Best Compact & Mini Circular Saw – Review & Buying Guide

best compact circular saw

One of the most critical factors that make a significant contribution to the success of a woodworking project is proper power tools. As a professional woodworker, I know that finding the right gear to get your job done is not an easy task. Especially, we are living in a world of a wide variety of machines with different types and designs. So, I always try my best to help you in choosing the right tools. 

Lately, I have received a lot of questions from those who are looking for a lighter and smaller circular saw. So, I have evaluated some of the available compact circular saws in the market and listed out the best compact circular saw. Stay with me till the end of my article for amazing buying guides that will help you solve this problem.

What do you use a compact circular saw for?

Before we head to my recommendation list, I think you should know about compact circular saws first. 

I know that many of you might hear about mini circular saws. But apart from the smaller size, how different are they from the normal-sized circular saw?

Well, small circular saws make good standard circular saws’ shortcomings with their compact design. 

As they come in smaller sizes, they are more lightweight and more comfortable to control. Thus, small circular saws are suitable for all types of users, especially beginners who start with modest projects.

Also, better control allows users to have more precise cuts and no chipping when cutting thin pieces of material such as lumber, composite materials and plywood. 

Moreover, the small design enables a mini circular saw to reach compact spaces. Thus, they are useful when dealing with moulding and wood trim for smooth and clean edges.

While standard circular saws need mastery of use for safety and efficiency,  mini circular saws are non-kickback machines that safer for starters to learn how to use woodworking tools.

However, mini circular saws still possess some weaknesses. It is not powerful enough to deal with thick materials. Thus, they are not ideal for big projects like house building.

Top 5 Best Compact Circular Saws 

So, you have known about strong points and weaknesses of a mini circular saw. Without further ado, here comes the main part of this article. I will give you a comprehensive review of the best 5 compact circular saws in the market plus its pros and cons. Check it out now:

​Rockwell RK3441K

Rockwell RK3441K

Our Rating: 4.7/5

  • ​Ergonomic design with a slim and inline grip handle

​Rockwell RK3440K

Rockwell RK3440K

Our Rating: 4.7/5

  • ​Streamlined design for extra manoeuverability

​Makita SH02R1

Makita SH02R1

Our Rating: 4.8/5

#Top Pick#

  • ​Cordless design for extra versatility

​Dremel SM20-02

Dremel SM20-02

Our Rating: 4.6/5

  • ​Ideal for straight cutting, plunge cutting, and flush cutting

​​Dremel SM20-03

​Dremel SM20-03

Our Rating: 4.5/5

  • ​Versatile cutting system

​Rockwell RK3441K - Best for Price

Top of my list today is the Rockwell RK3441K with its lightweight yet sturdy design. It only has a modest weight of only 5 pounds but can provide incredible power. The 5-amp electric motor with 3500 RPM makes this mini saw as powerful as full-size saws.

Rockwell RK3441K

When you hold the Rockwell mini saw, not only you will be surprised by the modest weight, but you will also go wow with its ergonomic design. The handle with slim and inline grip will provide you with more comfort when manoeuvering this machine. It also offers an anti-slip handle for more control and balance in overhead cuts.

The Rockwell compact saw has the maximum cutting depth at 90 degrees of 1-11/16 inches. It is born to cut wood, drywall, plywood, and especially nominal lumber material in a single slide. 

Moreover, the thinner left-handed blade design provides you with more visibility and more precision. You can align the material with the line on your cutting table for a straight and accurate cut.

It also comes with a safety lock button to prevent you from starting the device accidentally. You have to press the button to engage the trigger. 

However, the place where the safety button is located is quite weird. It causes hassles for people to use it with one hand, especially those are left-handed. 

When I held the saw grip, it was quite hard for my fingers to find and reach the safety button. It should be located at the “on” position of the saw for more accessibility.

