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Last updated: May 11, 2021
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When a standard handheld circular saw doesn’t offer enough power for your big woodworking project, it’s time to turn to a worm drive saw. Worm drive saws look much like a typical circular saw and can be used in all of the same places, but they sport larger, burlier motors that are placed directly behind the blade rather than to the side of it to provide more power for the projects that small circular saws can’t handle. Worm drive saws also offer better balance thanks to their extra weight compared to a circular saw.
In order to help you find the best worm drive saw for your next project, we looked at a number of features that set the best-performing saws apart. We looked at the size and weight since these can dramatically affect ease of use, as well as features that determine what your saw will be able to cut through such as the speed. We also considered bevel capacity and cutting depth, since these are important in determining how versatile your saw will be for different projects.
We spent tens of hours combing through customer reviews and technical specifications for the most popular worm drive saws on the market today. The result is our list of the five best worm drive saws, highlighted in the table below. Continue reading for detailed reviews of each saw, complete with pros and cons. Our buying guide covers everything you need to know about why you might choose a worm drive saw over a standard circular saw and features to look for when choosing the saw for your next project. Finally, we announce our three overall favorite worm drive saws.
This worm drive saw from vaunted tool company Dewalt is beloved by its users, and with good reason. The saw is on the heavy side at 14 pounds, but users find it to be incredibly well-balanced when making cuts. The work surface guard is made of casted magnesium, which is extremely durable while also keeping the weight of the saw from being even higher. Users also appreciated the easy to hold, comfortable molded handle that puts the trigger within easy reach.
The saw features a 7-1/4-inch blade that spins at 4,800 rpm, offering plenty of power to cut through the most difficult materials you can find. The blade has a 2-1/2-inch cutting depth for working with thick sections of wood, and users appreciated the 53-degree bevel capacity for making a wide range of cuts.
One feature that sets this Dewalt saw apart is the tough cord protection system – essentially a piece of molded plastic over the area where the electrical cord reaches the saw. Although minor, this piece of plastic prevents the cord from being kinked during storage, which can prevent a damaged cord from prematurely ending the life of your saw.
Dewalt offers a three-year warranty, but more important to users was the 90-day money-back guarantee that allowed them to try out the saw before committing to it. The saw also comes with a one-year service contract, although users did not report any issues over the lifetime of the saw.
This worm drive saw from Cuz-D may not look as pretty as some of its competitors, but it packs a serious punch. The 4,940 rpm blade speed is on par with the other saws we reviewed, but the important difference is that the motor on this saw is spinning a larger 8-1/2-inch blade rather than a 7-1/4-inch blade. The result is a significantly deeper 3-1/8-inch maximum depth of cut and the ability to power through almost any material you can throw at this saw. Users also raved about the 65-degree bevel capacity, which far surpasses any other worm drive saw we reviewed. Note that the extra power of this saw can make it difficult for first-time worm drive saw users to wield, so it is best for users who are upgrading their existing saw.
Users did note some flaws in the design of the saw, however. They note that the bevel adjustment and depth of cut adjustment knobs are small, making them difficult to access when wearing work gloves. In addition, although they liked the trigger actuated blade guard, some users experience an issue with it falling over the blade unexpectedly as the blade was speeding up. Users also found that it was hard to sight a cut with this blade, and many use it primarily for rip cutting rather than as an all-purpose worm drive saw.
Despite those design issues, a major advantage to this saw is the lifetime warranty provided by Cuz-D that ensures you’ll never need to replace this tool.
This table worm drive saw from SkilSaw is the more powerful equivalent to a standard circular table saw, providing a ton of power in a relatively small body. In addition, the saw weighs only 49 pounds, which users appreciated since it makes it possible to transport this saw between work sites. The saw features a massive 10-inch blade that spins at 5,300 rpm, making this the saw of choice when working with extremely thick cuts of wood or metal – the saw has a maximum depth of cut of up to 3-1/2 inches. Part of the secret is the dual field motor, which allows the high blade speed and increases the lifespan of the saw.
