Circular saws may not be able to cut everything, but they sure cover a huge portion of the spectrum. From straight to angled cutsand soft to tougher materials — these saws can work with them all.
But of course, your configuration (i.e., the combination of the saw and the blade) determines what you can do with a saw.Consequently, there are endless configurations and many answers to what materials you can cut with a circular saw.
Today, we’ll look at the materials these saws can cut and see the ideal blade combinations for each scenario. Let’s get going.
Things to Remember
We need to move cautiously with a circular saw. We can’t expect it to cut everything we put forward. Of course, it has some do’s and don’ts. Hence, before we move on,let’s clarify a few ifs.
The Circular Saw’s Limitations
You can cut most materials by opting for a suitable blade. However, that assumes that the circular saw can handle that workload, which misleads many users.
A saw needs to have sufficient capabilities to get the most out of a blade. For instance, the power output (often described in amps for corded saws and volts for battery-driven ones) should be adequate.
Cutting through tough materials like masonry may be tricky if you own a weak cordless saw. The saw also dictates which blade size users can use. This also has a significant impact on which materials you can cut.
Even the perfect blade won’t suffice if your saw isn’t good enough.
Moreover, many saws are specifically designed for certain materials. For example, some work really well with wood but not metal. The fundamental design and features geared toward specific materials also affect how well you cut different materials.
Hence, ensure that the circular saw itself isn’t creating a bottleneck in what materials you can cut.
Designs of Circular Saws
Much like their blades, circular saws come in all shapes and forms. The most common ones would be the handheld ones — including sidewinders, wormdrives, or hypoid circular saws. These are quite portable and often feature cordless designs.
On the other hand, people use tools like miter saws for slightly larger applications like cutting timber.
Now, the type of saw you own will make a difference in the experience. Nevertheless, you can more or less work with most materials regardless of the saw’s size and design. Most of them work with similar blades, so it should be fine unless you’re cutting huge items.
Materials You Can Cut with a Circular Saw
With the basics out of the way, let’s look at the options in hand.
Wood and Wood-Based Materials
Wood is perhaps the most common material that we cut with circular saws. In addition, circular saws can cut through other wood-based items with ease. Plywood and Medium Density Fibreboard (MDF) are two such examples.
Cutting wood is usually something most circular saws can do. However, since we have so many types of wood and styles of cutting, the blade configuration has to change too.
Unless you’re cutting a lot of wood, a blade with a comparatively higher number of teeth is better. That allows the blade to offer cleaner and smoother cuts without tears and rips.
For clean but efficient cuts, you could opt for a 40-tooth blade. The Freud 40-tooth (7-1/4 inches) finishing blade does a decent job. Blades with a higher bevel angle also provide smoother cuts, so utilize them.
Finishing blades are ideal for crosscutting too. It requires cutting the material across its grain, which benefits from smaller gullets and a higher teeth count.
On the other hand, you may want to make rough and quick cuts, where an aggressive blade with fewer teeth would help. For instance, you can find framing circular saw blades with around 24 teeth.
These create somewhat jagged edges but eat through wood much faster. DeWalt’s7-1/4 inches Carbide Thin Kerf framing blade is a great example.These are also known as rip blades. Regarding the blade materials, carbide is an excellent balance to cut softer and tougher wood. It also retains a long lifetime.
Plywood and MDF
Plywood is comparatively softer than many wood variants, meaning it’s easier to tear them and result in chipping. Hence, try to avoid the usual 24-tooth blades for plywood if you want smoother cuts.
Instead, go for a circular saw blade with higher teeth count — even better if it’s a topbevel one. I’ve enjoyed working with the Avanti Pro Plywood Saw Blade, which has a high 140-tooth count (7-1/4 inches).
MDF has a similar set of requirements, as it’s not as strong as wood. Hence, the good old carbide-tipped blades with a higher teeth count arealso ideal here. Makita’s 60-tooth carbide-tipped saw blade can provide clean and efficient cuts with this material.