Pros

  • 50% lighter than standard 7¼” circular saws
  • ​Ergonomic design with a slim and inline grip handle
  • 5-amp electric motor with 3500 RPM

​Cons

  • The safety lock button is hard to reach
  • ​Poor-quality stock blade

​Rockwell RK3440K - Best for Design

The Rockwell RK3440K is another product from the renowned Rockwell brand. It makes its way to my list today because of the unique and ergonomic design with a lot of helpful features.

Rockwell RK3440K

Rockwell RK3440K is a corded compact circular saw that operates in 4 amp. It has a powerful motor of 3500 RPM with no load speed that is ideal for small and medium wood projects. Apart from the incredibly 4-pound weight, this device also has a 120-inch cord for extended reach to small areas that cannot be accessed by regular saws. 

The Rockwell RK3440K has a streamlined design that allows you to control the machine and have clean and smooth cuts with just one hand. The rear-motor construction produces less vibration during operation, which will reduce fatigue and strain on your arms.

Besides, you will be pleased with this useful tool as it possesses a built-in laser guide for better alignment. Also, a dust extraction adapter prevents the cut line from dust for improved visibility. 

This mini circular saw features a footplate to prevent the blade from getting damaged. When you operate this tool, you will have to push the saw head to let the blade touch the material. This move might be hard for beginners who haven’t use saws with footplate before.

Also, the footplate limits blade visibility, which might be annoying for those who are familiar with non-footplate saws. Thus, the footplate causes hassles in bevel cutting as it is harder to see the angle of blade and material.

Pros

  • ​Streamlined design for extra manoeuverability
  • ​Safety features (lock-trigger button, footplate)
  • ​Lightweight and easy to control

​Cons

  • ​Lack of blade visibility
  • ​Not ideal for bevel cuts

​​Makita SH02R1 - Best for Flexibility

Next on my list today is the Makita mini circular saw with the extra flexibility and convenience it offers. 

Makita SH02R1

First, it is a cordless saw that will eliminate the hassle of dragging extension cord around. It also erases the problem of purchasing extension sockets when you need your circular saw, but the cord is too short to reach the wall outlet. All you need to do is charge the battery fully and bring it anywhere you want without bulky extensions.

The Makita compact saw has a built-in motor that delivers 1500 RPM and a 3⅜ inches blade with the maximum cutting depth of an inch. It can give clean and smooth cuts on several types of materials such as plywood, MDF, particleboard, pegboard, drywall, melamine, and more.

The Makita mini circular saw features an ergonomic-designed handle with a soft rubberized grip for more comfort and less fatigue. It also comes with a built-in dust blower to keep the cutting line free of debris. 

Another amazing feature that I appreciate in this small device is the battery protection circuit. If you are those who care about the short-circuiting problem of battery-charging devices, you will be pleased with this feature. It will protect the device against overloading, over-discharging and overheating issues.

However, this machine remains some weaknesses that disappoint me. First, unlike other circular saws with left-side blades, it has a right-side blade which might limit visibility when cutting. Moreover, when I tested this tool, it created un-straight cutting line due to the improper pre-aligned cutting angle. But you can reassemble the blade to adjust the angle the way you like it.

Pros

  • ​Cordless design for extra versatility
  • ​Improved ergonomic grip
  • ​3 years warranty

​Cons

  • ​A right-side blade limits visibility
  • ​Improper cutting angles

​Dremel SM20-02 - Best for Value

For many woodworkers, keeping their tools and accessories at one place is something they always want but hardly nail it. But the Dremel SM20-02 mini circular saw comes with a case to make storing accessories and transportation easier. 

Dremel SM20-02

Dremel SM20-02 is a convenient choice for beginners who haven’t know much about woodworking tools. They will have an all-in-one saw kit with a mini circular saw, replacement blades, dust port adapter and other equipment packed in just a neat and tidy case. 

