Worm Drive vs. Sidewinder: Which Type of Circular Saw to Get?

Worm Drive vs. Sidewinder: Which Type of Circular Saw to Get?

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If you are doing a job that requires you to use a circular saw, then choosing between a worm drive and a sidewinder is a big decision for you. This can be tough when you don’t know what makes each one of these saws unique.

So, we will go over what each one of these circular saw types is used for so you can know which option will be the best for the job that you’re working on. Once you see the different uses for both of these circular saws, you will be able to make your choice quickly.

Worm Drive and Sidewinder Circular Saws: The Basics

Before we discuss the major differences between these saws, let’s first start by defining what each saw is and what the main uses are.

First, a worm drive is a saw where the centerline of the motor is parallel to the flat plane of the saw. This saw also has a higher load-bearing capacity and larger teeth. This makes the saw able to have a longer reach when cutting and is mainly used for crosscutting.

Worm Drive Circular Saw

A sidewinder is a saw that has the motor on one side of the machine. The motor must be in line with the blade and is a lightweight and very compact option. This is often used for cutting into wood. The sidewinder is also known as a direct drive saw.

Sidewinder - Direct Drive Circular Saw

Worm Drive vs. Sidewinder Circular Saw: What Are the Differences?

With the basics out of the way, let’s get into the main differences between the two.

Position of Motor

As mentioned earlier, one main difference between these two circular saws is that the motors are in different places.

On a worm drive saw, the motor is on the rear of the machine. However, on the sidewinder, the motor is located on the right side of the machine. On the sidewinder, this makes it harder to see where you’re cutting, but it also keeps your hand well out of the blade’s way.

Size of Teeth

When it comes to the size of the teeth on a circular saw, generally, the worm drive has the others beat. This saw has larger teeth than the sidewinder which gives it more power when its running and cutting through materials. The sidewinder is generally equipped with a blade with average-sized teeth that are made for softer pieces of wood or softer materials.

That said, the actual cutting capacity will, of course, depend on the blade you equip your saw with.

Direct Drive Sidewinder in Use


Each of these saws come with different main uses.

The sidewinder is a more lightweight option that is better for light work that tends to be repetitive, like cutting a large number of small pieces of wood. The worm drive is made for tougher applications and can be used on harder and larger pieces of lumber.


These saws both have different weights which make them easier to carry for longer jobs, or makes them heavier and better for short jobs.

The sidewinder is a compact and lightweight option that is great for traveling jobs that require a lot of easier work. It can be held for a longer time since it is not as heavy.

The worm drive has more power and a heavier frame. This makes it difficult to hold for a long time and makes it ideal for tough jobs that just need a few big cuts done.

Worm Drive Circular Saw


A sidewinder or direct drive saw, offers better control of the machine, even for newer users. The handle is closer to the blade, which makes the reach a bit smaller, and gives the user more control over the saw. This is ideal for newer users because the worm drive is tougher to control and is made for more experienced users.

The weight is also something that can affect control since it will be harder to use for newer users that have not gotten used to it yet. In this case, a lighter option like the sidewinder would be better to use.

Which of the Two Should You Use?

When thinking about the two options, you will want to look at the differences to decide which option you will use for a certain type of job. With the differences laid out, it is much easier to know which saw should be used for the job that you’re doing.

If you have a large job that requires lots of smaller cuts of wood, then opting for the sidewinder is your best choice. With the lightweight frame and the easier to control build, you will be able to hold the machine for better control while being able to use it for a long time. This would not be good for the worm drive since it is heavier and is much harder to control.

If you need to handle a few large cuts that will be on larger, harder pieces of wood, then you will want to use the worm drive saw for the project. Though it is heavier, you will not have to hold it for as long. Also, with the extra power of this saw, you can cut through harder wood with ease in less time than it would take with another option.

Whether you are doing a large or small job, you want to ensure that you are not overdoing it by putting too much strain on the machine or yourself. Even though you could use the worm drive for smaller jobs, it would take a greater toll on you since it is heavier and takes more strength to control. So, only use these saws for their intended purposes.

Circular Saw in Action


When you are deciding between two different saws, the main difference that should help you make our decision is knowing what the saw is mainly used for. If you go against that, it is probably not going to be as easy. So, when deciding between the worm drive and the sidewinder, you should ask yourself a few questions:

  • How long will this job take?
  • What kind of cuts are needed?

Once you have the answer to these two questions, you will easily get the answer.

Since a longer job requires a lightweight option, then you will need the sidewinder. If the cuts that are needed will not take as much time but will require a tougher blade, then the worm drive is your best bet.