Circular Saw Smoking: Causes & Fixes

Circular Saw Smoking: Causes & Fixes

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The circular saw is often referred to as a woodworking workhorse, as it can take care of many different tasks. They’re known for being pretty tough and durable too. However, there is one common issue that many people are faced with when using these tools, which is that they start smoking.

It’s not an uncommon issue, but it can be due to a variety of causes. Let’s figure out why your circular saw is smoking and what you can do about it.

Do You Need to Buy a New Circular Saw If Yours Is Smoking?

If your circular saw is smoking, chances are pretty big that it’s either due to an issue with the blade or with how you are using the saw. In the vast majority of cases, a smoking circular saw can be remedied by changing the way you use the saw, or by sharpening or changing the blade.

There may be some cases where the motor itself starts smoking, which is admittedly a cause for concern. That said, unless your machine suffers some kind of catastrophic failure, it likely does not need to be replaced. Small fixes usually do the trick.

10 Causes Your Circular Saw Could Be Smoking (and Fixes)

There are quite a few common causes of handheld circular saw smoking, and they generally all have very simple fixes, so let’s take a look. Keep in mind that for the most part, we are talking about smoke coming from the blade or the wood being cut, not from the actual saw itself, although this may also be a possibility.

1. You May Be Trying to Cut Too Much at Once

A very common cause of a circular saw smoking is if you are trying to cut too much at once. If you are trying to cut very thick stock, especially if you happen to be using a blade that isn’t ideal for the task, it can create friction, which causes heat, and eventually smoke.

Moreover, if the stock you are cutting is too thick, the sawdust that is created has nowhere to go, it stays in the crack, and the heat from the blade can then also cause it to smoke or even catch fire.

Besides using the right type of blade for the job (or upsizing your saw from 13-amp to 15-amp), the solution here is to cut less at once. Most people will opt to do several passes with the saw, cutting a little bit more each time. This should prevent excessive friction from occurring and sawdust from getting lodged in the crack.

Cutting with a Circular Saw

2. You Have a Dull Blade

Another very common cause of a circular saw smoking is if the blade is very dull. Once a circular saw blade has been used for a prolonged time, the teeth can become very dull. Dull sawblade teeth result in great amounts of friction, which create a lot of heat, and eventually smoke, with a very real potential for a fire to occur.

If you notice that you need to apply a lot of force to get through the wood being cut, then this is likely the problem. If your blade is still in decent condition otherwise, the solution is to simply sharpen it, but if the blade’s teeth are also damaged, then a replacement blade is called for.

3. The Set of the Teeth Is Bad

In case you didn’t know, the teeth of sawblade have what is called set. This refers to the sideways angle at which the teeth are set from the rest of the blade. Sawblade teeth alternately point left and right, thus making the teeth one or two millimeters wider than the blade itself.

This allows the teeth to do all of the work, while the rest of the blade does not touch the wood, thus keeping friction to a minimum. If your blade does not have the right set, too much of the blade comes into contact with the wood, thus causing friction, heat, smoke, and maybe fire too.

More often than not, this is a result of buying a cheap sawblade. If the set on your sawblade is not right, you need to buy a new blade. Other than buying a new one, there is not much that you can do here, as setting the teeth yourself is not really doable, and paying a professional to do so would be far too expensive compared to the cost of a new blade.

Circular Saw Teeth

4. Your Blade Is Dirty

Another common cause of a circular saw smoking, particularly the blade itself, is if the blade is dirty. Specifically, when you cut a lot of wood, over time, the sap and resin from the wood transfer to and build up on the sawblade. That resin and sap are very sticky, so when you go to use the saw, these substances create a lot of friction.

As we have established by now, friction creates heat, which creates fire and smoke.

To get rid of that gunk that has built up on your circular saw blade, you can soak it in some rubbing alcohol or just wipe it off with some of it. Once your blade is clean, the issue should take care of itself.

5. You Are Using the Wrong Blade

Using the right blade for the task at hand is very important too. Different circular saw blades have different sizes and amounts of teeth. If you are cross-cutting thin stock, a lot of teeth close together is what you need. If you are cutting thick pieces, larger and fewer teeth are generally called for.

Using the wrong blade can result in the blade not moving at the right speed and also being unable to eject the sawdust, which as we have established by now, can cause friction, heat, and fire/smoke. To prevent this from occurring, we recommend doing some research on what blades should be used for specific tasks.

6. The Wood Being Cut Is Very Hard

If the wood you are cutting is very hard, it may force the saw to work too hard to get through it, especially if you aren’t using the right blade, or if the blade is not in great condition. Sometimes, wood is just so hard that it will cause this issue to occur.

If the cause is very hard wood, the only thing you can do is to ensure that you have the proper blade, that it’s sharp, and that you work slowly.

7. The Wood Being Cut Has a Lot of Tension

Speaking of the wood, if there is a lot of tension built up inside of it, as you cut, it can start to pinch the blade. This can then cause friction, heat, smoke, and fire. However, this is really the secondary concern. If the blade pinches the wood while you are sawing, the real concern is having the saw kick back in your direction. This may result in severe injuries.

The only thing you can do here is to work carefully.

Cutting a Board with a Circular Saw

8. You Aren’t Cutting Straight

Another common cause here is if you aren’t cutting straight. If you are free-handing it, chances are that you are only holding the saw with one hand. This may cause the saw to wander a bit and to move from side to side. This then causes the blade to come into contact with the wood far too much, thus causing friction, heat, and smoke.

The only real solution here is to either use a set guide or just do your best to keep it as straight as possible.

9. The Blade Isn’t Mounted Properly

If you haven’t mounted the blade properly on the arbor, the blade may wobble back and forth or move in a fashion that is not perfectly straight. If this is the case, the solution is to remove the blade from the arbor and then remount it properly.

If you see the blade wobbling as it spins, then this is very likely the cause.

10. The Motor Is Overheating

Perhaps the worst cause of your saw smoking is if the motor is burnt out. If the motor is burnt out, the smoke will come out of the saw itself, likely out of the vent. This happens if the motor has had to work far too hard (maybe due to any of the above issues), or just if it is very old and past its prime.

Unfortunately, the only solution here is to replace the saw. There is no fixing a burnt-out motor.


As you can see, in the majority of cases, unless the motor has burnt out, the fix for a smoking circular saw is going to be very simple, and usually not very expensive either.

It really all comes down to proper usage.