IMG_8152 (3)

The Best Worm Drive Saw

There’s something dangerous about an active circular saw, but I just can’t put my finger on it. I’ll bet you saw that one coming. But seriously, a circular saw is one of those tools that everyone has to have. Circular saws are capable of cutting lumber, plywood, steel, masonry and even granite when setup with the appropriate blade.

In this review, we’re going to look at different brands and models of worm drive saws to help you make the right choice. If you’re looking for a traditional sidewinder, click here for my best circular saw review. Or if you are in the market for a cordless model, check out my comparisons of the best cordless circular saws here.

If I could only have one circular saw, it’d be a worm drive. They have the most power and torque due to the spiral gear that transfers power to the blade more efficiently than a sidewinder. And with the handle farther back, you can better resist kickback.

Worm drive circular saws all have the blade on the left side of the saw, so if you are right handed like me, you can easily see the cut line. For the life of me, I can’t figure out why anyone thought it would be a good idea to put the blade on the right side on the saw like on a typical sidewinder- It ranks right up there with the slot headed screw as one of the most counter intuitive designs of all time.  

*I hope you’ll love the products I recommend! Just so you know, Plumb and Lined may collect a share of sales or other compensation from some of the links on this page. 

My Winner After 3 Years of Daily Use

SKILSAW SPT77WML-01

Best Overall

My Rating
5/5

BEST WORM DRIVE SAW - COMPARISON TABLE

Image

Product

My Rating

Buy

4.5/5

#1. Best Overall Pick

SKILSAW SPT77WML-01

My Rating
5/5

The best of the best is the SKILSAW SPT77WML-01. It’s basically the same saw as my trusty old 77 that I bought 30 years ago (still going strong BTW)- same power, same ruggedness and dependability, but all in a lighter weight version.

The table and housing are made out of magnesium which significantly reduces the weight down to 11.5 pounds as compared to the hefty 14.2 pounds of the old model.

The SPT77WML-01 is in fact the lightest worm drive saw on the market, and after buying one of these a few years ago, I can tell you that it instantly replaced my old favorite because the lighter weight makes it easy to use it all day long without getting fatigued.

It’s powerful 15-amp motor and 5,300 RPMs can power through virtually any material. It’s 7 ¼” blade can bevel up to 53 degrees, allowing you to make complex compound miter cuts on rafters and other framing materials.

The lightest worm drive saw on the market even comes with an on-tool multi-function wrench for blade changes and brush and oil maintenance.      

Pros

  • The lightest weight worm drive
  • Dual-Field motor runs cooler

Cons

  • Nothing, zero, nada

#2. 2nd Best Overall

BOSCH CSW41

My Rating
4.5/5

Fun Fact: The Bosch CSW41 is made in the same factory as the SKILSAW 77 models.

Almost identical specs- just a little heavier (12.3 lbs) than the SKILSAW Mag 77 (11.5 lbs).

Just think of the Bosch as a SKILSAW without the Dual-Field motor design.

The blade wrench stores in the foot under the rear handle. In addition to quick blade changes, the wrench also works well to pop the diamonds out of new saw blades. 

Pros

  • Light weight – 12.3 lbs.
  • Great power

Cons

  • Price

#3. Best Value

SKILSAW SPT77W-01

My Rating
4/5

This is the standard SKILSAW model 77. Proven war horse that can stand up to years of use and abuse.

The new 77’s are about 1 pound lighter than my 30-year-old model.

Same power (15-amp) and speed (5,300 RPM) as the Magnesium 77.

If you are looking for the standard of the industry, but don’t want to spend as much as the Mag, this might be the one for you.

Pros

  • SKILSAW quality and dependability
  • Dual-Field motor runs cooler

Cons

  • A little heavy at 14.2 lbs.
  • Maximum bevel is 51 degrees

#4. Best Hypoid

MAKITA 5377MG

My Rating
4/5

Makita’s magnesium offering comes in at a respectable 13.2 pounds and does not lack for power.

The minus of not being able to change the oil means it won’t last as long as a SKILSAW, but it is a few dollars less than the real thing.

Pros

  • Light weight – 13.2 lbs.
  • Hypoid drive delivers plenty of power

Cons

  • Hypoid drive motor is sealed
  • Maximum bevel is 51.5 degrees

#5. Best Budget

MAKITA 5477NB

My Rating
3.5/5

If you’re on a budget, the Makita 5477NB might be just what you are looking for.

Plenty of power from the hypoid drive, the one drawback is the that the motor is sealed, so you aren’t able to ever change the oil. For this reason, a hypoid drive will not last as long as a traditional worm drive, but it’s hard to pass on a powerful saw at a bargain basement price.

