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How to Use a Circular Saw

When you need to get quick, straight cuts a circular saw is the tool for the job. This is one of the first tools to add to your collection when you want to start taking on building and repair projects around the home. This tool is a great choice for beginner and experienced builders alike. Learn how to use a circular saw the right way by understanding the anatomy of the tool and how to use it to ensure accurate results. In addition to the circular saw, you may also want to pick up some additional saw blades chosen according to the material you wish to cut and a pair of sawhorses for laying out your material.

Skill Level: Beginner
  1. Step 1 Learn the Anatomy of a Circular Saw

    Learn the Anatomy of a Circular Saw

    Using a circular saw is easy when you understand how it is built and the proper way to cut using the tool.

    • Shoe: The sturdy and flat metal plate acting as the base of the saw is called the shoe and is intended to glide across the surface of the material you’re cutting as the blade slices through. The shoe will have a notch at the top that makes it easy to perfectly line up your cut.
    • Blade Guard: You’ll notice that the blade is covered by a blade guard that slides out of place as soon as the blade makes contact with the material it’s cutting. This blade guard helps to prevent the blade from accidentally cutting anything it isn’t supposed to cut.
    • Bevel Adjustment Knob: Along the front of the shoe you’ll find a knob that slides upon an angular cut-out. This know loosens to allow you to adjust the bevel of the blade, making it easy to cut wood at a perfect 45-degree angle or other custom angle. This is especially handy when you’re cutting frames, baseboards, and other materials that need to go around a corner.
    • Depth Lock Knob: Just like you can adjust the bevel of the blade, you can also adjust the depth of the blade, which is helpful when you don’t want to cut the whole way through a material.
    • Handle & Power Trigger: The handle is designed for a comfortable grip with a trigger within easy reach to power the blade when you’re ready to make your cut.
    • Front Grip: In addition to the main handle, there’s a secondary grip in the front of the circular saw for your second hand. It makes it easier to guide the saw with precision and ensures both hands stay clear of the blade.

    Now that you understand how a circular saw is built, it’s time to progress to using a circular saw to make precise cuts.

  2. Step 2 Measure & Mark Your Cut Line

    Measure & Mark Your Cut Line

    Before you can do anything, you have to measure the material and draw out a cut line with a pencil. This cut line will help you keep the saw blade accurate when you line it up with the notch on the front of the shoe.

  3. Step 3 Clamp the Material

    Clamp the Material

    Once you have your cut line on the material, lay the material across the sawhorses and clamp it firmly in place so it won’t shift when you make your cut.

  4. Step 4 Attach the Right Blade

    Attach the Right Blade

    Make sure you have the right blade for the job loaded into your circular saw. The correct method for changing out the blade can vary based on the brand of circular saw you select.

  5. Step 5 Set the Blade Depth

    Set the Blade Depth

    Typically, you want the blade depth to be a quarter inch deeper than the thickness of material that you’re cutting. If the material is one inch thick, you’ll want the blade depth to be set at one and one quarter inches.

  6. Step 6 Set the Blade Angle

    Set the Blade Angle

    If you are making a straight cut, the blade should be set at a 90-degree angle, so it is perfectly perpendicular with the shoe. If you need a custom angle, use the bevel adjustment knob to set the blade at a different angle.

  7. Step 7 Power the Saw

    Power the Saw

    Some circular saws feature a power cord while others are battery operated. Make sure there is a power supply to your circular saw before lining up your first cut.

  8. Step 8 Line Up the Saw

    Line Up the Saw

    Place the shoe flat against the material you’re cutting, lining up the notch on the front of the shoe with the cut line you drew onto the material. Make sure the blade is not quite touching the material when you start to make your cut.

  9. Step 9 Make the Cut

    Make the Cut

    With both hands on the appropriate handles, slowly press the trigger to start the blade from spinning. Making sure to keep the shoe flat to the material, slowly glide the blade to the beginning of the material. The guard will slide out of place as it approaches the material. Make sure to continue keeping the blade on your cut line for an accurate cut. Instead of pushing too hard, let the saw determine the speed of the cut and slowly guide it along.

    When you’re making a straight cut, there are two main terms for the types of cuts to make. A crosscut goes against the grain of the wood, hence the word crosscut. A rip cut goes along with the grain of the wood and is typically the longer length of the material you’re cutting.

  10. Step 10 Stop the Saw

    Stop the Saw

    When you make it the whole way through your cut, release the trigger, lift the saw, and set it safely out of the way.

  11. Step 11 Follow These Additional Tips for Using a Circular Saw

    Follow These Additional Tips for Using a Circular Saw

    Use a guide for long cuts: Maintaining a straight line for longer cuts is easier when you use a guide. Measure the distance from the blade notch to the end of the shoe. Clamp a straight piece of wood to the side of the cut line at that exact measurement. As long as you keep the side of the shoe up against the guide wood, you’ll maintain a straight line the whole way down.

    • Reduce splintering with masking tape: If you have a material that’s prone to splintering, run a piece of tape where the cut line will be and draw the line on the masking tape. The masking tape will help prevent the wood from splitting or splintering as you cut through it and is easy to remove after your cut is complete.
  12. Step 12 Follow Circular Saw Safety Tips

    Follow Circular Saw Safety Tips

    You can’t learn how to use a circular saw without discussing a few safety measures. When used properly, this is an extremely effective tool.

    • Unplug the saw when it isn’t in use
    • Always use the right blade for the material
    • Wait for the blade to completely stop before moving the saw
    • Wear safety goggles as you cut any material
    • Keep both hands on the handles at all times
    • Don’t wear loose clothing, jewelry, or long har around the circular saw

What You Need for This Project

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