Skill Saw vs Circular Saw: Cutting Through the Confusion

When choosing between powered saws, finding the right one that fits your needs can be a complicated task. Especially between saws that have a similar function, but different names. A prime example of this is the frequent and perplexing conflation of Skil Saw and circular saw.

In this article, I aim to clear the confusion, helping you make an informed choice when selecting the right power saw for your needs.
Skill saw vs Circular Saw

Key Takeaways

  • A circular saw is a versatile handheld power tool equipped with a rotating blade. It’s designed to slice through a variety of materials, including wood, plywood, and medium-density fiberboard (MDF).
  • The term ‘Skil saw’ or ‘Skill saw’ is actually representative of a circular saw produced by the SKIL brand. Over time and due to the brand’s prominence, the name has often been generically applied to refer to any handheld circular saw.
  • In broader context within the industry, the term ‘circular saw’ can also encompass larger stationary saws such as miter saws or tile saws.

What is a Skill Saw?

First, a skill saw is really a brand name for a company that produces circular saws. Just as some people say “Xerox” instead of copies, a company called SKIL was one of the first to manufacture portable circular saws and the name stuck.
SKILSAW SPT70WM-01 Worm Drive Circular Saw
A skill saw or Skilsaw is a handheld circular saw that is made by the company SKIL. So prevalent has the brand become that many will call the powered tool a skill saw.

Circular Saw

A circular saw is a powered saw that uses a circular blade with cutting tooth on its periphery to cut different types of materials. Most used with wood, the circular saw can cut other materials depending on the blade that is used.
Corded Circular saw
The saw is portable power tool and features a base that is placed on the workpiece and a handle to push the saw through the material. Circular saws are mainly used in construction and carpentry to size sheet goods such as plywood, but they are also used in woodworking, flooring, fencing etc.

Circular Saw Vs Skill Saw – Understanding the Difference

The confusion between the terms “Skil Saw” and “Circular Saw” comes from the popular usage of brand names as generic terms for a product. SKIL is indeed a brand that produces a variety of power tools, including circular saws. However, the term “Skil Saw” has become somewhat synonymous with circular saws over time due to the brand’s prevalence and popularity, much like how “Band-Aid” is often used to refer to all adhesive bandages or “Dremel” for rotary tools, regardless of brand.

So, when you come across the term Skil Saw or Skill Saw, it typically refers to a circular saw made by SKIL company. This could include a range of saws with different specifications, as SKIL manufactures a variety of circular saws catering to different uses, budgets, and preferences.

In contrast, a “Circular Saw” is a broader term that refers to a specific type of power saw with a round, rotating blade. These can be produced by many different manufacturers, not just SKIL, such as DeWalt, Makita, and Bosch.

When comparing a Circular Saw vs. Skillsaw, it’s important to remember that you’re comparing a broad category of tool to a brand-specific version of a tool . This would be similar to comparing a specific brand of sedan to the entire category of sedans.

If you are deciding between a circular saw and a skill saw, then understanding the differences between them will help.

Is the Circular Saw the Same as a Skill Saw?

Essentially, they are the same type of tool since a skill saw is one of the brands of circular saws. They are both handheld powered saws designed primarily to cut through wood and other materials. Both saws feature handles, circular blades, blade guards, and motors that can be set for different speeds.


There are some minor differences between the different brands which create skill saws or circular saws. They are mostly focused on the features, types of material, and color choices made in the creation and promotion of the saw itself.

    • Drive Technology: The people behind SKIL originally developed the Worm Drive circular saws. These days they offer of both worm drive and sidewinder (direct drive) skil saws.
    • Color: Skilsaw has a distinct dark red and black color combo with silver color blade guard.

However, the actual difference between skill saws and circular saws lies more within their history, not within their current function.


Circular saws were developed in the 19th century. They were large, powered circular blades that cut lumber. So large and cumbersome circular saws were only used commercially and in lumber mills.

Circular saws would remain in this large form until 1923 when the portable worm drive saw was created. It was invented by Edmond Michel, in attempt to mechanize machete used for cutting sugar canes. Later he teamed up with Joseph W. Sullivan to improve the portable circular saw and then they began the Michel Electric Handsaw Company.

Three years after the skill saw was created, the company was sold and renamed Skilsaw Incorporated which is where the skill saw got its name. When other companies began manufacturing circular saws, the name skill saw stuck because of its popularity.
Today, SKIL manufactures several other types of power tools including jigsaws, table saws, reciprocating saws etc.

So, the circular saw refers to the tool which dates to a time when the saw itself was quite large and only used commercially. Skill saws are portable saws named after the company which popularized their use. Today, skill saws have now become synonymous with portable circular saws, so both names apply.