Get a Perfectly Straight Cut With the Best Circular Saw Guides
Circular saws are the most common power tool used by carpenters and professional woodworkers worldwide. It takes all that strenuous work out of the cutting, making it effortless. But unfortunately, “easy” cutting is not the same as “precise” cutting. With a circular saw, the slightest angle deviation can lead to a completely misaligned cut. If that sounds familiar, all you need is a circular saw guide!
Remember using rulers in geometry class? Well, you can think of this tool as an advanced real-world application of it. Simply place your circular saw tool on its railings, precisely adjust the required angle, and you’ll never have an inaccurate cut again! But first, you have to find a high-quality saw guide — which isn’t that easy in today’s overcrowded market. But we’ve done all the hard work for you and managed to shortlist the top circular saw guides of 2023. Here they are!
Finding Your Next Circular Saw Guide: A Buyer’s Guide
Finding the right guide rail for your circular saw involves taking a close look at intricate details like materials, build quality, length, width, and ease of use. Most importantly, it should be compatible with the power tools you have at home (or plan on buying). To make sure you don’t make a costly mistake in your hunt for a saw guide, follow this buyer’s guide carefully!
The primary task of a circular saw guide is to make sure that your tool moves in a perfectly straight line throughout the cut to achieve a flawless result. But for that, it needs to be accurate, straight, and sturdy enough to resist warping over time. Stronger materials (like steel or metal) have a better shot at preserving their original straight shape even after many uses, which means they’re ideal for consistent results despite wear and tear.
Aluminum is another promising material for a saw guide, especially if portability is important to you. It’s slightly more prone to flexing or bending over long-term use, but its lighter weight makes up for it. Use it with some extra care, and it won’t bend for years to come! If you want absolutely no compromise on solidity and shape retention, steel would be your best bet.
Circular saw guides come in several different lengths and widths. The larger ones are geared towards professional woodworkers, while shorter and narrower ones are better suited for everyday DIY home improvement tasks.
If you only operate a smaller scale with minuscule objects to cut, buying a 50- or 100-inch saw guide would be a waste of money, storage space, and effort. So, pick a circular saw guide with a cutting length that’s not too short for your needs but also not unnecessarily long!
Grip or clamp
Another key factor to consider when you’re in the market for a saw guide is its grip or clamp. It plays a crucial role in determining the quality, precision, and straightness of your cutting lines — since it’s solely responsible for keeping the guide locked in place while you work.
To make sure that a guide is capable of holding firmly under pressure, check the quality of the fastening screws and/or clamps it comes with.
Can You Make a DIY Wooden Circular Saw Guide?
While we’ve only looked at metal circular saw guides in this guide, it’s not the only category out there. You can find wooden guides too, which are usually cheaper but aren’t as precise, sturdy, or straight as a steel-built guide. They’re good enough for everyday woodworking needs and simple enough for you to DIY on your own with the right tutorials and tools. Sure, it won’t be as accurate as a store-bought circular saw guide, but it’ll still make a massive difference in your cutting precision. However, if you’re a seasoned pro or have already used a metal saw guide in the past, it’s best to stick to the real thing for consistent results.
How to Cut a Straight Line with a Jigsaw or Circular Saw
This post may include affiliate links, which means that if you end up buying something, I will earn a commission at no extra cost to you.
People like to act like you need a garage full of tools to do any projects that transform your home–but you don’t. Even the best woodworkers started with what they have.
You don’t need 14 different types of saws–you can cut pretty much any kind of wood and do almost any project with just a jigsaw OR a circular saw. Here’s how you can cut a straight line with a jigsaw or circular saw.
It’s so easy, you’ll wonder why you didn’t think of it before.
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What’s a Jigsaw and What Does It Do?
If you don’t already have one of these tools, you might not know exactly what I’m talking about.
Jigsaws look like this:
Jigsaws are the most lightweight saw. You can easily carry this thing around–it’s not heavy and it’s not difficult to operate.
Jigsaws are also incredibly versatile, because they can be used to make straight cuts, angled cuts, or even curves. You can’t cut curves out of wood with anything other than a jigsaw.
What’s a Circular Saw and What Does it Do?
Circular saws look like this:
Circular saws have much larger blades than jigsaws, and are… shockingly… in the shape of a circle.
They are also easy to transport or carry around, and are just a little bigger than jigsaws. They can make straight cuts and angled cuts, but they can’t cut curves.
