Skils to Pay the Bills: Circular Saw Maintenance Tips

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What you see in the picture over there–is a oft used, dropped, and really–just plain abused tool.  But she works like a champ!  “Hackey” as she is reverently referred to is my model 77 Skilsaw 71/4” worm drive circular saw.  She has been dropped from roof trusses, tossed into mud, and survived a winter in the truck’s tool box all alone in the dark.  I can always count on Hackey to cut me out of any situation.  Unfortunately–Hackey did not do this all on her own.  Proper maintenance and just a little TLC goes a long way in keeping your saws in tip top shape.

Maintenance has such a dreary, boring connotation.  The thought alone of “maintenance” gets me all…tired.  But–it plays an important part in keeping our tools safe–and getting our money’s worth.  Maintaining your saw is quick, easy, and really will extend the life of the tool.

Safety: I cannot stress enough:  Sharp blades are safe blades.  If your saw is gnawing through wood like a starving beaver it is time for a new blade.  That smoke rising up as you hack through a deck joist?  New blade.  Dull blades also tax the motor of your saw potentially shortening its life span.  Your saw will love you–which is a good thing.  Circular saws do bite.

Zeus You Are Not: Hurling lightning bolts is cool and all–but us mere mortals shouldn’t try it.  Check your electrical cord for nicks and cuts.  Small ones can be taped up with some electrical tape–but any gash that leaves the wires cut should be replaced.  Running your hand down the cord while you’re making a cut and finding exposed wires can be–shocking–to say the least.  Also–don’t carry your saw by the cord.  This is like pulling its tail.  It doesn’t like it.

Use Lube: Check the oil level in your saw.  Most manufacturers will list what oil they would like you to use.  Be wary of putting in a different oil than recommended–especially if you are still in the warranty as it may void it.  A lubed saw is a happy saw.  Under oiled saws will eventually begin to wear on the gearing, tax the motor, and shorten the life of your little cutty buddy.

Shoes Clues: The “shoe” is the plate you use to set your saw on the material you are cutting.  It should be relatively free from gnarled metal that can snag on the material and bind.  Some rough sand paper can take care of that.  When locked into the 0° position–your shoe should be 90° in relation to your blade.  It isn’t an exact science.  Hackey sits at about 2° to cut at a true 90.  Knowing your saw, and your saw’s shoe will prevent unwanted bevel cuts.

A Tightening a Day: Keeps the tool doctors away.  Double check your shoe tightening bolt, the screws on the handles, and most importantly the blade arbor bolt.  You don’t have to channel your inner Hulkamaniac on it, in fact, over-tightening the blade arbor bolt is a common mistake and can be dangerous too. A quick check of these things will keep you safe, and prevent any unexpected-while-sawing-surprises out of you and your saw’s life.  Neither of you need that stress.

Blow it: After a good sawing your saw will collect sawdust in its nether regions.  Using clean, compressed air to blow out your saw cleans off the inner brushes, and guts of the saw.  Go ahead–do it again.  It tickles!  Your saw is laughing with cleanliness!

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6 thoughts on “Skils to Pay the Bills: Circular Saw Maintenance Tips”

  1. Great article BTW. I just started with woodworking and this article helped me in maintaining my circular saw. Any great advice? Thanks

  2. I just acquired an old 70s vintage Milwaukee direct drive circular saw (model 6400) I can’t find the oil they recommend for lubrication. Is there a substitute you can recommend?

  3. Black & Decker Sidewinders need oil, they are a true state of the art Piece o crap. The best way to oil it, is after you have changed your oil in your car, pour the oil in a bucket, & then add the saw.
    Or Be wise & dont buy one. Get a Skil.

  4. Do all circular saws requiring lubing, or just the worm drive ones ? I’m going to have to look at my Makita when I get home, I’ve never added any oil to it, didn’t know I was supposed to.

    Great list of tips. I would also add checking/replacing the brushes if your saw supports it, which most do.

    • Hey Drew,
      As far as I can tell, and recall–most “sidewinder” styled circular saws don’t seem to require actual gear oil. I checked around a bit on Makita’s website, skimmed a couple of the owner’s manuals they have available online and didn’t find anything. I haven’t owned a sidewinder saw in a long time, but I know that when I did, the only maintenance I ever really did was some light oil on the different moving parts. (Blade guard/spring, Shoe bolts etc.)
      Thanks for the head’s up on the utility knife–I am going to have to check that out.


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