Many people ask the question: what is a worm drive saw? This is understandable, the name is strange, and this can cause confusion amongst new and less experienced woodworkers. There are two main types of saws: the worm drive and the better-known circular saw. In this article, we will take a closer look at the worm drive saw to help you evaluate if it’s the right tool to meet your needs.
A worm drive saw is a type of circular saw that has a rear mounted motor which gives this powered tool a sleeker profile, which is ideal if you need to work in tight spaces. The source of the moniker is the spiral gear assembly that provides power for the motor.
One crucial aspect of this design is that it produces plenty of torque which boosts the rotational speed which in turn delivers superior cutting power.
The power is driven through a pair of gears that are set 90º apart and the torque is produced with a lower rotations per minute (rpm) at around 4,500 rpm. The motor is mounted at the rear which necessitates a longer design than circular saws.
The worm drive needs more metal, and this increases the weight of these saws in comparison to other models. During a long workday, this can increase the fatigue on the hands and shoulders of worm drive saw operators. The design of these power tools makes them more powerful and more expensive than competing saw designs.
Given the drawbacks, it’s easy to wonder why a woodworker would choose a worm drive saw. The main reason is that they have plenty of cutting power which makes them a good choice for people that are seeking efficiency. The larger gear teeth have a higher loading capacity, and they typically have a blade-left configuration.
This can be useful when you need to work in tight spaces and most direct drive circular saws have a blade-right configuration. The abundance of torque is sufficient to cut through wet lumber and even concrete with the right blades. This makes a worm drive saw a great choice for major renovation and framing jobs. These characteristics may be less important for DIY enthusiasts and a worm drive saw may be a tool to aspire to as skills are further developed.
We briefly covered the blade-left configuration of the worm drive saw which may seem trivial to a layman. But this is a real benefit for a woodworker because it has a huge impact on the slice line visibility. Left-handed woodworkers have always had improved sight-line visibility as they work with long and narrow blade-left models.
Right-handed can also get good cut line visibility with right-blade circular saws. Certain one-handed saws offer a clear sight-line for left and right-handed users, but a pommel grasped with the dormant hand can be an obstruction. A worm drive saw is a good option to make plunge and miter cuts for DIY projects and it can cut through metal too.
There are ten reasons why DIY enthusiasts and woodworking professionals may prefer to use a worm drive saw:
- These are durable power tools that deliver plenty of cutting power in a relatively small package. There are no external components to worry about and these tools can be repaired much faster than circular saw models.
- There is a direct connection between the spindle and the motor which facilitates faster rotations than the motor should be capable of in other models. This should make the worm saw prone to stalling or a loss of performance. But the lower operation speeds make this potential problem a non-issue and it’s even an advantage because the cutting power is increased.
- There is no requirement to remove the belt or blade before cutting. This prevents unnecessary delays which is a real time saver on a job site where time is money.
- Worm drive saws tend to have more gear teeth than circular saw designs in the 32-36” size. This makes the cuts smoother and the need for cleanup is reduced.
- These saws have fewer components, the motor is powerful, and the weight is relatively low when you consider the cutting power. A worm drive saw can make very precise cuts through a wide variety of material including wood, wet wood, thin metals and more.
- The blade has a wider range of motion in comparison to other model types. This improves the versatility of where a woodworker starts a cut. This can be very helpful if you’re working with materials that have obstructions such as nails that can prevent clean line cuts.
- A worm drive saw is quieter than circular saws which means that you can use it for longer jobs and projects without annoying neighbors.
- These saws create less wrist strain which will significantly reduce stress when working on difficult and long-term projects.
- There is no external belt system, this reduces vibrations which is helpful when the tool is used for extended periods.
- Worm drive saws have power cords, this makes them suitable for heavy-duty cutting tasks and there are no overheating issues to contend with. This means that you will always have plenty of cutting power on-hand when you need it most.
A worm drive saw has a motor where the center line is parallel to the saw blade plane. This gives the saw a narrow profile that is ideal if you need to work in confined areas.
The distance between the blade and the handle extends the cutting reach, which is helpful if you need to make crosscuts on sheets.
The larger gear teeth offer a higher load-carrying capacity than direct-drive saws which improves the power while adding some extra weight. The average weight of a worm drive saw is 13 or 14 lbs.
The extra cutting power generated from the worm drive is excellent for tear cuts that would present a significant challenge for a circular saw. But, the cutting time tends to be longer because the rotation per minute and extra weight can be an issue for some users.
This saw has a rear mounted motor and two gears set at 90º apart to produce more torque with lower rotations per minute. This increases the weight, but the cutting power is significantly increased and yet the saw only operates at around 4500 rpm.
Direct drive “Sidewinder” models may have the Ridgid Thru-cool Worm Drive which is a heavy unit. But, this is not necessarily a drawback because a 15-amp motor is used which is comparable to a powerful circular saw. This motor is side mounted unlike a typical worm drive saw which has the motor mounted at the rear.
The real distinction is that other worm drives tend to have lower rpm and comparable torque even though both models may use a 15-amp motor. The main advantages of a Ridgid worm drive saw is that it has a 0-56” bevel capability with stop detests at all the most used angles. Quick blade changes can be made with the onboard Allen wrench, there is a rafter hook, the base is made from durable cast aluminum and the hex grip handle is comfortable.
What Is a Worm Drive Saw– In Conclusion
We hope that we answered the “what is a worm drive saw” question to your satisfaction. This is the ideal power saw for heavy-duty cutting in tight spaces and it’s very easy to control. If you need one affordable and versatile circular saw it’s worth considering a worm drive saw before you make a final decision.
I’m Thomas Steven with more than 12 years of experience in woodworking. It has always been my passion to become a successful woodworker. I have completed hundreds of successful projects. This blog is a way of sharing my woodworking experiences and what tools get the best results. I write about woodworking while being an associate with Amazon and I earn a little commission from every qualifying purchase.