They look the same on the surface, but can they do the same job? Will going for the wrong type leave you with a ruined project? These are questions our team of woodworking professionals are here to answer. We are also here to help you weigh the best choice when it comes to the trim saw vs circular saw.

Trim Saw vs Circular Saw

What is a Trim Saw?

Let’s start with the trim saw. Sometimes you will notice circular saws advertised as trim saws, which is understandably confusing, especially for beginners. A trim saw vs a circular saw is essentially the same thing, with one main difference — the trim saw is smaller and lighter.

BLACK+DECKER Matrix Attachment, Trim Saw
A standard circular saw usually has a 6-inch blade or above, while the trim saw sees blade sizes of 5 inches in diameter or less.

Purpose

Okay, so the trim saw is a small circular saw. Our testers have taken the next step to determine which materials the trim saw is effective against. In general, our professionals found the trim saw is best for trimming and not for directly cutting wood pieces down to size.

Also since they are much lighter, trim saws are much easier to maneuver around materials, making them excellent cordless models. Aside from trim work, trim saws are great for rip cuts on thin sheets of material, molding, paneling, and any job a circular saw is too big to carry out.

Advantages

We know by now that one of the biggest advantages of the circular saw vs trim saw is the size. Being more lightweight and portable, trim saws are an excellent option for small but long jobs.

Another advantage our professional team appreciated was the price difference. When looking at trim saws vs circular saws, trim saws are the clear winner. They cost less than 100, including some of the high-quality options from more expensive brands. Not to mention, the smaller body also gives a more accurate route.

BLACK+DECKER Matrix Attachment, Trim Saw hand held

Since the trim saw is smaller than the circular saw, it also allows for a more steady hand and can support one-handed operation. Then there is the application fatigue that would come from a larger option but not from the smaller trim saw.

What is a Circular Saw

Next, our expert team moves onto the larger saw. As you will have realized by now, circular saws are the more heavy-duty model meant for bigger projects. A circular saw blade is typically 6 inches in diameter, with some measuring 7 inches.

Purpose

A circular saw such as the Rockwell Versacut is the one you would pick to cut wood pieces [1] down to size and for bigger jobs such as framing. Cordless circular saw units are also great for portability if you need the power. Our team members would recommend choosing the circular saw over the trim saw if you need a bigger cut.

Advantages

Our professional testers would pick the circular saw as the more versatile power tool. It can make cross cuts, rip cuts, bevel cuts and more. You can essentially use a circular saw for everything if you just need straight lines for the most part. Experts with a steady hand can manage smaller tasks with a circular saw, but there are still advantages to adding a smaller version to your shop.

Makita 5007Mg Magnesium 7-1-4-Inch Circular Saw used on a wood

Full-sized circular saws vs trim saws have the advantage of power over their smaller counterparts, but with this you also see a faster battery drain on cordless options.

Differences Between the Two

Size and Weight

Like our professional team members mentioned, the size and weight are the major discrepancies between the trim saw vs circular saw. The trim saw is the smaller model and lighter in weight as well. The smaller tool with blades under 5-½ inches can cut thinner wood pieces such as plywood and fit into smaller spaces to give a more intricate cut.
The full-sized circular saws have blades 6-inches and over and are the best tools for cutting large wood pieces down to size and handling thicker material that require a deeper cut.

Power

Larger units are usually more powerful, and this rings true for the trim saw vs circular saw. The bigger circular saws possess more power, even in their corded models, but cordless circular saws will see a drain in battery life much faster.
GALAX PRO 12A 5500RPM Corded Circular Saw hand held slant

Our team of testers say this is also why most circular saws have a cord and motor rather than a battery pack. On the other hand, it’s also the reason why the smaller trim saws can run without a motor and function fully on battery power, thanks to their smaller size.

Cutting Capacity

The blades you see on both trim saws and circular saws are the same, with the only difference being the diameter inch. A trim saw features blades under 5 inches and circular saws have larger ones of 6 inches and over, suited for cutting larger material.
With the different sized blades, the cutting depth for each model will be a bit different. The full-sized circular saws have the edge for cutting depth. They can create a depth in the range of 1-3 inches while the smaller options can only handle 1-½ at most.

Blade

The blades on these saws are the same except the size. You can find blades with the same tooth counts for both tools and even ones made from the same material.

Application

The trim saw is only recommended for smaller tasks such as trims. For long straight-line applications, our woodworking team suggests circular saws. The quality of the cut, the accuracy and the finish will be better than any trim saw on the market can produce.

It’s worth it to note that the larger saws can carry out all the functions a smaller trim saw can do without sacrificing your safety. The only thing is the detailed cut jobs may not be

Which is Better For You?

Which one should you choose? The difference in size alone will make each tool suited for different jobs. Look around your workshop. If you have mostly large tools for bigger projects, then it could be worth it to add a small trim saw to your arsenal.
If you don’t have a heavy-duty saw, then it may be time to invest in a larger tool although it’s a bit heavier.

Conclusion

Trim saws and circular saws are both widely available on the market. The best one for you will be based on what type of work you do. A trim saw is smaller, lighter and more efficient while the larger circular saw is better for larger and heavy-duty jobs.

Want to get a new CNC router? Why not build this device with the DIY Smart Saw plan we reviewed. Read next! 

Robert