How Deep Can A Circular Saw Cut. Circular saw adjust depth

How to Use a Circular Saw: Power Tools 101 Tutorial for Newbies! (Includes video)

After doing an in-depth review of how to use a jigsaw, I have been dying to do another video on how to use a circular saw.

Watch: How to Use a Circular Saw

When I first started DIY’ing, it was all about painting furniture, but eventually, I got tired of just painting furniture. I wanted to cut off legs…make a new top…add wood here and there… The only way to do that was to learn how to use power tools, and so I did.

If you’re reading this blog, you’re someone who loves old furniture makeovers, but you crave the freedom to repurpose that furniture, as well as to upcycle it into something that sometimes needs a few tools to do.

That’s where this Power Tools 101 series comes in. This series is all about teaching you what you need to learn so that you can safely and easily use power tools, too. So let’s jump right in!

NOTE: Be sure you completely read the manual before using your circular saw.

What is a Circular Saw Used For?

If you know nothing about circular saws, you’re probably wondering what a circular saw is even used for. It gets confusing, right? With so many saws on the market, why do you need this for your DIY toolbox?

Let’s just say that if you have a circular saw, you can quickly make 9 different cuts with it–cuts that you could also make with a table saw. But which one is more portable? Yep–a circular saw. In my opinion, it’s also less intimidating to use a circular saw it is to use a table saw, am I right?

Here are types of cuts you can easily make with a circular saw:

  • Crosscut – Cuts that cut across the grain of wood.
  • Rip cut – Cuts that cut with the grain of the wood.
  • Dado – A shallow cut that goes across the grain of wood but isn’t deep enough to cut through the wood. You’d make a dado cut for shelves and other things where you need a shallow cut, but not go all the way through.
  • Groove – A groove is similar to a dado cut, except it’s a shallow cut that goes with the grain of the wood and doesn’t cut all the way through.
  • Miter cut – An angle cut at 45 degrees on the face of the board, such that when combined with another 45-degree cut, can make a 90-degree corner (etc. picture frames).
  • Bevel cuts – Cuts that are angles cuts cut on the edge of a board, such as those used to make french cleats like I made to hang up these DIY garden fence planters.
  • Compound miter cuts – Cuts that are made at an angle on the face as well as having a beveled edge.
  • Plunge cuts – Cuts that are made in the middle of a piece of a material by plunging your saw blade in an interior part of the material instead of starting your cut from the edge.

So if you can make all these types of cuts with a circular saw, why would you even need a table saw, right?

Nooooot quite. I think if you’re someone who does a lot of woodworking, a table saw has its place in a workshop because you can very quickly make cuts, repeating the same cuts over and over again, without making any adjustments. That’s super helpful. But you can’t ignore the space-saving and portability of a circular saw.

What Can You Cut With a Circular Saw?

This is what makes a circular saw so diverse because you can cut the following things with a circular saw:

What you cut will depend on the type of blade you use. So just be sure you’ve got the appropriate blade for the material you’re cutting. Also, note that not all circular saws can cut concrete. Just make sure you read the manual to know what materials are appropriate for cutting with that particular circular saw.

So What’s the Best Circular Saw?

I use the RYOBI brand of power tools because they’re the ones on which I learned to use power tools. Over the years, they came to sponsor some of my projects and send me the tools I need to get those projects done.

It’s hard to say what the “best” circular saw is because it depends on how you’ll use the saw, what you’ll be cutting, and your general preferences. For example, you may be DIY’er who simply needs a reliable, affordable tool to do occasional cuts for projects. Or, you may be a professional carpenter whose job it is to cut 2x4s all day when framing homes. Those two people will have different wants and needs.

The most important question to ask yourself is, “Does this circular saw have enough power to complete the jobs I need to do?” And if the answer is “Yes,” then it’s the best circular saw for you, whichever one you choose.

I’ve been very happy with my RYOBI circular saws and haven’t had any problems with them!

Parts of a Circular Saw

Before we jump into how to use a circular saw, let’s talk about the parts of a circular saw so that you get comfortable with where everything is. I had to split this up into three pictures so that you can see where everything is located.

From another angle, you can see some other important parts of the circular saw that you should be aware of:

  • Which side the blade is on (circular saws come as right-handed or left-handed blade, depending on which side the blade is located. If it’s on the left side, it’s a left-handed blade. If it’s on the right, it’s a right-handed blade. in this case, this is a left-handed blade).
  • Blade lock button – When pressed, it locks the blade so you can change the blade when dull or by project.
  • Motor housing
  • Opening to view – When cutting, this area allows you to peak down to see where you’re cutting.
  • Ruler and guide on the front of the base.

