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Choosing a Rotary Saw

A rotary saw is a heavy-duty power tool that spins a bit, drum, or small wheel to make clean cutout holes. Also known as a spiral cut saw or cut out tool, it’s most useful for cutting accurate holes in drywall, sidings, and fixtures made of wallboard and plywood. This tool cuts circular openings with precision and doesn’t require you to drill pilot holes to guide your cutting.

With the right attachments, a rotary hand saw can cut other materials besides thin, solid boards. You can adapt it to cut hardwood, metal, laminate, granite, ceramic, and plexiglass.

Difference Between a Rotary Saw and a Rotary Tool

While both terms are often used interchangeably, rotary tools are not always saws. A rotary tool usually describes a compact, lightweight power tool for drilling, engraving, carving, grinding, polishing, and deburring. This versatile tool is commonly used for crafting and small DIY projects. While not ideal for large tasks, it can serve for home improvement projects involving grout removal and cutting drywall.

A portable rotary saw is slightly larger and heavier. It’s powerful enough for professional tasks and usually come with fewer accessories than a rotary tool. While a rotary tool is compact and adaptable, a spiral cut saw is a heavy-duty rotary tool used for specific applications. These include making cutouts and shapes in different materials.

Applications of Rotary Saws

Rotary saws have different applications levels of performance, depending on the application.
Application
Rotary Saw
Cutting out drywall panels
Excellent
Cutting out wood up to a thickness of 1"
Very good
Using as a router (with small bits)
Good
Cutting nails and screws (accessory required)
Very good
Removing grout or mortar (accessory required)
Very good
Cutting metal or plastic plumbing pipes (accessory required)
Very good
Cutting ceramic tiles (accessory required)
Very good
Application
Rotary Saw
Cutting out drywall panels
Excellent
Cutting out wood up to a thickness of 1"
Very good
Using as a router (with small bits)
Good
Cutting nails and screws (accessory required)
Very good
Removing grout or mortar (accessory required)
Very good
Cutting metal or plastic plumbing pipes (accessory required)
Very good
Cutting ceramic tiles (accessory required)
Very good

Parts of Rotary Saws

Knowing the various parts and features of these power tools comes in handy when learning how to use a rotary saw. The knowledge is also useful when comparing different models of spiral cut saws and determining the kinds of tasks you can complete with them.

Power Switch: This is an ON/OFF switch for starting and stopping the power tool.

Motor: Each rotary hand saw has an electric motor that powers the cutting bit or wheel. Selecting a model with a high-torque motor helps you minimize downtimes. A high-torque motor produces clean cuts and delivers fade-free power under heavy load.

Hand Strap: An optional part, a hand strap makes handling and carrying the saw easier.

Spindle Lock Button: It locks down the shaft to make changing the saw’s bit and collet easier and safer.

Cutting Guide Locking Lever: Locks down the cutting guide and holds it in place while the tool is running.

Collet: This is a type of chuck that clamps around bits when tightened. The size of the collet determines the bit sizes a rotary saw can accept. It secures cutting bits and other rotary tool accessories attached to the tool.

Depth Guide: Improves cutting accuracy by helping the user control cutting depth.

Depth Adjustment Screw: For changing the depth guide when setting the desired cutting depth.

Pro tip

It’s a good idea to find a rotary hand saw with a collet that’s bigger than the bits you intend to use. This is because a collet can fit bit shanks of equal and smaller sizes (with the right adapters) but not larger ones.

Features of Rotary Saws

Not all portable rotary saws are the same. Knowing the variations between different models and the convenient features on offer in select models guides you in making a smart buying decision.

Power: While shoppers can find battery-powered rotary tools for their cordless power tool sets, spiral cut saws are usually corded. Manufacturers quote their power ratings in ampere (A). Generally, models with higher ampere ratings are more powerful, cut faster, and produce cleaner cuts.

Speed: Speed is another performance metric to use when comparing rotary hand saws. Measured in rotations per minute (RPM), it describes how fast the motor spins the cutting bit or wheel. A high RPM translates to faster, cleaner, and more precise cuts.

Soft Start: Saws with this feature start slowly before ramping up. This prevents motor burnout when tackling very hard materials and keeps bits from skating when they first encounter materials they’re cutting.

Multiple Speed Setting: This feature allows you to control the saw’s rotational speed as needed for different materials.

Universal Collet System: Makes it possible to fit a wide range of attachments and accessories on a rotary saw.

Dust Collector: Prevents dust and dirt from flying everywhere while cutting. Some saws have exhaust vents to direct debris away from the tool’s cutting path and keep users’ sightlines clear.

Pro tip

To extend the life of a rotary saw, consider getting a model with replaceable brushes so you don’t have to write off the motor when its brushes wear out.

Accessories and Attachments for Rotary Saws

It’s a good idea to think about the accessories required when you’re ready to do more than cut holes with your spiral saw. The most popular power tool accessories for portable rotary saws are those used for cutting. These attachments fall into two broad categories: spiral drills and cutting wheels.

Spiral drills make spiral cuts, rather than punch holes, in different materials. There are different sizes and types of bits. For example, tile cutting bits are stronger than wood bits and used for cutting ceramic and porcelain tiles. Cutting wheels come in different sizes and materials. These disc-shaped accessories are also sometimes referred to as blades.

Just like bits, rotary saw blade types are classified by the materials used to make them. High-speed steel wheels are excellent options for blades that can cut wood, drywall, plastic, and metal. These stay sharper for longer than carbide bits and wheels. Diamond blades are even stronger and can cut through concrete, marble, granite, and stone. Some wheels are strong enough to sharpen the blades of other saws.

Other accessories and attachments to help make rotary hand saws more versatile include adapters to convert these power tools to crosscut saws, handles to hold them like jigsaws, and circle cutter attachments to make cutting perfect circles easier.

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