What Materials Can You Cut With A Circular Saw - are Some Easier To Cut?

Circular saws are a common electronically powered saw with a circular blade designed for cutting through a variety of materials including concrete, stone, wood, metal, tile, and several others.

Your saw’s ability and efficiency to cut through certain materials will depend on the power rating and saw quality. We recommend that you check with the manufacturer of a product and its abilities before you assume it can do what you need it to.

There are also different types of blades for different purposes. 

So if you plan to cut through a sheet of metal make sure that your blade is also designed for the task at hand. Attempting to cut through the wrong material with the blade can be ineffective, damaging to your machine, and even dangerous to you. 

Since a circular saw can cut through so many materials you will find that it is a popular tool for most construction workers and handymen. Its versatility is its strength. 

What Are The 2 Types Of Circular Saws?

There are many different types and models of circular saws but when it comes to function there are two main types. Worm drive and Sidewinder.

A worm drive saw is a saw that is optimized to increase the torque to the blade. Though often quieter than other types of saws, there are usually longer or larger. This is a heavy-duty version designed specifically for industrial use.

Sidewinder is sometimes also called an inline saw. This version is what most people own and what is frequently the most popular. Though lacking the industrial strength of its counterpart, it is lighter, easier to handle, and somewhat smaller.

You also have the option to have it corded or cordless and they both have different cutting modes. 

What Are The Different Cuts You Can Make With A Circular Saw?

Most people will tell you that a circular saw makes 2 types of cuts. Crosscuts and rip cuts. However, though this is true this can be elaborated upon. 

Depending on the work you need to accomplish you will have to make varying different types of cuts. If your machine cannot perform those specific cutting techniques effectively then it is not the machine you should be using. 

Thankfully the circular saw is a multitalented and well-rounded tool with many different applications. Below is a list of the main types of cutting techniques you can successfully use on a circular saw. Hopefully, this will help you to understand further its uses and functions.

Which Is Better A Jigsaw Or A Circular Saw?

It really depends on what you’re going to use it for. Jigsaws are generally regarded as safer and better for more intricate work but the circular saw is a much more powerful machine and can cut through a lot of materials that a jigsaw cannot. 

A Jigsaw can be used for very detailed work with a lot of twists and turns. Complex cuts with straight or curved sections are where it really specializes. However, though some jigsaws are rated for wood and sheet metal, it lacks the necessary power to cut through the same materials that a Circular saw can.

Circular saws are absolute powerhouses. Very little can stop this beast of a machine. With a larger blade and a larger amount of power, this is a tool that can be used for almost anything. It is also noteworthy that the blades though more expensive last much longer. However, It is designed for simpler cuts and is not able to match the intricacy of a jigsaw.

Safety is a priority for both types of saw. However, accidents do happen. It is recognized by most workers that a jigsaw is somewhat safer than a circular saw. 

While injury can happen with either tool the danger is increased because of the size of the blade. Logically a large sword would be more deadly than a steak knife and so too the circular saw can be more deadly than a jigsaw.

Despite the pros and cons of both, more people seem to favor the circular saw over the jigsaw in the workplace due to its versatility. 

Can You Turn A Circular Saw Into A Table Saw?

Yes, it is possible, though it is not entirely recommendable. 

Knowing that a circular saw is such a versatile tool turning it into a table saw will limit some of its functions. However, if you no longer need a circular saw but instead want a table saw this adaption can be accomplished.

There are concerns with doing so, however. Whenever you try to replace a tool designed for a specific purpose with another tool, there are risks involved.

It is really also only possible if you have a deep engineering knowledge base as you are designing and making this homemade table saw yourself. If you do not have a good understanding of how to feasibly make it work then you are already looking at a disaster.

Much better is to buy the tool you need for the task you need. Just like you would not buy a screwdriver to knock in nails, neither should you ever buy a tool with the intent of modifying it for another purpose. 

Do You Really Need A Circular Saw?

The answer to this question really depends on you and the kind of work you are planning to do.

As with any large purchase, it is important to know if what you are buying is what you actually need. Though we cannot tell you directly if you should or should not buy one, we can guide you to the correct answer.

Unlike what many people think, you do not need to be a builder or a carpenter to need a circular saw. Many have found it useful for DIY projects and house maintenance. Though you should make sure you understand the safety guidelines before purchasing one. 

