Author Topic: My First Circular Saw--how much does price matter?  (Read 1462 times)

CogentCap

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My First Circular Saw--how much does price matter?
« on: May 16, 2018, 10:12:50 AM »
Looking for some old salt advice here. 

I want to make my first step into more heavy-duty DIY stuff (I've had my eye on woodworking for some time now), and I'm wondering where to start.  My first project is super simple, basically just sawing some stuff to length and nailing it together.  So I need a saw.  And stuff.

It seems like a circular saw is going to be the best place to start.  Is a cheap one fine, considering I'm just getting my feet wet?  A cheap one isn't more likely to cut off a finger, or break a sawtooth and blind anybody, right? 

I figure a cheap one would just be less well-made (perhaps not as accurate, maybe break down sooner or go out of alignment, that sort of thing.)  I want to make sure there's no increased safety risk with buying cheaper tools, though.

Also, what else do I need for a circular saw.  Vises, clamps, sawhorses, safety goggles?

Any advice is welcome (including whether there is a different saw I should consider as my first one).

bacchi

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Re: My First Circular Saw--how much does price matter?
« Reply #1 on: May 16, 2018, 10:41:37 AM »
You could go with the Harbor Freight special and be safe but I wouldn't. A mid-priced model would last a lot longer and be a better value.

You also need:

1) at least 2 medium sized (~4.5") clamps
2) safety glasses. sunglasses can work in a pinch
3) ear protection. Even the cheap orange spongy things on a curved piece of plastic are better than nothing.
4) extension cord for the saw unless you have one

You don't need sawhorses if you have some kind of platform. Picnic table? An elevated deck? Or get a 2 pack for $30. They work fine and last forever unless you drop large items on them.

For ripping lumber or plywood, get an edge guide.
« Last Edit: May 16, 2018, 10:43:39 AM by bacchi »

Samsam

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Re: My First Circular Saw--how much does price matter?
« Reply #2 on: May 16, 2018, 10:48:05 AM »
Battery ones don't go through material as well as corded.  I had a battery one that lasted a couple years but once I switched to a corded saw it was like night and day (even after trying out a new battery).  Now that I have a miter saw and a table saw I really don't use my circular saw at all.  My regret on the miter saw was not getting a slightly more expensive one that can slide and handle thicker material.

GuitarStv

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Re: My First Circular Saw--how much does price matter?
« Reply #3 on: May 16, 2018, 12:09:09 PM »
I have advise for cutting stuff with a circular saw on saw horses.  Don't ever cut stuff in between two saw horses like this:

    V
--------
 /|   |\


Always cut stuff off to one side like this:

         V
  ---------
/|   |\



If you do the former, the two bits of wood will usually bend and jam into the spinning blade . . . causing the tool to jerk in your hand in an overly exciting manner.  In the latter the wood naturally bends away from jamming and falls to the floor.

You also don't want to lean something on your knee and the floor and try cutting between the two (same principal).  I watched a contractor do just that several years ago.


Short of that, using a circular saw is pretty straight forward.
« Last Edit: May 16, 2018, 12:11:38 PM by GuitarStv »

Fishindude

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Re: My First Circular Saw--how much does price matter?
« Reply #4 on: May 16, 2018, 12:48:49 PM »
Buying cheap tools never pays, you'll wind up spending more when you replace it.   I'd get a good (corded not rechargeable) 7-1/4" circular saw manufactured be Dewalt, Milwaukee or Porter Cable.
For a good first project why not make yourself a nice set of wood saw horses, you can find plenty of plans on line.   Will also need eye protection, ear protection and a good extension cord.

shawndoggy

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Re: My First Circular Saw--how much does price matter?
« Reply #5 on: May 16, 2018, 01:06:48 PM »
Buying cheap tools never pays, you'll wind up spending more when you replace it.   I'd get a good (corded not rechargeable) 7-1/4" circular saw manufactured be Dewalt, Milwaukee or Porter Cable.
For a good first project why not make yourself a nice set of wood saw horses, you can find plenty of plans on line.   Will also need eye protection, ear protection and a good extension cord.

