compact circular saw

The Best Compact & Mini Circular Saws for Small Cutting Jobs

Whether you are a tradesman or a DIY enthusiast, one thing is clear. You need the right tool for the job.

And depending on your budget and your profession, there are a wealth of top-quality compact and mini circular saws to choose from to fit your needs.

But which would I recommend?

As a professional tradesman, my pick of the bunch is the Makita SH02R1.

Like all Makita products, this saw is incredibly well-made, durable and won’t let you down.

Makita manufactures a huge range of cordless power tool options, meaning you can power all your tools with just a small stock of batteries.

Just keep in mind that this article is focusing on mini and compact circular saws and therefore this Makita product is part of the CXT range which uses the smaller 12V batteries.

There are two main Makita cordless lines – the 12V CXT range and the 18V LXT range – and the batteries aren’t compatible between the two product lines.

And a quick side note- Makita are now branching out into the home and garden-care sector for those of us who need to get out there and mow the lawn after a hard day’s work. The jobs never stop, do they!

Speaking of which, for those in a rush, here is a quick list of three great saws, suited to different budgets. And don’t forget to keep scrolling down the page to see our full reviews of these products.

Our Top Pick

Makita SH02R1

Strong, reliable and powerful. This saw is a bit more expensive than some others on this list but with Makita, you get the quality you pay for.

Top Value Pick

Rockwell RK3441K

Because this is a corded power saw, not a battery powered one, it’s more budget-friendly. But that also means it’s more powerful than the cordless, so it’s a win-win situation.

Top Budget Pick

WORX WORXSAW WX429L

Another corded compact saw, the Worxsaw gives a powerful two-inch cut that won’t cut holes in your pockets.

 

Compact Saw Reviews

Check out the list below to discover what we believe are the best compact circular saws available for purchase today:

1. Makita SH02R1 12V Max CXT Cordless Circular Saw

Specifications:

  • Weight: 3.5 pounds (incl. battery)
  • Power: 12V 2.0 Ah lithium ion battery
  • Speed: 1 500 RPM
  • Blade Size: 3-3/8 inch blade
  • Cutting Depth: 1” at 90 degrees
  • 5/8” at 45 degrees

The Pros

  • Cordless
  • Quick-charge Li-on batteries
  • Batteries interchangeable with other Makita CXT products
  • Durable and reliable
  • Great power for its size
  • 3 year warranty included

The Cons

  • Lower RPM than AC corded models
  • Not compatible with Makita LXT products
  • Blade located on the right side of saw (unusual positioning but great if you are left handed!)

Overview

As well as being great for small carpentry jobs like cutting plywood, MDF, drywall, and doweling, these little saws are a favorite among plumbers and electricians as well.

Their compact size and light weight, combined with portable, cordless technology mean that you can easily carry these saws with you over the entire job site, making the cutting of nogging wood and PVC pipes a breeze.

It might have a lower RPM than non-cordless models but don’t let that put you off. The torque provided by these saws is more than enough to get a great cut through materials like those listed above.

Just keep in mind that these compact saws are designed for light work and aren’t intended to go through the heavy stuff. The only complaints I hear about these saws are from people using them for jobs they aren’t designed to do.

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1. Rockwell RK3441K Compact Saw

Specifications:

  • Weight: 5 pounds
  • Power: 5 amp
  • Speed: 3 500 RPM
  • Blade Size: 4.5 inch blade
  • Cutting Depth: 1 11/16 inch

The Pros

  • Dust port and vacuum adapter
  • Good price
  • Lock-off safety switch
  • Comfortable, ergonomic handle

The Cons

  • Lower torque means blade can bog-down during heavier work
  • Not great for left handed people as the position of the lock-off switch makes it easy to accidentally engage.

Overview

Comfortable and easy to hold, so you can work longer and more efficiently. This Rockwell compact saw feels great in your hand and has been designed to allow for excellent control and maneuverability.