Having a circular saw makes it easier to make straight cuts, in my opinion. My circular saw is probably my favorite tool of all.
Is it better to use a bigger saw to cut a straight line?
Not really. Miter saws are commonly used for simple, straight cuts–but they’re typically more expensive than jigsaws and circular saws. They also take up more room than many other types of saws and are less versatile.
You can also use a table saw, but that takes up even more space and is significantly more costly than a miter saw.
If you already have a jigsaw OR a circular saw, you can make most beginner to medium woodworking projects happen.
Freehanding vs. Making a Jig for Perfectly Straight Cuts
EVEN THOUGH these power saws are meant to make smooth cuts–using them freehand is extremely difficult. Well, actually, it’s super easy to actually cut. It’s not super easy to make perfectly level, straight cuts.
With both a jigsaw and a circular saw, you’re physically pushing the tool on your wood. The likelihood that you, ya know, BREATHE, and your line ends up being crooked or wobbly is just about 100%.
Thankfully, the solution to PERFECTLY cut a straight line with a jigsaw or circular saw is extremely simple–you just make a free jig with some scrap wood and about 60 seconds.
What the heck is a woodworking jig?
In general, a woodworking jig is a set-up that allows you to easily cut or drill wood perfectly.
And jig is a fun word. And you can pretend it’s a technical term.
The woodworking jig I am about to show you to cut straight lines is totally DIY out of whatever you have laying around the house. But “jigs” are also tools–like a Kreg Jig, which is used for holes.
Want a few beginner woodworking projects? Try making a tapestry frame or a hanging fruit basket.
Okay, now I’ll shut up and we’ll get to actually making the jig for your circular saw and jigsaw.
Supplies You Need for your Straight Jig
I know this supply list might look long–but don’t get overwhelmed. I’ve included some very optional items that I didn’t have for the first few years of DIYing. The rest of the items are very basic.
- Jig saw and/or circular saw: A circular saw with a laser is even better–this is the exact one I have and LOVE
- Two of any kind of clamp: Like wood clamps or bar clamps–just make sure they open wide enough to fit a few layers of wood–I personally prefer bar clamps
- Piece of scrap wood: Ideally long and thin
- Tape Measure
- Level: (optional, but can be used to make sure your scrap wood is straight)
- Speed square (optional, but does make the process easier)
- A place to cut and clamp wood: You can use any table or a sawhorse. I use two of these lightweight sawhorses and love them!
Now, if you’re like me, you have about a thousand random pieces of wood in your garage. The most ideal scrap piece is going to be very thin (so you can clamp it on top of your wood) and longer than the wood you are cutting.
If you’d rather just buy tools that set up a jig for you, here’s what you need:
However, this jig is completely free. If you’re on any kind of budget, I wouldn’t waste your money on a saw guide.
How to Set Up a Jig to Make Straight Cuts
This jig is simply a guide for your saw to lean against as it makes the cut. It will take a few minutes to make sure it’s placed correctly, but your payoff is a perfectly square cut.
Even though this is EXTREMELY easy to do, it’s a little confusing to describe. Feel free to comment your questions below or message me on Instagram.
Step 1: Mark Your Cut
Before setting anything up, I use my measuring tape and a pen or pencil to mark a line where I need to cut. Using your speed square makes this especially quick and easy.
If you don’t have a speed square–I didn’t start with one, either. Here’s a picture of me using JUST a tape measure to mark the spot.
Then, I clamp my wood to my sawhorse.
Make sure that your clamp isn’t too close to your cut line–you’ll need space for your saw to move down the line.
Step 2: Look at the Foot of Your Saw
Whether you are using a jigsaw or a circular saw, it has a foot on the bottom. This is where the actual saw sits on the wood as you cut.
With your tape measure, measure the distance from the edge of your saw foot to the actual blade.
Mine is exactly 1.5 inches.
This measurement is how far your scrap wood needs to be placed away from your cut line.
Step 3: Measure and Clamp Your Jig
Now, place your long, thin piece of scrap wood that distance (for me, 1.5 inches) away from your cut line.
I make SURE the line is even from top to bottom with my measuring tape. Before I start cutting I also sit my circular saw in the spot to make sure the blade hits my cut line PERFECTLY.
You know how they say “measure twice, cut once”? It’s one of those annoying sayings that is 1,000% accurate. I used to rush through these things and I always regretted it.