And lastly, there are a few more important parts of the circular saw that you need to know:

What’s the Best Size of Circular Saw?

Circular saws are sized back on the size of their blades.

But here’s the thing: you can’t buy just one circular saw and then put different sized blades on it. Nope. You would buy the size circular saw for the size blade you’d want. For example, I’ve got three different RYOBI circular saws: a 5 and 1/2″ one….a 6 and 1/2″….and a 7 and 1/4″ circular saw.

The standard size is 7 and 1/4″ and I would recommend you consider getting that size. The rule of thumb is that the bigger the blade you’ve got, the thicker the material you can cut.

I’d recommend you stick with the 7 and 1/4″ size, which has a deeper cutting capacity and is going to have more power.

Circular Saw Blades: Which One Do You Use?

Most circular saws when you buy them will already come with a blade already installed, usually a 24 teeth blade. This blade is good for cutting 2x4s and general cutting, but if you want a smoother, more finished cut, or if you’re cutting plywood, you’d want a blade with more teeth.

Blades will tell you on the side of the blade how many teeth it has and what it’s best used for cutting. In the case below, finish work and plywood is what is recommended to cut with this blade.

The Circular Saw vs Jigsaw

Ahhhh….so here’s a good question to consider: when should you use a circular saw and when should you use a jigsaw?

Both the circular saw and the jigsaw are two of my favorite power tools and I use them interchangeably to cut wood, but the biggest difference between a circular saw and a jigsaw (besides the obvious difference that circular saws would be more powerful) are the blades, type of cut, the thickness of the material that can be cut, and the type of materials that can be cut.

Blade Differences: Circular Saw vs Jigsaw

Jigsaws have smaller teeth on their blades and are for finer cuts and take longer to cut through wood.

Circular saw teeth, on the other hand, are much larger and can chew through wood faster.

Type of Cut: Circular Saw vs Jigsaw

Circular saws can only make straight cuts (although, as mentioned above, they can make 9 different types of straight cuts).

While a jigsaw can make straight cuts, too, a jigsaw can’t make dado and groove cuts and is inefficient at crosscutting and ripping large pieces of plywood. Jigsaws, on the other hand, can make decorative cuts with lots of swirls and loops, unlike the circular saw, which can only make straight cuts.

To cut out this lighted word sign for my wall, I used a jigsaw and 3/4″ plywood. I never would have been able to cut something like that out with a circular saw.

Thickness of the Material: Circular Saw vs Jigsaw

Circular saws, depending on the size of the blade, can make deeper cuts than a jigsaw. A circular saw with a 7 and 1/4″ blade can cut wood up a maximum depth (at 90 degrees) of 2.4375″. This means you can use a circular saw to cut a 2×4 board (which is actually 1.5″ thick).

Jigsaws can only cut up to 1″ thick which means it’s perfect for 1″x2″ and 1″x3″ boards (or thinner) because those are actually only 0.75″ thick.

Here’s a handy little chart to help you see the difference between a circular saw and a jigsaw, the two power tools that I most often use:

How to Use a Circular Saw: Step by Step

So after learning about why you need a circular saw in your DIY toolbox, along with when you would want to use a circular saw (versus when you’d want to use a jigsaw, for example), let’s talk about how to use a circular saw.

There are several ways to set up your workspace for using a circular saw (i.e. using sawhorses, using rigid foam, and clamping your material to a table. After you figure out what will work best for you, the next thing is to prepare to start cutting.

Here are the most important steps to using a circular saw:

NOTE: Be sure to wear eye protection and hearing protection.

STEP 1: Choose the Right Blade

All blades aren’t created equal. Remember this: the more teeth, the finer cut you’ll get. That’s true for any power tool you’ll use, including jigsaws. Pick the circular saw blade that will give you the type of cut you’re looking for. If you’re wanting to cut plastic or metal with your circular saw, make sure you buy the type of blade that indicates the blade can cut those materials. For this blog post, we’ll only talk about cutting wood.

