A circular saw is a powerful tool that is a must-have for any carpenter’s arsenal. The circular saw is an electric saw that features a round, flat blade. Arguably the most common electric saw, it is typically used to cut wood, although it can also be used to cut metal, plastic, and tile.
Circular Saw Guide
Although operating the saw is fairly straightforward, it can take years of experience before fully mastering its use. A circular saw is an intimidating tool. Popular Mechanics considers it one of the five most dangerous tools.
No matter how much experience you have with a circular saw, consider the information below your go-to circular saw guide that you review before you next use the tool.
How to Use a Circular Saw
One of the most important things to should do before using a circular saw is to inspect the saw and blade. You should ensure the blade guard is functioning properly. Check the blade to ensure that there are no chipped or broken teeth, which can result in a kickback.
You should also make sure you’re using the blade designed for the material you intend to cut. This is especially important for those who frequently swap out their blades.
When supporting a piece of wood that needs to be cut, be sure you place it where the blade can spin freely. Meaning, do not place the wood on a table, concrete, or any other surface. Nothing should be underneath your where you intend to cut.
When you mark your lines for cutting, be sure to mark straight lines. Circular saws do not have much lateral flexibility. If you need rounded cut, you may be better off with a jigsaw. If you need to make a cut with a sharp angle, you should do so in two separate actions.
For example, if a 45-degree angle originates in the middle of your cut, cut in a straight line up to where the angle begins. Then, stop the blade and remove it from the wood. Begin cutting from the other side until the two cuts meet and the board naturally falls free.
When cutting, you should only push with enough force to keep the saw moving forward. You do not want to push too hard, or else the motor power will decrease. You’ll also cause binding to occur on your blade.
Circular Saw Tips
Family Handyman and Popular Mechanics have both provided a number of circular saw tips and techniques. They are great for those using a circular saw for the first time, or those that need a refresher on the nuances of the circular saw.
Ensuring Proper Blade Depth
You should be sure that you have set the circular saw blade to the proper depth. If you set the blade too deep, you risk serious injury because more of the blade will be exposed when cutting. Additionally, a blade that is too deep is likely to bind and kick back. Having a blade that is properly set will keep you safe and maximize your saw’s cutting ability.
To set the blade to the proper depth, you should unplug the saw and place it next to the board you plan to cut. Retract the blade guard. Then, use the depth lever to set the blade length. The blade should extend to approximately 1/3” below the board. It should not extend more than ½” below the board. Once the proper blade length is set, tighten the depth lever and replace the blade guard.
The Cut Should Finish Naturally
When you get to the end of a cut, don’t pull the piece away. First and foremost, you’ll be placing your hand near a running saw, which is incredibly dangerous. Second, you’ll end up splintering the wood, resulting in a sloppy cut. Trust us when we say that the saw is more powerful than you are. Allow the cut to fall freely once complete.
Support the Board
Supporting the board will allow for a more efficient cut and prevent splintering when a cut is complete. You should support the solid piece of the board, not the piece that will fall off when the cut is complete.
It’s also important to support wood that is flimsy or requires a crosscut, such as plywood. Plywood needs to be supported across its entire length unless you plan on ruining the wood. Sawhorses are an easy way to support a plywood sheet. Spanning them with 2x4s underneath will prevent the wood from bowing during your cut.
However, if you’re cutting a single board, you should not provide support on both ends of the board. If a single board is supported on both ends, it will naturally begin to buckle as the cut nears completion. This can pinch the blade and result in a kickback.
If you’re comfortable, this trick can help improve your angled cuts. Your circular saw may contain a blade guard that is designed to retract. When starting an angular cut, begin by retracting the blade guard. This will prevent the blade guard from catching, and will also ensure a straight cut. Once you’re a few inches into the angle cut, you can slowly release the blade guard until it comes to rest on the board.
Cutting Heavy Pieces of Wood
When cutting a heavy piece of wood, you may be inclined to use sawhorses for support. But many circular saw experts will tell you not to use sawhorses. Sawhorses aren’t needed here, and you can hurt yourself trying to hoist heavy lumber.
Instead, lean the lumber against your shin as it rests on your toe. Cut downwards toward the ground, allowing gravity to help with your cut. You shouldn’t be straddling the saw as you’re cutting, as this can result in serious injury. Make sure the cut occurs at least a foot outside of your body.
Start Over Once Noticing a Mistake
For those new to the circular saw, you may find that it’s difficult to cut in a straight line. It may not hurt to practice on an old piece of wood for a while before cutting your project piece. Even then, it takes years to be able to feel how the wood’s grain takes the saw blade off course. Some things, like knots in the wood and the wood’s grain, are out of your control when cutting.
If you notice that you are not cutting in a straight line, stop and start over immediately. It’s easier to correct a mistake rather than try to steer the saw back in line. Once you notice that you’re offline, let the blade stop spinning and pull the saw out of the cut. Align the saw with the correct line, and begin cutting again.
Circular Saws and Blades
There are a number of circular saws and blades available, each with different intended uses.
Which Saw Should You Choose?
If you’re interested in purchasing a circular saw, we recommend considering a DeWALT circular saw. The DWE575SB is a great model that received a 9.45/10 on Top Ten Reviews. The DeWALT circular saw weighs less than nine pounds, making it the lightest and most maneuverable saw on the market.
You can also consider using a mini circular saw. A mini circular saw is a great addition to any carpenter’s toolkit. They are lightweight and portable, which means they are easy to carry around the job site. Because they are much smaller than full-sized circular saws, they can cut into spaces that you’d otherwise be unable to access.
You can take the saw to the project, opposed to a full-size circular saw, which requires you to take the project to the saw. Mini circular saws are ideal for home renovations and other similar projects that could require maneuverability. Mini circular saws allow you to make cuts in areas where you’d otherwise have to use a manual saw, thereby saving you time and energy.
Cozzy has provided a review of the best mini circular saws available. Some of these saws come with unique features, like multiple attachments and laser guides.
Circular Saw Blades
It’s important to replace your circular saw blades when you notice then becoming dull. Cutting with dull blades increases the likelihood of a kickback. Additionally, dull blades can decrease the life of your saw. Cutting with a dull blade means your saw will have to work even harder to get through the wood, putting a strain on the motor.
Perhaps most importantly, cutting with dull circular saw blades will result in a poor, rough cut. You’ll end up wasting time re-cutting or sanding the edges of your cut.
Blades also now feature different edges and are constructed with different materials. Blades also come in varying degrees of thickness. Again, ensure that the blade you purchase will fit in your saw and is intended to be used for your project.