Now, clamp your scrap wood down.
Then do one last double-triple check that your scrap wood is the correct distance from the cut line. Sometimes as you clamp, the wood will shift juuust enough to piss you off.
Don’t be surprised if you have to keep wiggling your wood back and forth in certain spots–that’s just how it goes. Take the 15 seconds to do it right, it’s worth it.
Step 4: Make Your Cut
Once your “jig” is all set up, you just need to place the edge of the foot against the scrap wood, turn your saw on, and BAM.
Your actually cut will probably take less than 30 seconds, and your wood will be cut PERFECTLY straight and square. It’s a beautiful thing.
Setting Up a Woodworking Jig for Angled Cuts
Now, what if you’re making an angled cut?
When you adjust your jig saw or circular saw to an angle, the foot stays the same, but the distance between the edge and the blade will change.
You’re going to use the exact same steps–but watch where your blade actually hits the wood.
If it’s your first time making an angle cut, do a test cut on a scrap piece of wood.
How do I cut multiple boards the same length?
With a lot of projects, you’ll need to cut the edges of your board so that a few pieces of wood are exactly the same length.
This is what I did for my rectangle shelf and desktop.
To do this, start by pushing your boards together and making them perfectly even on just one side. You’ll probably find that the other side is a little off–even if you bought the same length from the store. THAT is the side you’re going to cut.
Once your boards are pushed together and perfectly even on one end, use a bar clamp to tighten your boards together.
You’ll need a bar clamp wide enough to fit all of your boards.
At this point, you’ll follow the same steps listed above to cut a straight line with a jigsaw or circular saw.
It’s foolproof and it’s magic.
Questions about How to Cut a Straight Line with a Jigsaw/Circular Saw
Now, what questions do you have about cutting straight lines with your jigsaw or circular saw? What questions do you have about using your saw?
Comment below, join the group, or message me on IG. I love to hear from you!
How to Cut Straight Lines with a Circular Saw?
Cutting straight lines isn’t exactly something that a beginner DIY enthusiast can do correctly, as it’s a skill that takes time and practice. And the ability to cut straight lines is actually one of the most essential skills in this business – without it; you simply won’t be able to craft beautiful DIY pieces.
In this article, we’ll show you how to properly utilize your faithful circular saw to accurately cut pieces of plywood and longboards.
We’ll also show you some plans for handy attachments that can make the whole job a lot easier. Read on!
Even if you engage in DIY woodworking only occasionally (once a week), you will eventually have to take a sheet of plywood or a longboard and cut a narrow piece out of it – it’s unavoidable. Those that own a table saw will find sawing longboards an easy task, but the owners of the circular saws can do just as good a job. As far as we’re concerned, cutting long pieces of plywood is actually a lot easier with a circular saw – one doesn’t have to wrestle with pushing unwieldy sheets of plywood through his table saw.
Of course, a circular saw can’t cut as smoothly as the standard table saw, but if you use a bit of finesse and a few techniques, you’ll be able to cut almost as accurately. Sounds impossible? Well, it actually is possible – the professionals do it all the time! We’ll help you find out how to accurately cut boards with a circular saw and show you how to make some handy cutting guide attachments.
Sawing Boards Freehand
For the beginning, let’s take a look at the quickest way to cut a couple of 2″ to 4″ strips. A word of advice, though – if you’re cutting narrow strips very often; scroll down and see how to make a jig for the thin strips.
For this method, the first thing you’ll have to do is to nail down the board directly onto your sawhorses – use finish nails. To be more precise, we advise you to use 4D nails for the 3/4″ thick boards or 8D ones for the 1-1/2″ wood. Use a pen to mark the wood and then cut it to the width.
This method will leave you with a board with parallel sides and consistent width, no matter if the original material was crooked or straight. Those that need to make a straight edge on their crooked board will have to mark the wood with a chalk line or a straightedge instead.
Put your hand on the saw shoe’s broad section (not on the narrow area that’s near the blade) and then grip it with your thumb and forefinger – the forefinger will be your guide. As you’re cutting, you’ll have to direct the pressure straight ahead through the saw’s handle while at the same time concentrating on the line. If you notice that the saw is wandering away from the line, you’ll have to back up some 6″ behind and start over again.
Before pressing the switch in order to restart the cutting, one has to make sure that the blade is in perfect alignment with the kerf. Also, it’s imperative to maintain a firm grip, since the blade can catch the wood and then jerk the saw. A good follow-through is a way to get to an accurate finish.