STEP 2: Adjusting the Circular Saw Blade Depth

Using the knob on the back of the circular saw, lower your blade to no more than 1/4″ below the bottom of the wood. This provides enough clearance to cut the wood, but it also helps to preserve your blade (so it doesn’t dull quickly), and it’s safer to only expose enough blade to make the cut.

STEP 3: Start Away From the Edge

Before making a cut, let the blade run at full speed before letting the blade connect with the wood. This makes for a cleaner cut and reduces the risk “kick back.” While your blade is away from the edge, line up the blade with the line (some circular saws have red laser guides and some don’t) before turning on the saw.

Keep in mind that the width of the blade itself is about 1/8″ thick (this is called kerf). So don’t cut directly ONTO your line or else the thickness of the blade will cut into your measurement. You’ll be forever wondering why you can’t ever get a perfect measurement. Instead, cut a little to the side of your line (i.e. “save your line”), letting your blade slightly cut into the scrap side of your wood beside your line.

TIP: Lay the right side of your wood face down to get the best cut. Circular saw blades cut on the upstroke. Therefore, the wood on the bottom gets the cleanest cut. To minimize tear-out on the back side of the wood, you can use painter’s tape to minimize chipping when making your cut on the painter’s tape.

STEP 4: Make Your Cut!

Once the blade is moving at full speed, move the circular saw forward and let the blade do the work. Be sure that there is nothing under your project that could snag the blade. Let the blade fully stop when you’ve come to the end of your cut before lifting it up.

When the scrap board falls away, the thickest part of the base of the circular saw should still be sitting on the wood. The scrap wood should be able to easily fall away, like this:

Safety Tips: How to Use a Circular Saw

Here are the general safety rules when using a circular saw:

  • Always remove the blade before making adjustments to the saw.
  • Wear eye protection and hearing protection.
  • NEVER cut a board or any other material down the middle when it’s resting on two supports. This will cause the blade to pinch. Always allow the scrap material to fall away during a cut.
  • Always wear form-fitting clothes when using power tools; nothing dangly.

It’s Easy to Use a Circular Saw, Right?

Seriously, isn’t that easy?? The hard part is getting over your nervous feelings over using a circular saw for the first time. But if you follow these instructions, read the manual, and watch this YouTube video, you’ll be able to make your first cut!

Win a Free Circular Saw! – GIVEAWAY CLOSED

I partnered up with RYOBI Power Tools for this tutorial, so they’re giving away a 7 and 1/4″ circular saw to one lucky reader (must be US resident only–sorry to my international friends!). One winner will be randomly chosen and emailed to confirm their winnings on or about Nov. 23. To enter, you must do all three of the following things:

  • Visit RYOBI Nation to sign up for a free account.
  • Post a link in the Комментарии и мнения владельцев section below this post sharing with us which project on RYOBI Nation you would like to make!
  • Share this circular saw tutorial on !
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How Deep Can A Circular Saw Cut?

One of our earlier articles on Obsessed Woodworking was about the tools a beginner woodworker would need for the shop. When we got to power saws, the first one we mentioned was a circular saw. You can find that article here.

Our recommendations for beginner tools were based upon the projects most likely undertaken by a beginner woodworker. Projects like picture frames with mitered corners, a farmhouse table with straight legs, a coffee table, or a birdhouse were those we considered most likely. Our recommendations for the beginner woodworker’s shop were based on these assumptions.

The beginner’s tools would need to rip plywood and break up 2 x 4s as basic tasks, and for the latter, there is no better tool than a circular saw.

Every beginner needs one and needs to become proficient in its use around the shop. On job sites, that is an essential skill. The better you become in its use, the more usable a circular saw will be in your shop.

All circular saws are either electric (corded) or battery-operated. While it is possible to purchase a smaller bladed circular saw, the standard size 7 ¼ “ saw (measured by the diameter of the circular saw blade) and up to the 10” will be more than ample for the beginner. There are larger blade sizes, but for beginner’s projects, these sizes will be enough.

The direct-drive also referred to as “sidewinder,” places the motor on the left side of the blade. This is the side of the cut you want to support, thus allowing the cut piece to fall away freely away from the turning blade as soon as the cut is made.

They are easy to use, versatile, and portable. They are lightweight and don’t strain your hand or arm. They turn on quickly, and the blade stops spinning quickly when powered down, with the added protection of the blade guard. They are also inexpensive, especially when you consider all the cutting jobs they can perform.

What Cuts Can A Circular Saw Make?

