The Cutoff Saw Family

Though the handheld concrete saws rule the roost for ability and portability, they has some cousins that can make quick work of other concrete cutting tasks.

Tub Saws

Less portable, bigger and heavier than a cutoff saw, the tub saw makes delicate cutting of small pieces easier and safer. Called a tub saw for the tub the motor and blade sit over, it has a wheeled tray for smooth feeding into the blade. We have two tub saws in our stable of equipment, and use them primarily for detail paver cuts. Often we’ll have to make a notch or semi-circle cut in a paver to allow room for electrical conduit or a drain or some other obstacle. Using a cutoff saw for this can be pretty dangerous (I know, because I’ve done it too many times). You have to place the cutoff saw on the ground and hold the saw steady and at full throttle with one hand, while the other hand carefully works with the blade to carve material out of the brick paver. Far too often, you twist the brick just a bit too much, it binds the blade a little, and the brick is yanked out of your hand and your hand pulled toward the blade, all in an instant. I’m fortunate to not have had a good chunk of meat removed from my hands…so far.

But this is why we use the tub saw for these cuts. On most brands you can adjust the cutting depth, place the material on the tray and hold it with both hands, and guide it as slowly as needed into the blade to remove unwanted material. And most tub saws blades spin slower than the RPM of a cutoff saw, though there is more torque. While trying to make certain cuts can still bind the blade a bit and pull the paver right through the saw and your hands with it, it’s harder to do. And if you take care to keep fingers and thumbs out of the path of the blade just in case it binds, you’ll have happy, healthy fingers for years to come.

Ring Saws

Partner has just unveiled their first gas-powered ring saw to the US market. While I haven’t had to opportunity to cut any material with a ring saw, I’m anxious to try. Ring saws used to be the exclusive domain of hydraulic-driven tools, but Partner has recently figured out how to marry the body of their K-series saws to the ring-saw mechanisms. A ring saw works very similarly to a standard rotating diamond blade saw, except you get a far greater cutting depth from a given blade diameter. For example, a 14” ring saw will provide 10” of cutting depth. The secret is in the more complex mechanics that allow a diamond ring blade to rotate around a narrow drive wheel, gliding on four rollers.

While the saw has some distinct advantages in areas such as demolition work, rescue work, or other work that requires deep but less accurate cutting, then this saw might be of great benefit. I’m not certain how many companies offer the specialized diamond blades for this kind of saw, which may keep the per lineal foot of cut price higher than a typical cutoff saw. But if you’re looking for 10 inch cutting depth without hauling around a saw with a 24 inch diameter blade, a ring saw might fit the bill nicely.

Concrete Chain Saws

Another newer entry into the field of concrete saws is the concrete chain saw. Born of the need to have an even more portable concrete cutter that could make some rough, deep cuts, the concrete chain saw was created. Recognizing the need for better air filtration than the usual chain saw, these saws have filtration systems much like their concrete saw cousins. These will also provide for a deeper cut, and are great for general cutting or concrete pipe cutting. I’ve read they are good for precision cutting, but just like you don’t use a chain saw to build a Queen Anne chair, I don’t think a concrete chain saw is the best tool for most precision stone or masonry cutting. After talking to another contractor who uses this saw, he agreed, and they only use theirs for rough cutting of pipes or other concrete.