Best Cold Saws – Reviews & Buyer’s Guide 2020
Cold saws are designed to cut through metal. It’s what they live for. They’re an alternative to abrasive chop saws, and we find them a lot more pleasant to use.
What’s the difference? Abrasive chop saws cut by means of a sharpened disc spinning at high speeds rather than using a toothed blade. If you’ve ever used an abrasive saw, you’ll know they create more sparks than a welding torch – and while that’s a fun adrenaline rush the first few times, you end up craving a tool that’ll do the job with less fuss.
Enter the cold saw. You’re probably here because you like the idea of a toothed metal-cutting saw, which avoids sparks and makes cleaner cuts by applying a steady stream of coolant.
If you want to buy a cold saw but you’re daunted by the selection, our reviews are here to help you out: we’ve tested six of the best-known models to decide which we like best, and which could be the one for you. After the list, read on to see our Buyer’s Guide for cold saw first-timers.
A Quick Comparison (updated in 2020)
|Best Overall||DeWalt DW872 Cold Saw||
|Makita LC1230 Cold Saw||
|Best Value||Baileigh Manual Circular Cold Saw||
|Premium Choice||Grizzly Industrial 10″ Cold Saw||
|Evolution EVOSAW380 Cold Saw||
The 6 Best Cold Saws:
1. DeWalt DW872 Cold Saw – Best Overall
Surprised to see DeWalt at the top of yet another list? We aren’t. Their saws top our rankings so often it’s become a running joke here at the workshop.
The DW872 14-inch cold saw is a versatile metal-cutter that slices through any material quickly and precisely. It’s ready to go right out of the box, with a 14-inch, 70-toothed, carbide-tipped blade that’s one of the few factory blades you’ll never want to replace. It cuts up to 4 times faster than a chop saw, yet cuts will still be cool when completed.
It’s also solidly built: a heavy, reliable saw that can last for many years with proper maintenance. Our favorite thing about the DW872, though, is how cleanly it cuts, not only leaving a flat plane on the metal every time but requiring minimal burr clean up afterward.
The only issues we have relate to the base, where DeWalt made some questionable design choices. It can be hard to get smaller workpieces to rest comfortably on the corrugated base, and the clamp, while fast and user-friendly, is somewhat weak. You might want an extra clamp to keep smaller pipes more stable.
All in all, we think that this is the best cold saw on the market right now.
2. Makita LC1230 Cold Saw
Makita’s LC1230 cold saw is our runner-up. With a 12-inch depth, it’s not quite as flexible as the DeWalt DW872, but it’s just as fast. On a lark, we had it cut through some ¼-inch box tubing while someone else used a miter saw to cut through a 2×4 – the miter saw won, but it was a lot closer than we expected.
In addition to being fast, the LC1230 makes cuts so clean you’ll almost never find yourself having to grind them down afterward. The blade never wanders, and the fence makes it easy to adjust the blade angle for bevel cuts.
Other nitty-gritty details: the Makita LC1230 rocks a 15-amp, 120-volt motor capable of 1700 RPM, and its high-quality carbide blade has a maximum depth of 4½ inches. Some other features we love include the quick-release vise and safety-focused D-shaped handle.
Aside from the smaller cutting depth, the other thing keeping Makita in the #2 spot is mess: not on your metal, thankfully, but on the workshop floor. Its dust collector is only partially effective, so expect burrs to get everywhere while you work.
3. Baileigh Manual Circular Cold Saw – Best Value
We get that price is a major concern for a lot of hobbyists and professionals, so we wanted to spotlight the Baileigh CS-315EU, the best cold saw for the money we’ve reviewed this year.
In case you’ve never heard of a “manual” cold or chop saw before, don’t fret – it doesn’t mean you have to provide the power on your own. “Manual” means you manually control the speed of the chop saw by depressing or releasing a lever, instead of by squeezing a trigger. This is a little more awkward physically but gives you a lot more power over how the saw works.
On top of that fine-tuned control and its amazingly affordable price, the Baileigh CS-315EU hits all the other high notes we look for in a cold saw, making fast, clean cuts that are cool to the touch.
A few things are keeping us from giving the fullest possible recommendation. The coolant tank is located in an awkward position on the back of the saw, making it a hassle to refill. Also, the factory blade isn’t made to the highest standards — you might want to replace it, making this saw less budget-friendly.
4. Grizzly Industrial 10″ Cold Saw – Premium Choice
Now we come to our premium-priced option. Usually, with chop saws and cold saws, there’s a decent correlation between price and quality, since a higher price means better-quality parts were used in the saw’s construction.