Users rave about the straightness of the cuts on this saw and how easy it is to achieve perfect bevel cuts. Although the saw is limited to 46-degree bevels, users note that flipping the saw from straight to fully beveled is extremely easy and the saw locks securely into place with little effort. The fencing on the saw is extendable, allowing rip cuts up to 25-inches wide while making it easy to adjust for smaller pieces of material.
The saw does not come with a stand, which was a minor gripe for users given its price. However, SkilSaw does make a stand suitable for this saw that can be purchased separately. The other downside to this saw is that SkilSaw offers only a short one-year limited warranty, although users did not report any problems arising over longer periods of use.
This lightweight handheld worm drive saw from SkilSaw is ideal for framing, decking, and siding projects, especially for users on a budget. The saw is the lightest that we reviewed, weighing a scant 11.5 pounds – which users loved for how much less arm strength it takes to wield this saw during long projects. However, the saw still feels balanced enough to make straight cuts. The 7-1/4-inch blade spins at 5,300 rpm and provides a 2-3/8-inch depth of cut, on par with more expensive competitors. Plus, it offers a 53-degree bevel capacity for making a wide variety of cuts and users found it was extremely easy to adjust the cut angle, with markings every five degrees.
The anti-snag lower guard works extremely well as a safety device, with users reporting it has none of the design issues found on saws like the model from Cuz-D. In addition, users appreciated how easy it is to set the depth of cut thanks to the built-in measurement system on the saw. Although the saw uses a cast magnesium surface similar to that found on the Dewalt saw, this surface is less thick and therefore less durable. Some users found that the surface will actually bend when making difficult cuts, which is a serious problem for staying true to a cut line.
SkilSaw only offers a short one-year warranty on this saw, although users note that if the saw is kept well-oiled it will last for years of use without issues.
For woodworkers looking to make the jump from a standard circular saw to a worm drive saw, this saw from Milwaukee is a great entry-level choice. The saw is relatively heavy at 14 pounds, which can be a shock to users used to lightweight circular saws, but users found that this weight makes it easier to balance the saw during difficult cuts. The 7-1/4-inch blade spins at a relatively low 4,400 rpm, although it is still able to handle nearly any material up to the maximum 2-7/16-inch maximum depth of cut thanks to the hardened steel worm gearing in the saw’s interior. Plus, the saw blade features a 51.5-degree bevel to enhance its versatility for different uses like flooring and roofing.
A nice feature for users new to worm drive saws is the oil sighting glass, which makes it easy to see when the oil is getting low so you can keep your saw well-maintained. The shoe surface is made of a composite rather than lightweight magnesium, which is also better since it ensures that it will not bend when making cuts and reduces the transfer of any kickback coming from the saw. Users also appreciated the comfort of the handle with the easily accessible trigger and found that the retractable blade cover works without any issues.
Another advantage to this saw, especially given the modest price, is that Milwaukee offers a five-year warranty on the tool.
Why did it make our list?
Hardened steel worm gearing in interior
Oil sighting glass
What is not ideal about it?
Slower 4,400-rpm blade speed
Things to Consider
Now that you’ve learned more about our five favorite worm drive saws on the market today, how do you choose among them to find the saw that’s right for you? Moreover, how do you know if a worm drive saw is a better fit for you than a standard circular saw? In our Buying Guide, we’ll cover everything you need to know about worm drive saws and the advantages they offer, as well as highlight the features that you need to consider when choosing a worm drive saw for your woodworking projects.
Why you should invest in a worm drive saw
The main advantage that a worm drive saw offers over a standard circular saw is that it has significantly more power. Whereas the motor is typically placed alongside the blade in a circular saw, in a worm drive saw the motor is placed directly behind the blade. This allows the motor to generate higher torque, which means larger blades and faster blade speeds for cutting through thick, tough pieces of wood and other materials.