On the other hand, if your work involves the need for cutting heavy-duty materials or large amounts of wood then a circular saw is a must-have tool in your arsenal. A good idea though is to first check with your employer as most tools and machinery are often already available to use within their company or place of work.

Whether you are a homeowner or contractor, it is a good idea to examine the tasks you have to accomplish and any likely future tasks you are hoping to undertake. If you have large amounts of material that you need cut through then likely it would be a good idea to get a circular saw. 

If you are looking to do more decorative work and fancy cuts then the circular saw is not the tool you need. In this case, you should examine other possible tools for the job.

Carefully review the types of cuts you can perform with a circular saw as well as the materials that it can cut through. These are mentioned in this article for your benefit and you will be able to determine if a circular saw is really the saw you require.

How Do You Change A Blade On A Circular Saw Without A Lock?

All you need to do is to unplug your saw, push the blade into the wood, rotate the arbor nut in the same direction that the saw blade rotates, pull off the blade, put on a new one, and retighten the arbor nut.

However, we do not recommend changing your blade solely based on that simple overview. Rather, to do it safely and to do it correctly, you need to keep on reading.

To keep it simple and so you can follow along step by step we have broken the process down into sections. This way you are less likely to miss any essential steps and it will be done as it should be. 

Steps To Changing Your Circular Saw Blade

Please follow these 7 steps starting from number 1 to successfully and safely change your saw blade.

  1. The most essential step. Do not under any circumstances proceed without doing this first. Unplug your circular saw and make sure that it is not still running. To make sure you unplugged the correct one, give it a test run just in case. Likewise, if battery operated remove the battery from your cordless saw pack and test the functionality of the saw.
  2. Place your saw blade onto a wooden surface. If your circular saw possesses an arbor/spindle locking mechanism then press the button to activate it. If you do not have any kind of blade lock then push the blade into the wood to keep it still. Keep this blade fixed in place throughout the remainder of the steps.
  3. Pull back the blade guard. Again be very sure that your machine is not able to be activated via any power source. This is especially important to check if using a wireless version where it is easy to forget. 
  4. Determine what kind of saw you have. If it is a worm drive saw, use a wrench to rotate the arbor nut clockwise. If you have a worm drive version then rotate the nut counterclockwise. If you are unsure which version you have then it is usually correct to rotate the arbor nut in the same direction in which the blade turns. Store the nut somewhere where you won’t lose it.
  5. Remove the blade carefully. The saw is not on, but it can still have sharp edges. Dispose of the old blade safely and place it on the new saw blade where the old one was fastened. Note that worm drive saws have a diamond shape arbor and you may need to knock out the center of the saw blade with a hammer so that it matches the correct shape. 
  6. Use the arbor nut your stored away safely to refasten the new blade. Use the wrench to turn the nut in the opposite direction that you used to unscrew it.
  7. Push back the blade guard and unlock the blade. Plug it in or reattach the power pack and give your circular saw a test. You have now changed your circular saw blade.

What Tools Are Required To Change The Blade On A Circular Saw?

Generally, the only tools you will need to change your circular saw blade are the ones that already come with the machine.

But because you want to be 100% sure that you have everything before you start it is a wise idea to review the following checklist first. 

And that’s it! It’s that simple. 

How Often Should You Change A Circular Saw Blade?

Anytime you see or feel that your blade is getting dull or that it is cutting slower than usual or damaging your materials you should change your blade.

All blades have an expiration date. When that is is dependent on your use and blade type. Obviously cutting through harder materials or using the wrong blade for the wrong material will wear out your blade faster. 

There are two main things you should know to best determine when to change your blade. The first is the blade type durability and the second is the signs of a blade that is past its best.

Blade Types

There are 3 main blade types commonly available for purchase. 

  1. Diamond-Edged Blades. These are the heavy-duty cutters designed for the hardest of materials. If you want to cut, stone, concrete, tiles, or other hard substances then this is the blade you need. However, durability can vary greatly with this blade. It can last from 12 hours to 120 hours depending on the material it is cutting.
  2. Carbide-Tipped Blades. The most common blade that you are likely to come across. Useful for most wood applications and some light-duty metal. These are long-lasting hardy blades that usually survive anywhere from six months to a few years.
  3. Steel-Tipped Blades. These are not as common as they once were as they are the predecessor to carbide-tipped blades. They get blunt almost 10 times as quickly as carbide versions and are much more likely to break.

Dull Blades

Now you know how long the blades can last, it is important to factor in that the quality of the blade and the material you are cutting can cause the blade to lose its sharpness much quicker than you were expecting.