Agree with this advice at least for something as essential as a circular saw.  That's the kind of tool you want to buy once.  Working with cheap tools also often means imprecise cuts, which can make woodworking itself not very fun or gratifying. 

For sawhorses, homedepot has cheap plastic ones that allow you to run 2x4s through them to essentially make a table (sans tabletop if that makes sense).  I bought mine 6 or eight years ago, along wth the 2x4s to run through them.  I've cut a metric shit ton of stuff on top of this setup and still have the same original sawhorse 2x4s.  If you set your saw blade depth correctly, you can cut your material without cutting through your 2x4s.  I also have a piece of 3/4" ply cut to the shape of the space between the 2x4s so I can very quickly assemble/tear down a work table for more onerous projects.




Uturn

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Re: My First Circular Saw--how much does price matter?
« Reply #6 on: May 16, 2018, 01:31:25 PM »
There is a difference between carpentry/construction grade tools and furniture making woodworking tools.  The difference is tolerances.  Woodworking tolerances are much tighter than carpentry.  3/8" gap in framing, fencing, decking, who cares.  1/4" gap in trim, caulk it.  1/16" gap in a table joint, remake that part.

I have a $600 track saw, because I make furniture and need the accuracy.  If I was building decks, something cheaper is in order. 

That being said, if the saw is a brand that you have never heard or, or the price is so low that it is shocking, then walk away.  A good carpentry saw should not make you fret over the cost, but should last decades. 

omachi

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Re: My First Circular Saw--how much does price matter?
« Reply #7 on: May 16, 2018, 01:40:40 PM »
If you're just sawing dimensional lumber to length for the time being, any reason not to just use a handsaw? You can get a decent one inexpensively and don't need all the PPE that you should have for power tools. Not as easy to use straight without practice on sheet materials, but still doable. Hard to rip boards straight, but that's easier with a table saw than a circular saw anyway.

If you do get a circular saw, get one that has a cord, like everybody above says to. Also, get proper eye protection. Sunglasses are not, by any stretch of the imagination, an acceptable substitute.

CogentCap

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Re: My First Circular Saw--how much does price matter?
« Reply #8 on: May 16, 2018, 02:24:13 PM »
I have advise for cutting stuff with a circular saw on saw horses.  Don't ever cut stuff in between two saw horses like this:

    V
--------
 /|   |\


Always cut stuff off to one side like this:

         V
  ---------
/|   |\



If you do the former, the two bits of wood will usually bend and jam into the spinning blade . . . causing the tool to jerk in your hand in an overly exciting manner.  In the latter the wood naturally bends away from jamming and falls to the floor.

You also don't want to lean something on your knee and the floor and try cutting between the two (same principal).  I watched a contractor do just that several years ago.


Short of that, using a circular saw is pretty straight forward.


VERY HELPFUL, thank you.  The jerking saw would have freaked me out.

pecunia

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Re: My First Circular Saw--how much does price matter?
« Reply #9 on: May 17, 2018, 01:03:22 PM »
Make sure to get some clamps to clamp the stock to the sawhorses.  I got metal folding sawhorses that you mount a 2X4 on top of and they have worked well for many years.  Make sure you mount a 2X4 that is long enough on top of the sawhorses so you can clamp to it.

Another cheap thing to get is concrete blocks.  This is a way to raise your sheet goods above the ground so that you can saw them.

I've built several buildings over the years with my old Black and Decker AC circular saw.  I guess they bought Dewalt.  I also have a Black and Decker Sawzall knockoff that has worked for many years.

I think the intermediate level Harbor Freight AC powered stuff will probably work for most people. 

BDWW

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Re: My First Circular Saw--how much does price matter?
« Reply #10 on: May 17, 2018, 01:18:30 PM »
Since no one's mentioned it, one of the skimp points in a cheap tool is the blade.  Most HF/no name junk I've seen has a simple steel-toothed junk blade. So even if the saw works, it will dull fast and get tougher to cut in a hurry. If you plan on doing much, you'll want a carbide tipped blade.

