The circular saw in its rudimentary non-motorized form has been invented and re-invented throughout the global history of industrialization in different parts of the world. According to Curtis (1973) in The Introduction of the Circular Saw in the 19th Century, the circular saw was first invented in Holland during the seventeenth century and one of the earliest known patents for the circular saw was written for the surname Miller in 1771 in England. This technology has been continuously improved upon and there have been numerous patents written for these various improvements over the centuries. Although all of the patented developers of this technology are exclusively male, there is significant evidence that a Shaker woman named Tabitha Babbitt reinvented the circular saw in the United States in 1812 (Curtis, 1973) (Grey, 1996) (saw, 2015).

Circular Saw Blade Examples. © Lowes (Circular, n.d.).

Prototypical design

The circular saw prototype was designed for cutting wood but the applications of modern circular saw blades are incredibly diverse as demonstrated Lowe’s Circular Saw Blade Examples infographic (right). Most people in the U.S. are familiar with electrical circular saws designed for home use such as the handheld circular saw or the table-saw, but the prototypical applications of this saw were powered by wind, water, animal, steam, or human power. The nature of the circular design allows for continuous cutting in one direction and for the added efficiency that the teeth of the saw need only be engineered to cut in one direction, a feature of which traditional non-circular saws are incapable. The universal nature of the development of this technology across international borders attests to the fact that the circular saw is and was an efficient and revolutionary tool in woodworking. There is a limited amount of information surrounding how and where circular saws are manufactured, as many manufacturers are interested in keeping their manufacturing processes confidential. The manufacturing of the saw blades is predominately automated and much of the detailed procedures are performed by computers and robots. Although there are some people needed to oversee the equipment, the literature review did not reveal this to be a particularly gendered work environment (Circular, n.d.) (Curtis, 1973) (Haines, 1952).

This episode of How It’s Made shows the manufacture of Leitz brand circular saw blades; the process is mostly automated with even the final quality check being performed by a computer © 2014 Discovery Channel (How, 2014). 

Design and function of a familiar product

© 2006 V. Ryan (Hand, 2006).
Handheld circular saw. © 2006 V. Ryan (Hand, 2006).

To preface this section it is important to note that circular saws are very dangerous power tools. In 2009 Forbes magazine published an article detailing the ten most dangerous power tools available for civilian use; out of the ten most dangerous tools, table saws rank fourth and circular saws come in sixth place. The incredibly powerful and potentially dangerous design is relatively simple, and not much has changed about their cutting action with the exception of the electric motor which allows for an incredible amount of power, with saws able to spin up to five-thousand revolutions per minute. A handheld circular saw is used by the operator moving the saw through the wood they wish to cut; in effect the user brings the saw to the wood (or other medium). A table saw uses the same high speed cutting action, but the operator brings the material to the saw. Click on the gif to the right to see a diagram of a handheld circular saw. The base plate protects users from the blade and ensures a level cut, while the retractable guard protects users when the saw is not in use and slides back the further into the cut the saw gets. The switch lock is a critical part of the device as it can be difficult to focus on making a clean safe cut and apply constant trigger tension at the same time; the switch lock feature is also very useful in ensuring the device stays off when not in use. Not all saws are equipped with a laser guide, but it can be a useful addition when doing precision work or cutting expensive materials (Baldwin, 2009) (Haines, 1952) (Hand, 2006).

Advertising of power tools is highly gendered  and aimed at attracting male consumers. Even though this is a more compact and light-weight saw that could easily be marketed to women Dewalt has chosen not to break any gender stereotypes for now © 2012 Dewalt (Dewalt, 2015).

Marketing and sales

The marketing of circular saws designed for home and professional use appears to be directed almost exclusively at men; in commercials like the one depicted above viewers will notice the rugged-looking man doing work, the sound of rock music playing in the background, and the hyper-masculine voice of the announcer. If the marketing is not directly projected at men then it is marketed at family members as gifts for their male friends and/or family, as demonstrated by the Amazon.com 2015 Father’s Day Gift Guide. The circular saw is a popular tool and can be purchased easily at home improvement stores such as The Home Depot, Lowe’s, and numerous small businesses across the U.S., as well as online (Father, 2015) (Home, 2015) (Lowe’s, 2015).

Maintenance and user support

There is a large market for small motor repair across the U.S. and many users have the option of choosing an independent repair service or using the professional services provided by the manufacturer of their saw. Many saws come with limited factory warranties which makes seeking professional support more desirable, and there are also support services available from certain saw retailers. There are numerous internet forums devoted to providing user support for circular saws from both the manufacturer and independent sources and a Google video search will yield many informative and helpful videos for topics like basic and specialized use, maintenance, and repairs. The video below shows users how to replace the power cord on a handheld circular saw (Home , 2015) (Lowe’s, 2015).


YouTube has become a reliable destination for those on their first attempt at receiving technical support. Often when videos cannot help consumers service their equipment, they are helpful in making an accurate repair diagnosis which can save time and money with a technician © 2013 eReplacementParts.com (How to, 2013).


Recycling old circular saws and their components will vary depending on geographic location, the services provided by state and local municipalities, and the the services provided by private businesses and other non-government organizations (NGOs). Refuse facilities operated by local municipalities may or may not accept non-working circular saw components and saw blades. The actual saw blade can usually be recycled easily as metal scrap, and the components, consisting of the motor, plastic housing, and copper wire, may be accepted on a case-by-case basis depending on the recycling organization’s individual rules and regulations. In Eugene, Oregon circular saw blades and their components can be recycled as metal scrap through the Lane County Waste Management program at their various locations. In Eugene there are also private businesses that will accept non-working power tools on a case-by-case basis, such as Eugene Power Tool Repair. One of the best ways to recycle old circular saw blades is to re-purpose them as works of art! (Etsy, 2015) (Eugene, Oregon, 2015) (Eugene Power, 2015) (Lane, 2015).

Charming circular saw art by the late Jacob Kass. © 2014 Ray Kass & Mountain Lake Workshop (Ray, 2014).



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