A circular saw is an essential tool in any shop and on any job site, capable of making straight and accurate cuts. While circular saws are traditionally used to cut 2x4s, rip plywood, and other lumber, they can also be outfitted with specialty blades that can be used to cut masonry and metal.

Circular saws can be used to make bevel cuts, too. Most are equipped with angle adjustment capability for such cuts, and those adjustments are easily made with one hand to the desired angle. Small French cleats come to mind as I write these words, and in fact, we wrote about French cleats in the past.

The whole circular saw’s blade, blade guard, and motor housing sit on an adjustable shoe or base plate. The plate tilt lever adjusts the angle of the blade, and thus the angle it is capable of cutting for you, measured by an angle scale just like you see on a protractor that you dial.

For cuts that won’t be seen, like 2×4 studs used in framing, circular saw cuts can afford to be a bit ragged and coarse. For cuts that will be seen, that after-market blade (a finer-toothed blade for finish cuts) is a good purchase. You can find them at the large DIY stores for between 7 – 25, depending on the brand and sale at the time of purchase.

It is even possible to make cabinet-quality cuts with a circular saw. All you need is a straight edge guide for the cut, and nothing fancy is necessary. A perfectly straight board clamped to the piece being cut, or a metal straight edge, and the circular saw pressed firmly against it will result in that perfectly straight cut. You’d want a finish blade on the saw for something like a cabinet cut, but other than that, it’s a cut any circular saw can make.

When making cuts of any kind, you want to be sure the blade does not extend below the piece being cut by more than ¼ “ to ½”. This adjustment is also one easily made on a circular saw and is important for safety reasons: the blade is turning, the teeth are sharp, and you don’t want any more of them exposed than is necessary to cut the workpiece. You also want to eliminate the risk of any kickback.

Obviously, the larger the circular saw size (again, measured by the diameter of the blade), the thicker the workpiece can be and still make an accurate and straight cut. Without a straight edge guide, though, the straightness of the cut depends on your free-hand cutting. A steady and confident hand, though, can keep that cut straight, and for longer cuts, the straight edge guide will replace that steady hand for greater accuracy.

How Deep a Cut Can Your Circular Saw Make?

We’ve discussed cutting 2x4s, and the standard 7 ¼ “ circular saw can easily handle that task. Certainly, ripping a sheet of plywood, too, is a job for that size saw.

But some of your projects might include a 4×4 or even larger dimensional lumber. Circular saws are still the tool for the job, within reason. Even a beefy 2×12 will succumb to a circular saw just as easily as a ⅛” piece of paneling.

Let’s look at the various circular saw sizes and chart the maximum depth that can be cut safely. The maximum depth will be determined by the size of the saw, and again, circular saw size has to do with the diameter of the saw blade.

How Deep Can You Cut With a 7 ¼” Circular Saw?

The maximum depth you can cut with the standard 7 ¼ “ circular saw at 90 degrees is 2 ⅜ “. As we mentioned earlier, the saw blade should not extend below the piece being cut by more than ¼ “ to ½ “. While some sources suggest 2 ½ “ depth is possible, we suggest you keep it at that ⅛ “ shallower depth to allow the blade to clear the bottom of the workpiece by as little as possible for safety reasons.

A 45-degree bevel cut depth is less, where 1 13/16” is the limit for this circular saw size.

This size circular saw as we mentioned, is the most common size. It’s large enough to handle the most common cuts you’ll make in your shop and at a job site and still be lightweight and easily portable.

Cutting a 2×4 with this size circular saw is no problem; cutting them in one pass. With a larger workpiece like a 4×4, it will take 2 passes quite easily. Remember that the actual dimensions of a 4×4 are 3 ½ “ x 3 ½ “, well under the 2 ⅜ “ maximum cut for this size saw.

How Deep Can You Cut With an 8 ¼” Circular Saw?

For this size, the maximum depth you can cut at 90 degrees is 2 ⅞ “. At 45 degrees, the maximum depth is 2 ¼ “.

How Deep Can You Cut With a 10 ¼” Circular Saw?

For this size, the maximum depth you can cut at 90 degrees is 3 11/16”, and at 45 degrees, the depth is 2 ¾ “.

While circular saws do come in smaller sizes, even down to 5 ½ “, we’re focusing this piece on the more common sizes you are likely to find in a home workshop.

What Is The Largest Circular Saw Size?

