Why is My Skill Saw Smoking?

Skill Saw smoking

Smoke is nice around a campfire. However, smoke is menacing in the workshop. Have you ever wondered why is the skill saw smoking when cutting wood? If so, you’ve come to the right place. 

It’s not normal for a skill saw to smoke. If you’ve encountered this, there could be several causes. First, the blade could be dull or dirty. Second, your saw’s motor could be failing. 

Smoking saws are not safe. Today you will learn how to diagnose the cause of the smoke and several ways you can prevent smoke in the future. 

Many causes of smoke, especially from the blade, can be remedied. However, some issues will require you to replace the saw. Safety should be your primary concern. 

If a saw needs to go, let it go. 

How to Figure Out Why a Skill Saw Blade is Smoking 

The first reason you could be getting smoke from your saw is an issue with the blade. 

It’s easy to think of a saw blade as a basic and simple part. It’s pointy, and it spins fast, so why should there be any trouble cutting? Unfortunately, a saw blade is a much more precise instrument than that.

If one small thing is off, you could end up with smoke coming from the blade. 

The easiest way to figure if you’ve got a problem with your skill saw blade is to run through a check-list of possible issues. 

Here are a few blade-related issues:

  1. The blade is dull 
  2. The blade is dirty 
  3. The blade is improperly set 

Those are the issues. Now let’s understand them in more detail. 

A Dull Blade Can Cause Smoking 

The first reason for smoking could be a dull blade. If the blade is dull, the saw won’t slice through a 2×4 properly – this creates friction. 

Friction will get you heat, and then smoke, and even fire. Just think about all the primitive ways people make fire; a bow drill, hand drill. Both use friction to get a flame. 

Consequently, we will be talking about friction a lot in the sections below because friction is the primary cause of the smoke. 

You may think your blades are sharp; however, maybe you recently hit a nail and didn’t know it, or perhaps your blade is on backward! These things happen to the best. 

Check the obvious things first, and then move on. 

A Dirty Skill Saw Blade Can Cause Smoke 

A long day of work on a project can leave you feeling fatigued and ready for a nice shower. The same goes for your circular saw blade. 

When you use your saw repeatedly for an extended period, something called pitch can begin to coat the teeth of your blade. This pitch is rather sticky. As a result, it creates friction when cutting and possibly smoke. 

If you haven’t done it in a while, give your saw blade a good cleaning.  

After spraying on a quality tool cleaner, give it some time to work, and then scrub down each tooth with a hard-bristled toothbrush. 

Improperly Set Circular Saw Blade Can Cause Smoking 

The set of your blade refers to how far your blade’s teeth flare out from the saw. It’s usually only a few millimeters. 

The blade’s teeth flare slightly to cut down on (you guessed it) friction. By flaring the teeth, you make sure they are the only thing contacting the material during the cut. 

If your blade set is disrupted for any reason, then your blade’s body could be contacting the wood during the cut, causing heat and smoke. 

If you believe your blade’s set is off, you may need to give your blade a tune-up. 

Things That Cause Skill Saw to Smoke 

We’ve discussed the issues with the blade. If you’ve made sure to correct all these problems and you’re still getting smoke, there could be an external factor causing the smoke. 

By external, I mean something not related to the saw. 

Here are a few external reasons for circular saw smoking: 

  1. Cutting too slow 
  2. Tension in the wood 
  3. Issues with the wood

We explore these in more detail below. 

Cutting Too Slow Can Cause Skill Saw to Smoke 

The longer your blade is in contact with the wood, the more friction that will be generated, leading to more heat and smoke. 

You should never cut so fast that you are unsafe. And trying to force your saw to cut faster than it is able is very dangerous and will also cause smoke. 

However, you want to use a sharp blade for the cut, and then make the cut at an even pace. Not too fast, not too slow. 

The sharper your saw blade, the better. 

Tension on Skill Saw Blade Can Cause Smoke 

When you cut with a skill saw blade, you will be releasing tension. However, you want to make sure that the tension works for you, not against you. 

Here’s what I mean. 

You have a two by four suspended between two sawhorses, and you cut right in the middle. What happens? Well, as you release the woods tensions, both sides of the board will tip in toward the blade. 