Clean-up is easy due to the built-in dust port and adapter which allows you to connect your vacuum cleaner straight to the saw. This feature saves you both time and health, by keeping the breathing space around you clear of fibrous contaminates.

Also included is an easy-to-use depth indicator and bevel guide to allow you to get the right cut every time.

You can buy this product as a stand-alone saw or purchase it in a kit, which includes a handy diamond grit saw blade.

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3. WORX WORXSAW WX429L Compact Saw

Specifications: ·Weight: 5.3 pounds

  • Power: 4 amp
  • Speed: 3 500 RPM
  • Blade Size: 4.5 inch blade
  • Cutting Depth: 1 11/16 inch

The Pros

  • Compact and portable
  • Easy-to-use depth adjuster
  • 45 degree bevel setting

The Cons

  • Tends to bog-down when making longer cuts
  • Left-sided blade not suitable for left handed people
  • Might not cut cleanly through a 2×4 as claimed

Overview

This saw is quite similar in design to the Rockwell saw mentioned above. It’s compact and comfortable to use, however, is missing the dust port and vacuum adapter that makes the Rockwell stand out. The other main difference is that the Worxsaw WX429L is a bit more compact, making it very suitable for women or people with smaller hands.

When making longer cuts or cutting through heavier material, the Worxsaw does have a tendency to bog-down mid cut which can be both dangerous and frustrating. So again, please keep in mind the limitations of some of these smaller saws and use them accordingly.

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4. Genesis GCS545C Compact Saw

Specifications:

  • Weight: 6 pounds
  • Power: 5.8 amp
  • Speed: 3 500 RPM
  • Blade Size: 4.5 inch blade
  • Cutting Depth: 1 11/16 inch

The Pros

  • Ergonomic handle
  • Powerful motor
  • Easy depth adjustment

The Cons

  • Can bog-down during bigger cuts
  • Not ideal trigger location
  • Initial blade wears out fast and needs upgrading

Overview

Compact, lightweight and versatile, this Genesis saw packs a bit more of a punch than similar saws on the market thanks to its 5.8A motor and triple gear reduction designed to increase torque and minimize gear damage.

The comfortable, ergonomic grip and handle make one-handed use easy, allowing you a free hand to hold and steady your cut, while the easy-to-use depth and bevel guides are great time-savers.

Also included is a rip guide to help with those longer precision cuts.

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5. Rockwell Versacut RK3440K Compact Saw

Specifications:

  • Weight: 4 pounds
  • Power: 5 amp
  • Speed: 3 500 RPM
  • Blade Size: 4.5 inch blade
  • Cutting Depth: 1 11/16 inch

The Pros

  • Laser guide
  • Three different blades
  • Great safety features
  • Ease of use

The Cons

  • Not suitable for bevel cuts
  • The extra safety features can make the saw a little harder to use
  • Uncomfortable handle and grip for larger hands

Overview

To my mind, the stand-out feature of this saw is the laser cutting guide. However, one oversight in this feature is that the laser is battery powered (and drains batteries fairly quickly too), whereas it really should have been powered by mains power like the saw itself. That small design flaw aside, it’s still a very handy piece of kit to have on a saw and is a great time saver.

Another nice touch is the three different blades that come standard with this saw, allowing you to cut wood, plastic, concrete, tile, and thin metal right from the word go.

Now, let’s talk about the big safety feature of this saw. As mentioned above, it comes with its benefits and flaws. The benefit, of course, is the added safety. This saw requires you to apply adequate pressure to the base plate to allow the saw to function. While this pressure gauge makes this saw much safer to use, this design might feel a bit heavy and awkward if doing a lot of work with the saw. It also creates a problem for those of us working on the fly who don’t have a solid workbench in front of us.

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6. MasterMind 800344 Compact Saw

Specifications: ·Weight: 9.2 pounds

·Power: 2.8 amp

·Speed: 2 800 RPM

·Blade Size: 4.5 inch blade

·Cutting Depth: 7/8 inch

The Pros

– 3 point adjustable handle

– Laser guide

– LED light

– Small and portable

The Cons

– Heavier than other products

– Difficult to see cut zone

– Low RPM

– Small blade

Overview

The three-point adjustable handle on this unique little saw allows you to maintain an optimal grip as you change positions during a cut. It also means that whether you are standing up, sitting down or crouching in an awkward position, there’s a setting to help make your cut that little bit easier.