A word of advice, though – don’t try to use this method if your piece of wood is a splintery one, or if your finger has to be closer than 3″ to the blade.
Cutting Plywood with a Straightedge Guide
Start by clamping a metal straightedge (or a perfectly straight wooden board) to a sheet of plywood in order to achieve the cabinet-quality straight cuts. The most important thing here is to align your straightedge at a precise distance from your cutting line and then keep the saw shoe firmly pressed to the straightedge as you’re cutting.
Always make a test cut and then carefully measure the distance between the blade’s edge and the shoe’s edge. Record the dimension for reference and offset the straightedge from your cutting line by the measured distance.
When you begin with the cutting, you should use the blade to nick the plywood and thus make sure that the blade is just touching the outside edge of the mark. If necessary, you can adjust the cut by slightly moving both ends of the straightedge, and then re-clamp it. At the very beginning of the cut, one should always press the saw shoe’s frontal part against the straightedge. On the other hand, keep the shoe’s back tight until you get to the finish at the end of the cut.
An additional tip – clamp your straightedge on the piece of wood you intend to keep. In this way, the part you’re saving won’t be ruined in case the saw wanders away from the straightedge.
Building a Ripping Guide
In case you’re not an owner of a table saw, you can, fortunately, create a guide and simply attach it to your circular saw. It will assist you in cutting narrow strips (between 1/2″ to 6″ wide) with accuracy and precision. It takes around an hour to build one, and you’ll probably have to modify it so that it fits your saw’s shoe.
Start by cutting the plywood pieces and the base, and make sure that they have square corners and parallel sides. Make the blade guard, hole for the blade, and the slots by drilling the 3/8″ holes in the corners, after which you can cut between them with your jigsaw. Once you’re done, place the base over the fence and get it aligned with one long edge.
After that, you should be able to snug the rails up to the base’s sides and then get them screwed to the fence with your 7/8″ screws. Your fence assembly should slide easily and fit snugly. Now, use the carriage bolts to connect the fence to the base and then use the small screws to attach the saw shoe to your base. Drill some 5/32″ holes in the saw shoe and then simply attach the guide by using the 5/8″ screws.
With these handy attachments, cutting straight lines with a circular saw should no longer be a problem. However, it’s still vital to take all the safety precautions before using this power tool – you don’t want to be left with a severe injury just because you were too hasty!
How to Cut Safely
The direct drive circular saws typically have their blades mounted on the right side of their motors, which means that a right-hand user has to lean over the tool to see the cutting line. The worm drive saws, on the other hand, have blades on the left side – seeing the blade is much easier in this case. Of course, both scenarios are reversed for the people who are left-handed.
Before you start with the cutting, it’s essential to place the sheet or the board onto a stable surface – the item being cut needs to be secure and the section being cut away shouldn’t bind during the cutting.
The Depth of the Cut
When you’re cutting, always set the depth of the cut in a way that won’t make the blade be more than 1/4″ below the board’s bottom edge. As you can already guess, it makes no sense to have 2″ of the blade exposed under the cut on a sheet of plywood that’s 1/2″ thick. The extra blade under the material could catch on something and lead to a severe injury.
The Blade Guards
The blade guard on your model can be quite a nuisance at times, particularly when it gets caught when you’re cutting thin materials. Whenever you need to retract the blade guard in order to let the saw go forward, use your off hand to reach the guard and lift the handle.
Don’t use anything to prop it into an open position, as that can leave your blade exposed.
The Safety Equipment
Whenever you’re using a power tool, you have to wear all the necessary safety equipment. This includes hearing protection, proper clothing, as well as the safety glasses. Committing to these three staples of woodworking safety is certain to reduce the chances of getting severely injured during your DIY sessions.
Achieving perfectly straight cutting lines with a simple circular saw is not impossible – one only needs to use a bit of finesse and utilize some handy techniques. With the above described attachments, you’ll be able to cut flawlessly accurate lines and give your DIY project a look that you always wanted. We wish you good luck!
How to Use a Circular Saw Without a Table
You don’t need a workbench or large workshop! Learn how to use a circular saw without a table and make good-quality cuts easily.
A circular saw is a great woodworking saw to get started with. It is portable. It can cut large sheets of plywood, dimensional material, and even metals. It can make rip cuts, cross cuts, and bevel cuts.
