When viewed from the rear, a circular saw’s blade side determines your body’s orientation to the saw and the piece you’re cutting. A left-blade saw gives you better visibility. So why are so many circular saws right-bladed?
Most circular saws have right blades because this orientation places the blade farther away from right-handed users’ bodies. Since most people are right-handed, more right-blade saws are available, though you should emphasize application over handedness.
In the rest of this post, I’ll explain why more circular saws have right blades and provide a few tips for using both types of saws for ripping and crosscutting.
Reasons for Right Blade Circular Saws
According to Wikipedia, around 90 percent of the population is right-handed (though Animal Behaviorist M.K. Holder observes that it’s more complicated than that). Therefore, most tools and objects that require dedicated-handedness work for right-handed people.
Circular saw makers design right blades for right-handers for several reasons:
- Blade safety. It’s safer to have the blade facing away from you. A right-blade circular saw orients the user’s body (and stabilizing hand) on the other side of the saw’s body, opposite the blade.
- Sawdust ejection. With the blade cutting opposite the user, the sawdust is free to escape out and away from the user’s face and clothing.
- Weight distribution. The motor and handle sit to the left and back with a right blade. This places the saw’s body weight on the keep side of the cut where it’s most supported. An unsupported piece can pinch, causing kickback and rougher cuts.
(I’ve written an article to help you learn more about supporting your material, Do I Need Saw Horses?)
Are Left Blade Saws for Left-Handed People?
Left-blade saws are generally intended for left-handed people since the blade is located opposite a left-handed user’s body. The grip and trigger are made so anyone can use the saw with either hand.
For a portable left-blade version at an amazing price, consider the Ryobi One P505 cordless circular saw (available on Amazon). This 18V lithium-ion powered circular saw hits 4,700RPM on a 5-½” blade and features an extra handle for use on more applications.
How Do I Make Cross Cuts With a Right Blade Circular Saw?
You make crosscuts with a right-blade circular saw using the following steps:
- Mark the intended cut line.
- Measure the distance from the outside of the blade to the inside edge of the guard.
- Apply that distance to the left side of the cut line and make a second line.
- Clamp a square on the second line.
- Without running the saw, check that the blade will meet the wood where you want.
- Ensure the saw will sit flush against the square and start the saw.
- Once the saw has reached full speed, push the saw along the square until the cut is complete.
How Do I Make Rip Cuts With a Right Blade Circular Saw?
You make rip cuts with a right-blade circular saw by using a circular saw guide. One problem with the right blade arrangement is the line of sight. Seeing where the blade meets the wood can help you stay on the line for a straighter cut.
If the blade is away from your hands and body, you must crane over the saw to see. This is especially true when using both hands to make the cut.
However, this problem can be easily mitigated with the following options:
- A circular saw guide. A circular saw guide allows you to repeat clean, straight cuts in larger material. If you need to buy one, I highly recommend the Kreg Rip-Cut Circular Saw Guide on Amazon. This portable guide comes with a universal sled that’s compatible with most circular saws and allows you to make precise cuts without making layout lines, markings, or measurements.
- Homemade circular saw guides. If you don’t have a dedicated guide, holding a square or clamping a straight piece of wood to the workpiece functions similarly.
- Laser-guided circular saws. Clamping and reclamping can eat up time if you’re making a lot of cuts. In that case, I recommend the SKIL 15 Amp Circular Saw, available on Amazon. It features a dust blower to clean the cut site and a trigger guard to prevent accidents.
- A left-blade circular saw. If you can use your left hand — or if you don’t mind standing closer to the blade and sawdust — you can have a left-blade circular saw to complement your right blade.
A visual understanding of the cutting angles will maximize your shop time and reduce errors. For that reason, I recommend an excellent video by Woodshop Diaries on rip- and crosscuts with a circular saw and Kreg guides.
You can check out the video here:
Can Right-Handers Use Left Blade Saws?
Right-handers can use left-blade saws because they’re made for righties and lefties. Right-blade saws can also be used with either hand, depending on the application and space.
Here are a few examples of when a right-hander might use a left-blade circular saw:
- Thin rip cuts. If a rightie needs to cut a thin piece from the long side of a sheet, they’ll have the best support if they start on the other side and stand facing the blade. Some safety and sawdust protection is sacrificed with this method.
- Better visibility. When making cross cuts, a left-blade saw provides greater visibility at the cut site than a right-blade saw. Many right-handers choose left-blade circular saws for this reason.
- Ambidexterity. Some people can use their left hand to run the saw and may prefer this option over buying different saws.
Why Do Most Right-Handers Use Left Blade Saws?
Most right-handers use left-blade saws when they want to see the entire cut and save time. Left-blade saws have the motor and handle on the outside and the blade inside. This makes it easier to make several smaller cuts without using guides or clamps.
Make sure to read my article Is It Worth Sharpening Circular Saw Blades? for keeping your circular saws cutting their cleanest.
As we’ve seen, most circular saws have right blades because most people are right-handed. Still, handedness really depends on the application and your preferences.