Saws & Angle Grinders Buying Guide
When would I need a circular saw?
A circular saw is ideal for fast, heavy-duty straight cutting and will cut timber or man-made boards to size quickly and accurately, and with far less effort than a handsaw. A circular saw will often produce such a clean cut that planing is not necessary. So if you struggle to cut a straight line, perhaps it's time to invest in a circular saw.
What is a circular saw?
A circular saw is a heavy-duty saw, essential for quick, accurate, straight cutting of any type of wood - but especially heavy-duty timber and sheet materials. The saw will glide through timber in seconds and can be fitted with an assortment of blades that rip through everything from nail-embedded wood to concrete blocks and bricks.
The saws come in various sizes, with the cutting capacity directly related to the blade diameter, which is most commonly 184mm. All circular saws have a maximum cutting depth, which is dependent on the angle that is being cut.
For light jobs or occasional use it is worth considering a cordless model. While these saws are not designed for use on large-scale projects, they offer surprising power and convenience.
Requiring little in the way of accessories, you will however benefit from using a rip guide with your saw. This is a metal attachment designed to increase the accuracy and flexibility of your saw. If your model doesn't include one, we recommend you buy one.
Features and benefits
The motor power of corded circular saws ranges from about 500w to 1500w. The larger, more powerful models offer bigger blades and a greater maximum depth of cut, up to about 65mm. The power of cordless models is measured in volts. The higher the wattage or voltage, the more RPM (revolutions per minute). The faster the speed (RPM), the greater the power and control.
The depth of cut can be easily and precisely adjusted simply by altering the height of the saw body relative to the base plate. This is useful for cutting through materials of varying thickness, such as the tongues of floorboards.
A parallel guide attached to the base plate is useful for making accurate straight cuts at a set distance from an edge. This feature comes as standard across most models.
Adjustable base plate
Look for this feature as it will allow you to tilt the base plate in order to make angled cuts ('bevels'). The ability to cut at 90 degree and 45 degree angles is essential if you wish to cut mitres. If you wish to make a broader range of mitres, look out for a mitre cutting facility of 0-45 degrees.
A handle at the front and rear provides a secure two-handed grip for more comfortable and controlled cutting. Look out for soft, non-slip handles.
If you like a tidy workspace, choose a model with a dust bag or the facility to connect to a vacuum cleaner, so you can clear up as you work.
To get the most from your saw, it is important to pick the right blade for the job. Saw blades come with different teeth settings, designed for cutting along or across the grain. Tungsten carbide tipped (TCT) blades last longer and cut faster than standard steel blades, and are especially suitable for use on hardwoods. Also available are abrasive cutting discs for use on metal and masonry. As a general rule of thumb, the more teeth the blade has the finer the cut.
Many models now incorporate a laser generator that shines a small laser beam onto the work surface designed to give direction when sawing in a straight line.
For safety purposes, most models offer a safety switch or lock off button, to prevent the saw starting up accidentally. A blade guard shields the blade in use. A soft start switch starts the blade moving at a slower speed to make the initial cut easier to make. As a precaution, it is wise to use an RCD plug-in safety adapter when using any electric saw.
When would I need a power jigsaw?
A power jigsaw will take the hard work out of sawing. This versatile tool can cut both straight and curved lines, as well as making internal cuts, such as holes in a worktop for a hob or sink. They can quickly, easily and accurately cut through a wide range of materials including wood and ceramic tiles and are so useful, we recommend every diy'er buy one as part of their basic toolkit. Generally, the more features a jigsaw has, the higher the price so try and purchase using promotional codes. When you're deciding which model to buy, consider the range of tasks you are likely to use it for and how often you will need it and what discount codes are active.
Corded versus cordless
Mains-operated power tools are generally more powerful, so a corded jigsaw is the best bet if you plan on heavy use, or sawing tougher materials such as hardwoods. However, battery-operated models have the advantage of portability, allowing you to saw anywhere without the restriction of a lead.
Power rating and speed
The more powerful the jigsaw (wattage for corded jigsaws, voltage for cordless), the faster you can work and the deeper the cut - up to a maximum of around 70mm in timber or 8mm in steel.
Single or variable speed
A single speed motor will be adequate for basic use, but variable speed models offer superior control, allowing you to preset sawing speed to suit different materials. When cutting wood you need to use a high speed as working with too low a speed will cause vibration. Other materials will melt and scorch if cut too quickly and working at the wrong speed for the material can prematurely blunt the blades. Working at a slower speed will allow you more control when cutting and scrolling. Some models have a lock-on switch which allows you to set a single speed, useful for continuous cutting.
Different models come with different accessories but among the most useful are a carrying case, on board blade storage, soft grip handle, and dust collection bag.
Drills Buying Guide
What's good about power drills?
