Worm Drive vs. Circular Saw: Which is Better For You?

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Choosing between circular and worm drive saws can be confusing for most woodworkers because they come from the same saw family. So the question now is, how do these two differ? 

If you’re facing the same dilemma, this worm drive vs. circular saw comparison will assess the pros and cons of both tools, as well as important buying tips.

What are Worm Drive Saws?

A worm drive is a powerful circular saw with its rear attached at the end, making it efficient for working in tight or enclosed spaces. It’s heavier than the typical circular saw because it has a different metal, and it’s longer, too, given the rear positioning of the motor. 

Skil saw worm drive

The worm drive is mechanically efficient too, which explains its impressive torque and heftier price. It’s a favorite amongst major renovation jobs, as it can saw through heavy materials like concrete and wet lumber. 

The common trade-off with using a worm drive saw is excessive fatigue on the hands and shoulders when used for a longer period. 

Features of a Worm Drive Unit + Pros and Cons

A worm drive unit is best for cutting professionals who need extra cutting power, as it has larger gear teeth and a bigger loading capacity which explains its power. It can also produce accurate cuts in a faster motion while preserving reliability. 

Its saw blade is on the left side, while a direct drive saw is on the right side. Its power boils down to the two gears set at 90 degrees apart. It has fewer rotations per minute, averaging 4,500, but has more rotational force. 

However, even if the power engages professionals, the large cutting capacity makes a worm drive an off-choice for home users who only opt for home renovations. The extra weight can also cause adversities for some. 

Worm drive saw



What are Regular Circular Saws?

Regular circular saws are power tools often used in place of table saws. It has a motor attached to the side beside the blade and is more popular as sidewinders or direct drive saws. 

Sidewinders have a simpler operating mechanism, allowing lesser power consumption, and higher RPM, running at an average of 6,000. It also has exceptional speed, as it functions without any other gears due to its side mounting.

operating a DeWalt circular saw

There are an array of direct drive saws that can either be handheld or mounted. It became popular in the mid-19th century as a powerful tool commonly used by saw millers. Most amateur woodworkers find sidewinder saws fine, as it has a lighter weight, are cheaper and more portable. 

One common repercussion of the regular circle saw when cutting for professional woodworkers is its off-balance setting, which causes faulty cuts. Since it relies on spur gear for power, it produces less torque and can only cut in maximum power for lightweight materials. 

Features of a Regular Circular Saw + Pros and Cons

Since a regular circular saw doesn’t have additional gears, it’s lighter and easier to use, which makes it popular amongst home users. Suppose you are using sidewinder saws for simple renovations. 

Therefore, greater cutting power isn’t required, and the slower cutting speed of direct drives will be apt for simple ripping and cutting.

Ridgid corded circular saw



Similar Features Shared by a Worm Drive and Circular Saw

  • Both saws are crafted with steel accordingly to the material they are made to cut
  •  Both worm drive saws and sidewinder circular saws are cordless
  •  Both are efficient for rip-cutting and cross-cutting

How are Worm Drive and Regular Circular Saws Different?

Blade Placement

Left-handed chainsaw users prefer worm drive circular saws because they give better-cut line visibility with their blade placed on the left side. On the other hand, direct drive saws are more preferred by right-handed users as it has a blade-right setting. 


Since a direct drive circular saw involves an internal mechanical design, it produces less torque than a worm drive. 

Skil 15 AMP 7-1/4 Circular Saw With Laser Guide

The spiral gear that powers a worm drive and its larger teeth enable maximum cutting power and high energy, offering more durability. It also enables users to cater to high shock and tougher DIY projects.

Speed and Accuracy

The type of circular saw can significantly affect speed and accuracy. Worm drive saws have lesser speed and RPM, while sidewinder saws have higher speed and RPM. Meanwhile, the increased torque power of worm drives offset the higher RPM of a direct drive saw.

Size and Weight

Direct drive saws are lighter and more portable than worm drives, which use extra metal and special housing. DIY users prefer regular circular saws since they only need them for basic cuts and can sit with lower power trade-offs. 

operating a cordless circular saw

Meanwhile, professional cutters opt for a worm drive because it has advantages, especially with long cuts.

Which is the Better Type of Saw?

Depending on your user type, both saws can generate impressive performance. If you opt for cost-effectiveness, the direct drive saw is better suited. However, investing in a worm drive saw is best advised if you value more power and maximum performance. 

Our Top Recommendations

1. Skilsaw SPT77WML Worm Drive Circular Saw

The power transfer of the SKILSAW SPT77WML-01 draws users to convert from sidewinders to this instead. Since this model is made of magnesium steel, it’s also one of the most lightweight saws available on the market.

Key Features

2. Skil SPT67M8-01 Sidewinder Circular Saw

Finding a left-blade saw is trouble for most users, and often woodcutters are frustrated with the repercussions of a bulkier model, but what makes the SKIL SPT67M8-01 15 AMP impressive is the adjustable blade-to-base angle. 

This saw also has great power and an extended 56-degree bevel adding capacity to make various cuts. 

Key Features


How does a worm drive saw function, and what is it best for?

A worm drive saw functions through a powerful motor. The motor positioning at the rear makes this type of circular saw longer than the common models. It also has maximum power and setting where the engine produces more torque but lesser RPM. 

The saw’s power is driven through the extra gears, both are set at 90 degrees. We recommend it for users working in tight and confined spaces due to its sleek profile. 

Is a worm drive table saw also better than a regular table saw?

If you’re looking for other options that provide high-pressure cross-cuts than a regular table saw unit, the worm drive can attest to delivery of additional force. The only offset is the extra weight and less speed due to its slow RPM. 

How do I know if I need a circular saw?

A circular saw is preferable and more cost-effective if you’re into a lot of ripping. Rip cuts are long continuous cuts that slice along the grain. 

Hence, it also delivers good speed and impressive performance, even cutting smaller wood pieces. When opting for a circular saw, you can choose between cordless and corded models. Also, you may consider choosing the top circular saws made in the USA if you want to ensure quality. 


With this comprehensive circular vs. worm drive saw review, you can now make an informed decision. The latter delivers extraordinary power and accuracy, while the former is more cost-effective and mobile. 

The bottom line is that both saws deliver formidable cut quality, and depending on the type of woodworker you are, you can gauge what will fit you best. 

Robert Johnson is a woodworker who takes joy in sharing his passion for creating to the rest of the world. His brainchild, Sawinery, allowed him to do so as well as connect with other craftsmen. He has since built an enviable workshop for himself and an equally impressive online accomplishment: an extensive resource site serving old timers and novices alike.
Robert Johnson
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