How to Use a Circular Saw? [A Beginner’s Guide]

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Circular saws are very versatile tools that can work with many types of blades to tackle a variety of cutting tasks.

But you can’t make the best out of them unless you know how to use one very well.

And while the techniques may change a little depending on the task at hand, there are some general outlines.

If you’re not sure how to use your saw optimally, here are the steps:

Step 1: Marking and Measuring the Cutting Line

You can mark the location of your cut using a tape measure. Then, use a square to draw a line the full length of the cut.

Circular saws are designed to cut in straight lines, but you can stray to a crooked cut if you don’t draw a reference line.

You can get a cleaner cut by applying painter’s tape or masking tape to the wood along the cutting line if you find your wood splintering.

Alternatively, you can make the cut with the back of the plywood or the board facing up.

Step 2: Providing the Work with Proper Support

Don’t make cuts in between two sawhorses and always let the cut end of the board fall away freely.

As you cut the board, it will start sagging, which can pinch the blade, consequently resulting in very dangerous kickback.

If you’re worried that the wood might split when it falls, you can provide the entire piece with support using scrap lumber. Make sure that your blade doesn’t cut entirely through the support boards.

However, it’s easier to simply clamp the longer part of the board in place or have someone help you hold it in place. It’s also a much safer option than holding the saw with one hand and the board with the other.

Whichever way you choose, you should always keep your hands away from the blade and never try to hold the wood behind or in front of the saw blade.

Step 3: Adjusting Saw Blade Depth

If your saw blade cuts too deep, there’s a higher risk of kickback or binding up in the wood, both of which are extremely dangerous.

To adjust the depth of the blade, follow these steps:

Unplug the saw from the power source or remove the battery on a cordless model

Retract the blade guard manually and hold the saw against the wood’s edge

Get the adjustment lever or knob loose and adjust the blade depth in order for the teeth to extend through half an inch maximally below the bottom of the board.

Step 4: Making the Cut

Before you start cutting, make sure you’ve taken the proper safety precautions such as wearing eye and ear protection. Wear an approved dust mask, especially when working with tougher materials such as concrete, pressure-treated wood, redwood, or fiber cement.

Plug the saw into a power source. Make sure the cord is well out of your way as many people accidentally cut the cord while operating the saw.

Position the shoe firmly flat against the wood surface. However, make sure that the blade isn’t touching the wood.

Grasp the saw handles using both hands and depress the power buttons to turn the saw on. Typically, you’ll find two buttons for safety, one for your thumb and one for the trigger.

Once the blade is running at an appropriate speed, align the notch on the saw foot with the cutting line, and slowly move the saw forward. As you move the saw, the blade guard will retract automatically.

Continue cutting steadily but make sure you keep the notch in the foot aligned with the cutting line. Keep on doing so until the cut end of the board falls away.

Release the trigger and move the saw away from the cut. Make sure the blade is covered by the guard and give it time to stop spinning before you set the saw down.

Some Tips for Cutting with a Circular Saw

To Cut Straight Lines

Although circular saws are designed to cut a straight line, it may take a little bit of practice to cut perfectly straight lines. Especially when you consider the fact that once the blade starts working, it becomes a little unresponsive to steering.

If you notice that your cut is straying from the line, stop your saw. Remove it from the cut, realign it with the reference line you’ve created, and begin cutting again.

Practice until Perfection

Even if you’ve already used your saw over and over, it’s always a good idea to start with a practice cut to remind yourself where the saw blade bites the wood in comparison to the marks you set on the cutting shoe before you make a final cut.

The saw shoe will have notches or lines to guide you. However, the blade is prone to stray and cut a little to the left or to the right of these lines. And sometimes those couple of inches make a huge difference.

So make sure you take the kerf left by the saw blade into consideration when you’re marking and making a cut.

Saw Guides

A cutting fence can make a huge difference when it comes to cutting long straight strips, such as ripping plywood.

A fence is an accessory made from metal that may be included with your purchase or that you may need to buy separately.

It works by being attached to the saw and sticking out sideways, having an adjustable edge that guides the saw into moving in a straight line.

But if you don’t have one of those, you shouldn’t fret as you can make your own. Simply clamp a straight board to the piece of work, hold the saw shoe against the fence to maintain a straight line while cutting with your saw.

If you want to make perfect crosscuts, you can hold an aluminum speed square against the edge of the board and guide the saw along the square.

To stay safe in case of kickbacks, keep your hands out of the way.

To Make Beveled Cuts

When you want to make beveled or angled cuts, you’re going to have to lift the blade guard a little to get the cut started.

Make sure to grasp the handle, not the guard itself.

And as soon as it starts cutting, let go of the guard to give it the space to retract as usual. 

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