Circular Saws 2013
Next to the trusty electric drill, a good handheld circular saw is the must-have tool for the pro handyman and DIY homeowner alike. No other saw can perform as many cutting tasks in such an affordable and storage-friendly package. From ripping, cross-cutting, plunge-cutting and more, circ saws can cut partial kerfs, beveled edges and compound angles. Today’s next-generation saws have evolved into wood-shredding beasts that offer more power and performance in smaller packages. This article will review a handful of circ-saw fundamentals for smart and safe usage, as well as highlight some of the latest models available at the hardware store.
Brush Up on the Basics
Anyone using a powered circular saw should have the following fundamentals committed to memory, but when it comes to respecting those spinning metal teeth, everyone can use a refresher course.
Blade Depth—To avoid kickback and binding the blade in the kerf, set the blade of the saw so that only three teeth protrude beyond the bottom surface of the material being cut.
Start Blade before Cutting—To avoid chipping the material being cut, bring the saw blade up to full speed before it contacts the cutting stock. If the blade is already touching the material when the saw starts, the teeth will often knock out a large chunk of material.
Leave Stock Free on One End—Clamp the work-piece to a table or sawhorses when cutting so that the cut-off section can fall away freely. Do not support the work-piece on both ends, such as cutting in the middle of two sawhorses, because the stock will bow when cutting, which can bind the blade and cause a dangerous kickback (and ugly cut).
Support Sheet Goods—Plywood, paneling, lattice and other sheet goods are often large, unwieldy and easily bow. When cutting, support the sheet with enough 2X4 scrap blocking to keep it flat and treat the 2X4 as waste material that your blade can pass through. Support the sheet throughout its entire length so the cutoff piece does not fall away near the end of the cut and tear out the material.
Accessories Can Help—Long free-hand cuts with a circular saw can take a lot of practice to master. For ripping boards to width consider using an accessory rip gauge that guides the saw’s footplate to help keep the blade in a straight line. For cutting sheet material, consider making your own cross-cut jig.
Ridgid & Ryobi. Ridgid offers a full line of contractor-tough saws available at The Home Depot.
The Ridgid R32022 is a 7-1/4-in. framer featuring a powerful 15-amp motor, ratcheting lock levers, full-length front and rear kerf indicators, an integrated dust blower and a 0-56 deg. bevel scale. Our testers liked the new “Hex-Grip” handle surface that provides extra tack for slinging the saw around the job site.
The Ridgid R32103 is the company’s worm-drive entry into the saw lineup. The heavy-duty worm gear construction provides higher torque and power for tough, everyday framing on the construction site. The 15-amp motor delivers plenty of power, and the saw features a handy Skyhook to hang on framing material when not in use. The externally accessible brushes are convenient for on-the-job replacement.
The 13-amp Ridgid Fuego is a compact 6-1/2-in. saw that’s billed as the “fastest and lightest” framer on the market. And it lives up to the claim, as our tests proved the Fuego to be a big beast in a small package, zipping through 2x framing lumber with speed and zeal unmatched by the competitors. It’s easy to see why the Fuegos have grown so popular among pro framers.
My only caveat is that I’m not a pro framer, and I’ve developed the habit of using my Speed Square as a cutting guide for my circ saw. However, the Fuego motor sits so close to the baseplate that it catches the ridge of the Speed Square during cutting and can’t be used with such an accessory.
Ryobi offers the cordless P506 for trim carpentry applications. This 5-1/2-in. compact trim saw is a featherweight contender at only 4.7 lbs., but its easy maneuverability and 18V power make it a handy choice for light-duty cutting chores. The P506 is part of the Ryobi One+ Battery Program in which the lithium-ion power supply is interchangeable among many different tools. Visit http://www.ridgid.com and http://www.ryobitools.com.