Worm drive saws share the market with the standard sidewinder circular saws. Though similar in construction and appearance, the two are made for different tasks. Sidewinders are there for light and quick works, while the worm drive models can be used for more serious projects.
To pick the appropriate worm drive saw, there are many things to take into consideration, such as build quality, motor quality, torque, maximum cut depth, bevel angle capacity, housing material, how easy it is to change out a worn blade, and many more.
My Favorite Worm Drive Saws for Home Projects
Read on for the reviews of some of my favorite worm drive saws followed by a detailed guide on what to look for and how to choose the right saw.
- My Favorite Worm Drive Saws for Home Projects
- Circular vs Worm Drive Saws
- How a Worm Drive Saw Works
- Features to Consider in Worm Drive Saws
Having a sufficiently powerful and versatile tool is of the utmost importance for any wood-cutting project. The Skilsaw SPT77WML-01 boasts a powerful and durable dual-field motor that has a very efficient cooling system. The motor draws up to 15-amp and runs at 5,300 rpm. Like the vast majority of worm drive saws, it has plenty of torque. So, be careful when starting this saw up.
At the front, this mighty worm drive saw comes with a standard 24-tooth 7-1/4” blade. The maximum cutting depth is 2-3/8”, with a bevel capacity of 53 degrees. The saw can be locked at zero and 45 degrees. Also, the SPT77WML-01 allows you to adjust the cutting depth. The available options include 2x ply, ¾-ply, ½-ply, and ¼-ply.
This saw has a strong and lightweight magnesium housing and can work with soft, hard, and engineered woods. It is best used for decking, framing, ceiling, and siding projects. Along with the saw, you will get a multi-functional wrench for changing the blade, oil, and motor brushes.
2. Bosch CSW41
The Bosch CSW41 is equipped with a powerful and well-made motor which runs at up to 5,300 rpm variable. Thanks to the well-designed lightweight magnesium housing, the motor stays on the cooler side even after prolonged use. The footplate is made of die-cast magnesium to further reduce the weight of the saw. The 13.2lbs CSW41 is among the lighter 7-1/4” worm drive saws out there.
The blade that comes with it is a standard 7-1/4” blade with a maximum cutting depth of 2-3/8”. The actual cutting depth can be adjusted on one of several fixed levels. The saw also boasts a useful 53-degree bevel capacity with a positive stop at 45 degrees. Thanks to the anti-snag guard on the lower side, the blade can cut smoothly through pretty much any type of wood.
This capable saw can be used for a wide variety of projects, with decking, bridge building, and framing being among its strongest suits. This low-maintenance saw has a built-in multifunctional wrench for replacing the blade, motor brushes, and oil.
While some of the worm drive saws can only be used for small home projects, the DeWalt DWS535 is powerful enough for a construction site. Its lightweight build has exceptional sturdiness. The hard and light housing is made of magnesium. The die-cast magnesium footplate helps reduce the weight of the saw further. In total, the DWS535 weighs around 13.8lbs.
The motor behind this DeWalt runs at 4,800 rpm, a bit lower than some similarly priced models, but that’s because it’s designed to deliver a fantastic amount of torque. Thanks to the cleverly designed housing, the motor has a good cooling system that enables it to run for hours.
The DWS535 comes with a standard carbide-tipped 7-1/4” blade. The maximum cutting depth is 2-7/8”, or 1-7/8” at a 45-degree angle. 53 degrees is the maximum angle and the stops are installed at 22.5 and 45 degrees. Changing blades requires the included spindle lock.
The Makita 5377MG combines versatility, reliability, and advanced technology. It comes with a powerful and durable 15-amp 4500 rpm motor which features compressed winding to save space and reduce the overall weight. Also, it is connected to the blade via hypoid gears instead of the classic worm gears, which enhances the efficiency of power transmission.
The lightweight magnesium housing features cleverly positioned vents for optimal engine cooling. The total weight of this compact saw is 13.2 lbs. The included carbide-tipped 7-1/4” blade has M-shaped teeth. Its maximum cutting depth is 2-3/8” and it can bevel up to 51.5 degrees. The stops are found at 22.5 and 51.5 degrees.
This Makita is better suited for light to intermediate projects around the house, as construction sites are probably out of its reach. It also features rubber-coated handles for increased ergonomics and an oil bath lubricating system.
For heavy duty work, power and efficiency trump looks and comfort. That’s the philosophy behind the robust Hitachi C7WDM worm drive saw. It comes with a solid and well-made metal housing, a powerful 15-amp motor, and a sturdy blade. It weighs almost 15lbs, which puts it among the heavier worm drive saws out there.
This mighty saw comes with a standard-sized 7-1/4” steel blade with 24 carbide-tipped teeth. It offers a maximum cutting depth of 2-3/8”. At a 45-degree angle, the cutting depth is a respectable 1-7/8”. The rugged construction makes it a good companion at a construction site.
The C7WDM also features steel bevel and level adjustment controls. You only need a wrench to change out the blade. This saw can handle heavier and more demanding tasks.
