Skil Saw or Plunge Saw

This is an old video, and the text below was originally posted as a blog post on the old website. As I mentioned in AWITW 149 I did this because I could go into more detail in a blog post than I could in the video description on YouTube; it was a short-lived experiment, but I thought I'd repost a few of these for you here, as the information contained remains valid. Let me know what you think! Peter

Direct video link -

I'm a big fan of the plunge saw or tracksaw and have used them for many years, but every time I show them being used in a video I'll guarantee that I'll get a questions asking what the difference is between a tracksaw and a regular circular saw. So I thought I'd do a quick video about just that, and also throw the guide-rail mounted circular saw into the mix as well. The plunge saw I use in this video is mine, and the other saws were provided to me for the purposes of this video by the nice folks at Skil and Evolution, so many thanks to them for their help in putting this video together.


  • As I mention at the start of the vid. I'm particularly talking about the saws that we can get hold of here in the UK ie what our American cousins would call 'sidewinder' saws - where the blade is driven directly from the shaft of the motor.

  • It's more common for cordless saws to have the blade to the left of the motor, than the right.

  • The only plunge saw that I'm aware of having the motor to the right of the blade is the recently announced Kreg saw, which we don't appear to have available here just yet.

  • There are a few guiderail-mounted circular saws that don't plunge eg Bosch & Makita, but the Evolution is the only multi-material saw AFAIK.

Health & Safety Notes:

All wood dust is hazardous, so be sure to take appropriate precautions; I recommend using dust extraction/collection with all power tools.

Your safety in the workshop is your responsibility; treat tools with respect and if you feel at all uncomfortable carrying out any operation, stop!

Circular saws

Skil invented the circular saw in 1924, though that saw was very different from the saws I used in this video; that original 'SkliSaw' was a worm drive saw, where the motor was inline with the body of the saw, and drove the blade through a geared wheel and a threaded shaft ie a 'worm drive'; this reduced the speed of the blade, but provided a great deal of torque, albeit at the expense of weight and efficiency. As I mentioned in the video worm drive saws aren't generally available in the UK - and yes, thank you everyone who told me you can buy them on amazon, but those are simply US sellers basically supplying on a 'personal import; what I mean is that manufacturers aren't getting CE approval and importing/distributing within the UK/Europe. Now wether that's due to a small addressable market, or simply the lack of need for this type of saw - we tend to make houses out of brick, not timber - I can't say, but the affect is the same; worm drive saws are simply not common here, in fact in 20-odd years of house-bashing, I've never seen one in use.

Plunge saws

Plunge saws, or tracksaws, have been around for quite a while as well; Festool made their first in 1965 or so, but it was their 'guiderail with rubber splinter-guard' patent in the early '80s that really made them what they are today ie widely copied. For the kind of work I do the plunge saw is a better choice - fast, accurate, and with excellent dust collection designed in right from the start. But they're designed to work on the rail, not off it, so they don't make an ideal circular saw replacement if you have a need for eg cutting 6x2 joists on-site, although there are plunge saws that fulfil that roll as well, with a 'captive' rail eg Festool HKS, and Mafell's KSS series. I had the Mafell KSS 300 for a little while when I was doing a lot of attic/loft space work, and it was a lovely saw.

Incidentally, the term 'tracksaw' came about when DeWalt (and Makita) entered the plunge saw market in 2009; DeWalt wanted to distinguish themselves from the 'other' plunge saws, so started referring to their as a "tracksaw" and the name appeared to be gaining traction. Festool - no slouch when it comes to marketing - registered the domain, and pointed it to the Festool USA website, where it still redirects to this day.

As usual of course, my Patreon supporters will be privy to some behind the scenes and over the shoulder action of this week's video, and more, in my 'Week in the Workshop' vlog.

In conclusion

Use whatever works for you; we are so fortunate to currently have such a choice of hardware at every price-point, from supermarket plunge saws, to high-end top quality saws, there's no reason not to be using the right tool for the job.

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