Worm Drive Saw Vs Circular Saw | What Saw Should You Choose?

Looking for the best type of circular saw can be a difficult process – especially when there are so many types and models out there to purchase. This is especially true when you compare both a worm drive saw vs a circular saw – which is best for your needs?

Firstly, it’s important to answer the important questions; what is the difference between a worm drive saw and a circular saw? The main difference between these types of circular saws are the location of the blade in respect of the motor

We’ll be looking into the worm drive and circular saw in-depth today, and at the end of this article you’ll easily be able to clarify the difference between the two, and also find which is best for your needs.

Want to read the entire article but don’t have enough time to do so at the moment? We’ve created a quick overview in the below list form for you to skim through and come back at a time you’re free:

  • The common circular saw is the sidewinder or direct drive saw, with the motor located next to the blade
  • A worm drive saw is named thanks to the worm gear, which is positioned on top of the motor
  • Worm drive saws provide a higher torque than circular saw models
  • Circular saw models are cheaper than their worm drive saw counterparts
  • Both classes of the saw can be found in both corded and cordless class

Worm Drive Saw Vs Circular Saw

To start off our guide, it’s important to note that this guide will be focusing on what’s known as the ‘standard’ type of circular saw, which is known as the sidewinder saw, (or direct drive saw as it’s often known as). The worm drive saw, like the sidewinder, is another class of the circular saw. 

We’ll be discussing the features and how to tell both classes of circular saw apart at length in this article.

With that said, let’s discuss both saws so you’re able to find out which is better for your needs.

What Is A Circular Saw? (Sidewinder/Direct Drive Saw)

The term, ‘circular saw’, can refer to any class of circular saw, however, we’ll be looking into the sidewinder/direct-drive versions of these powerful tools.

Why are they called sidewinder/direct drive saws? Well, the names refer to the position of the blade in relation to the motor. 

The blade sits adjacent to the motor and turns the motor directly. This is due to the lack of gears.

It can easily be said that the sidewinder/direct-drive circular saw is the cornerstone of any good contractor’s arsenal. This is purely due to the impressive ripping and cutting ability these saws have. 

What features would you find on one of these circular saws? We’ll find out below:

What Features Would I Find On A Circular Saw?

The features of a circular saw are what makes it different from other power tools found on the market. These components are vital to the overall performance of the saw, and both the circular saw and worm drive saw feature similar internal components. 

The blades of a circular saw are quite powerful and can be found in many different forms to assist in cutting through the material.

With both the direct-drive and worm drive circular saws, you’ll find that the blades are manufactured typically with carbide. These blades can often be tipped with diamond and tungsten and will vary, depending on the job you’re tackling.

A circular saw is made powerful thanks to its motor. Commonly, motors on a circular saw will reach speeds of up to 5,300 RPMs. This is considerably higher than a worm drive saw, however, will provide less torque.

In cordless versions, circular saw batteries have great longevity during sessions – which is perfect for those contractors who need a portable and lightweight model that still provides the same power. 

As well as these components, you’ll also find additional features on a circular saw which include shoes that are adjustable which assist for stability and accuracy when pressing against materials, as well as integrated dust blowers and lasers which provide precision.

What Would I Be Using A Circular Saw For?

A circular saw is used by a number of people thanks to the versatility it provides when tackling a number of tasks. 

Whether it’s through ripping of large pieces of stock or to get an accurate cut at certain angles, it’s this versatility which sees the circular saw as a need for every serious professional or hobbyist.

As we touched on briefly, circular saws now allowing you to make angled cuts, such as bevel and mitre cuts, as well as a number of depth adjustments. Professionals with many years under their belts are able to make these angled cuts to perfection using a circular saw.

Circular saws can often be seen as smaller table saws – and often match table saws in the power department, whilst offering a wider range of functions to help you complete the job.

Favourite Circular Saw: The DeWalt DWE575SB

There are a number of great circular saws found within the saturated market, however, one of the best models which sits perfectly in an affordable price range and also powerful and user-friendly for all experience levels, is the DeWalt DWE575SB.

Why is the DeWalt DWE575SB my favorite circular saw? Well, DeWalt have also included a carbide-tipped 7-¼” blade when unboxing, which assists with the brushless motor to reach an RPM of 5,200 – meaning you’ll be able to cut through a majority of wood with ease.