Probably the most useful and versatile item in any tool kit. A good drill can be purchased using a discount code and will take the hard slog out of DIY and will help you to complete your work in less time and with the minimum of effort. Designed to make light work of drilling holes, the latest models now offer many other useful benefits. So, before you make a purchase, get acquainted with some of the important features of power drills to ensure you pick the right model for you.
Cordless or corded?
For newcomers to DIY, a cordless drill with rechargeable battery may be the best option. Though less powerful than corded drills, they are lightweight, easy to handle and safe, and can be used almost anywhere. For lengthy jobs, a second/spare battery and/or quick charge facility prevents time being lost waiting for the unit to recharge. More experienced and confident users may appreciate the extra power and torque of an electric (corded) drill. Suitable for more demanding or frequent use, these mains-powered drills also offer a number of features not available on most cordless models.
Voltage (cordless only) is directly related to the power of the drill - the higher the voltage the more powerful the drill. Voltages range from 7.2 volts to 24 volts. A higher voltage drill delivers more power, so you'll finish the job faster but as a general rule, the higher the voltage, the heavier the battery. A larger battery doesn't necessarily mean the drill can operate for longer. A 9.6-volt battery may operate for the same amount of time as an 18-volt battery before it needs recharging, but the higher voltage drill will get through more work in that time.
Wattage (corded only) - a higher wattage gives more power for heavier tasks and can work for longer without the risk of overheating.
Generally, the higher the voltage or wattage, the higher the price of the drill.
Chuck type and size
The chuck is the mechanism that holds the drill bit securely in place. There are three main types of chuck: keyless, keyed and SDS. Chuck capacity dictates the largest size of bit or other accessory the drill can take (though the maximum diameter of hole that can be drilled may be larger). A minimum of 10mm is adequate for most purposes.
Most drills come with a standard 13mm chuck, which allows you to change the drill and screwdriver bits without having to use a special key to release and tighten them. Changing drill bits is quick and easy - this is useful if the job involves frequent bit changing.
These drills are tightened using a locking key. Changing bits takes a little longer but the bit can be more tightly locked in place, which prevents bit slippage when drilling through hard materials. Chuck keys can easily get lost - beware!
This is a quick locking keyless bit system that is found on higher specification models and is designed for drilling into hard materials such as concrete.
Gears and torque
The gears in a drill are like the gears in a car - they are there to transmit power from the motor to the chuck and the drill bit. For general drilling one gear is adequate and this is usually what the simplest and cheapest drills come with.
If you want to use the drill as a screwdriver it's worth paying extra for the second gear: the first gear offers greater torque (twisting force) at lower speeds giving greater control of the drill when driving screws, whilst the second gear is for drilling with a lower torque but a higher speed. It is possible to buy models with a third gear but these are designed for the professional.
Most drills come with five torque settings suitable for tackling the range of materials most amateur DIYers will encounter and a reverse gear useful for undoing screws or freeing stuck drill bits.
The speed of a drill, measured in RPM (revolutions per minute), is important to its overall performance. Single-speed, low-end power drills, will be of limited use with materials of differing toughness. More versatile is a variable speed control, which allows you to match the speed to the job, and material you are working with. For accuracy, it is always wise to start drilling slowly and then gradually increase the speed by squeezing the trigger harder. Drills with 'fast stop' will stop quickly when the trigger is released. This gives you greater control, making for a neater result.
Many drills now come with a hammer action setting designed for drilling into heavier and harder materials such as masonry. Drilling into hard materials is made easier by the striking action of 10,000 beats per minute or more - at the same time as they drill. You will need specially toughened tungsten carbide tipped (TCT) masonry bits.
Before you buy
- Pick up the drill and check you can lift it comfortably. Too heavy and you may struggle when drilling overhead. Too light and the drill may be unable to cope with more demanding tasks.
- Is the handle comfortable? If you are left-handed check the drill is comfortable. Look for a rubberized or 'soft grip' anti-slip handle to allow you to maintain a better hold.
- T-shaped handles are usually easier and more comfortable to use because the battery is centred and the drill feels more balanced.
- How long is the life of the battery, how long does it take to recharge and does it have a one hour fast charge facility?
- Is it possible to purchase an additional battery? Are the batteries interchangeable between other power tools of the same brand?
- Does the drill come with any useful extras such as carry case, drills and accessories?
- How long is the guarantee?
There is a huge range of additional features available but some of the most practical are:
- Magnetic surface on the top of the drill for holding small drill bits, screwdriver bits or screws.
- Integrated spirit level, useful for drilling accurately.
- Automatic shaft arresting - the spindle automatically locks into place when the drill is off, making it easier to turn the chuck.
- Front secondary handle to provide additional control, useful for steadying the drill.
- Depth stop for drilling to a predetermined depth (for example, when using a wall plug).
- Lock on button for greater comfort and ease during lengthy drilling
- Moveable 180 degree head, provides greater access for driving and drilling