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.