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A friend of the shop asked us recently what we thought about cheap circ saws. Our answer was to get whatever you can afford and rip it — mostly because having something that will do the job is better than nothing. Our friend went out to the Depot and snagged a brand new $35 Ryobi 7 1.4” 12 amp saw. He loved it.

The first thing he did is stuffed a $15 Freud 40-tooth finish blade in it and went to town. After about 20 hours of cutting he called us back and said it was the best cash he’d spent for the shop in as long as he could remember.

We suppose you could argue about the life of the saw and that better quality saws will last longer, but for what he’s doing (ripping veneered ply stock) it worked great; you really can’t ask for better than that.

Ryobi 7 1/4″ Circular Saw [The Home Depot]
Street Pricing [Google Products]


16 Responses to Cheap-Ass Tools: Ryobi 7 1/4″ Circular Saw

  1. tscheez says:

    I have one of these. Probably won’t hold up if I started using it everyday, but for cutting ply and some studs here and there, it works great. Probably should invest in a good Freud blade eventually…..

  2. jeffrey immer says:

    i have the same saw i bought it several years ago for maybe around $45, and i too replaced the throw away blade it came with and it serves me at home just fine, i mounted a permanent rip fence on it and it works great

  3. apotheosis says:

    I have the slightly more upmarket version of this saw, the one with the laser. It’s worked great for me for a number of weekend warrior projects…building a shed, some shelves, etc. I need a rip fence, but even freehanding it’s pretty stable.

  4. bajajoaquin says:

    This reminds me of the post I found that led me to Toolmonger: a story about cheap 4X6 band saws. If you put a nice blade on a cheap saw, and don’t expect it to perform like a professional piece of equipment, you can get pretty good bang-for-the-buck.

  5. Brau says:

    OF course it’s the blade that does the cutting. Cheaper saws just don’t stand up to a ton of abuse or last forever. If you take care of them though, they can be an excellent buy for your dollar. And let’s face it, Circ saws are not used for finish work, just fast and nasty rough construction, so just how much “quality” do you really need? I have a $50 Craftsman 12A 7 1/4 saw that’s going on 18 years old (no blade brake), has reno’d two houses, built two garages, numerous sheds, fences, etc, and I’ve never once thought, “Geez this cheap-ass tool has no accuracy.”

  6. Flabby Boohoo says:

    I’ve mixed feelings about Ryobi. Certainly the quality has to be an issue. I stopped buying the cordless tools due to premature failure (batteries to trigger switches to motors). I would be leery of this as well.

    I have a B&D that I bought cheap 10 years ago, and though it is still working, there is noticeable side-to-side play that is at best no accurate and at worst dangerous.

    Some things you just have to pay a little more for, and a circ saw is one of them, IMHO.

  7. MeasureOnceCutTwice says:

    These are good for their purpose – cheap & dirty. My buddy used one until the bearing started to wear – it got hard to hold a line. Then I needed to cut 6 pieces of 5/8″ aluminum plate, about 40″ wide. I borrowed it (he knew why), got a new carbide blade, goggles, face shield & earplugs and went to town. It worked great, and we didn’t worry about trashing a good saw. After that, he put in an abrasive blade and still uses it for cutting steel.

  8. Mike Miller says:

    I’m of the mind to spend the money where it’s necessary, and don’t where it isn’t.

    Expensive Car lift. Cheap air compressor.

    My air compressor was $200 and it’s lasted 8 years under the duty cycle I’ve given it. Sure, a $800-$1200 compressor will handle more, for longer, but this thing sees 10 hours of use a year.

    I’ve got a south bend lathe that’s stellar, it’s 45 years old and still holds to a thou over 8 inches. I’ve also got a $120 4×6 bandsaw that, while it’s not near as precise, sure has been worth every penny I’ve spent on it.

    I figger if I wear out the Harbor Freight tool, it means I’m using it enough to buy a better tool the second time.

