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I am about to buy my first tools! I am considering getting a circular saw and am looking for:

  • recommendations of what features I should pay attention to?
  • something that would be suitable for a novice?

I plan to use these tools for work at home, but for nothing too complicated.

  • Hello, welcome to the site! We cannot give brand or product recommendations, but if you have specific questions about features or other general differentiators between lower-end and higher-end tools, please feel free to edit your question accordingly. Also if you are interested in different types of tools, such as a circular saw and drill, please ask two separate questions. – rob Nov 11 '18 at 20:40
  • I assume questions like "what specific features of a circular saw are considered most important for a beginner, that will grow with me?" could be on-topic? Power tools are an expensive investment, and in most cases the colour of the plastic or name on the sticker may not be that important within a dollar range. Is there room for a wiki-style answer we can refer to that lists must-haves, nice-to-haves, and obscure-but-useful-for-some categories? (contd.) – jdv Nov 12 '18 at 15:49
  • For example, if I knew then what I knew now, for my kind of woodworking I would have spent extra on a cast footplate, though someone in the trades might prefer a rolled or milled plate because it will break less easily if dropped, and can be trued up easily. I might also want a saw with a brake, while others might not care. – jdv Nov 12 '18 at 15:52
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    I've removed some of the "Shopping recommendation" portions in an attempt to move this to something that's more site appropriate. – FreeMan Nov 12 '18 at 21:08
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    Tina, if you're still monitoring I wanted to advise against buying a circular saw when starting out. As with anything the nature/scale of what you want to do helps inform tool purchases, but it's important to know that in the UK many people who have done woodworking for years don't have one, and have no plans to ever buy one. Bottom line with a circular saw could be thought of as this: if you won't commonly be breaking sheet goods (ply, MDF, chipboard) down from full sheets to smaller panels you can comfortably live without one! – Graphus Nov 16 '18 at 10:08
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As a novice/beginner, no brand or model # recommendation should be necessary as almost all the common drill and saw brands should meet your non-commercial home use requirements. Those "Best" tool lists are usually filled with tools targeted to the commercial user and will likely exceed all your requirements and cost a lot more than necessary for your usage.

Battery powered drills and saws are not recommended for the beginner as battery maintenance and tool compatibility adds another layer of complexity to tool ownership. Batteries also have a limited life span, even when unused.

What will make a big difference for the beginner is after-sales support, you need to buy the tool from a place with competent customer support. With a salesperson that can answer any generic questions you have about the tool and its accessories. If you have a local tool store or home improvement store, you should check those places out first.

Around here I would expect to spend around $50 for a decent general purpose corded drill, and around $100 for a decent 7-1/4 inch corded circular saw. All the ones for sale in my local home depot/lowes around that price range are good enough for the novice.

  • I disagree with the "no brand or model # recommendation should be necessary" comment because even though it's for home use, not all home tools are created equal. I, for example, did a good amount of research and went mostly for the medium priced tools rather than "good enough for home use" because I wanted tools that would last a while and I wouldn't have to replace in a year or two as I get into more advanced projects. – HazardousGlitch Nov 19 '18 at 1:04
  • I only partially agree with the "Batteries have a limited life span". I've had my cordless tool set for > 15 years. One of the original batteries quit working, the other is still going strong. I bought a set of 2 extra capacity batteries and an extra charger probably 10 years ago and they're sill holding a charge and will drive screws all afternoon. (Just built a deck to test it out.) There are times I've used them for hours a day days on end and times they've sat for >1 month w/o use. – FreeMan Nov 19 '18 at 21:00
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    All the tools being sold at my local Ace/HomeDepot/Lowes at my recommended price range will meet the homeowner and most commercial users requirement, no matter the brand/model. The original question also explicitly states that they will NOT be using the tool for any advanced projects. The average life of an lithium cell is around 5 years, the battery capacity will be reduced as it ages. So even if it still works, the capacity will keep getting lower as time goes on. – Netduke Nov 21 '18 at 13:47
  • I'll agree that battery-powered saws are not a great idea, but battery-powered drills are the cat's pajamas. The intermittent nature of drilling means that the battery doesn't get drained too fast. Of course, it's important on a big job to keep a spare battery on charge at all times. Current-generation lithium batteries charge up in less than an hour, so it's a really brutal job that will discharge a drill too quickly. – WhatRoughBeast Nov 24 '18 at 15:29
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I would strongly suggest that you look at a track saw rather than a circular saw. You will be able to do all the cuts you would with the circular saw but with a much higher degree of accuracy. I went through a circular saw, then a sliding mitre saw and finally got my track saw about 2 months ago. It has probably made the biggest difference to the quality of my work than any other tool.

Almost every brand has a track saw at all different price points.

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    I'm not sure a track saw corresponds to the budget requirements of a beginner, which is the context of this question. You could mention that most circular saws can be turned into a track saw with jigs you can buy. – jdv Dec 20 '18 at 20:59
  • Very true, Mike Montgomery from Modern Builds has done at least one video on making a jig. youtu.be/ukM0rz0GwBY In fact, if you are starting out on the woodworking journey he has a great channel which does tend to focus on all the things you can do with limited tools. Having said that (certainly in the UK, where I am writing this) you can now get tracksaws starting at ~£120 – Stuart Dec 21 '18 at 8:07
  • @jdv, Or build. A very decent track-saw guide can be made from ply and a few pieces of construction lumber. So possibly free to make for many woodworkers. – Graphus Dec 21 '18 at 8:42
  • Don't Lidl or Aldi offer a track saw? Pretty sure either or both are <£90. – Graphus Dec 21 '18 at 8:44
  • Yeah, and Kreg makes a semi-permanent jig that can be switched from track to edge guide. The whole kit for both is reasonably priced as well. – jdv Dec 21 '18 at 14:36
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As with any tool, would recommend the best quality saw you can afford. Beyond that an aluminum base plate and good blade visibility (not obstructed by the motor) so you can see what you are doing are the most important features in my opinion. Rail saws are fantastic but expensive. You can achieve fairly straight cuts by just clamping a straight edge to the work.

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I would avoid Skil branded saws ( usually $20-30). Now they shouldn't be confused with saws branded Skilsaw. These are much heavier duty but kinda pricey. For a beginner I would recommend a Bosch Cs10 or a Dewalt corded saw. As for a drill I would recommend getting a cordless drill. Much more versatile and suitable for beginners and pros alike. You could also even considering buying a cordless tool combo kit. These could include circular saws, drills, a flashlight, among others. They are more expensive but you get more tools for the price. DeWalt sells kits that are very good. Other companies do as well. It's more of a personal preference. This is just my opinion so don't think you have to follow it exactly. Have fun in your woodworking journey! You won't regret it!

  • We try to avoid brand recommendations but please feel free to either delete, or edit after the question is reopened. – rob Nov 15 '18 at 4:43
  • If you want to indicate what features about your non-recommended brands are bad, and what benefits of your recommended brands are good (without recommending a brand), you'll probably get several up votes. – FreeMan Nov 19 '18 at 21:01

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