For this reason, you need to know how to recognize when your blade needs to be changed.

The most obvious sign for all blade types is reduced performance. If a Job that used to be quick and easy is now becoming sluggish and difficult then it is a clear sign that something is wrong. 

Even if it is not too slow you may find that it kicks back or binds more than normal.

Another sign of a dull blade is damage to the material you are cutting. For example, if you are cutting through planks of wood, it may start to chip or heat up to the point of burning.

If you are using a diamond blade you can find that the rounded blade either becomes glazed over or it appears smooth meaning that all the diamonds have been worn away.

Conclusion

A dull or non-functioning blade needs to be changed as soon as possible. So make sure you have the tools you need, know when it needs to be changed and follow our 7 steps to change your circular saw blade effectively. 

Do You Need A Workbench For A Circular Saw Or Can You Go Without?

Usually, it is advisable to have a workbench or table of some sort when using this tool. However, if you do not own one then you can still use the circular saw by placing a track underneath it or using sawhorses.

There are two main ways to effectively use a circular saw when you do not have a bench or table. 

The most common problem with not having a table designed for this is that you often do not have a fixed guide to help you cut straight. For this reason not only will we discuss how to use a saw under these conditions but also how to do it well.

Though these methods are not as effective as having the desired equipment, we have broken it down into steps to keep it as safe and simple as possible.

Using A Saw Track With Your Circular Saw

Many saw tracks fix to the table or workbench however some can be purchased that are portable and fix directly to the wood you are cutting.

After selecting the correct version and size of the saw track, fasten it to your wood or to wooden supports above your wood. Measure out what you need to cut, and mark it accordingly. 

Fit your saw track with an edge guide and place it along the measured markings you made. Then adjust the depth of the blade so that when it cuts, it goes through the material you want to cut but does not go any further.

In case of any mishaps, it is a good idea to make sure that you have scrap wood underneath or foam boards. This way, if the blade does go further than you calculate it is not too much of an expensive mistake.

Begin cutting and stop to readjust as needed. 

Use A Sawhorse With Your Circular Saw

Another way to use a circular saw without a table is to build or purchase sawhorses. These are supports with triangular angled bases to help you stabilize your wood on top. 

For smaller pieces that you need to cut, you may only require one sawhorse. However, for larger projects, you may need two of them to create a scaffold that you can lay your wood across.

After determining the length of your wood, place your sawhorses apart so the wood can be placed firmly on top and you can cut between them.

Measure and mark where you are going to cut and place a clamped edge guide along your marked lines. Then you can begin cutting your wood.

What Should You Not Do With A Circular Saw?

For best results without a table, there are a few things you should avoid doing. Some of these are for safety reasons and others are so that you can avoid cutting mistakes.

Can You Use A Circular Saw Freehand?

If you do not have a table it is very common and relatively easy to cut freehand. However, if you are not experienced in doing so and need to make precise cuts, it is not recommended.

As one of the most common tools in a workshop, a circular saw is favored for its versatility. This includes the ability to use the saw freehand without a guide or clamps.

Though a guide and clamp would ensure a much better chance at a straight cut, many find that it is a lot of work to set up when you could just cut the wood right away.

New users of the circular saw may find this challenging at first but freehanding a circular saw is reasonably safe and extremely quick. The more you do it the better you will get and the straighter and more reliable your cuts will get.

However, since you are relying more on your own ability than the guides you set up, it may not be for everyone.

Freehand cuts may be best used for rough cuts where accuracy is not entirely essential. It is also a good way to get it to the rough size before you secure it and make the final cut.

Though this method is much quicker and rougher, you would still need to measure your wood and draw a line which you will do your best to follow.

Final Thoughts

Though a table or workbench can be preferable for its ease of use on large projects, many people simply do not have one to use. Therefore it is good to take note that there are other ways to use a circular saw productively. 

Once you get used to the methods mentioned in this article and have used them a few times, they will come naturally to you and you will be able to use a circular saw wherever you go.

You will also find that almost all types of cuts can be made without the use of a bench or table. This will make you much more effective in your projects and much more adaptable to different situations.

Make sure you review our list of things you should not do, try out the different methods, and find what works best for you.

Should I Buy a Table Saw Or a Plunge Saw For My Woodwork? (Our Comparison Guide)

For many woodworkers, deciding whether or not you should invest in a plunge saw or a table saw can be a confusing decision to make. 

