As easy as circular saws are to use, cutting straight lines with them can be difficult even for experienced woodworkers. However, there are some methods you can use to make straight cuts with a circular saw, even if you haven’t used one before.
How to Make Straight Cuts With a Circular Saw
If a circular saw is among one of the woodworking power tools you have in your garage, it might not be the first tool you grab when wanting to make a straight cut. But, despite its name, this tool is a great option when wanting to cut straight. There are 5 methods you can use for making straight cuts with circular saws, so let’s go over them:
Method #1: Use A Speed Square
If you only need to make a short but straight cut, using a speed square is the simplest way to accomplish this.
To use a speed square for this purpose:
- Measure the length of wood you want to cut, and make precise markings with a pencil
- Align the circular saw’s blade perfectly with the marked line
- Position your speed square against the base plate of the circular saw
- Push the base of the saw against the speed square, and make the cut
If you don’t have a speed square and cannot justify buying one for only one purpose, you must note that the tool can also be used to adjust miter saws and make clean 45-degree cuts.
Method #2: Use A Board As A Straightedge
This might seem like an obvious solution now that you think about it. You can clamp a board to the wood you want to cut and simply run the saw along the edge to make a straight cut.
However, you will need to use a wide board to do this since you want to keep the clamps at a safe distance from the motor of the saw.
As convenient as this method may seem, there is a downside to it. You will need to deal with the offset of the blade to the edge of the circular saw’s base.
The method is great to use if you only need to cut one piece of wood. However, since setting it up and making adjustments repeatedly takes time, if you have to cut a lot of wood, stick to the other methods on this list.
Method #3: Make Yourself A Cutting Guide
If you need to cut many pieces of wood, making yourself a cutting guide before you begin can help fasten the process. Using a cutting guide gives you the advantage of not having to deal with the offset between the blade and the saw shoe.
The cutting guide will have two pieces: the fence and the base. Also, making a cutting guide is a lot easier than you would think. Here’s what you need to do:
- Grab a large piece of ¼” plywood. You can use MDF if you don’t have plywood lying around
- Mark the factory edge of the wood
- Clamp the piece of wood down to your workbench so you can cut the fence strip.
- Turn on your circular saw, and cut the fence piece. The width of the fence strip must be the same as the distance between the blade and the edge of your circular saw’s base.
- You can position your fingers on the side of the saw’s base and use the factory edge to guide the cut
- Take your fence piece and glue it to the leftover piece of wood. Make sure that the factory edge is facing the inside of the guide.
- After the adhesive sets, place your guide on the sawhorses
- Turn your saw on, and cut off the excess from the guide. Ensure that the saw is pressed against the fence to make a straight cut.
And now, the cutting guide is ready to use.
Method #4: Use A Store-Bought Saw Guide
If you’ve not worked with circular saws much before, and find making your own guide too challenging, don’t worry. There are companies that manufacture saw guides to help you make cleaner straight cuts.
You won’t have to measure and mark a cut line with a saw guide when you want to make a straight cut. All you need to do is lock the guide on the width you want to cut, and saw away.
You can find several high-quality circular saw guides in the market, but the Kreg KMA2685 is one of the more popular ones. It’s cheap and easy to use, making it perfect for woodsmen of all skill levels that want to make straight cuts.
Method #5: Make Plunge Cuts
If you have a large piece of wood and are afraid that the saw will veer off the line when you cut the wood at some point, making plunge cuts may be the right way to go.
The idea with plunge cuts is that you make holes in the middle of a sheet of wood with them. You can make a few holes in the wood and then use a hand saw to cut off the wood between the holes and make a nice, straight cut.
To make a plunge cut:
- Set the blade to the right depth - you don't want too much of the blade going through the wood
- Align the blade with the cut line
- Grab the handle of the saw, and tip the saw up on its shoe
- Lift the blade guard
- Get the saw up to its maximum RPM and gently lower it into the wood
- Push the saw into your mark, and when the cut is sufficiently large, stop the saw
- Repeat the step to make several cuts along the long straight line
- Use a small hand saw to cut off the wood between the cuts
Bear in mind that making plunge cuts requires a steady hand and prior experience using the blade. The chances of the saw jumping when making this cut are high, so if you aren’t confident about your skills, make sure you ask for help.
Accidents from using power tools results in thousands of accidents each year. Regardless of the type of saw you’re working with, taking the right safety precautions and wearing protective gear and understanding how to prevent kickbacks is critical before you start working.