Worm Drive vs Circular Saw: Tips for Beginners

Searching for the right model among various worm drive vs circular saw options is not an easy process. You have to compare their main features, the type of work each of them is used for, and concentrate on your own tasks.

There are numerous models of each tool. Before you go to the store, read this article and decide on the type you need. I hope my detailed comparison will help you organize your plans.

Find out the difference between a worm drive and a circular saw, and clear up whether you need one tool or can buy both types for you.

Circular Saw vs Worm Drive

The main difference between worm drive vs circular saw is motor on a worm drive saw is located at the back of the saw, while the motor on a circular saw is located at the front.

Worm Drive vs Circular Saw: Detailed Guide

Read the description of each saw. Think about when you will use it. I will discuss every advantage of a worm drive saw and a circular saw and their disadvantages.

Based on your experience, power requirement, and materials you work with, you will solve the eternal problem: a worm drive saw vs a circular saw.

Worm drive and circular saws specifics

Both saws offer a wide range of features for you. Each tool works with wood as well as plastic. They both have their limitations. I will tell you more about the worm, circular saw models here. Let’s start from the basics.

What is a worm drive?

A worm saw is the type of saw attached to the rear motor. It is a powerful tool with 2 gears. Each gear is placed at 90 degrees. With this power, a worm drive circular saw can easily produce at least 4,500 RPM (Rotations Per Minute).

The motor of this saw adds extra weight, making it bulkier and heavier to hold compared to a circular saw. Meanwhile, it offers enough power for even the hardest work.

What is a direct drive circular saw?

A circular saw has a side-mounted motor. Such location frees the blade so that it can be driven at full power without any gear. This function is also known as direct drive.

So, once you hear that the comparison happens between a worm drive vs a direct drive saw, you know that the last one is a circular model. A direct-drive saw name is given to almost all sidewinder saws.

The saw offers a high speed and can easily reach 6 000 RPM. It can be explained by the lack of extra gear on top of the saw. You need to follow the safety instructions to avoid any damage since it is highly powerful and you can cut off your fingers.

You can make your own track saw for more comfortable and safe use. When it comes to the power, the comparison between a worm drive vs sidewinder saw is getting more complicated.

orange circular saw

Worm drive saw vs circular saw

We can’t examine both saws without making a comparison of their features. Though I’ve already mentioned the difference in rotation, a worm gear saw has more advantages to offer. Pay attention to the most obvious distinctions:

  • Blade. The blade is usually on the right side of a circular saw. Meanwhile, worm drive saws have blades on the left side. While it might look like something that does not matter so much, the orientation of the blade must be taken into consideration by left-handed users. The sightline is more visible for these people while they work with the worm drive models. A right-sided blade is the best option for right-handed people. Keep in mind that the use of the saw with one hand still provides you with a better sightline;
  • Rotations per minute. RPMs matter a lot when you work non-stop in your workshop. The more wood you have to cut, the more RPMs you need. As I have mentioned above, worm drive models can’t match circular saws in terms of their speed. It is highly unlikely you will find a reliable worm drive saw with more than 4,500 RPM. Meanwhile, a circular saw provides 6,000 RPM, no matter whether we are talking about rear handle circular saw vs regular models;
  • Torque. This is when the worm drive tool proves its advantage over the circular saw. It offers high durability and power. These models usually come with a wide range of sharp teeth. Unlike a regular circular saw, a worm drive provides better loading capacity. It means that you can pick harder projects, and the worm drive saw will deal with it. At the same time, circular saws are more lightweight and portable, so you can hold them longer;
  • Weight. I have to underline this feature separately since it is highly important for you to be able to hold the saw with one hand for some time. Lightweight is crucial for both amateurs who still have to get used to the saw in their hand, and professionals who have to work with multiple projects. Circular saws are lightweight and more portable compared to worm drive saws.

Let’s talk more about worm drive, circular saw advantages, and disadvantages now. They both have their pros and cons that must be considered before ordering any model. Check them out.

The advantages of a worm drive saw:

  • you can get into confined spaces easier due to the motor’s centerline which is parallel to the saw blade’s plane;
  • you can provide crosscuts easily due to the distance between the blade and handle;
  • large teeth provide more power.

The cons of a worm drive saw:

  • it weighs more than a circular saw;
  • less RPM.

worm drive saw at work

The advantages of a circular saw:

  • it costs less than an average worm drive saw;
  • it has faster RPMs;
  • it is lighter than a worm drive saw;
  • due to the specifics of blade location, this saw makes wider cuts with shorter lengths;
  • you can control the cut width due to the smaller distance between the blade and handle.


What are they good for?

You have to think about your future projects in the first place. Both these tools are helpful in specific situations. They also differ in prices. You may take into consideration all the factors before you choose which one is the most helpful for you.

Generally, circular saws are less costly and more compact. While they provide less power, you can use them for all your house needs. Meanwhile, worm drive saws are heavier and more expensive but provide more power as well. You can use this tool in your work.


If you still need to clarify something about these saws, you can find the explanation in the answers I provide here. I have gathered the most popular questions on the Internet. If you have more to add, you can do it in the comments below.

Why are worm drive saws left-handed?

The blades are accommodated on the left side of the saw. In rare cases, some models offer the right-side location. However, the classic version is better for left-handed users who get a clearer sightline.

Such orientation of the blade equally spreads the weight of the whole tool, so you can make accurate cuts and stabilize the saw while you are working.

How to tell if your circular saw is a worm drive?

Well, you will notice the problem since these are two different tools we are talking about. The motor is placed differently, the handle differs, as well as the look. You will not find many similarities in use as well.

Apart from that, you can feel that a worm drive saw is heavier. If you find out that you got the wrong tool, you can send it back to the seller right away since you will not receive similar features.

Do worm drive saws kickback?

Unfortunately, even professional carpenters can feel the kickback from time to time, no matter how great your behavior with the tool is and whether you let the end you cut off to drop free.

Meanwhile, the worm drive is heavier, so you don’t feel it like with the circular saw. It has fewer chances to jump around you since it is pushed from the rear. The kickback does not affect the whole activity of the worm drive.

Also read:

Buy the Saw You Need

Now, when you know the major differences between a worm drive and a circular saw, it will be easier to choose something you need. Think about your plans for the saw and the power you need for them. Keep in mind the weight and the accuracy of cuts. You can also find less heavy models among worm drive tools and less expensive options.

Once you find that you need to extend your opportunities, you can order another tool as well. If you have ever used at least one of these saws, describe your experience in the comments below. Which saw do you use the most? Which type of work do you use it for?

Sean Chapman
Sean Chapman

“A good tool stays with you for many years and choosing carefully ensures the job is done right, your work is neat, and the tool is always a pleasure to use”

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