The saw features a larger trigger switch with an inbuilt safety mechanism that must be slid out of the way before the saw will operate.

The small blade size, coupled with a heavier overall weight, makes this saw seem more suited to home use rather than professional, everyday use. The built-in laser guide and LED light really help to keep your cut lines straight, neat and shining with a professional touch.

7. VonHaus 4.5 Amp Compact Circular Saw

Specifications: ·Weight: 11.6 pounds

·Power: 4.5 amp

·Speed: 4 000 RPM

·Blade Size: 3 3/8 inch blade

·Cutting Depth: around 1 inch

The Pros

– Fair price

– Waterproof

– Carry case included

– Cuts a range of materials

The Cons

– Heavy

– Not so comfortable to hold

– Small cut depth

– Safety features can get in the way at times

Overview

This is another one for home jobs and the DIY guys.

While still a great little saw, the weight and awkward feel of it make me think it’s a bit impractical for everyday use.

It comes with a straight cut guide to help get the perfect cut every time and with the correct blade will cut through heavy materials such as tile and metal.

The waterproof design makes it a great tool for DIY home refurbs where you’ll be working in all types of conditions around the house.

The safety mechanism, which must be held down at all times while cutting, makes this a really safe option to have around the house, where it might be within arms reach of a younger child. It can, however, make the tool feel a little uncomfortable for bigger jobs or everyday use.

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8. Genesis GPCS535CK Compact Circular Saw

Specifications: ·Weight: 12 pounds

  • Power: 5.8 amp
  • Speed: 4 500 RPM
  • Blade Size: 3.5 inch blade
  • Cutting Depth: 1 1/8 inch

The Pros

  • Powerful
  • Three different blades included
  • Laser guide
  • Storage case provided

The Cons

  • Expensive
  • Smaller blade
  • Heavy

Overview

This little saw really packs a punch. Despite weighing in at a fairly heavy 12 pounds, the compact size of this saw means it feels great in the palm of your hand. It might even be this extra weight that makes this saw feel so comfortable when cutting through tougher materials such as tile and concrete – jobs made possible by using one of the three blades included when purchasing this kit.

With this saw, you’ll have no problem cutting through all kinds of wood, copper, thin steel, aluminum, tile or concrete.

And to speed up those precision cuts, this Genesis saw comes with laser guided cutting technology and a TrakRunner Miter system that will ensure you get the perfect cut every time.

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Be Practical With Your Saw Use

Ease of carry and compact size are what make compact circular saws such a beneficial addition to your toolkit. The real beauty of these tools is their versatility and it’s this wide range of use that makes them so popular among carpenters, electricians, plumbers, and DIY enthusiasts alike.

But, that being said, keep in mind what I mentioned at the beginning of this article – you need the right tool for the right job.

Be aware of the limitations that these saws have. After all, they are small tools and are made for small jobs. They are designed to make a range of quick cuts over a wide variety of jobs.

If you are going to be making cut-after-cut through 2x4s to frame a house, you’d be well-advised to purchase a chop saw, miter saw or regular circular saw instead. Or a tile saw for cutting a room full of tiles. A compact saw will do these tasks, just not as well as the purpose made tool for the job.

Also, be aware that these compact circular saws are designed for straight cuts only. If you require a tool that cuts curved and irregular lines, you need to look at purchasing something like one of these portable bandsaws instead.

How To Decide Which Saw Is Right For You

When purchasing a portable circular saw, the most important thing to consider is what you are going to be using it for. Sounds pretty obvious right? Well, yes, it is. But all too often people make a rushed decision based on something they heard from their neighbor’s cousin, who has a friend that was a builder… You get the idea.