  9. Coach James says:

    I have a 15 year old Craftsman 7-1/4″ circular saw that is on the low ends of the power spectrum, 12 amps. About two years ago, I stopped buying 24 tooth general purpose blades and started buying 40 tooth thin kerf blades. They are a little more expensive but the saw cuts like a new 15 amp top of the line. It goes through 3/4 ” plywood like nothing. Cheap saw+ great blade=great combination.

  10. Alex French says:

    A few weeks ago I my father-in-law needed a circ saw while his was loaned out. I broke out a Craftsman all-metal unit that was my grandfather’s, probably hasn’t been used in 20 years, we think it dates from sometime in the sixties. 7″ blade… that’s right, not 7 1/4″.

    Threw on a 6 1/2″ plywood blade, ripped a few sheets of plywood down… the only issue was that the show was a little gummy and tended to drag against the wood. A heavy saw with all that metal, but feels solid, extra knob on the motor housing gives you great control, like a worm drive but 90° difference.

    I’m not sure if the moral of the story is a) any saw with a decent blade will get you through a pinch or b) a good quality tool from 40+ years ago is a better value than a cheap new tool.

  11. Eric says:

    I have essentially the same saw. It has been used twice. Both times were important enough (stuff just had to get done) that it has more than paid itself off. I’m with everyone else. Spend money when you need to (ie, if you’re going to use it a lot, get the best) and save money when you can (if you’re going to use it once a year, get the cheapest).

  12. twomartinis says:

    I agree with most posters, you have to consider the working environment – e.g. 98% of us will not expect cabinet-shop precision cutting with a portable tool. For the 2% that do, there’s always Festool…

    I get by with my Bosch cordless and a nice 40T Delta finish blade. The stock Bosch blades have been used for “smooth cuts” in plaster walls of my 1940 house (lifelong remodeling project)!

  13. steve says:

    I consider Ryobi to be the best of the cheaper end tools. Unlike Black and Decker, which I will not ever buy again.

    I had a Black and Decker electric screwdriver, which I loved for a while.

    I used it, but it’s not like I’m a pro that used it every day or something.

    One day while screwing something in, it all of a sudden just let loose and stopped spinning. I could hear the motor, but something was broken.

    Just for the heck of it, I opened it up. Inside was a bunch of stupid plastic gears which broke.

    I mean, how retarded is that?? A tool designed to tighten and loosen metal screws, using plastic gears. How the heck do they think plastic is strong enough to deal with metal things??

    I’m sure Ryobi uses plenty of plastic in their stuff too, but hopefully they do it in a smarter fashion.

  14. Henry Chinn says:

    I recently installed ikea birch countertops in our beach condo. I was thrilled when my wife decided on wood countertops because I knew I would need to buy a new circular saw to cut them to size. The only circ saw I owned was a cordless Ryobi 5 1/2″ that came in a kit I purchased a few years back (I upgraded to the Li-ion batteries when they came out, mainly for the drills, which I am very happy with). To further convince my wife that a new saw was necessary, I bought a Freud 18-T saw blade that I found at HD for the cordless Ryobi saw and made a trial cut across the 1 1/2″ thick birch countertop, thinking it would stall in the first few inches…and I was shocked that it cut through the material like butter! I still plan to buy a new corded circular saw, which is why I was here today in the first place, but I thought I would throw that info out there for those that indicated that a better blade made all the difference.

  15. L'Carpetron Dookmarriot says:

    I have had this exact saw for years. Obviously not the best circular saw money can buy – but I’ve used it just fine for framing, cutting down sheet goods, wet cutting granite slabs, and some occasional masonry cuts. It’s handled it all and still works fine. These are just electrical motors spinning a blade after all…no reason a good engineer, chinese labor, and some decent quality control can’t deliver one for $35.

  16. Shannon Bros says:

    I have had a 12 amp Ryobi for about 8 years. The bearing is now toas. Good saw while it lasted.

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