Circular Saw vs Skill Saw: What Is The Difference?

Circular saw vs Skill saw

With all the woodworking tools there are out here, it is possible for a woodworker to confuse one tool for another. There are thousands of tools, and in many cases, most of these tools often have overlaps in their form and function. One such case in which people are mostly confused are in figuring out the difference between a circular saw and a skill saw.

Well, after a deep search for the difference between the two, I was able to come up with a conclusive answer to my quest. In case you are looking for the truth, just as I was some few days back, then here is your detailed answer to what I found out.

The Real Differene Between Circular Saw & Skill Saw

There is no real difference between a skill saw and a circular saw. The skill saw which also goes with the name skil saw is a brand name for a circular saw made by a company using the brand name SKIL.

Well, it turns out that the name skil saw started being used interchangeably with the circular saw in the 1950s. Back then, SKIL was a popular brand within the ranks of professional contractors and therefore ended up being a common name for the circular saw.

Nonetheless, let us dig in some more and find out more on how circular saws ended up being called skil saws.

Origin of the Name Skil Saw

The earliest handheld circular saws came with a worm drive. They were used purposely for cutting rough dimensions and framing cuts.

The worm driven handheld circular saw grew in efficiency since it was a creation from a unit known as Skil. Therefore, since construction workers would find it queer to call the saw y its full name, Worm Drive Circular Saw, they ended up referring to it as the skill saw.

As time progressed, research led to the creation of the sidewinder circular saws. These new saws came out as superior.

The blade and the motor were placed on one side, significantly increasing the visibility, especially when working on longboards. However, contractors went on referring to every handheld circular saw as a skill saw, and hence the name stuck.

Why is the Circular Saw/ Skil Saw Preferred?

It is Powerful and Convenient

If you are used to the backbreaking process of picking your wood, running through blades and picking up the rest, the circular is a sure recommendation for you. With your circular saw, you can cut your wood on the floor, with a just a slight elevation on the workpiece to prevent eating breaking the blade.

It Safe when Using

Circular saws are made to provide the user with more control/ unlike other table saws made earlier. In present times, the circular saws can sense when the blade encounters the skin. When this happens, the motor of the circular saw is automatically locked, and this makes the tool very safe to use.


Precision and accuracy are one of the greatest traits of circular saws. The circular saw can make accurate cuts in long and thick wood pieces, with minimal setting. The saw can cut miters, and all you need to do is realign the shoe. It also comes with a bevel gauge, and therefore bevel cutting will not be a problem. Simply adjust the bevel gauge to the angle you need then cut.

An attached aluminum rail that the saw comes with enables precision in a circular saw. The rail lathes onto the piece of wood you are working on and locks in the position of the blade. This prevents the workpiece or the blade from moving.

Worm Driven Circular Saws and SideWinder Circular Saws

Worm driven circular saws came to the market first, followed by the sidewinder circular saws.

While both are circular saws, their difference further goes into explaining why the skill saw was thought to be different from the circular saw. In a general sense, most people refer to the worm driven circular saws as the skil saw and hence the need to explain the difference between Sidewinder and worm driven circular saws.

Worm Drive Circular Saws

Tor this type of circular saw, the motor is mounted directly behind the blade. The blade is turned using a worm drive, which goes down through the shaft. It uses two gears, which help in turning the blade. These gears are set at ninety degrees.

The thread gears of the worm are connected to the blade arbor at the front end of the motors. These help in turning the blade with more torque. This ensures that the blade can still cut dense types of materials even when turning.

Sidewinder Circular saws

The set-up of the sidewinder is very different from that of the worm drive circular saw. The motor and the blade are arranged to be on the side, in such a way that visibility to the field of work is enhanced.

This, in turn, lessens the need for two gears and therefore only one gear is used in the sidewinder circular saws. This enables the sidewinder to generate more revolutions per minute than the worm drive circular saws. Less energy is lost when turning the saw, hence the higher number of RPMs.

Key Differences between the Worm Drive Circular Saw and the Sidewinder Circular Saw

  • The arrangement of the worm drive circular saw makes it more cumbersome and heavy to handle. On the other hand, the sidewinder is more compact and easy to balance while in use.
  • The sight line of the two saws is merely a difference of perspectives. Some people consider that the sidewinder obscures the field of view from one angle. On the other hand, one might think that the worm drive circular saws linear orientation has a greater impact in minimizing the field of view.
  • In making plunge cuts, the worm drive does a better job than the sidewinder circular saws.

Which of the Two Should You Use?

The profession and the region where the circular saw is in use mainly influence preference for the two.

The worm drive is more expensive than the sidewinder. At times, the worm drive may be double the price of the sidewinder, and hence most people run for the sidewinders when it comes to price.

The worm drive circular saws offer more torque than the sidewinders, and therefore most professional woodworkers prefer them. They can easily cut through hard pieces of wood. They are also more accurate than sidewinders.

Conclusion: Circular Saw vs the Skill Saw

Generally, the name skill saw was used for describing the worm drive circular saws. The name was coined on circular saws due to a successful brand that was able to take a large percentage of the market share. However, as better brands were developed and the SkilSaw Inc. lost its market dominance, the rightful name of the circular came back to use.


Leave a Comment

Get The Plans