So make sure you consider: the types of materials you are going to be cutting, how often you’ll be using the tool, will you be working indoors or out and how much experience you have.

Once you’ve got that all figured out, it’s time to look at the more technical aspects of the saws. Those being:

Power

Power plays a major role in how fast you are going to be able to make your cuts and which materials you will be able to saw through.

If you are only cutting light materials such as thin plywood or MDF then you might only need a saw at the lesser end of the power spectrum, something around the 2-3 amp mark. When you start cutting harder materials such as hardwood, tile or concrete, or making longer cuts, it will probably pay to look for a saw around the 5-6 amp rating.

When cutting material, there’s not much that is more frustrating than a saw that keeps bogging-down in power and getting stuck halfway through a cut.

Power is also going to be a big factor when deciding if you want to go with a cordless or corded AC mains powered tool.

Battery powered tools are very convenient to carry as you don’t need to worry about running out a power lead or finding a power socket nearby just to perform a couple of quick cuts.

They do, of course, have their downsides, mainly that they will use and lose battery power with each cut. So, if you decide to go with a cordless saw, make sure you stay aware of the amount of cuts you’ve made and how much power is likely to be left in the battery. Most good brands will have an electronic power display on each battery to give you an idea of the power remaining but these can’t be relied upon 100%.

Battery saws also have a tendency to bog down whilst cutting denser materials such as hardwood, particularly once they are under 50% charge.

Cut Depth and Blade Size

Most compact circular saws will have a cutting depth between 1 and 2 inches. My compact saw of choice, the Makita SH02R1, has a cutting depth at the lower end of this spectrum but for what I use it for, this suits me fine. I carry a larger Makita XSS03Z 18V cordless circular saw in my work truck at all times, for when I need to do larger jobs, such as cutting up 2x4s.

There are, of course, compact saws like the Rockwell RK3441K that will also cut through a piece of 2×4, but it’s just not as practical for me. And that’s what you really need to consider. What is the most practical saw for me? What am I going to be cutting?

When considering cutting size and blade sizing, also take into account whether or not the saw is able to perform bevel cuts. If you’re not sure, a bevel cut is a cut that is angled towards the end of the length of wood. It’s a very handy feature that works great on these compact saws.

The cutting depth is mostly down to the blade size of the saw and the typical blade size found on compact circulars is around the 4 inch mark, providing a touch under a two inch cut.

Extra Features

While not a primary part of a compact circular saw, these added features really do make life easier. Keep an eye out for saws that feature the following:

  • Laser guide for cutting. These display a straight laser line from the cutting blade of your saw, helping you to follow markings and make straighter cuts.
  • LED light. A great bonus feature when cutting in a dim room or even outside on a cloudy day. The LED light sits on the front of your blade and lights up the cutting area in front of the saw, so you can easily follow your markings and keep a straight line.
  • Easily accessible blade for quick replacement. While it might only take you a few minutes more to change a blade, these minutes add up if you need to change your blades often in order to cut through different materials. Having a saw that requires little time and effort to change a blade will save you time and a bit of frustration.
  • Carry case. Again, this isn’t essential but it makes storing your tools neat and orderly. Also very handy for storing spare blades and blade keys.

Conclusion

Before you make your decision, make sure you spend some time thinking about which saw is most suited to your needs and budget.

Remember, these saws aren’t be all and end all solutions to all your cutting needs but serve as versatile tools to help you out in all types of situations.

Personally, I’m a cordless man. So I find it hard to go past the convenience of the Makita SH02R1. It’s just a great, light-weight tool that comes in handy on job sites more than you might imagine.

However, if you prefer corded tools, I would also strongly recommend the Genesis GPCS535CK. It’s got loads of power and with the right blade attached will cut through almost anything.

Lastly, if you plan on using your saw very occasionally for odd jobs around the house, consider purchasing a compact saw with at least a 4 inch diameter blade to give you that added versatility of making deeper cuts.

Armed with that knowledge, whether you’re an amateur or a professional, it’s time to get out there and get cutting!

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