This compact tool serves several purposes such as straight cutting, plunge cutting, and flush cutting. The 6-amp motor with the incredible speed of 17,000RPM can help you cut through various materials, such as wood, metal, tile, masonry, plastic, and more.

The Dremel Saw-Max SM20-02 possesses an ergonomic gripping zone for better control and precise, clean cuts when plunging. It also comes with a flush-cut blade for easy flush-cutting into wood and plastic. 

It has a plastic front guard which I quite concerned about the quality. Even though the guard is made from hard plastic, I prefer one with a robust metal material.

Another problem with this small circular saw is that it heats up rapidly. I tested it for a few cuts, and it nearly went overheat. However, the heating problem doesn’t occur when cutting thin materials. So, in general, Dremel SM20-02 is an excellent choice for small projects.

Pros

  • ​All-in-one package comes in a convenient case
  • ​Ideal for straight cutting, plunge cutting, and flush cutting
  • ​Included 4 types of blade for different materials

​Cons

  • ​The front guard is made from plastic
  • ​Heating problems

​Dremel SM20-03 - Best for Performance

Last but not least, the Dremel SM20-03, an upgraded version of Dremel SM20-02, is the best performance mini circular saw in my list with many powerful features. 

​Dremel SM20-03

It features a powerful 6-amp motor with the blade diameter of 3” that can cut through many types of material such as soft and hardwood, plywood, drywall, PVC, plastic, composites and more. The speed of 17,000RPM and the maximum cutting depth of ¾” enables you to have clean and smooth cuts in a single pass quickly. 

Dremel SM20-03 has two cutting wheel positions that make this tool suitable for straight cutting, plunge cutting and flush cutting. Also, the adjustable depth control with spring allows you to adjust the thickness of your cuts.

As a woodworker who needs a tool for bevel cuts, I praise this compact Dremel tool. It does not have any blade covering that allows me to see my cuts for more precision and control.

Also, this upgraded version makes good the SM20-02’s shortcoming. You will be pleased when using this powerful but stable and less heating up machine for usual cutting tasks.

However, I was quite disappointed when knowing that this mini circular saw doesn’t allow dust port adapter. It doesn’t have a spot for dust blower, which is a big mistake that downgrades the quality of this saw.

Moreover, the blade will dull quickly, especially when cutting tough materials. But finding a replacement blade is not a big deal for professional ones.

Pros

  • ​Versatile cutting system
  • ​Two cutting wheel positions
  • ​Adjustable depth control

​Cons

  • ​No place for dust port adapter
  • ​The blade dulls quickly

Buying Guide for Best Compact & Mini Circular Saws

As I have mentioned above, picking the right tools is an important and hard-making decision, even for professional woodworkers. However, some criteria can give you great help in choosing the best mini circular saw. 

Below are some essential factors that you should look for in a good compact saw.

Corded or Cordless mini circular saw?

The first and foremost thing you will have to decide is which type of mini circular saw that you want. This decision depends on the nature of your tasks and also the power you will need to complete your cutting tasks. 

So, we will go through some differences between the two types of mini circular saws to make it easier for you, shall we?

Cordless circular saws are ideal for those who want the freedom to work without being tethered to an outlet. You can carry the tool with you wherever you want rather than bringing your tasks back to your workspace. Also, you will never be limited by the length of the extension cord or spending more money on extension sockets.

However, the downside of cordless circular saws is the reliance on battery. As the battery is limited, it cannot stand the extended time of continuous use. If you have big tasks to finish, it will be frustrating to stop and charge the saw, not to mention the problems of draining batteries. 

Meanwhile, corded mini circular saw allows you to finish your tasks no matter how big they are and how much time you will work. Also, it provides you with enormous power comes from the wall current. Generally, corded small circular saws are more popular as they offer the needed power for cutting common materials.

But as I have mentioned above, you will need to overcome the problem of power reliance on the direct electric source. But if your workplace has a lot of wall outlet, it is not a big deal for you.

How much power do you need?