Both Makita and Skilsaw make a 16 5/16” circular saw. The cutting depth of a saw that size is 6 ¼ “, which means you can cut a 6×6 in a single pass. While this is impressive, it most likely has no practical application in the home workshop.

The Makita model will run you close to 900, while the Skilsaw model approaches 700. This is far more than what a 7 ¼ “ standard size will cost at under 60 for many brands.

Safety Considerations When Using a Circular Saw

When making cuts with your saw, pay attention to where you stand. You will want to be off to the motor side of the saw to stay out of the way of a kickback. You also want to keep your head behind the saw, not directly above it.

Safety glasses should be essential work gear when cutting with any power saw, and your circular saw is no exception. Gloves are also a good idea for a firmer grip and to avoid splinters.

The blade guard will protect you, and if you are careful when setting the blade depth to expose less than ½ “ of the blade below the piece being cut, you won’t run the risk of kickback or flesh cuts.

Here’s a video on circular saw basics. With over 1.3M views, we understand why, as the woodworker is very thorough in covering those basics.

We’re pretty sure you already have a circular was in your shop and know it to be an essential power saw. We reach for ours often when working on a project, and those 2x4s get broken down quickly to frame out a desk. It couldn’t be easier.

Matt Hagens

Matt is an experienced woodworker and a devoted family man. Matt’s passion for woodworking began at a young age when he would watch his grandfather in his woodworking shop. He has spent over 20 years honing his skills, learning new techniques, and perfecting his designs. When he’s not in his workshop, Matt loves spending time with his family.

How to Use a Circular Saw From Setup to Cut

Whether you’re new to the construction industry, looking to make it as a maker, or want to do your own home repairs, it makes sense to know how to use a circular saw. The circular saw is often the tool of choice for making straight cuts in a variety of common materials, and it’s one of the most common saws people own.

How to Use a Circular Saw: Safety First

Before you make any cuts there are a few things you’ll want to handle first. You won’t need to throw on the safety gear until it comes time to cut, but it’s good to have them readily accessible for when it’s “go” time.

  • Safety glasses to keep dust and chips out of your eyes
  • Dust mask especially if you’re cutting cement board
  • Work gloves to avoid splinters when you move your material
  • Hearing protection—these saws can be loud!

How to Use a Circular Saw: Setting Up Your Cut

Marking Your Line

Unless you’re comfortable with “just winging it” (and for most projects, we aren’t), you’ll want to get a hold of a tape measure, a straight edge, and a pencil. Since most projects require some degree of precision, it’s best to take your time getting your measurements right. Measure twice and cut once, as they say. It will save you a lot of time and frustration in the long run.

A T-square helps for drawing quick, consistent lines at 90° to the edge of your board. For angled cuts, a speed square can be really helpful. Once you’ve taken your measurements, you’ll want to use that straight edge to mark out a straight, bold line.

deep, circular, adjust, depth

Pro tip: When cutting material that requires a super-clean edge, try throwing some masking or painter’s tape over your cutline before you cut if you don’t have a higher tooth count blade on hand.

Get Your Material Off the Ground

As you cut, your blade extends below the bottom surface of your work material (except in non-through cuts, such as dadoes). If your work material rests directly on top of the ground or another surface, your circular saw blade is going to dig into whatever is below it.

Before you make your first cut, go ahead and put your work material up on some sawhorses. Clamp the material to each side with the waste edge (the part you’re not going to use) off the side.

Pro Tip: Sometimes you can’t avoid hitting what’s beneath your workpiece. When that’s the case, put a piece of scrap material under your cutline. This “sacrificial board” will get cut instead of what you’re cutting on top of.

Setting Your Depth of Cut

Setting the correct depth is a matter of debate. The rule of thumb is to set your blade depth between 1/4-inch and 1/2-inch below the bottom surface of your workpiece. That said, plenty of people always cut at maximum depth. Try both ways on some scrap material and see which results you prefer.

The height adjustment lock is typically toward the rear of the saw. Lift the lever up to free the saw to tilt. You can either use the depth markings on the saw or eyeball the blade against the edge of the material before pushing the lever back down to lock the depth in place.

Adjusting for Beveled Cuts

Most circular saws include an adjustable pivot that allows you to make beveled cuts across your workpiece. To make that adjustment, loosen the knob or lever on the front to unlock it. Pivot the saw to the angle you want to work with and tighten the knob or lever back down. Some saws have stops at 22.5° and/or 45° for common bevel angles.