Although both saws have different builds and designs, they can still be used to substitute one another when needed, plunge saws tend to be used more in small compact workshops and for long rip cuts, while table saws are better for repetitive cuts and thick wood.

So to help you figure out if you should be using a table saw or a plunge saw in your woodwork or whether you need to invest in both, we have compared the two types of saws below and gone over how they operate to highlight the differences and similarities. 

Let's get into it!

How Does a Plunge Saw Work? 

Before we get into comparing both a plunge saw and a table saw, we will go over how each saw works first and what they are used for. 

Plunge saws are also known as track saws and operate as electric-powered circular saws with guide rails for you to slide the blade when cutting. The rails on plunge saws then clamp onto the piece of material you are working on to hold it steady for accurate cuts. 

Unlike a table saw, a plunge saw operates with its blades facing down away from the user. 

To use a plunge saw you simply have to adjust the depth of the saw, hold it along the material then loosen the depth of the knob until the blade goes below the board and retighten. 

Make sure your guide rails are right for the best cut then power on the machine. 

Uses For a Plunge Saw 

A plunge saw or 'track saw' is perfect if you want to be able to make wide rip cuts or long cross-cuts on your own with ease, this could be for cutting long heavy sheets, pieces of plywood and even doors, they don't have a huge job site table so can be used in small spaces too.

Its primary use in woodworking is to cut down longboards of wood or a sheet of plywood into small rectangles and manageable pieces.

How Does a Table Saw Work? 

A table saw is an electric-powered saw with the blade located underside the quality table, they are typically designed to be stationary in workshops due to their decent table size and are a very powerful and versatile tool. 

To make table saws more accurate they can be fitted with mitre guides on the level table or a rip fence too.

Table saws are pretty easy to operate for beginner woodworkers too and allow you to change the blades according to the sheet of material you are cutting, simply decide on the type of cut and angle you want to make, adjust the rip guide and make the cut. 

Uses For a Table Saw 

Table saws are typically used for making rip cuts, crosscuts and dado cuts in woodwork, the fixed design means the table saw is great for making repetitive cuts too for a piece of furniture where materials need to be the same size. 

Tables Saws Vs Plunge Saws - Which Is The Winner? 

Now we know the main differences between a plunge saw and a table saw, let's compare the pros and cons of each type of saw below so as you can see which power tool might be more suited to your style of woodworking. 

Table Saws 

Table saws are the perfect tool for any beginner woodworker who has ample storage space and wants accurate cuts on sheet goods or wood in general. Since the blade operates with only a one-way mechanism this makes it simple to use and when kitted with a mitre guide or a rigid fence it can improve the accuracy of your work. 

Not only are table saws a piece of cake to use they are additionally excellent for repeated cuts as you do not have to reset the position of the blades every time you finish a cut, they also tend to feature dust collection options too so as you can keep your workspace clean. 

Drawbacks of table saws in comparison to plunge saws are their large outfeed space needed and huge table size which takes up tons of space in a workshop, so should be avoided in tight spaces.

These table saws are not portable due to their table either and can be argued to be more unsafe than plunge saws as the blade is exposed and material has to be supported otherwise can fly away and cause damage. 

Pros 

Cons 

Plunge Saws

Plunge saws are much better than table saws for cutting sheet goods due to their mobility which is only limited by the guide on the device, this allows them to be more portable too. 

The adjustable depth on these machines is also easy to use to achieve plunge cuts without uneven edges, they are safer to function too due to the blade being covered. 

In addition to better safety, plunge saws likewise to table saws often come with a dust collection feature too for keeping your workshop clean. 

Negatives of plunge saws in comparison to table saws have to be the slower cutting process, it takes more time to get set-up for a cut with a plunge saw and can have less accuracy than a table saw, you need to have additions such as foam boards for making long rip cuts too. 

Although plunge saws/track saws are great, they also do lack versatility like table saws and can't make as many different types of cuts. 

Pros 

Cons 

Conclusion - Which Type Of Saw Is The Best For My Woodworking?

Overall, if you want to work on long sheet goods and have limited space, or you want a safer saw, then a track saw/plunge saw is the better choice over a table saw, however, for people who can accommodate a larger table saw and want more precise cuts, a table saw is the better choice, they also allow you to do more versatile cuts for your woodwork.