The front blade position can also make your work safer when cutting sheet metal or other dangerous materials since it puts more distance between your hand and body and the material you are cutting.
Compared to circular saws, worm drive saws are significantly heavier. Although this can be a reason for occasional DIYers to opt for a compact circular saw, the weight can also be an advantage in that it makes the saw more balanced and makes it easier to follow cuts without running off course.
Because of their extra power and size, worm drive saws tend to be more expensive investments than small circular saws. However, the extra power can be well worth the investment if you find yourself constantly working at the power limits of most circular saws. In addition, note that worm drive saws are almost never battery-powered since the motor requires too much power to operate for more than a few minutes.
What type of work can be done with a worm drive saw
A worm drive saw can do nearly anything a circular saw can do, but also so much more thanks to the added torque from the powerful motor. Like a circular saw, you can use a worm drive saw as a versatile tool for woodworking – especially if your saw offers the ability to make beveled cuts. In addition, worm drive saws have the power needed to cut through thicker, knottier pieces of wood and typically have larger blades and deeper cutting depths than circular saws so that you can work with thick materials. The extra power and forward position of the blade is also extremely useful when working with sheet metal or other difficult, spark-prone materials since your body will be further away from the cut.
With great power also comes great responsibility – it is essential to work safely whenever operating a worm drive saw since this tool can rapidly become dangerous if not handled properly. Before even turning on the saw, make sure you are setting yourself up for success by reading the manual so that you are familiar with the settings, checking the saw for any apparent defects (like a nicked electrical cord, for example), making sure you have the appropriate blade – securely fastened onto the arbor – for the material you’ll be cutting, and checking the lower guard to make sure its moving freely. Always wear appropriate protective clothing, including a protective eyewear, gloves, and dust masks, and make sure you have no loose accessories hanging off of you. Check the material that you’ll be cutting as well – you want to make sure that there are no staples, nails, or other obstacles that could cause kickback during your cut.
When making cuts, it is important that you ensure the piece your cutting is secured using clamps or push blocks and that the blade will have clearance under the piece. Allow the blade to come to full speed before starting in on your cut and to fully stop before reaching for the cut piece. Most importantly, always keep your hands and body away from the blade whenever it is running.
Features to consider while choosing a worm drive saw
Although worm drive saws may look similar on the exterior, there are a number of important differences that set them apart from one another. Here, we’ll cover some of the features that differentiate worm drive saws and offer advice on what to look for when choosing a saw for your work.
Worm drive saws are typically larger than standard circular saws, which can make them harder to work with in small workshop spaces and to store when not in use. Most handheld worm drive saws are around the same size, however, so unless you are interested in a table worm drive saw like the SKILSAW SPT77WML-01 model then size is not a major factor when choosing among models.
Worm drive saws can be heavy, which can wear on your arm. At the same time, however, that extra weight can help to keep the blade balanced and give you more leverage when pushing into a piece of material to start your cut. The saws we reviewed are all around the same weight, although the relatively lightweight handheld SKILSAW SPT77WML-01 model may be a good option for those who worry about tired arms.
Most worm drive saws come with a 7-1/4-inch wood cutting blade, which can be replaced when the blade is worn down or when you are working with a different material. However, some larger handheld worm drive saws like the Cuz-D SFS-85saw come with a 8-1/2-inch blade, and the table worm drive saw from SKILSAW SPT70WT-01 sports a 10-inch blade. These larger diameter saws can be ideal for users who already have experience with worm drive saws and would like the extra depth of cut afforded by a larger diameter blade. Note that the blade that comes standard on most worm drive saws is typically of lower quality, so one of the best additional investments you can make in your new saw is a high-quality blade.
Depth of cut
The depth of cut of a worm drive saw describes the deepest cut that the blade can make – that is, the maximum distance that the blade can protrude downward below the work surface guard. Typically, saws with larger blades – like the Cuz-D SFS-85 saw with an 8-1/2-inch blade or the table SKILSAW SPT70WT-01 model with a 10-inch blade – are able to make deeper cuts.