Often the price of cheap tool + upgrade blade would get you into the realm of a decent saw(w/ decent blade) to begin with. The saying around here with tools is "buy once, cry once".  The implication is that you cry at the price the first time, but it will last. Where as with cheap stuff, you'll buy it and then get frustrated(cry) every time you have issues with it.

Papa bear

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Re: My First Circular Saw--how much does price matter?
« Reply #11 on: May 17, 2018, 01:30:37 PM »
Great advice above. To expand on the extension cords - get a 25' 12 gauge cord. Don't skimp on some 16 gauge cheapo.

Harbor freight has decent deals on extension cords. 


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Cadman

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Re: My First Circular Saw--how much does price matter?
« Reply #12 on: May 17, 2018, 01:38:13 PM »
Here's my lineup:

I have a super cheap circular saw for cutting cement board siding (with a diamond blade) because the dust will kill bearings. Surprisingly, this one is still going strong and works fine for rough carpentry if needed. Heed the advice of others and pick up some decent blades. Spent less than $25 on it new.

My primary corded circ saw was a Skilsaw brand in the mid price class. Unless you're springing for a commercial grade worm drive (overkill), my advice is paying more for a mid/high end residential saw is an exercise in diminishing returns. They're just as cheaply made and the tolerances are just as dodgy, but what you're buying is a name brand and features (some useless). It had a laser (which I never used) which quit before a year was up. Then the trigger/switch mechanism died (fixed that). The cord shorted internally at the strain relief (fixed that). Then the motor finally let out the magic smoke in the middle of a long plywood cut. Granted, it lasted a few years, but I had to keep patching it together. Rather than throw good money after bad, I tried out a vintage 70's Craftsman circ saw and haven't looked back.

Unlike some of the complaints here about cordless, if I'm not building furniture, I use a Dewalt 18v cordless that has been my favorite tool for the last decade. I've built countless houses/buildings with it and it's virtually indestructable. Possibly my favorite tool in the aresnal.

Some other good tips: Use a pair of 2x4's to throw over your saw horses so the cut portion (offside) won't fall when you get to the end of your cut and rip out the end grain. With a fine tooth blade, you CAN make good quality cabinets/furniture with even the cheapest circ saw using a guide, clamps, and painters tape over your cut line. And never cut lumber with a circ saw where there's a chance of a nail being embedded- consider that blade toast.

J Boogie

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Re: My First Circular Saw--how much does price matter?
« Reply #13 on: May 18, 2018, 08:11:55 AM »
No one has mentioned a speed square yet, so I'll mention it.

This is an awesome way to quickly and accurately cross cut 2x material.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7AOqNNUabbM

Good brands:

Makita
Milwaukee
Dewalt
Hitachi
Skil (makes a good worm drive saw, which I'd recommend - but can't say much else about their other tools)

I'm not as big a fan of Ryobi and Ridgid but that's mostly just personal preference. I find their appearance to be tacky and cheap looking but that being said I do have a few tools I bought used of each of those brands.




omachi

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Re: My First Circular Saw--how much does price matter?
« Reply #14 on: May 18, 2018, 10:07:53 AM »
Good brands:

Makita
Milwaukee
Dewalt
Hitachi
Skil (makes a good worm drive saw, which I'd recommend - but can't say much else about their other tools)

I'm not as big a fan of Ryobi and Ridgid but that's mostly just personal preference. I find their appearance to be tacky and cheap looking but that being said I do have a few tools I bought used of each of those brands.

Granted they're different sub-brands, but Milwaukee and Ryobi are owned by the same parent corporation, TTI. Lots of consolidation has been going on in the tool companies.

I'd add Bosch to the list, too. I've never used one of their circular saws, but the other saws of theirs I've used have been good.

J Boogie

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Re: My First Circular Saw--how much does price matter?
« Reply #15 on: May 18, 2018, 10:15:59 AM »
Good brands:

Makita
Milwaukee
Dewalt
Hitachi
Skil (makes a good worm drive saw, which I'd recommend - but can't say much else about their other tools)

I'm not as big a fan of Ryobi and Ridgid but that's mostly just personal preference. I find their appearance to be tacky and cheap looking but that being said I do have a few tools I bought used of each of those brands.

