July 2, 2010

DeWalt DWS535 Worm Drive Circular Saw - Review

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So what's a worm drive?
If you're in the dark on the whole worm drive thing, here's the deal: When compared to a direct drive circular saw (the kind you think of when you hear the words 'circular saw'), a worm drive has a more significant 'gearing down' of the motor, giving it higher torque, but at a less speed. The speed part, you don't really notice, but the power part, you do. Because of the design of the worm drive gear, the blade runs parallel to the motor, as opposed to perpendicular to it, accounting for the generally cylindrical shape of the tool.

Because of this additional power and the added weight of the gearing (worm drives are much heavier than normal saws), these saws tend to stay in the hands of, not only carpenters, but specifically heavy-duty carpenters, mostly framers. And this makes sense too. If you're helping your kid out with a science fair project, there's absolutely no need for a saw of this magnitude. That's like swatting fly with a sheet of plywood. Worm drives shine with engineered lumber and plywood sheathing; the lumber because it's a difficult material to cut, and the plywood because the weight of the saw and the rear position handle make cutting a nice long straight line much easier than with a traditional saw. You just get on your line and the saw takes care of the rest.

DeWalt's new saw
dewalt_wormdrive_side.jpgSo this all leads us to the DWS535 Worm Drive Circular Saw that DeWalt sent our way a while back for testing. As we always try to do, we used it some in the shop and some at work. We arrived at our own opinion and mushed it together with the thoughts of a few crusty old carpenters that we showed the saw to.

First, the most important piece of the puzzle, the cutting power. There's no question about the strength of this tool. Once we made a few cuts with it we started to wonder if there was anything that it couldn't cut through. The aggression of the DeWalt is undeniable and there's really not much more to say about it. It cut LVLs, PSLs, and it ripped a stack of plywood with no problem at all. Power: check.

dewalt_wormdrive_brushes.jpg dewalt_wormdrive_rafter_hook.jpg

But DeWalt isn't relying on just power to get by. They've added a few other nice options as well. There's a rafter hook, which is always good; but more importantly, they beefed up the connection between the saw and the cord with something they call their ToughCord Protection Sysytem. According to DeWalt, this adds four times the 'jerk protection.' As any carpenter knows, the accepted way to lower a tool when you're up on scaffolding (whether it's actually proper or not isn't the point) is by grabbing it by the cord and letting it slide to the ground. As much as tool manufacturers probably like to deny this (it's not a great practice), DeWalt has seen the light and understands that it's inevitable, so they might as well make a tool that caters to this style of not-accepted-on-paper abuse. We should note that nowhere does DeWalt actually recommend handling a tool in this way.

dewalt_worm_drive_TSJ.jpgSo we tested this out by swinging the tool around a bit, pretending it was a grappling hook and we were going rock climbing. We also hung it from a tree branch and batted it around (while hanging out with Tool Snob Jr.). It's tough to come to a determination on the long-term success of the feature, but everything seemed fine after the light abuse and we can see how it could stand up nicely over time. This one was a big hit with the carpenters.

Rip fence
DeWalt also sent us the rip fence that goes along with the saw (sold separately). This folding fence connects solidly to the saw with two arms and, once set up, gives you a nice, long fence to ride against. it's not at all like the flimsy little things that come with most direct drive saws. Each arm also has measurements on it, so If you want to cut a 9" strip, just set the 9" mark at the edge of the saw (the blade off-set is already figured into the ruler position) and away you go. The max cutting width of the fence is 14-1/2", which is nice, but we would have liked to have seen it hit the 16" mark, so we could rip plywood for a single stud bay.

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So we liked the saw a lot. It's a heavy (but not heavier than other models) wood cutting machine and it's not for everyone, which is a point made even clearer once you see the $230 price tag. But if you are looking for a worm drive. We would recommend giving this one a spin.

At DeWalt DWS535 Heavy Duty 7 1/4-Inch Worm Drive Circular Saw
Rip fence ($50) at ToolUp

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Posted by Doug Mahoney at July 2, 2010 4:05 AM

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Recent Comments

That rip fence looks awesome! I would much rather pay $50 for a rip fence like that than just get a tiny, flimsy rip fence with the saw.


Posted by: Michel at October 9, 2010 3:39 AM

Looks like a great saw. I have tried out the DeWalt DW378GK and it worked great as well ... don't know the exact differences between the two saws though.


Posted by: Michel at October 7, 2010 11:49 AM

How can they call it a worm drive? I thought that Bosch/Skil had patented that name for the internal gearing? That's why others call it a hypoid saw.


Posted by: rob at July 6, 2010 11:15 AM

nice saw but i like my craftsman saws know i wood buy this saw because its a dewalt i like dewalt to but craftsman is my number one tool brand


Posted by: chris at July 2, 2010 3:43 PM

Looks like a great tool; makes me want to have a rip attachment for my worm drive Skil saw. Never thought specifically about using a worm drive circular saw for plywood or engineered lumber but it does make the job easier.


Posted by: Jude at July 2, 2010 9:41 AM
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