With the Grizzly T28366 cold saw, that’s certainly true. This saw’s body is heavy and stable, and it cuts straight and true without rattling. True, a 10-inch blade makes it only suitable for smaller jobs, but it’s still more than able to handle 90 percent of the workpieces a hobbyist will run into. It also manages to wring an astonishing amount of blade speed out of its 1 HP, 115V, 3360 RPM motor.
It’s low on the list for two reasons. One is the price, which goes far beyond “premium” – it’s nearly three times the average of our other picks. For that much, you should be getting a saw that can chew through any metal and last a lifetime.
Second, there’s a glaring flaw in the coolant system. The hose that delivers oil to the saw isn’t properly attached to the pump. Slights jolts are liable to dislodge it completely, interrupting your job and wasting a lot of good oil.
5. Evolution EVOSAW380 Cold Saw
Evolution tools are hit-or-miss in our workshop. This one hits more than it misses, provided that you’re willing to put in the work to make it stable and secure. If you try to use the EVOSAW380 without clamping and supporting everything properly, you’ll have a much worse time.
Let’s start with the cut itself. No complaints here. The EVOSAW380’s 15-amp motor and 14-inch blade depth make it a breeze to chew through rebar and 2×2 tubing. It’s capable of cutting both ferrous and non-ferrous materials — in our tests, it did well with iron, steel, and copper of varying thicknesses.
Our issues begin and end with the construction. Evolution clearly cut a lot of corners in their quest to make this saw more affordable. Their shortcuts result in the table and vise not being perfectly square with the blade, the miter gauge is off by up to 5 degrees, and the table shaking during cuts.
That’s why we prefer to call the EVOSAW380 an expert saw. If you’re comfortable with altering bolts, applying your own clamps, and using a shim, you can straighten out the blade and enjoy great cuts for less money. If not, go higher up the list.
6. Evolution RAGE2 Cold Saw
This is an impressive saw, especially considering the low cost. It goes through angle iron, square tubing, and similar stock – more like chopping 2×4’s than steel. It cuts oak wood full of nails and then turns around and cuts steel fence posts with no problem.
Setting up to make miter cuts is easy and the saw holds the angles quite nicely. It leaves a clean, cold cut and has good durability on the blade teeth. The blade that ships with it, however, is a general-purpose one. You’ll have to get other blades for specific materials.
On the downside, this saw is very loud even before it starts cutting. So, get some earplugs. The base and clamp are stamped steel instead of cast. Consequently, there is flex that shouldn’t be there. You’ll need to reinforce it when cutting at an angle. Additionally, the clamp doesn’t have a quick release for making fast adjustments. You’ll have to use an Allen wrench to get the job done.
This is a good, low-cost saw with just enough problems to keep it out of the top 5.
Here at HealthyHandyman, we get how frightening it can be to drop $400 on a power tool without being absolutely certain it will do the job. While no battle plan is completely safe from the enemy, we put together this buyer’s guide to help you cut the uncertainty down as far as possible.
What Makes a Good Cold Saw?
It’s right there in the name – cuts produced by a cold saw are immediately cool to the touch. Abrasive saws generate tremendous amounts of heat, which leaves metal hot enough to give you third-degree burns. That kind of heat can also deform the metal.
If a cold saw generates a lot of sparks and heat, then there’s not much “cold” about it. A few sparks here and there are to be expected whenever you’ve got metal-on-metal, but a continuous shower of them is indicative of a bad saw. A good saw should also be stable, free of vibrations, and sturdy.
Smooth, fast cuts are a necessity in a good saw. If you’re in the market for a cold saw you’re probably going to be cutting more than just a few pipes. A slow saw can stretch a few hour’s work into an all-day marathon, whereas a fast one can keep you moving right along.
How to Choose the Right Saw for Your Needs
Step 1: Define Your Project
Your first order of business with any tool purchase is to figure out what you plan to use it for. There’s a world of difference between cutting a bit of pipe to accent a woodworking project, and cutting yards of 2×2 ¼-inch tubing to weld into a two-story frame.
Don’t even set out to shop for a cold saw until you can answer these questions:
- Where is your worksite? Most cold saws aren’t portable. You can lug these to job sites, but it’s not easy. They’re best for tasks you can do in your own workshop.
- What metals are you cutting? The key distinction here is ferrous (contains iron) vs. non-ferrous (doesn’t contain iron). Ferrous materials are a lot harder than non-ferrous, so to cut them, look for more powerful motors and a diamond or carbide blade.
- What size are the materials you’re cutting? This determines what blade depth you need. Bigger workpieces require a larger blade. 10 to 14 inches is the average range.