Safety Tips For Using a Plunge Saw & Table Saw

Table saws and plunge saws both operate with powerful sharp blades, so you must know how to use one safely in the workshop to avoid any accidents when cutting material. 

We have listed our top safety tips below for using both a table saw and a plunge saw.

Frequently Asked Questions About Table Saws Vs Plunge Saws 

How much does a table saw cost?

Typically, a table saw costs between £100-£300 depending on the power and size of the table saw that you buy.

What type of table saws are there? 

There are many different types of table saws on the market ranging between; benchtop table saws, jobsite table saws, contractor table saws and more.

How do I use a table saw safely? 

Table saws are a little more unsafe than some other saws due to the blade being exposed and it pulling the material towards you during cutting. You should always be using outfeed stands when needed to stop material from flying off the table saw and wear personal protective equipment too. 

Always use a fence on your saw to guide your stock rather than your own hands. 

Which type of saw is better for repeated cuts? 

For repeated cuts, a table saw is much easier and accurate as you do not have to reset the blade position every time you cut through the material. Aligning the fence on table saws is much easier than setting a guide on a plunge saw too so is quicker to operate and make cuts with.

For cutting thick pieces of woodwork which type of saw is more durable? 

Table saws do house more power than plunge saws do so are the better choice for dealing with thicker pieces of wood while plunge saws are more suited for longer sheets.

Last Words 

Overall, both a plunge saw and a table saw are great woodworking tools to have, we recommend opting for a plunge saw if you are tight on space and want to cut large sheets of materials or a table saw if you are looking for a more versatile machine with higher accuracy.

Our Best 101 Guide to Plunge Saws

Plunge saws also known as tracks saws are excellent power tools to have for plunge cuts and are an essential tool if you want to be able to achieve long accurate cuts in laminates or general wood working pieces.

These saw designs are very similar to circular saws except the spinning blade is fixed onto a base with a track/rail guide which enables you to move the sharp blade up and down, this allows you to start plunge depth cut anywhere on material rather than just at the start as a circular saw.

In our informational guide below, we will cover more about what is a plunge saw is and what to use them for, as well as how they work and how to use one of these essential power tool designs.

What Is a Plunge Cut Circular Saw? 

A plunge cut circular saw combines both a plunge cut and circular saw blade to make a basic tool that allows you to pass into materials at any point rather than the start or end.

This range of plunge saws needs two-handed operation unlike a circular saw on its offering more control on the plunge release cut for accuracy and high safety due to the enclosed blade. 

Differences Between Circular Saw & Plunge Cut Circular Saw

You might be wondering if a plunge saw uses a circular saw design, then how are the two tools any different?

What Are Plunge Saws Used For?

Well, circular saws are first off handheld and the blade is not fixed, this means you need more skill to make accurate cuts than a plunge saw user, the blade on these saws is also exposed and they often do not have a dust port. 

Plunge saws with a quality blade are best used for plunge release depth cuts and can produce a variety of accurate angled cuts in a variety of materials thanks to its track guide which gives better control. 

We have listed out some main uses for a plunge saw/track saw below. 

Benefits Of Using a Plunge Saw

If you are undecided about whether or not a plunge saw is right for you, we have listed some advantages of plunge saws below as well as some drawbacks to help you decide. 

Advantage Of Plunge Saws

Drawbacks Of Plunge Saws 

What Does a Plunge Saw Do Exactly & How Does It Work?

Now we know a plunge saw is used for making long rip cuts and cutting wood with high accuracy, we can explore exactly how these tools work and the mechanisms behind the cutting process as well as the main features of one of these saws. 

Plunge saws operate with an electric motor to power their blade for cutting, this is typically paired with a rail guide for accuracy and a base where the rail allows you to move the blade up and down to produce accurate cuts. 

This track stabilised the saw allowing you to simply control where the cut is on the material and follow-through, most plunge saws have a dust collection feature too. 

We have listed the main components of a plunge saw down below. 

How To Use a Plunge Saw

Using a plunge saw is simple for beginners and does not require too much skill to be able to handle the blade thanks to its fixed design. 

We have put together a basic step by step down below to show how to use a plunge saw for the first time to cut material. 

Final Words 

Overall, a plunge saw or track saw is essentially a mounted circular saw with a track guide that keeps the blade fixed but allows you to move it up and down to cut material at any length according to the depth that you desire. 

Plunge saws are an exceptional tool for beginner woodworkers due to their high accuracy allowing you to make an accurate cut and repeated cuts with ease.

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