How to Use a Circular Saw: Making the Cut

Line Up the Saw

The base plate on your circular saw has notches marked “0” and “45” on it. These line up with where your blade should cut at 0° and 45° bevel. Every blade is slightly different, though, so it’s best to make a cut line on a scrap piece of material and see if the blade you’re using cuts slightly left or right of the notch edge.

Alternatively, if your saw has a good sightline to the front of the blade, you can watch it instead of the notches and know exactly where it’s cutting.

Let the Saw Do the Hard Work

When you’re all lined up where you need to be, set the shoe of the saw on the material with the blade just behind your cutline. Disengage the trigger safety (usually by pushing in or down), pull the trigger, and let the blade come up to full speed. Then, push the circular saw through the cut smoothly and purposefully. If you hear the RPMs begin to drop, back off on your force and let the saw to the work.

As you move the circular saw forward, the blade guard retracts from the workpiece most of the time. When you finish your cut, it will spring back into place. You can manually pull the blade guard back with the tab on the side when you’re making bevel or shave cuts.

How To CUT STRAIGHT With NO GUIDE! Freehand CIRCULAR SAW CUTTINGPro Tips, Tricks and Secrets!

Ready to take to the next level? Let’s go!

How to Use a Circular Saw for Cross Cuts

It’s not too hard to make a cross cut freehand. However, you can use a circular to make a near-perfect cross cut without too much trouble. You just need to add a 7-inch or 12-inch rafter square (Speed Square).

Step 2: Line up your blade to your cutline

Step 3: Use your rafter square to guide the shoe as you cut

Getting this right is all about holding the rafter square steady and using it to guide the cut. Set the lipped side of the square against the bottom of the board and use your non-trigger hand to hold it tight against the edge. As you cut, push in toward the square gently to keep the shoe against it.

This method also works for 45° cuts—just flip the square so you’re cutting on the angled side instead.

Pro Tip: This method works best with sidewinder-style circular saws that are easier to control with one hand.

How to Use a Circular Saw for Rip Cuts

Ripping an 8-foot sheet of plywood and holding it to your cutline accurately is a challenge. Fortunately, there are several ways to make it happen.

Use a Fence

Nearly all circular saws have notches in the shoe that hold a fence, giving you the ability to perfectly follow the edge of your material. The downside is that if your material edge is uneven, your cut will be too.

Step 2: Install the fence so the distance from the blade to the inside fence edge is the same as the distance from your cutline to the material’s edge

Step 3: Make your cut, pulling gently against the fence so it stays in contact with the material edge

Most fences give you 12 inches or so of ripping length. However, there are some third-party systems that can give you much more distance.

Use a Straightedge or Level

With a long enough straightedge or level, you make an accurate rip cut with a circular saw even if the material’s edge isn’t even. It works similar to our cross cut tip but you need a longer guide and clamps to secure it.

Step 2: Measure the distance from the edge of your blade to the edge of your shoe that’s going to be guided by the straightedge

Step 3: Clamp the straightedge down the same distance from your cutline that you measured in step 2

Step 4: Make the cut, gently pushing the circular saw toward the straightedge so the shoe stays in contact during the entire cut

Pro Tip: Every circular saw is a little different, so make sure you clamp your straightedge in a way that the motor housing won’t hit it on the way by.

Use a Track Saw

The most accurate and easy way to make a rip cut with a circular saw is by using a track saw. The saw connects to the track and the edge goes right over your cutline, so it’s an easier setup with even less risk of pulling away from the guide.

Dewalt DW364. circular saw cut depth adjustment

Step 2: Clamp your track so the edge lays perfectly along your cutline

Step 4: Make your cut, allowing the saw to glide gently over the track

What are some of your favorite tips on how to use a circular saw? Feel free to add them to the Комментарии и мнения владельцев section below!

Want to know more about the Flex 24V circular saws we used in our photos? Check out our reviews of the 7 1/4-inch rear-handle saw and the innovative 6 1/2-inch inline circular saw!

deep, circular, adjust, depth

How to Use a Circular Saw Safely and Correctly

Your circular saw is probably one of the most impressive power tools in your workshop, so it’s worth knowing how to use it to its full potential. An electric circular saw is the perfect tool for making quick cuts in wooden boards for professional and DIY projects, however incorrectly using your saw can be dangerous. If you need to know how to safely cut with a circular saw, you’re in the right place.