Granted they're different sub-brands, but Milwaukee and Ryobi are owned by the same parent corporation, TTI. Lots of consolidation has been going on in the tool companies.

I'd add Bosch to the list, too. I've never used one of their circular saws, but the other saws of theirs I've used have been good.

I think TTI owns Ridgid as well. Based on reviews, especially AvE's breakdown of the ryobi airstrike (which I own), I gathered that Ryobi is aimed at beginners and will use somewhat cheaper components.


Minnesotan here as well. I forgot Bosch. I have a barrel grip jigsaw from them that is totally sweet as well as a 1250DEVS orbital. I find their ergonomics and quality on par with Festool. If they used the tanos systainer system, I'd probably buy all Bosch.

But then again I just read the anarchist's tool chest, so I'm paring down my power tool collection and trying to grow my hand tool collection. We'll see how this goes :)

shawndoggy

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Re: My First Circular Saw--how much does price matter?
« Reply #16 on: May 18, 2018, 10:49:12 AM »
I'd agree with above about cordless (I really like my cordless saw).

And since we're mentioning cordless, another consideration that should be made is that if you buy one cordless tool, it usually makes sense to buy into a "family" (brand) so that you can have a quiver of batteries (and sometimes just buy the bare tool sans battery if you've got a good stable of batteries).

me personally, I'm all in on milwaukee, but I wouldn't hesitate to go with dewalt or makita. 

(I do also have a cordless ryobi nail/brad gun and holy smokes is that a tool I didn't know I needed till I bought it.  Love it!)

pecunia

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Re: My First Circular Saw--how much does price matter?
« Reply #17 on: May 18, 2018, 12:15:10 PM »
Quote
Minnesotan here as well

I used to know a Jim Boogie in Wisconsin.  Sharp guy.  Strange, if you were he.

Just wanted to add get hearing protection with the saw.  Cheap prevention of future trouble. 

J Boogie

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Re: My First Circular Saw--how much does price matter?
« Reply #18 on: May 18, 2018, 12:17:44 PM »
Jim Boogie I am not.

My name starts with J but there is no actual boogie going on here.

Cadman

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Re: My First Circular Saw--how much does price matter?
« Reply #19 on: May 18, 2018, 12:26:29 PM »
+1 on Bosch, I've got a 12" miter saw that kicks butt, and a battery impact that's run in 10's of thousands of screws if not more (building decks, siding/roofing on pole buildings, appliance work, etc.) and has never let me down.

Make sure whichever circ you buy accepts a rip guide (or better yet, comes with one). Not all are created equal.

GreenEggs

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Re: My First Circular Saw--how much does price matter?
« Reply #20 on: May 19, 2018, 03:17:44 PM »
I'm usually happy enough with buying low-end tools, but not a circular saw.  My 20+ year old DeWalt finally died and I decided to try a cheapie.  It was frustrating.  It didn't cut straight, even with a good blade.  There are more physics and angles that are important that need to be strong & precise in the design of a good circular saw than I had realized.




JLee

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Re: My First Circular Saw--how much does price matter?
« Reply #21 on: May 21, 2018, 10:31:19 PM »
I had a Ridgid compound miter saw and it was one of my favorite tools.  I had a Craftsman circular saw for many years which served me well, but generally the miter saw was far superior.

They were sold when I moved cross country and I will likely buy DeWalt this time, as I am heavily invested in the 20v/60v DeWalt cordless ecosystem.
« Last Edit: May 22, 2018, 09:38:44 AM by JLee »

MatthewK

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Re: My First Circular Saw--how much does price matter?
« Reply #22 on: May 22, 2018, 05:54:37 AM »
I'll weigh in..I have a old skill saw brand circular saw that has been excellent for me.It couldn't have cost more than $40 more than 20 years ago. I've done quite a few projects with that, jigsaw and orbital sander. Cut plywood and sub floor when I had to replace our small half bath floor due to leaking toilet, built a bike rack and a couple of small end tables with just those tools. No router so I used the orbital sander to smooth down the rough edges on the tables. It looks good to me! However I plan to get a compound miter saw soon when I can find one on CL, It'd be nice for straight cuts which are hard to achieve with a circular saw.