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What's the difference between a sidewinder and worm-drive circular saw?

The barber-pole-like worm gear transfers the power around a 90° turn, allowing the motor to sit more compactly alongside the blade.

Q:

My buddy was giving me a hard time the other day for using (what he called) a “sidewinder” circular saw instead of an inline one. What’s the difference? Should I switch?
—Milton Arnold, Luna, N.M.

A:

Although both types of circular saws serve the same function, Milton, the way they accomplish it gives a learning curve to switching from one to the other.

Gregg Mangialardi, group product manager for Skil Power Tools, explains that worm-drive saws, like the one shown above, place the motor more behind the blade than their sidewinder cousins. Popular with contractors, the worm-drive saw’s slower speed delivers higher torque, the slim form provides longer reach and access to spots too tight for a sidewinder’s motor, and the rugged design makes for a longer-wearing gearing.

Most sidewinders wear their blades on the right of the tool; worm drives put them on the left. If you’ve grown used to working with one, you’re unlikely to find the other comfortable. And sidewinders cost around half as much as worm-drive saws.

All in all, a sidewinder makes perfect sense for woodworking and occasional home remodeling where it’s not challenged by the rigors of a professional jobsite. And you can tell your friend we said so!

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