This SGS how-to guide is designed to help you make simple cuts through timber in a quick, safe and accurate way. If you want to learn how to use a circular saw, this guide is a great place to start for the essentials. We’ve also included a couple of top tips and trade secrets so you can be a cut above the rest.

Looking to upgrade your tired, old circular saw? Check out our circular saw buying guide or view the entire range of circular saws here.

Staying Safe When Working with a Circular Saw

  • If you’re using a corded saw, keep all cables and leads away from the cutting path.
  • Never take your eye off where you’re cutting. that’s how you lose fingers.
  • If you cut between two points of pressure, you’re likely to squeeze the blade during the cut (called binding), possibly causing kick back.
  • Make sure your workpiece is supported properly when you’re cutting. Use a work bench and clamps for smaller pieces, and an extension table or roller supports for larger pieces.
  • Make sure the excess wood (waste side) is free to fall away after a cut, while your “keep side” stays firmly in place.
  • Wear safety glasses and a dust mask.
  • Your saw blade should be in good working condition and sharp before you attempt to cut anything.
  • Most saws are designed for right handed people and therefore if you’re a leftie, you need to be extra vigilant against chips and saw dust. Waste material will normally be ejected to the left of the saw.
  • Circular saws have a pretty impressive kickback when they first begin to cut. Watch the position of your body and stay slightly to one side of the tool.
  • Don’t set your blade depth too deep. The saw blade should come 5-10mm past the depth of the wood you’re cutting. The more exposed blade you have, the bigger the risk of your saw binding or kicking back.
  • Make sure the retracting guard blade is working correctly. With your saw unplugged (or with the battery out), test the guard can freely move back and forth (most blade guards will automatically spring back into the safety position when a cut is complete).
  • Double check for nails or any other metals your saw might come into contact with. Nothing will damage your saw more, or create a stronger kickback, than a circular saw hitting something metal.

Get to Know Your Circular Saw

Before we get started with any cutting, it’s worth taking a good look at your circular saw and familiarising yourself with all the functions and feature. Not every circular saw is set out the same, but the diagram below should give you an idea where the various parts of a saw are. If in any doubt, check through your instruction manual.

Depth adjustment. This is normally a knob or a lever that can be used to move the base-plate / shoe. Always remember to tighten the depth adjustment lever or knob after you’ve set the depth of your cut.

Base-plate/ shoe. Allows you to set the depth of cut by exposing more or less of the blade.

Trigger. Unlike other power tools, a circular saw has only two speeds; on and off. As soon as the trigger clicks the motor is trying to bring the cutting blade to full speed. Always give the saw a few moments to reach top speed before you begin your cut.

Retracting blade guard. When not in use, the blade guard will cover the saw, keeping it safe. Typically, when you push a saw onto a piece of timber the blade guard will retract automatically. When you’ve finished a cut the blade guard should spring back into place. The blade guard is the most important safety feature of the tool because a circular saw takes time for the blade to come to a complete stop after a cut has been made. Check the blade guard is working correctly before even plugging it in.

Choosing a Circular Saw Blade

The first thing you need to do when purchasing a blade is make sure it’s suitable for your saw. There’s 3 basic things to check:

  • The blade diameter your saw can handle. Handheld circular saws will normally take a blade anywhere between 110mm and 185mm in diameter.
  • The arbour hole (centre hole) size you saw can take. Most arbour holes tend to me around 10-30mm, but can vary from brand to brand.
  • Only purchase a saw blade that has a higher RPM rating than your circular saw can produce, so take note of your tool’s RPM before starting to shop for a blade.

Now that you’ve noted down this information about your saw, you’re ready to choose a blade.

Types of blade:

There’s a plethora of different circular saw blades available, and all of them are useful for slightly different applications. We’ve put together a list of the most common blade types and their uses to help you shop with confidence.Blades with fewer teeth cut faster, however blades with more teeth give a finer finish. The saw’s “T” (or teeth) will indicate how many teeth the saw blade has. Just remember, the higher the “T”, the finer the finish, and the slower the cut.

Cross-cut blades

CUse with wood or wood composites. Specifically for cutting against the grain of the wood (down the width of a board). These blades will have between 40 and 80 teeth and are designed to give you a nice, clean finish. You only need small gullets as less stock is removed.