Pros

  • Great price
  • Hypoid drive delivers plenty of power

Cons

  • A little heavy at 14.3 lbs.
  • Maximum bevel is 51.5 degrees

BEST WORM DRIVE SAW - SPECS COMPARISON TABLE

SKILSAW

SPT77WML-01
BEST OVERALL
  • 11.5 pounds
  • 15 amps
  • 5,300 RPM
  • 53 degree max bevel
  • Worm Drive
  • Blade Left
  • Mag/ Magnesium

SKILSAW

SPT77W-01
BEST VALUE
  • 14.2 pounds
  • 15 amps
  • 5,300 RPM
  • 51 degree max bevel
  • Worm Drive
  • Blade Left
  • Steel / Aluminum

Makita

5477NB
BEST BUDGET
  • 14.3 pounds
  • 15 amps
  • 4,500 RPM
  • 51.5 max bevel
  • Hypoid
  • Blade Left
  • Steel/ Resin

Makita

5377MG
BEST HYPOID
  • 13.2 pounds
  • 15 amps
  • 4,500 RPM
  • 51.5 max bevel
  • Hypoid
  • Blade Left
  • Magnesium/ Resin

Bosch

CSW41
2nd BEST OVERALL
  • 12.3 pounds
  • 15 amps
  • 5,300 RPM
  • 53 degree max bevel
  • Worm Drive
  • Blade Left
  • Mag/ Magnesium

SKILSAW BRAND and HISTORY

SKILSAW is one of those brand names that has become a generic term. Just like when someone says “I need a Kleenex”, they are actually looking for a facial tissue that may or may not have been made by Kimberly-Clark, or when you take your “Jet Ski” to the lake, you are talking about your personal watercraft unless it was made by Kawasaki, most everyone calls any circular saw a SKILSAW.

SKILSAW power tools was founded in 1924 with the invention of its flagship tool, the SKILSAW, the world’s first portable circular saw. In 1937 the SKILSAW Model 77 became the benchmark of portable circular saws and continues to be used on jobsites around the world today. Bosch took over ownership in the 1990’s and then in 2016 the SKILSAW brand was sold to Chevron (HK) Ltd, a global tool manufacturer that had been making Bosch’s (and SKILSAW) brands of saws for years. The quality and durability of their tools is as good or better now than at any other point in their life as a company.

Why Trust Me?

I always chuckle when I see the websites with the reviews of tools when they say “we spent over 20 hours evaluating these tools, trying to simulate real word conditions in our test lab” and that is somehow supposed to convince you that that makes them some kind of authority on the subject. And because they’ve spent all that time, you therefore should trust them to recommend the best worm drive saw.

I guess maybe there is some value in knowing that a brand new tool with a brand new blade was able to cut 143 2 x 4s before the tester person’s arm got tired, but you might want to know how well that tool performs after it’s a few years old. Or you might want to know if the tool can hold up to daily use and abuse like it is subjected to in the actual real world.

Over the last 30 plus years as a general contractor, I’ve been making my living using these tools at jobsites day in and day out. My crews and subs make their livings using these tools too. And we all talk. Word quickly gets around about an innovative new design, and probably even more quickly when someone made the mistake of buying a piece of junk.

There’s nothing worse than spending your hard earned money on a tool that you are expecting to make it easier and faster to tackle all kinds of projects around the house, only to find out that the tool comes up miserably short of meeting your expectations. My goal here is to keep you from buying that piece of junk. 

Why You Need A Circular Saw

Everyone needs to have at least one circular saw. It’s versatility, portability and ease of use make it an essential tool for both Do-It-Yourselfers and professional tradespeople alike. Everything from cutting lumber for framing a fence or shed, to siding, cutting plywood for a roof or bookcase, a circular saw can do it all.

There are three types of circular saws- a worm drive has spiral gears that transfer power to the blade providing the most power and torque. Worm drive saws always have the blade on the left side of the saw, allowing a right handed user to see the cut line easily. A sidewinder has a spur gear with the motor alongside of the blade. Typically smaller and lighter than a worm drive, most sidewinders have the blade on the right side of the saw, which is great if you are left handed. As battery technology has advanced many manufacturers are producing cordless circular saws, usually in the sidewinder variety with varying degrees of power and performance.

In a perfect world you would have one worm drive for framing and tough jobs and a lightweight sidewinder for trimming fence boards in place or other jobs that don’t require the power of a worm drive.  

