Circular saws have traditionally fallen into the two distinct yet similarly serpentine-sounding categories of sidewinder and worm drive. The categories generally differ in motor orientation and design, weight, torque, and RPMs. Perhaps most significantly, a worm drive saw was traditionally left-side blade and a sidewinder positioned itself with a right-side blade. Today, manufacturers produce saws that blur the blade orientation distinction. Of course, that means we have to talk about it! So when it comes to the left side vs right side circular saw blade debate, which side are you on?
Here’s a hint—it’s not by accident that manufacturers don’t call these “right-handed” and “left-handed” saws.
Our Pros will tell you that it’s all about what you get used to and are comfortable with. In fact, most have both types of saws for different applications. There are a few things to consider that aren’t immediately evident in the left side vs right side circular saw blade conversation. The right-hand and left-hand language is easy to confuse in this discussion. Some refer to the blade orientation while others talk about the user’s hand dominance. We’ll simplify the categories with the terms blade-left and blade-right.
Thank Goodness It’s Not a Political Discussion
It’s helpful to consider the pros and cons of blade-left and blade-right orientations through four filters. You have the sight/cut line, one- or two-handed operation, the balance of the saw on the waste edge, and the orientation of the blade to your body. We’ll look at each of those ideas through the perspective of left-handed users and right-handed users. We also considered each situation as if your cut was ripping across the length of a piece of 3/4-inch plywood.
Check out our article on the best cordless circular saws. Our picks include both blade-left and blade-right styles.
Blade-Left for the Right-Hander
Blade-left for the right-handed user makes the sight/cut line readily visible with the typical one-handed operation. Many tradesmen will hold or stabilize the material with the left hand while operating the saw with the right hand. However, for two-handed operation, grabbing the pommel handle with the left hand not only obscures the sight/cut line window, but it makes the left arm/wrist cross over the blade. Traditionally, all worm drive saws operated in a blade-left orientation.
Furthermore, this orientation likely places the weight of the saw over the portion of the material the user wants to keep, making it easier to stabilize the saw during the cut.
- Example: Right-hander using a worm drive.
Blade-Right for the Right-Hander
Blade-Right for the right-handed user presents a bit of a challenge as you have to look past your right shoulder to see the sight/cut line window, regardless of one- or two-handed operation. More or less all corded sidewinder saws operated with a blade-right configuration. Using the saw this way will place the motor weight over the waste edge when you cut from the end-side of a board or sheet. This means the saw eventually cuts off its own support. Most users have no trouble holding the saw steady, but this can result in bind-ups.
- Example: Right-hander using a traditional corded sidewinder saw.
If you don’t understand what we’re talking about, imagine cutting a thin strip off a sheet of plywood with a blade right saw. Unless you go into contortions, the saw motor will be facing you, its weight over the very piece about to fall away from the sheet. With cross-cuts, you can flip directions and stand on the opposite side of the board. Not so much with a piece of plywood or OSB.
Blade-Left for the Left Hander
This is a mirror image of the situation of blade-right for right-handers. In this case, the sight/cut line window is somewhat obscured, and the user must look over his left shoulder to see it clearly. In this case, the weight of the motor is probably over the waste edge, possibly resulting in slightly less stability during the cut.
- Example: Left-hander using a worm drive.
Blade-Right for the Left Hander
Finally, this is the mirror image of the blade-left for the right-hander. It’s easy for the user to see the sight/cut line window with the typical one-handed operation, but the window is obscured with the two-handed operation where your hand crosses over the blade guard. The weight of the saw is likely over the portion of the material that isn’t waste, making the saw—and the cut—more stable.
- Example: Left-hander using a traditional corded sidewinder saw.
Left Side vs Right Side Circular Saw Blade – The Debate Continues
These illustrations about blade-left and blade-right are just a few things to consider. If you don’t like the way you’re coming at the cut, you might have the ability to start from the other side of the board. Some Pros also take the trajectory of sawdust spray into account. Blade left will cover a right-handed user with sawdust on a rip cut. Of course, the saw itself matters. We’ve seen both blade-left and blade-right circular saws with horrible sightlines!
In the cordless realm, manufacturers traditionally went with blade-right on 7-1/4-inch saws and blade-left on 6-1/2-inch models. That seems to be changing, and you can often find both now from major tool brands. Depending on what battery platform you run, however, your saw size and style may make the choice for you!