How to Use a Circular Saw

Circular saws are fantastic tools ideal for cutting through a range of materials like wood, tiles, and steel. These power tools utilize a circular blade with serrated teeth that spin at a high rate of revolution. As a result, they can easily cut through materials with a great degree of accuracy. In this guide, we look at how to use a circular saw. We also provide a host of tips and FAQs so you can use your saw with confidence.

Using a Circular Saw – a Step-by-Step Process

Below is a step-by-step guide on how to use a circular saw. Please note that this is a general guideline. It does not account for individual saw models and their differences. Therefore, before proceeding, read the instruction manual of your saw first. Ensure that you completely understand how the tool works, including the blade guard, power switch, and various safety features.

1. Preparing the Circular Saw

Firstly when looking at how to use a circular saw, you will have to prepare your circular saw and circular saw blades. When using a circular saw, make sure of the following before attempting a cut:

  • The blade guard is secured and in the correct position
  • The blade depth and angle are set to the correct values
  • That you use the right type of blade for the proper materials
  • That the blade is clean and relatively sharp

The guard must be secure and in position. It ensures that you cannot contact the blade and potentially damage your hand whilst cutting. Next, it is essential to set the blade depth and the pivot angle.

We cannot give specifics for this as it depends on the manufacturer and model. However, generally, you adjust a lever to release the blade and move it up and down to alter the depth. As a general rule, you should set the blade depth to between 1/8 or 1/4 of an inch below the material’s bottom side. If you go deeper, you will have to work harder. Also, you leave more teeth exposed.

If you are making bevel cuts, you should also adjust the angle. The angle is essential for this type of cut to get the correct cutting line or deal with strange object contours.

It is also essential to use the correct blade for the cutting process. You can get different types like diamond blades to deal with more challenging materials. If you do not use the right blade, you could cause damage to the circular saw.

2. Marking the Wood

When using a circular saw, you need accurate marking. Without good marks, you will not make precise cuts. Many people will mark a dot with their pencil and then use several dots to draw a straight line. It can work, but it may not be 100% accurate depending on the mark’s size and where you end up drawing the line.

Follow these steps for accurate marking:

  1. Use a tape measure to mark several V shapes through the line you wish to cut.
  2. Using a V shape, you can then draw the line precisely at the apex of the V where the two prongs meet. It ensures your line markings are accurate.
  3. It is also advisable to mark an X on the wood’s scrap side (the off-cut). It ensures you know the waste side and which piece of material you need to keep in perfect condition.

3. Preparing the Wood

With the wood marked, providing the proper support is also essential. It depends on the type of material you are cutting, its size, and the length of the cut.

The general rule is that you should use sawhorses if possible as these provide fantastic support for your material. However, a workbench is also a great option. The material should only have one support on one side as the off-cut should be allowed to fall freely.

Also, for heavier pieces of wood, you should avoid using supports entirely. Using the support with heavy material can cause imbalance, and it can also be a safety hazard. Instead, consider cutting heavier pieces of wood whilst resting on your toes.

4. Wearing the Correct PPE

We cannot stress the importance of PPE enough! Circular saws are heavy and powerful and can potentially cause serious injuries. For example, they could easily break your toe or foot due to the weight when dropped. Also, the saw blade is incredibly sharp and could easily make deep cuts in your skin and bone.

  • A pair of safety glasses. Eye protection will make sure that no dust or shavings can fly up and damage your eyes.
  • A dust mask will ensure you cannot breathe in any shavings as these could potentially damage your lungs.
  • You should also wear steel toe-capped boots if working on a construction site.  You may even want to wear these even if you are using the circular saw in your home DIY workspace. It may seem like overkill, but at least you won’t get any broken toes!

5. Cut the Wood

Now it is time to cut the material! Here are the steps:

Step 1: Position the Line Labelled “0” on the Base Plate over the Cut Line.

The base plate should have a series of markings that almost look like a ruler – the 0 of the base plate denotes the blade’s position when it is set for 90-degree cuts and is the starting point for the cut.

Step 2: Push the Start Button.

With the circular saw blade in position, you can pull the trigger or push the start button. You may also need to press an additional safety trigger, depending on the model.

Step 3: Guide the Blade.

Wait until the blade is spinning at full speed. Once it is turning, slowly guide the blade along the cut line. It is essential to let the blade do the work and apply an even amount of pressure. Guide the blade and avoid forcing it into the material – this can cause irregular cuts and could be dangerous.

Some Helpful Tips:

  1. When using a circular saw, your predominant hand should hold the tool. Your other hand should support the object to be cut and hold it firm. However, make sure that your free hand is not too close to the power tool’s blades.
  2. There are two types of cuts you can make – crosscut or rip cut. A crosscut goes against the grain of the wood and will not cause any ripping or splintering.