Circular saws are also excellent for plastic — be they acrylic, plexiglass, or polycarbonate. The issue is that it’s comparatively softer than wood, meaning it’s easy to ruin the smoothness of a cut.
Hence, the teeth count should be comparatively higher — usually 80 or above is a sweet spot.
Despite being suitable with plastic, an issue that persists with this material is heating. Excessive temperature can make it melt, so keeping that in check is paramount. There are plenty of circular saw blades that come with a non-stick coating to reduce heat.
You could also use finishing blades with carbide-tipped teeth and a higher teeth count. E.g., Amana Tool’s 10-inch 80-tooth carbide-tipped non-melt saw blade for plastic cutting hits a sweet spot.
If you want clean cuts, keep the protective sheets on the plastic intact until you’re finished cutting. Furthermore, remember not to hold the blade in one place for too long. That way, you eliminate the risk of producing too much heat in one place.
Metals— Ferrous and Non-Ferrous
While metal is one of the toughest materials to cut, circular saws manage to do a remarkable job. You can cut all sorts of metal, including aluminum, iron, or stainless steel.
The blade requirement to cut metal partly depends on whether it’s ferrous or non-ferrous — i.e. if it contains iron. For these reasons, you typically need specialized blades for this material.
Usual circular saws for cutting wood may also fall short. Working with tougher metal requires a lot of torque, which a small cordless saw may not have. Hence, many use worm-drive saws (or other options with high torques).
For non-ferrous steel like aluminum, you could opt for carbide-tipped blades. These can cut such metals with ease and last a long time. A decent example of such a blade would be Diablo’s 7-1/4” Aluminum Cutting saw blade, which has 56 teeth.
Along with aluminum, it can cut through copper or brass with ease.
Ferrous metal requires a different type of saw, though. Freud’s 7-1/4” cutting blade with 70 teeth performs well for such materials.
Additionally, the teeth count for metals is crucial. For thicker steel, the blade should have a lower teeth count, while a higher number is better for thinner materials.
Speed is another element to look after. Having your saw run at too high an RPM is a surefire method for disaster. While non-ferrous metals can handle slightly higher rotation speeds, the threshold is even lower for ferrous ones (below 3500 RPM should be safe). Excessive speed results in poor output and health risks.
Masonry — Stones, Bricks, Concrete, and More
Masonry is quite an umbrella term for many types of materials. It includes bricks, concrete, different forms of stones, and even tiles. Impressively, a circular saw can cut masonry with flying colors.
While there are specific designs available for masonry, it’s possible to use standard circular saws with suitable blades.
Concrete is one of the toughest materials you’ll cut with your circular saw,necessitating a specialized blade. The most popular and efficient blade for concrete would be a diamond blade. Corundum is another common alternative.
The former costs more, but the diamond composite makes the blade much more abrasive, allowing for quicker and more efficient cuts.
You can find dry blades or wet-cutting ones that require lubrication while cutting. Dry-cutting is easier but results in a lot of heat and dust while cutting. Saws that support wet-cutting mechanisms are better suited for this purpose.
On the other hand, corundum is not nearly as abrasive, but it’s cost-effective. Still, it takes a long time to work, and making deeper cuts is quite tough. DeWalt’s 7” masonry abrasive blade or Makita’s 6” segmented diamond blade are two decent options to cut concrete.
Circular saws can also cut bricks. It’s comparatively easier to cut than concrete, but it does require specialized blades, nevertheless.
These are the most crucial categories of material that a circular saw can cut. Of course, it doesn’t cover everything, but it should show you how these power tools can cover a wide range of materials.
Note: Many of the properties, like the teeth count, can seemingly change depending on the blade’s diameter. This affects the apparent density of the teeth, so keep that in mind.
My Last Words!
A circular saw can be highly versatile with the correct configuration. All it requires is knowing what materials a circular saw can cut and combiningthem with the right setup!