Another impressive function is the electric brake, which will stop the blade automatically once it senses the trigger has been released, allowing for a safer working environment – as well as increasing the longevity of your blade and saw.

As one of the lightest saws on the market, the DWE575SB weighs only 8.8 lbs, allowing it to be used for longer, reducing fatigue than that of alternative circular saws. 

What’s your favorite circular saw to use? Let me know in the comments at the bottom of the article.

What Is A Worm Drive Saw?

Now, we’ll look into the worm drive saw.

it’s important to note that the worm drive saw is another type of circular saw, which has many varying sub-types. A worm-drive class of the circular saw sees the blade positioned in front of the motor,  and the blade is rotated by a threaded worm drive. 

The threaded worm drive runs down the shaft, and the gears of the worm drive connected to the saw’s blade arbor, which is located in front of the motor. This results in more torque than that of a sidewinder motor, making the worm drive preferred to tackle tougher materials.

How did the worm drive come to be, you might be wondering? Well, the first worm drive saw was created by SKILSAW, in the mid-1920s, by founder Edmond Michel who looked to develop an alternative to the backbreaking work of manually cutting through sugar cane. Fast forward 90+ years and the worm drive saw is what it is today.

What are the common features you’d find on a worm drive saw, you ask? Read on, and you’ll find out

What Features Would I Find On A Worm Drive Saw?

Like the sidewinder/direct-drive circular saw, the worm drive core features include a motor/battery and blade – so there aren’t too many differences when it comes to the components. The main difference between the two saws is the locations of these components and the worm gear.

The worm gear, also known as a spiral gear, is located above another gear, which is positioned at 90°. This allows the blade to rotate and provides speeds of up to 4,200 RPM – which is significantly less than the direct-drive circular saw, but it provides it with more torque – allowing denser materials to be cut.

Blades found on the worm drive are also similar, however, worm drive saws will often have the blade located on the left of the saw, allowing a clearer line of sight for those who are right-handed. However, as technological advancements are made in the power tool industry, we’re increasingly seeing blades found on the right side of the saw, making them perfect for left-handers.

Blades can be found ranging from 18 to 80 teeth – which is quite similar to that of a sidewinder circular saw. Like the standard circular saw, there are many additional features which can be found on the worm drive which enhance both the ergonomics and accuracy when working.

What Would I Be Using A Worm Drive Saw For?

There aren’t too many differences when it comes to the applications that both a worm drive and a circular saw are perfect for.

They can both used interchangeably, however, you may favor a worm drive saw based on your personal preference when it comes to blade location.

As worm drive saws provide a higher torque than circular saws, it’s best used for jobs that require immense cutting power – such as cutting through knotty wood, and also for plunge cuts.

Favorite Worm Drive Saw: SKILSAW SPT77WML Worm Drive Saw

When it comes to the perfect worm drive saw, my favorite is the SKILSAW SPT77WML. SKILSAW are the pioneers of this circular saw class, and over 90 years of innovation can be seen in this model. 

Total weight of 11.6 lbs makes it the lightest model in the worm drive saw class, and it’s also powerful – with 15-amps of power and fantastic no-load speed of 5,300. The SPT77WML features an impressive ready-set adjustment level, which allows you to make adjustments of depth up to 10x faster, thanks to its preset settings.

This makes it perfect for all levels of experience – whether you’ve just started your woodworking journey, or have many years of experience under your belt.

What’s The Verdict?

When comparing both the worm drive and circular saw, the final word lies upon considerations such as personal preference, experience and also your budget. Traditionally, worm drive saws are more expensive than the circular saw and are also bigger in size – which can cause issues if you’re working on-site in tighter environments.

The circular saw will provide less torque, but due to their budget-friendly price, you’ll be able to find a circular saw that best suits your needs. If you’re starting out, both the circular and worm drive saw will be perfect for you – so it’s up to you to choose, you can’t go wrong with either option.

I’d love to hear what you think, is there a particular model that you prefer? Leave me your comments below, it’d be great to read them.

Frequently Asked Questions

I’m just starting out, will a worm drive saw be too advanced for me?

Definitely not, if you decide to choose a worm drive saw, you won’t find this overwhelming to use. Both the circular saw and worm drive saw have models which cater to a range of experience levels, and you can choose a worm drive saw that is perfect for your needs and focuses upon functionality rather than the added bells and whistles.

James Thomas

James Thomas

Tool Enthusiast

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