As the wood tilts into the blade, it begins to pinch the teeth of the saw. This pinching causes an increase in friction. 

Sometimes, the saw can be pinched so much that it actually stops or jumps. This is dangerous. 

Always be wary of any pinch points. As you cut anything, you always want the material to be moving away from the saw blade, not pinching around it. 

Different Types of Wood Causing Skill Saw to Smoke

In addition to forces that may be at play, there can also be particular types or qualities of wood that cause your Skill saw to smoke. We will go over several of them below. 

Here are some material issues: 

  1. Hardwood 
  2. Thick wood 
  3. Wood with residue 

See more below. 

Skill Saw Smoking While Cutting Hard Wood 

If you only notice the smoking when you cut hardwood, then perhaps you’ve found your problem. 

Harder woods present more of a challenge for your skill saw. Normally, if the wood is of regular thickness and your saw is sharp, you shouldn’t have much issue. 

Make sure you have a clean and sharp blade before cutting any hardwood. You want everything working in your favor to prevent smoke and wood burning. 

Cutting Thick Wood With a Skill Saw 

Similar to hardwood, if the piece of wood you are cutting is exceedingly thick, then you could get an increase in friction and heat. 

Be sure you have a sharp blade. Also, ask yourself if you have any other saw that would be better for the job. If not, consider making several shallow cuts instead of one big cut.

The shallow cuts should allow your saw to handle the wood with no major issue. 

Cutting Wood with Lots of Residues 

Wood that is full of resin can cause an increase in friction and thus possible smoking. 

This type of wood will also make your blade dirty, creating more issues when you attempt to cut other types of wood. 

If you can, avoid cutting directly over knots and especially sappy areas. Sometimes, cutting resinous wood can’t be helped. In these cases, take some time to clean your blade afterward, so you don’t have issues cutting in the future. 

Mechanical Reason for Smoking Skill Saw

For our final section, we will go over several mechanical reasons your skill saw could be smoking. If you’re an especially handy sort, you may be able to pull apart your skill saw and make repairs. 

Here are a few mechanical reasons for smoke: 

  1. The motor went bad 
  2. The armature is failing 
  3. Low voltage on a corded saw

Here are a few details. 

How to Tell When Skill Saw Motor has Failed 

A smoking skill saw motor is unmistakable. There will be a foul smell that is not like burnt wood. 

Unfortunately, if the motor of your skill saw has failed, then you’ll probably want to get a new saw. 

Unplug your skill saw, and don’t try using it again. 

Skill Saw Armature is Failing 

The armature is another component of the motor that can begin to fail. This part doesn’t usually smoke, but it will more than likely throw sparks from the motor. 

If you notice your saw throwing sparks, you do have the option of repairing or replacing your armature, depending on the saw. 

Diagnosing and replacing an armature does take some technical skill; however, someone with a little ambition and a love for their skill saw could probably get it done. 

Using a Long Extension Cord can Stress Your Skill Saw 

If you’re using a very long, low voltage extension cord while operating your skill saw, then you could be losing out on power and subsequently stressing your saw. 

Be sure you check with your saw to see how much power it needs and then get the proper power cord. 


Your skill saw could be smoking for many reasons. First, stop cutting and unplug the saw, then examine it for any issues. 

You may notice your saw has a dull or dirty blade. Also, perhaps you are using the wrong type of blade. 

Also, check that you aren’t forcing your saw to cut anything more than it is capable. In doing so, you could burn out the motor. 

Every tool has a lifespan. Sometimes you’ve got to jump in and buy a quality new saw. You may find it is worth saving the time and the hassle of tinkering with a worn-out skill saw. 

Stay safe and enjoy woodworking.

4 thoughts on “Why is My Skill Saw Smoking?”

  1. My Ryobi is cordless and smokes without engaging any sawing action. RPMs seem to be much slower without engaging the sawing action. Might be worn out cool and ready to retire the saw ?!

  2. Hi Viktor, Thank you for this. I finally know there are multiple reasons that my table saw could be smoking and now I know what I can do about it! I am going to begin by replacing the blade and if that doesn’t work, I’m going to make at least a few cuts in my 2×4 and raise the blade a little at a time. That should do it. Thanks so much!


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