How to Use a Circular Saw? A Full And Comprehensive Guide

Many people start off with DIY projects that are simple, such as painting furniture that’s already made. However, you have probably gotten tired of all that and want to do something more. That might include cutting some legs off, adding a new top (that you made), or add more wood. The only way to do that is to use power tools.

It’s easy to crave the freedom offered by repurposing furniture or making your own. You can also recycle wood, and it doesn’t take many tools to get the job done. However, to make precise cuts with less friction, you must know how to use a circular saw.

What Are Circular Saws Used For?

Most people don’t know anything about circular saws and might wonder what it is or why it’s used. This can get quite confusing!

With so many saw products on the market, you might not know which tools you require for your toolbox. If you have a circular saw, you can make nine cuts with it. These cuts could be made with a table saw, but a circular saw is a much more portable.

On top of that, most people find that it’s not as intimidating to use a circular saw as opposed to a table saw.

Types of Cuts to Make with a Circular Saw Blade

How to Use a Circular Saw?

Here are the types of cuts you can do with your circular saw:

  • Crosscut – This option cuts across the wood grain of the board.
  • Rip-cut – Rip cuts go with the grain of the board.
  • Dado – These are shallow cuts that go across the wood grain of the material but aren’t deep enough to get all the way through. You use this for shelving and other things.
  • Groove – This is similar to the dado cut, but it’s shallow and goes with the grain of the material without cutting through the work material.
  • Miter cut – These are angled cuts at 45 degrees on the board’s face. When it’s combined with another similar cut, it makes a corner.
  • Beveled cuts – These have angles cut at the edge of your board, such as to make French cleats.
  • Compound miter cuts – They are made at an angle and also have a beveled edge.
  • Plunge cut – They’re made in the middle, and you plunge the saw blade into the interior of the material instead of going from the edge.

Yes, you can make all of those cuts with your circular saw. Though you may feel that you never need a table saw, it does have a place in the woodworking shop. You can quickly make the cuts and repeat them without making adjustments.

What Is Cuttable with a Circular Saw?

A circular saw is very diverse because you can cut many things, such as:

  • Thin metal
  • Sheet metal
  • 2x4s
  • Plywood
  • Plastic
  • MDF
  • Concrete

What you choose to cut depends on the blade you want to use. It’s crucial to have an appropriate blade for the material you’re cutting. With that, some circular saws can’t cut concrete. Ensure that you know what materials you can cut with that circular saw.

How to Use a Circular Saw – Know the Parts

Before you learn to use a circular saw, you must understand the parts of it so that you know where everything is.

Circular saws always have a blade guard lever, safety trigger, blade nut, bevel adjustment knob, blade guard, and base. With that, most saws have a rear handle that you can hold with your left hand (or right hand, depending on your situation).

  • Note which side your blade is on – A circular saw features a right- or left-handed blade, and this depends on where the blade is. If it’s on the left, it’s for a left-handed person.
  • Blade lock button – When you press this, it locks your blade, so you can change the blade depth or put in a new one without cutting yourself.
  • Guide and ruler at the front of the base – This lets you ensure that you are using the tool correctly and line everything up for the first cut.

A few other important components of your circular saw include:

  • Size of the blade
  • Allen wrench
  • Number of teeth
  • Depth lever
  • Front handle

What’s the Most Appropriate Size?

A circular saw is sized based on the blade. However, you can’t purchase one circular saw and put different blades on it. You must buy the right saw for the blade size you want.

The standard size for circular saw blades is 7.25 inches. Ultimately, the size of the blade indicates the thickness of the material you may cut.

Circular Saw Blade Guard and Blade

Most circular saws have the blade installed when you get them, and it usually has 24 teeth. These blades are ideal for 2x4s and general cuts. However, if you want a smoother cut with a better finish or plan to be cutting plywood, you want more teeth.

The blades tell you how many teeth there are and the size. That way, you can determine what materials to use.

Along with that, every circular saw has a blade guard, which is for safety purposes. If the guard isn’t down, you can’t pull the trigger on the saw. This also ensures that you line everything up and have the right angle and speed before you pull the trigger and start cutting.

Jigsaw vs. Circular Saw

Many people wonder when to use a circular saw versus a jigsaw.

Both a jigsaw and circular saw can be used interchangeably and can each cut wood well. However, the difference between these power tools is the blades, the material thickness, types of cutting you can do, and the materials you can use.

Blade Differences Between the Two

Typically, a jigsaw has smaller teeth on the blades. They work well for fine cuts, but they take longer to get through the wood. Circular saws are bigger (Even the smallest models), so they chew through the wood faster.

Type of Cut Between Circular Saw and Jigsaw

Circular saws only make straight cuts with a straight edge. However, there are nine straight cuts possible.

A jigsaw makes straight cuts, too. It just can’t do grooves or dado cuts and isn’t good for a rip cut or cross-cuts.

However, jigsaws make decorative cuts, so you don’t always require a straight edge. Conversely, a circular saw only does straight cuts, like the rip cut or bevel cuts.