Combination Blades

These are more generic wood cutting blades available with a huge array of teeth and can be used for either cross-cutting or rip-cutting. For every one tooth for ripping, there’ll be four for cross-cutting, giving the blade a distinctive look.

Framing Blades

These blades have 24 teeth and are effective for rough carpentry. Choose one of these blades when speed is more important than a clean cut.

Plywood Blades

These blades have 100 or more very fine teeth and are designed for cutting without splintering the work piece.

Thin-kerf Blades

These blades have a narrow profile for faster cutting, less material wastage and lower power drain.

Hollow-ground Blades

These blades have a thinner body and fatter teeth, meaning wood is less likely to “pinch” or bind around the blade.

Continuous-rim Blades

These specialist blades are diamond-edged and are also known as diamond blades. They’re used for tiles and slate, rather than wood, and have an ultra-fine finish. These blades are normally specifically for wet or dry cutting (check the packaging).

Turbo-rim Blades

Another style of diamond rimmed blade, these specialist saw blades have a serrated rim for cutting materials such as brick and concrete. They’re more aggressive than continuous blades, but won’t leave you with a fine finish. Normally, dry cutting only.

Segmented blades

Another type of diamond blade, but with a rim divided into gullets. These are the most aggressive style of diamond blades and will cut quicker than other types. They leave a rough finish when cutting brick or concrete. Available in wet and dry cutting varieties.

Abrasive blades

These blades cut brick and concrete like a diamond blade, however they’re made of aluminium oxide or silicon carbide. They don’t have any teeth and will give a medium fine finish but will typically be a lot slower than a diamond alternative.

Rip-cut blades

Use with wood or wood composites. Specifically for cutting with the grain of the wood (the length of a board). Typically these blades have 16. 40 teeth and are designed to cut aggressively while removing waste stock with larger gullets.

To get the most out of your saw, you’ll need a couple of pieces of equipment. For a start, we recommend a good work table or bench for supporting your material. There’s other ways of brace wood for cutting, but a workbench is by far the simplest and most straight forward method.

What you’ll need

If you’re working with a corded circular saw, make sure you get yourself a good size extension cord that gives you enough room to move, and not so long that you’re tripping over it.

Basic safety equipment like a pair of safety glasses, dust mask and maybe even some ear defenders will all minimise the risk of injury while you work. And of course you’ll need some basic marking and measuring tools like a pencil, tape measure and a tri-square.

How to Safely Make a Cut With Your Circular Saw

The two main types of cuts you can do with a circular saw are called a cross-cut and a rip-cut. A cross-cut is a simple cut across the length of a piece of timber, against the grain. A rip-cut follows the length of the timber and goes with the grain. Rip-cuts are trickier and can take a little practice to get right.

The following method is ideal for both types of cut, however we suggest you try a few cross-cuts before moving on to a rip cut:

TOP TIP: For longer work pieces use a guide fence. This can be as simple as second piece of wood clamped to your workpiece. The aim of a saw fence is to give you a straight edge to keep at one side of the baseplate of the saw. Once you’ve done your measuring up, simply clamp your “fence” so it’s flush against the circular saw’s baseplate. Now when you make your cut you can use the fence as a guide (see picture below).

Top Circular Saw Tips and Tricks

So now you’ve seen how to make a simple cut, here’s a couple of extra trade secrets, tips and tricks to get you working like a pro in no time at all.

Your blade has a width

HSS blades are thinner than TCT blades, so if you’re ripping thinner pieces out of a wide board, you’ll make less waste with the thinner HSS blade. Remember if you cut a 100mm piece of timber in half, you won’t end up with two 50mm pieces. there’s always going to be a few millimetres of waste.

Do a kiss test

When accuracy really counts, do a quick kiss test to make sure you’re all lined up. Line up as best as you can, start your saw and make a slight cut (or kiss) in the timber to see where the saw will actually cut. The idea is to make the shallowest possible cut to test how your actual cut is going to perform.

Making a mistake

Cutting straight lines every single time, takes a little practice. If you do make a mistake, don’t try and force the blade back on track. Let the saw stop spinning and then start again from the markings.

Cutting wet wood

If you’re cutting wet wood set the depth so that the entire gap between the teeth is clear of the board you’re cutting. This will stop your saw and cut line from getting clogged with wet saw dust.

Aim ahead

Once you’ve set up your circular saw against your markings, follow the line slightly ahead of the saw. You’ll naturally “follow-through” the cut and end up with a straighter line.

still need help?

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