The bevel capacity, which describes the maximum angle of cut relative to a flat work surface that the saw is able to make, is one of the most important features for being able to use your worm drive saw for the widest range of tasks possible. All of the saws we reviewed provide the ability to make bevel cuts of greater than 45 degrees, while the larger Cuz-D SFS-85 saw offers beveling up to 65 degrees to make steeply angled cuts that can be useful for preparing joints.
The extra torque and weight of worm drive saws makes them much more suitable for long rip cuts than traditional circular saws. There is no maximum ripping capacity on the handheld models of this saw type since you can push them along a board or sheet for as long as needed, but there are important considerations when it comes to ease of use – a heavier saw with a strong grip handle on the top will be easier to push along without kickback or losing your guide track for longer. If you opt for a table worm drive saw like the model from SKILSAW SPT77WML-01, note that there is a maximum ripping capacity based on the width of the fencing. In the case of this particular saw, you are limited to a 25-inch rip cut.
The blade speed is an important consideration when choosing a worm drive saw because it directly affects the materials you’ll be able to cut through. A faster spinning blade will typically be able to cut through denser, thicker wood and other materials with less kickback and without burning out the motor. Although there are differences in the blade speeds of the saws we reviewed, these differences are relatively minor and will not affect the saws’ performances.
Power and voltage
Almost all worm drive saws run on AC power rather than a battery because the motor requires more power than most batteries are able to handle for more than a few minutes. All of the saws that we reviewed use 120-volt motors, which means that the saws can be plugged into standard household electrical outlets rather than requiring 240-volt shop outlets.
The power cord is a minor consideration when choosing a worm drive saw, but it is nevertheless important. A longer cord will enable you to set up your workspace in the middle of your shop, further away from wall outlets, although you can always use an extension cord to add reach to your saw. Make sure that the power cord itself can stand up to use and abuse – for example, the DEWALT DWS535 saw has a reinforced area where the power cord extends from the saw to ensure that it cannot be kinked and damaged during storage or use.
A worm drive saw is a significant investment in your suite of tools, so you want to be sure it’s going to last for years to come. When choosing between two very similar saws, the manufacturer’s warranty can be the tiebreaker since these coverages range from as little as one year on the SKILSAW SPT77WML-01 and SKILSAW SPT70WT-01 models to as much as a lifetime guarantee on the Cuz-D SFS-85 saw. The offer of a 90-day money back guarantee on the DEWALT DWS535 saw can also be nice since this gives you the option to try out the saw before committing to it.
As for most saw blades, it is important to oil your worm drive saw blade from time to time to keep it running smoothly and to extend the life of the blade. For a new saw, change the oil after 10 hours of use. After that, the oil only needs to be changed every 50 hours or once a year.
Worm drive saws have a lot more torque than standard circular saws, but if you are practicing proper saw technique – allowing the blade to reach full speed before engaging it in a cut – you should be able to minimize the kickback. Also be sure to check your work material for obstacles like staples and nails that could cause the saw to jerk during a cut.
You can store your worm drive saw anywhere in your shop where it will be protected from damage and the electrical cord will not be kinked or nicked. Many users opt to hang their saw from a hook, since this ensures nothing else will sit on top of it and it is within easy reach when needed.
The SKILSAW SPT70WT-01 stood out as being the only table worm drive saw to make our top five. Users loved how easy it was to make cuts and adjustments with this saw, while the compact size and light weight allows it to be easily moved between work sites.
The Cuz-D SFS-85 saw presents a great upgrade opportunity for woodworkers with experience using worm drive saws since it offers a larger 8-1/2-inch diameter blade for a larger depth of cut, as well as unparalleled power and a lifetime guarantee for serious users.
We feel the DEWALT DWS535 tool is the best worm drive saw on the market today thanks to its combination of power and ease of use, plus the attention to small details like the toughcord protection system. We also love the 90-day money back guarantee on this saw, which allows you to try it out before committing to it for all your future projects.