Material Thickness for Circular Saw and Jigsaw

Depending on the blade size, a circular saw can make a deeper cut than a jigsaw. Ultimately, you can cut the correct depth up to 90 degrees. Jigsaws only cut 1-inch-thick pieces.

Regardless, you are probably likely to have both power tools in your arsenal as you continue growing and learning.

The Step by Step Guide for How to Use a Circular Saw

You know why you should be using a circular saw and have it in your toolkit. With that, you learned when to use a circular saw instead of a jigsaw. However, the next step is to figure how to use it effectively.

Most people set up their workspaces with two sawhorses and some rigid foam as the table to clamp onto the material. It’s inexpensive and readily available.

Choose Your Blade

You must choose the right blade, and they aren’t all equal. The more teeth it has, the finer the cut is likely to be. This is true for every power tool you might use.

Therefore, before you begin cutting wood, you should pick the circular saw blade that gives you the cut you want. For example, if you wish to cut metal or plastic, you need a blade that can easily cut through those materials.

Adjust the Blade Depth

The next step for using a circular saw is to locate the knob on the back of the saw. Now, you should lower the blade to about 1/4 inch below the wood bottom. That way, you keep the blade exposed slightly but with just enough clearance for wood cutting. This helps to preserve the blade.

For a beveled cut, you should adjust your pivoting scale to the right angle. Twist the knob counterclockwise to unlock it. Slide it to the preset you want. This depth adjustment feature is easy to use on most tools.

Check the central level of the circular saw the shoe and adjust it as needed.

Make Sure to Start Away from Your Edge

Before you pull the trigger on the tool and start cutting, you want to let your blade run at full speed first. Don’t let it connect with the wood just yet. That way, you get a cleaner cut and reduce kickback issues.

Now, you should line up the blade with your cut line. If you don’t have a laser guide, you can use a bold line or chalk line.

Once you have your cutting line, you can turn on the saw. Typically, the blade’s width is about 1/8-inch thick. Don’t cut directly onto the line, or the blade thickness can mess up the measurement. Cut slightly to the side of that line, letting the blade go to the scrap side of the wood right beside it.

Here’s a tip: To get the best cuts, lay the right (the side you want to show) part of the wood face down. Typically, the blades cut on an upstroke, so the bottom sees a clean cut. Use masking tape or painter’s tape to minimize the tear-out from the back of the wood, which also protects from chipping.

Make the Cut

Your blade is now running at a high speed, so you can push your circular saw forward and let the blade take over. Make sure nothing’s under the project to snag your blade. You should also work in a straight line to ensure an accurate cut.

Let your blade come to a full stop once you’ve finished your cut. Then, you can pull up. As the scrap wood comes away, the saw base should stay on the wood. This scrap material should fall away easily, too.

Now, you should inspect the finished piece and make sure everything was done correctly. If not, you might want to start over with the saw. Practice on a few scraps, being sure to push gently and trigger the tool so that it runs smoothly.

Circular Saw Safety Tips for How to Use a Circular Saw

When you are working with any type of power tool, it’s important to focus on safety.

Here are a few other tips to help you get started:

  1. Be prepared to make many test cuts. You’re learning about a new product, and you want to do it well.
  2. Don’t wear loose clothing while you operate the machine.
  3. You should not operate the saw without the right safety equipment, such as safety glasses or other eye protection, and a dust mask.
  4. If you have long hair, you should pull it back into a ponytail or a bun. Don’t let any loose pieces get caught in the saw!
  5. Ensure that the power cord isn’t near the blade because you don’t want to cut or damage it.
  6. Make sure the work surface is level. You want a stable surface so that the boards don’t fall and the tool doesn’t slip out of your hands. This could cause a serious injury.
  7. Use a tape measure to ensure that everything is done correctly. However, remove it from the cutting surface before you start.
  8. Don’t cut your board (or other materials) in the middle when it only rests on two supports. This causes your blade to pinch.
  9. Remove your blade before you adjust the saw in any way.

Conclusion

With so many saw options out there, such as jigsaws and worm-drive saws, it’s hard to know what to choose. On top of that, you need the right material for the best cut possible. Wider pieces often don’t work well with jigsaws, and it’s harder to cut straight.

Now that you know how to use a circular saw, you can truly enjoy this power tool. When cutting wood, it’s one of the easiest to master. Cutting various materials is so much easier now than ever before. Just go slow, work hard on the adjustments, and follow each tip listed above. You can use your new saw on plywood and other board material options.

Make sure to focus on safety when cutting, and get started today!

Itamar Ben Dor

My father is a practical engineer, and as a hobby he was also involved in construction, renovations, carpentry and woodwork at home; So there was always tools, saws, drills and more at home. Already I was a little kid Dad and I would renovate the house. Once we built a shed for garden tools, once we did flooring for the garden, once we renovated the bathroom and that’s the way it is. Long before there was an internet, directories and plans. We would build things, kitchen cabinets, install electrical appliances, do flooring, pour concrete and more ... I in this blog want to pass on to you the experience I have gained over the last 20 plus-minus years since I was a child to this day and give you information about the best tools, project plans, guides and more.

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