Circular vs Worm Drive Saws
While many people use both circular and worm drive saws, the two types do have some major differences. Here’s a word or two about each of them.
Circular saws are great for when you need to cut up some plywood sheets or thinner wood panels. On the other hand, if you need more power, the worm drive saw is the way to go. Be careful, though, as these saws pack a significantly stronger punch than their circular cousins due to the much higher torque. As such, they can produce quite a bit of kickback on startup.
Aside from that, worm drive saws are not available in battery-powered versions as the power and torque requirements far exceed current battery technology.
Also, they tend to have more rugged housings to be able to handle the nature of the work they’re intended for. However, you can also find cheaper and less powerful worm drive saws in plastic housings. Owing to the fact that the housings are mostly made of metal, worm drive saws tend to be heavier and less maneuverable than the circular variety.
Worm drive saws have a greater reach, as the blade is positioned 4-5 inches in front of the housing. Also, it’s easier to track their progress along the board, thanks to that gap. As the handles are behind the blade, worm drive saws are safer to use than the sidewinders.
Finally, worm drive saws tend to be more expensive due to the more powerful motor and the more complicated worm drive (vis-à-vis the direct-drive circular saws).
How a Worm Drive Saw Works
The motor of a worm drive saw is located behind the blade, instead of beside it (like on sidewinder saws). As such, manufacturers would be able to fit motors of greater power and torque.
The power is transferred to the front through either a worm gear or spiral, which sit at a 90-degree angle to the blade. In the process, some of the rpm is lost but more torque is preserved.
Additionally, this type of mechanical power transmission allows worm drive saws to use bigger blades than circular saws.
Generally, worm drive saws are built with the blades on the left side, while sidewinders have the blades on the right. The left-side blade affords better visibility when cutting. Also, this design puts most of the weight on the right side so it’s easier for right-handed people to control.
Features to Consider in Worm Drive Saws
A built-in dust blower is considered a convenient extra and many models don’t come with it, especially in the lower price tiers. However, it’s become sort of a standard among the premium models. Its main function is to remove the dust from your cutting line and keep the work area clean. This should let you work faster and have a better line of sight.
Blade Change Mechanism
The ability to change blades with little hassle is very important, especially if you intend to use your worm drive saw extensively. Basically, there are two types of blade-changing mechanisms used on worm drive saws nowadays – tool-free and tool-assisted.
Tool-free mechanisms are simple and easy to use. Typically, you will only need to press a button or two to release the old blade and click the new one into place.
On the flipside, some saws require the use of screwdrivers and wrenches to replace the blade. If you intend to use the saw every once in a while or for short and simple projects, this system might be ok for you.
However, if you plan on using it frequently, it is recommended to get a saw that allows tool-free blade change. Also, if you plan to work on heavy-duty projects, it may be better to have a model which requires tools to change the blade.
Another thing to consider when shopping for a worm drive saw is the bevel capacity. All models offer the ability to cut at some bevel angle, but the best one will let you cut at greater angles.
Some models also come with bevel stops at commonly used angles. This feature can come in very handy as you can lock the saw into position and cut without worrying that you’ll mess up the cut.
Commonly, worm drive saws feature at least 45-degree bevel. Some models, however, can go over 50 degrees. Common bevel stops include 22.5 degrees, 45 degrees, and 51.5 degrees (for the ones with greater bevel capacity).
When shopping for a worm drive saw, you should also take into consideration the robustness of the motor housing and its material. The housing is usually metal, though some of the most affordable models may have plastic housings, which are lighter but less sturdy and durable.
On the other hand, metal housings are stronger and can take more punishment. Magnesium offers the best weight-performance ratio as it’s lightweight and very sturdy. Aluminum is another popular housing material.
Maximum Cutting Depth
The maximum cutting depth is an important aspect of worm drive saws. It varies from model to model and mostly depends on the size of the blade and its positioning. Generally, you should choose a model according to the intended tasks.
However, the industry-standard maximum depth is around 2-3/8”. Smaller models might have shallower cutting depth. You can also find models with greater cutting depth.
Visibility of the Cutting Line
It is very important for a worm drive saw to give you a clear line of sight. However, some poorly designed models are not as good at it.
Models with poor line of sight are harder to use especially when you’re trying to cut in a straight line. They are also more prone to causing injuries.
Worm drive saws are there for tasks that are beyond the regular sidewinders. They offer greater cutting power, reach, and durability. However, they are more robust and require more strength to wield, especially at start-up.
Some of the main things to look for in a quality worm drive saw include a powerful motor and a sturdy and well-designed housing. Magnesium and aluminum housings are the best options. You’d want to avoid plastic ones.
Also, a well-made worm drive saw should feature good bevel capacity, clear line of sight, and easy maintenance. A built-in dust blower is nice to have but restricted to the high-end models.
A hardcore woodworking and welding enthusiast, Russ is the editor-in-chief of TAH. In his spare time, Russ loves watching sports, and (binge) watching Netflix.