look at Angle Grinders 

Angle grinders are handheld tools designed for stone and metal fabrication. However, you can also use them for carpentry jobs as well. They are similar to circular saws because they can produce a variety of cuts and unique designs. However, they are different in their overall size, operation, and shape. Most of the time, a good angle grinder is much smaller than a circular saw and has its cutting and grinding apparatus at the end of the machine. 

In this way, they are often easier to use than circular saws. For instance, I love the side handle on my angle grinder because it lets me take easy control over where I work. Usually, I put my grip on the left side of the tool because I power it with my right. However, your preference may vary depending on how comfortable you are using this type of machine. 

However, angle grinders do have some similarities to circular saws. For instance, they also have corded and battery options. The choice here will depend on your preference. Like with circular saws, I prefer a battery option so that I don’t have to worry about tripping. I also find that grinders have similar battery life compared to circular saws, so keep at least a few batteries on you at all times. 

Like with circular saws, you can also replace your angle grinder’s disc with different options. I typically use an abrasive cutting disc for my stone and metal cutting and grinding. They are less expensive and can be used on just about any metal. Diamond discs do provide better and faster cuts and grinding but can only be used with stone. If you use them on metal, they’ll damage very quickly. 

Angle grinders also have a pretty similar power level compared to that of circular saws. They range from between 500 to 2,500 Watts or so. Higher-powered options are better for the metalworking because the material will be much stronger. However, lower-powered tools may work well for many masonry projects. For example, I’ve used a 1,000 Watt angle grinder to shape many masonry stones for my backyard. 

As for size, angle grinders usually range between four and one-half inches (115 millimeters) to nine inches (230 millimeters). Beyond the varying size of their discs, these grinders also vary in grinding speed. A smaller grinder spins at around 10,000 revolutions per minute, while the largest will go at approximately 6,500. Faster is better here, right? Not always. 

Faster grinders do smooth or cut metal and stone more quickly and can produce a delicate shine. However, their discs also wear out much more rapidly. I prefer a seven-inch (180 millimeters) to nine-inch (230 millimeters) grinder that has a speed of around 6,500 revolutions per minute. I feel comfortable with this speed and enjoy longer-lasting discs and more precise cuts. 

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Barry Gray

Hi, I’m Barry. I’ve loved woodworking and bringing things back to life for more years than I care to remember. I hope my passion for tools comes across loud and clear in everything you read here on The Tool Square.

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