Worm Vs. Direct Drive Circular Saws. Know the difference!
With many major differences between worm vs direct drive circular saws, it pays to understand these tools.
By Gregg Mangialardi
When deciding between two popular types of circular saws – worm drive and direct drive – knowing the major differences between them is important.
A worm drive saw is a narrower, longer tool with the blade on the left, giving right-handed users better cut visibility. The centerline of the motor is in line with the handles, parallel to the plane of the saw blade and has a narrow foot that lets users, such as remodelers, get into more confined spaces. The longer distance between the handle and the blade extends a user’s reach while making a cut, which is helpful for jobs like framing a roof. A worm drive also has larger gear teeth with more load-carrying capacity than a direct drive, offering more power and durability and allowing the saw to handle higher shock loads.
Direct drive saws are wider and shorter. The blade is next to the motor, on the right side. Because the handle is closer to the blade, the saw can provide more control for inexperienced users. However, the direct drive saws provide less reach which is important to know when is time to select a circular saw. Direct drive saws are lighter in weight, making them ideal for less demanding or complicated applications.
Circular saw safety
No matter the type of circular saw, safety remains key. When using either saw, the face of the blade should be toward the area of material to be cut off, which ensures most of the saw’s weight will rest on the portion of material supported by a sawhorse, workbench, etc.
On a worm drive saw, the majority of the weight is on the right, making it easier for right-handed users to see the cutline. On a direct drive saw, the weight of the tool is on the left, so it can be harder for a right-handed user. However, the lighter weight of the direct drive saw can make it easier to use.
Most circular saws have safety mechanisms to protect the user from the blade. The typical saw has a fixed upper guard, preventing access to the top section of the blade. A lower guard that surrounds the bottom of the blade rotates up and into the upper guard as a user proceeds with the cut. Keeping the guards in good working order is critical for safety reasons: If the blade gets dirty, it should be cleaned with an air hose, or if it stops functioning, it should be replaced immediately.
Other mechanical concerns are the smooth adjustment and alignment of the foot or shoe. The foot should adjust and lock to the desired bevel angle and depth of cut, while maintaining clearance to the blade and guards.
Electrical safety considerations include ensuring that plugs and cords are not frayed, broken or showing tears in either the jacket or cord insulation. Plugs should not have loose or missing pins. Cords and plugs should be inspected prior to each use.
The blade should always stay clean and sharp to ensure safety as well as productivity. Additionally, if the blade overheats from prolonged or continuous use, it can distort and bind when a user is making a cut, creating a kickback. Accommodate rising heat within the saw by pausing occasionally and avoiding lengthy, non-stop sawing.
Users also should follow common safety aspects for general motorized saws, such as wearing safety glasses and hearing protection, and avoiding loose clothing.