- Do you need to cut at an angle? Many cold saws are able to miter or bevel up to 45 degrees in either direction; some can miter as high as 90. Know what sorts of angled cuts you need before you buy.
Step 2: Rule Out Abrasive Chop Saws
While nothing is completely objective in woodwork or metalwork, it’s not very controversial to say that cold saws are superior to abrasive saws in almost every way.
Abrasive saws are loud. They wear out quickly. They fling dust and sparks everywhere. In fact, they’ve only got two advantages: they’re cheap, and they’re fast (OK, three advantages, if you consider the spark-throwing a positive).
If you’re looking for a saw to chop a lot of metal in a short time, an abrasive saw might look appealing. However, since abrasive chop saws leave metal edges uneven, you might waste a lot of the time you save.
When facing serious money or time constraints, abrasive saws are a good option. In all other situations, pick a cold saw.
Step 3: Check Out The Parts
We advise a part-by-part approach to comparing cold saws. In this section, we’ll list the components you should evaluate.
- Like we said above, this will vary based on the type and thickness of metal you’re cutting. As a rule, the harder the workpiece, the more teeth you want. If you like everything about a certain cold saw except the blade, you can replace it — but nothing’s better than when the pre-installed blade works.
- The motor drives the blade. More power equals more RPM equals a faster cut with less bouncing. Use 15 amps as a soft minimum for engine power.
- Bevel/miter angle. If you need to cut at an angle, buy a saw that can do that. This isn’t something you want to jury-rig.
- Coolant system. This is a common point of failure on cold saws. Make sure whatever you’re buying has a tank, pump, and hose that won’t come apart under stress.
- Cast iron is the gold standard. Be suspicious of anything softer than that. Why would you use a base that your saw can cut through?
- Chip collector. A perfect cold saw wouldn’t leave any debris whatsoever, but no tool is perfect. Look for a cold saw with a tray where burrs and other solid residues can gather for easy cleanup.
Step Four: Buy Extras
Outside of the saw itself, you’ll need a few things to make your cold saw complete.
- Safety gear. Goes without saying, but we’re saying it anyway. At the bare minimum, wear gloves and eye protection at all times. We strongly recommend earmuffs and a dust mask too.
- Extra blades. You might never need one, but disasters happen. You also might want multiple blades with different tooth counts. For each type of blade you own, have at least one backup.
- Some cold saws, like the EVOSAW 380, do not require coolant, but they still need to be lubricated. Apply oil regularly to the hinges and gearbox.
- Cleaning brush and pan. This can help clean up any burrs that escape from the chip collector. We don’t advise blowing on metal chips to clear them away — that just increases the risk that they’ll stick in someone’s eye.
- Portable clamps. You won’t always find that the vise on your cold saw’s stand is working the way you like it too. It’s good to have a few of your own clamps on hand to be certain the workpiece stays stable.
- The worst thing a cold saw can do (outside of serious injury) is start wandering, forcing you to suffer imprecise cuts. A carpenter’s square is a quick way to check that the blade is steady at 90 degrees.
Step Five: See If There’s A Warranty
Most reputable brands will offer some kind of warranty guarantee along with their saws. If the one you buy has a warranty, read it carefully – there’s a good chance you can accidentally void it in all sorts of esoteric ways.
Step Six: Decide How To Buy
You have two choices – go to your local hardware store, or order online. Each has its pros and cons.
At the hardware store, you can see and judge the saw in person, and maybe even test it out. You can also carry it out right after you buy it. But you’re stuck with whatever deal they offer you, and you’re on your own for getting the saw home.
Online, you can’t see the saw. You have to trust the words of other people who have bought it. However, you’re far more likely to find a good price, even with shipping costs added; plus, some nice people will deliver it directly to your workshop. All you’ll have to do is get it inside.
We put each of these cold saws through a trial by fire to write these reviews, but at last, the DeWalt DW872 came out on top. If you like the idea of getting clean cuts for years on end without having to constantly replace the blade, this is the tool for you.
Our best-value cold saw pick for your money is the Baileigh CS-315EU. If you can get used to a European-style overhead lever, you can enjoy fantastically cool and clean cuts for exceptional savings.
If you’ve never bought a cold saw before, we hope our reviews have inspired you to ditch abrasive chop saws for good and come over to the cool side.
We truly hope that our overview helps you find the best cold saw for your needs.
Thank you for reading, and we’ll see you at the workshop!
- A Quick Comparison (updated in 2020)
- The 6 Best Cold Saws:
- Buyer’s Guide