The circular saw is perhaps the most common saw owned by both professionals and DIYers alike. I know it was the first power tool (along with a drill) I ever got from my dad, and, apart from a drill, it was the first power tool I ever used. However, although it is an integral member of the tool family that often does most of the heavy lifting in our projects, it is by far the most abused tool. I remember as a kid when things weren’t going right for my dad on a project, 9 times out of 10 that would be the tool to fly through the air… It seems fairly apparent now why it never worked properly. Even if you don’t practice the shot put with your tool, like dad did (not recommend for a variety of reasons, sorry dad), chances are you’re not very delicate with the circular saw.
Let’s face it, you really don’t have to be ginger with the thing anyway. A typical user’s manual dedicates less than one page of maintenance information for a traditional circular saw. On most saws, you don’t have to lubricate anything, that’s done during manufacturing. There are a few moving parts and a number of tools can be used to change the blade out. But even with such simple tools, there are still small maintenance things you can do to extend the life of your saw.
First, periodically check the cord. If you’re like me, you probably wrap it tightly around the saw itself. This can cause wear and tear at the grommet where the cord enters the saw. This not only poses a safety issue in the form of electrical shocks and fires but can damage the motor or put you out of commission right in the middle of a project.
Next, check the exhaust port and cage around the blade for debris. Ample usage can cause back ups and clogs around the blades, and, some models actually force material inside the shell. I’ve noticed it more so when I cut non-wood materials such as vinyl siding, plastics, metal as well as ‘wet’ treated lumber, all of which can clump-up during cutting. To unclog, unplug the power, remove the blade and clean it out. It’s also best to occasionally blow out the cage and exhaust port with compressed air to remove any cling-ons.
Finally, occasionally check the squareness of both your shoe and the accuracy of the bevel function. This can be knocked out of whack when dropped or in some cases just from lots of usage. Mine, for example, was dropped off a roof by a ‘friend’ several years back and now if I rely on the guide for a straight cut it can be off as much as 3/8″ over 4 feet. Some can be readjusted rather easily with set screws. Other’s need… a bit more elbow grease.
Of course, keeping a sharp blade makes life easier for all projects. I don’t know how many projects, both mine and others, where I could smell the cut longer then the cut lasted. Or I heard the dull blade’s mating call of whiiiirrrrruuumrrrmmmm. That high pitched whine of a slowed motor forcing itself through the final bit of the cut. This ultimately wears the brushes on the motor down faster, potentially killing the tool prematurely.
Oh, lest I forget the worm drive guys and get hate mail. Check, check, check your oil often if you have a worm driven circular saw. If you spent all that money on such a great tool then it’s likely wise to invest the three seconds to check the oil. Not doing so is like letting your car blow up because you didn’t check the oil before a long road trip.
Taking a few minutes for basic maintenance once in a blue moon, along with precautions like not throwing the most used power saw you probably ever had will keep it going and cutting true for years to come! For more tips, check out our other article on circular saw maintenance.