SKILSAW in Action 3

Circular Saw Features- What’s What and What’s Important

Power

Power is one of the more important features when deciding what is the best circular saw, but unfortunately most manufacturers don’t publish all of the data on their circular saws. The amp rating indicates how much electricity a motor draws. Most professional grade circular saws will be rated at 15 amps. Blade speed is measured in revolutions per minute or RPM. The best circular saws will be in the 4,500 to 6,000 RPM range. Torque is how much force acting on an object causes that object to rotate and is the one specification that manufacturers don’t publish. That being said, a worm drive circular saw will always have significantly more torque than a sidewinder due to the design of its gears.

Blade Left or Blade Right

Which side of the saw the blade is on will have a lot to do with determining which saw is the best circular saw for you. Disclaimer: I am right handed, so my perspective comes from this side. If you are left handed, you can just take the opposite of my advice here.

A blade right saw (meaning the blade is on the right side of the saw) is the traditional arrangement for circular saws. The only advantage to this setup is that usually the keeper side of the work piece will be on the left of the blade where the larger portion of the saw’s base shoe is located, which makes it easier to keep the base shoe flat on the work piece. The downside to this arrangement is that it is very difficult to see the cut without contorting yourself around and over the saw, making for an extremely uncomfortable time.

My preference is a blade left saw because having the blade on the left side of the saw allows you to clearly see the cut line. To state the obvious, it’s always easier to execute a perfect cut when you can see the cut line. Worm drive circular saws always have the blade on the left side while typical sidewinders have their blades on the right. A few models of sidewinders are offered with their blades on the left.  

Cut Depth and Depth Adjustment

The maximum depth of cut translates into how thick a work piece can be cut. With the base shoe set at 90° a 7 ¼ inch saw can cut around 2 3/8” deep and a 6 ½ inch saw can cut about 2 ¼” deep. You might not be cutting 2 x 12 rafters every day to stick frame a hip roof, but there are many instances where you will need to make bevel cuts by tilting the base of the saw to an angle other than 90°.

A 7 ¼ inch saw has no problem cutting 2 x material at angles exceeding 45° in one pass. The maximum depth of cut of a 6 ½ inch saw at 45° is barely 1 ½” so it’s probably not the best choice if you see yourself doing lots of projects using bevel cuts. Smaller trim saws are useful for cutting sheet goods like plywood and paneling but lack the capacity and power to deal with framing materials.

When setting up your circular saw before making a cut, you’ll want to set the blade roughly ¼” deeper than the wood you are going to cut. Most saws have a locking lever and a sliding mechanism of some sort to adjust the depth of cut. The best circular saws make it easy to adjust the depth of cut with one hand.                

Bevel Capacity and Bevel Adjustment

A bevel cut is a cut where the blade is not perpendicular to the work piece. Cutting compound angles on rafters and simple miter cuts on trim pieces are examples of cuts that can be made with bevel cuts. The ability to tilt the saw’s shoe is a feature that all the best circular saws have but a saw’s maximum bevel cut angle can limit your options. The best circular saws will exceed 45° by at least a few degrees, some go all the way to 53°.

Cutting a 45° bevel through 2x material requires a fair amount of power and torque because the blade is essentially cutting through the equivalent of a much thicker board. Worm drive saws are the clear winners here with their extra torque compared to sidewinders, many of which struggle to make these type of cuts.

Most saws have a locking lever and a sliding mechanism of some sort to adjust the bevel angle. Positive stops at common angles are a nice feature that some saws have, but an easy to read scale is mandatory on the best circular saw.         

Electric Brake and Blade Guard

An electric brake reverses the current in the saw to stop the blade once the trigger is released. This is a nice safety feature that a few models have instead of the standard of just having the blade spin its way to a stop. All circular saws are equipped with a retractable blade guard that covers the blade when the saw is not engaged with the work piece, so after making a cut you can set the saw down even before the blade has come to a complete stop.  

Laser Guide

The latest gimmicky feature to start showing up on circular saws is the laser guide. A hi tech laser beam projects a red line onto your work piece to show you where to aim the saw. First off, you only need to be looking at the notch in the saw base shoe and the blade while making a cut, and even more dumb is the fact that these laser beam guides aren’t adjustable to account for different thickness blades. These things are pretty much worthless. I agree with Dr. Evil in the Austin Powers movies that “sharks with frickin’ laser beams on their heads” would be awesome, but they don’t belong on saws. The best circular saw doesn’t have a laser guide on it.       

Steve Wright

Steve Wright is a general contractor who over the last 30 plus years has built hundreds of new homes, ranging from first time affordable homes to multi-million dollar custom homes and everything in between.

Leave a Reply

Close Menu