Next, you should take into account the power of the saw as it plays a key role in the quality of your craft. As you might know, the number of amps indicates the power of a circular saw. Hence, the bigger the number, the more powerful the saw is. 

Generally, a compact circular saw has an amp of 3-5. It works great on thin materials such as thin lumber, plywood, composites, drywall, plastics, and more. But if you want to deal with thick and robust materials like metal and hardwood, you can go for some 6-amp small circular saws. 

Also, you should pay attention to the rotating speed, which shows how fast the blade rotates. A fast-rotating blade will result in smoother and cleaner cuts. 

Cutting depth

Considering the cutting depth is imperative when choosing the best small circular saw. It is firmly based on the thickness of your materials. 

The most common cutting depth available on the market is an inch. But if you need more, you can go for some high-end options that offer 2-inch cutting depth.

Additional features

After considering the three criteria above, you will need to take the design into account. You should opt for a mini circular saw with ergonomic design. Personally, I prefer ones with a comfort grip handle with less vibration for better control. 

Additionally, I recommend you to go for a small circular saw with a built-in laser cutting guide or LED light. It will help you achieve more precision and accuracy when cutting. 

Last but not least, dust blower is a necessary factor to help you with more accurate cuts. Thus, you should also take it into account when considering the best compact circular saw. 

Who Make The Best Compact Circular Saw? 

Apart from considering those criteria, I usually pick products from renowned and high-quality brands. Here are some of the leading manufacturers of compact circular saws.

Makita

Makita is a Japanese power tools brand founded in 1915. Started as an electric motor sales, Makita now ranks itself as one of the most reliable global brands in DIY tools with subsidiaries in over 40 countries around the world. Like other products from Japan, Makita small circular saw offers efficient performance and durability that satisfy many professionals.

Rockwell

Rockwell tools is a famous name with DIY-ers and professionals because of its great reputation for quality, reliability and high technology. Produced and distributed by Positec Tool Corporation, Rockwell has never failed in meeting the demanding needs of all users around the world from 1994 until now. 

Dremel

Dremel is an American manufacturer that is established in 1932. It provides a wide range of power tools with several choices of types to tackle specialized tasks within your crafting projects. With the aim to bring customers versatile and powerful tools, Dremel has been a reliable brand of power tools. 

FAQs 

1. Are mini circular saws any good?

Mini circular saws are handheld and electric saws to cut wood and other materials. They stand out with their compact and lightweight design that will reduce fatigue and arms strain for users. They can give you smooth cuts with no chipping on many types of thin materials. 

2. What are the advantages and disadvantages of compact circular saw?

Advantages of a compact circular saw are the lightweight and small design. It can reach the small space that standard circular saw cannot. Also, the modest weight makes it easier for transportation and manoeuvrability. Moreover, it can cut through thin materials like plywood, drywall, lumber, composites, and more.

However, the downside of a compact circular saw is the limited power. Due to the small size, it cannot possess the power as of a standard circular saw. Thus, it is deficient when dealing with thick materials.

3. How do you use a small circular saw?

First, you will need a table for a flat surface to place your materials. Next, mark the line you want to cut. It is recommended to mark it with a “V” and then draw a straight line for better accuracy.

Then you should place the saw at the light-enough place that allows you to see the cutting line. Adjust the laser cutting guide should also be performed at this step.

The last step is to pull the trigger and let the sharp blade give you a clean and smooth cut. Keep your eyes on the blade when cutting to ensure it goes the right direction. This is when the blower works well to remove dust for better direct and control the blade. If your mini circular saw doesn’t have one, use your mouth as a great alternative.

Conclusion

Here comes the end of my article today. In my opinion, Makita SH02R1 is the best choice if you want to find a compact circular saw.

I hope my writing can help you make a wise decision for the best compact circular saw. I would like to help you more with other power tools. So, feel free to contact me with your questions.

Happy working day!

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