Circular Saw vs. Hand Saw: Which to Use?

Circular Saw vs. Hand Saw: Which to Use?

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When it comes to all of the tools out there designed to cut, circular saws and hand saws are two of the most common.

Today, we are here to determine what both of these types of saws are, what similarities and differences they have, and which is best for your next job.

Circular Saws and Hand Saws: The Basics

Before we start talking about the similarities and differences between these two tools, let’s first get a better understanding of what they are.

What Is a Circular Saw?

Circular Saw A circular is generally considered to be a medium size handheld saw that features a fairly powerful motor along with a circular blade. This blade can spin at up to 5,000 revolutions per minute, or sometimes even faster.

What is important to note is that, when we are talking about circular saws, we are talking specifically about the handheld ones, generally featuring a 7.25” blade. Of course, there are other saws, many in fact having circular blades, such as table saws. However, having a circular blade alone does not make every saw a circular saw.

Circular saws are generally used for cutting wood, although with the right blade, they can also be used to cut masonry, plastic, glass, tile, and more. The circular saw is considered to be an all purpose workhorse very commonly used in carpentry and construction.

What Is a Hand Saw?

Handsaw The hand saw is another very common tool used in woodworking. This tool is generally only used to cut wood. They feature long and wide blades designed to quickly cut through wooden boards. The blade itself features one flat and sharp edge. Hand saws do come in different types, mainly rip saws and crosscut saws.

The distinction here has to do with the shape and direction of the teeth. Rip saws are designed to make rip cuts and crosscut saws, as you may suspect, are designed to make cross cuts. The hand is saw is also often referred to as either a panel saw or a foxtail saw.

One of the defining features of this type of saw is, of course, that it is not electric. This is a manual saw, meaning it is only powered by the movement of the user.

There are many other types of manual saws that some would call hand saws, such as box saws, tendon saws, coping saws, fret saws, hacksaws, punch saws, keyhole saws, and more, although these are not what we are talking about here.

Similarities of Circular Saws and Hand Saws

Let’s take a closer look at the similarities shared by hand saws and circular saws. As you are about to find out, there really aren’t many of them.

1. They’re Both Generally Used in Carpentry

One of the most basic similarities that these two saws share is that they are both used in carpentry. Both the circular saw and the handsaw were originally designed to cut wood and nothing else.

Now, circular saws do come with different blades for different materials, although things did not start out this way. Both of these tools originated as purely woodworking saws.

2. They Both Cut Straight Lines

The other basic similarity that these two types of saws share is that they are both designed to cut straight lines. Although you may be able to manage a slight curve with a circular saw, it is very difficult. Both saws are designed for cutting long and straight lines.

Hand Saw in Use

Differences Between Circular Saws and Hand Saws

Now that we know what these two tools have in common, let’s take a look at some of their key differences.

1. Powered vs. Manual

The biggest difference between these two types of saws is of course that a circular saw is electric, whereas a handsaw is manual. A circular saw may be powered by either a battery or by a cable, but it is always powered. A handsaw, on the other hand, is always manually powered.

2. Size and Weight

Another difference that you will see between these two types of saws is that circular saws are much heavier. Circular saws have a motor and many other such components which add a lot of weight to the equation.

Circular saws can have some substantial weight to them, which can cause fatigue with prolonged use. On the other hand, hand saws are much lighter in weight, just a fraction of the weight of a circular saw.

However, how much this difference in weight cuts back on fatigue is of course questionable, due to the fact that you have to power a handsaw with your arms.

3. Ease of Use

The simple fact of the matter is that an electric circular saw is of course much easier to use than any kind of handsaw. Sure, you need to know how to operate the circular saw, but you don’t actually have to move it yourself.

You just use your finger to push a trigger, and the saw does the rest of the work for you. This is why electric or powered saws were invented, because they are much faster and easier to use than hand powered saws. Hand saws, on the other hand, can be a bit more difficult to use.

4. Blade Shape & Movement

A hand saw has a long and flat blade, one that is usually narrower at the front and wider at the rear, toward the handle. Meanwhile a circular saw, as the name might suggest, has a blade that is a perfect circle. In addition to this, these tools also have varying types of movement. The blade of a circular saw spins in a circle, whereas the blade of a handsaw moves back and forth in a reciprocating motion.

5. Overall Functionality and Uses

Circular saws are generally used for woodworking, although you can change the blade and use them for cutting tile, plastic, metal, masonry, and more. Hand saws on the other hand, specifically the panel or foxtail saws that we are here talking about today, are generally only used to cut wood. Circular Saw in Use

Circular Saw vs. Hand Saw: Which of the Two Should You Use?

We’re going to level with you here, whatever a hand saw can do, a circular saw can do better. Sure, a hand saw is fine for cutting a few pieces of wood, but your arm is going to start to get really tired after those first two or three pieces.

Yes, a hand saw works perfectly fine for cutting boards, but it requires a lot of energy and will lead to you becoming tired rather quickly.

A circular saw is of course electric and powered, and therefore allows for effortless cutting all day long. There is also the fact that circular saws have the versatility of swappable blades, meaning they can be used to cut different materials.

Of course, despite all of this, you’ll also want to factor pricing into your decision. Due to the fact that they’re electric, circular saws are going to be a bit pricier than your average hand saw. This should also play a role in your decision making process.


Now that we’ve covered the key components of both of these tools, you can make an informed decision between the two.

How Do Circular Saws Compare with Other Tools?

See how circular saws compare with: angle grindersbandsawshypoid sawsjigsawsjigsaws and reciprocating saws | miter saws | plunge saws | reciprocating sawstable saws | track saws