Alternatively, a rip cut runs parallel to the grain. Both are excellent types of cutting to use. It depends on the piece of timber or material you are working with and how much you think the grain could cause splinters and cracks.

6. Finishing & Tidy-Up

Hopefully, you should now have a precisely cut piece of material! After using your circular saw, there are still a few more things you need to do. It is to make sure that you store your circular saw safely and adequately.

Unplug the Circular Saw

With the circular saw entirely removed from the cut level and the trigger or power button released, you should unplug the circular saw or turn it off if it’s a cordless model.

Check the Blade Guards

Make sure they are still locked and in the correct position. It will ensure that no one will accidentally cut a hand on the blade. For additional safety, wrap the power cord around the saw or in a circle and fasten it with something like a tie wrap.

Store the Circular Saw Safely

For storage, the blade guard and blade should be facing away from any close-by objects. Also, it would be best if you stored your circular saws on a flat surface to make sure they do not become unstable and fall off. Circular saws are heavy, and if one of these fell on your foot, it would cause severe damage!

Clean Your Workspace

Lastly, to keep your workbench or working area clean, it is advisable to use a dustpan or hoover to remove any dust, debris, and shavings from the cutting process.

Circular Saw Tips

The above process is a sure-fire way to use a circular saw and create effective cuts in wood and other materials. However, we can take this one step further and provide a range of tips too. You can do many small things to improve your cutting technique and ensure that you don’t damage the material or circular saw.

1. Always Work in a Well-Lit Area

This tip applies when using any power tool, such as a hammer drill, to ensure your work’s safety and accuracy. When using circular saws, you must have adequate lighting. As a bare minimum, you should have the main light turned on in your garage, shed, or workshop.

However, this may not be enough, and you may still not see the cutting lines and marked areas correctly. If so, consider using a secondary light source like a desk lamp, lampstand or head torch. You can point this secondary light source directly at the wood and make sure the marks are visible.

Not only will it help avoid mistakes and miss cutting, but it will also improve safety when using these power tools.

2. Allow the Cut-off to Fall Freely

When using saw blades, you may tend to hold or clamp the cut-off material. It is not good practice. If you clamp the cut-off or hold it, you can cause irregularities in the cut, and it could also potentially cause a safety hazard.

The best practice is to let the cut-off fall freely. Just make sure it won’t drop on your feet or cause any injury!

However, you should have some support. If the cut-off drops freely without any help, it can sometimes cause splinters and rip material from the wood’s underside.

3. Don’t Cut Wood If It’s Supported at Both Ends

We’ve all seen those old cartoons where the character sees the piece of material they are stood on? It is a similar premise. Never cut wood that is supported at both ends. For example, you have a plank of wood and want to cut a line through the middle. You lie the wood on two trestle legs, place your circular saw in the middle, and start cutting.

What do you think is going to happen when the cut is complete? The wood will cleave in two once cut and fall to the floor. In turn, the saw blade and circular saw will also propel downwards. It could potentially be disastrous and incredibly dangerous. You could cause serious harm to yourself and whoever is working with or near you.

4. Redo Mistakes

When working on DIY projects with a table saw, people’s common mistake is to rectify their cuts whilst cutting. It can be very challenging and frustrating. If you try to manoeuvre the blade and adjust the cutting line, you will not improve it. Instead, you will cut more material than intended, and the resulting line will look terrible.

If you make a mistake, redo the cut completely. Once you have spotted the error, stop the blade and let it stop spinning. Please remove it from the cut and start the process again. It may take more time, but it will provide much better results.

FAQs: Everything You Need to Know

We have rounded up some frequently asked questions on circular saws and their general use.

Can You Get a Cordless Circular Saw?

Yes, there are both corded and cordless variants of circular saws. The cordless versions typically use a powerful rechargeable battery. A cordless table saw gives greater freedom as you do not have to worry about using an extension cord or working near a power outlet.

What Materials Can You Cut with a Circular Saw?

Most people use a circular saw to cut through wood. However, you can use it to cut through other materials like steel, ceramic tiles, concrete, brick, stone, and masonry. It is one of the best power tools for cutting through more challenging materials – especially with a diamond blade.

What Depth Can a Circular Saw Cut?

It depends on the saw blades and the model of the circular saw. A typical saw blade can cut to a depth of 7.25 inches.

Make Anything Possible with Circular Saws

Circular saws are excellent tools that can almost cut into anything. They come in handy, especially when you are doing DIY projects. However, as with all power tools, you must know how to use a circular saw to maintain your safety and get the best results. You should also know how to care for your circular saw and store it properly for safekeeping.

Are you fond of circular saws, too? Let us know in the comment box about your DIY projects and what you use with your circular saw!

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