I recently shared a detailed article about how to use a circular saw.
We often see woodworkers using a saw on a table and conclude that we need a table or a workbench to be able to use it. If you are just starting, chances are you don’t have a large workshop with a worktable.
Guess what? You don’t need a table to use a circular saw. You can set it up on your garage or driveway floor or even your balcony and use it. In fact, I still use my circular saw on the floor when I am cutting plywood.
Let’s dive into exactly how to use a circular saw without a table. To do that, first, let’s discuss a few things you need to keep in mind when using a circular saw.
Considerations when setting up a circular saw
No matter where you set up your material to cut with a circular saw, here are a few things you should keep in mind not just for getting a good quality of cut but also to ensure safety.
Supporting the material
When you are cutting a sheet of plywood or dimensional lumber, it is crucial to have the material supported and stable as you cut – on both sides of the cut line.
You don’t want the material vibrating or shifting as you cut. This can not only lead to your cuts getting messed up, but it is also very unsafe.
When using plywood, always support the sheet or if using dimensional lumber, clamp it, so it doesn’t move.
Support the cut line
The most important part of cutting with a circular saw is to make sure the material across the cut line is supported – especially at the end of the cut. If not, it can cause blade binding and kickback.
Blade binding happens when a spinning blade gets trapped in the wood you are cutting. As you cut the board, you will see the kerf. This is the part of the board that turns into sawdust. As long as the blade is spinning within the kerf, it is safe. If there is any amount of twisting, the blade gets stuck and can lead to kickback.
Another important reason to keep the cut line supported is to keep the two sides of the cut from collapsing into the cut as you get to the end of the cut. This can cause the blade to bind and cause the ends of the cuts to splinter and rip apart, leading to an undesirable quality.
Space for the sawblade
When setting up the circular saw to cut, the saw’s blade is set up such that it is ¼″ below the bottom of the surface being cut. This means that whatever you use to prop up your board, you will be cutting into it. In fact, you should be able to cut into it.
Therefore, you want to choose your supporting material wisely to ensure that the blade can cut into it. For example – you don’t want to set up your wood board on metal supports because you will be using a wood cutting blade.
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Options for using a circular saw without a table
As discussed above, you need to have the right support to use a circular saw safely and effectively. The good news is that you don’t need a table. In fact, I still use my circular saw on the floor because my workbench is only 2′ x 4′.
There are a few options for supporting the board or sheet you cut with a circular saw on the floor.
Sheet of foam insulation
This is fairly commonly used, and you may have seen it in many videos and tutorials. A sheet of foam insulation is very inexpensive and usually comes in 4′ x 8′ size.
One of the main advantages of using the foam sheet is that it can support an entire sheet of plywood, and you don’t have to worry about supporting near a cut line.
Also, since it is foam, you don’t have to worry about the blade you are using. Any blade that works with your material will work.
However, one of the main disadvantages is that the sheet is huge and can be a hassle to store. This is the main reason I do not use one.
Another disadvantage is if you are using a straight edge to clamp and cut, you won’t be able to clamp it since there is no space for a clamp under the foam.
Another option is to use 4×4 or stacked 2×4 boards to prop up the plywood. These can be easily stored away. In fact, I use a 4′ 4×4 piece and a bunch of other 4×4 blocks in varying lengths to support my workpiece in various places.
The long 4′ board supports the end of the cut line to keep the boards from collapsing in, and the other blocks support the material near the cut line and various places to keep it level and sturdy.
Using boards to have the plywood at least 3″ above ground is also helpful in being able to clamp a straight edge if needed.
These can also be used when cutting dimensional lumber with a circular saw.
If you would like to get off the floor, a set of foldable sawhorses is an option. I would recommend laying a couple of 2×4 boards across the sawhorses to support the material, similar to using them on the floor.
I hope this alleviated some of your concerns with working with a circular saw and not having a proper worktable or workshop to use.
Making a straight cut
Once you have the material set up to cut, be sure to use a straight edge guide to help keep the saw straight while cutting and prevent blade binding and kickback.
You can use a homemade circular saw guide or a Kreg Rip-Cut or straight cut guide. They all work well and are easy to use, install, and store.
No matter how you set up your material to cut with a circular saw, always pay attention to safety. Wear eye, ear, and breathing protection, and make sure that your hands stay away from the cut.
You are now ready to build lots of projects with a circular saw. Check out some of them here.