There are several options for cutting wood. One of these is the circular saw. But if you already have other types of saws in your workshop, is it still necessary to have a circular saw? And how do you determine when to use a circular saw, and not your table saw, for example, which is a pretty handy tool.
When cutting large pieces of wood on a table saw becomes dangerous, the circular saw is the best alternative. Also, on building sites, when you require a powerful yet compact saw, or when you need to make vertical cuts, the circular saw is the preferable choice.
I’ll go into greater detail in this article, with a few clear case studies to help you understand when to use a circular saw. That way, you’ll be able to envision yourself in a couple of scenarios when a circle saw is a preferable choice. To assist you, I will also demonstrate how to use a circular saw step by step, how to prevent kickback with this type of saw, as well as what you can do to keep yourself safe when using this equipment.
Disclosure: At zero cost to you, I may get commissions for purchases made through links in this post. I earn from qualifying purchases as an Amazon associate. Products featured are selected based on quality, performance, and reputation, regardless of affiliate relationships.
What is a circular saw?
A circular saw is a portable saw used to make quick, straight cuts. It has a thin (standard 3 mm) and circular blade with cutting teeth. By using an adapted blade, you can cut into wood, metal, or plastic with the circle saw, whereby the depth and bevel of the cut can be infinitely adjusted.
A circular saw is used for both DIY and professional tasks. Because of its compact shape and high cutting capacity, it is a commonly used tool on construction sites. Due to its affordability and versatility, the circular saw is also one of the first tools that handymen purchase for their workshop.
Although a circle saw is a useful tool with many benefits, it is risky to use because of the fast-moving, sharp saw blade. Before utilizing this type of saw, you should take a few precautions. I’ll go into more detail about that later in this post.
When to use a circular saw?
While there are several ways to cut wood, such as the handsaw, table saw, jigsaw, etc., in some situations it can be a lot more convenient and faster to use a circular saw. Due to its compact form and portability, the circle saw can handle tasks where other types of saws have limitations.
In the list below, I want to give you a few examples of when to use a circular saw over all other types of saws. By selecting the right type of saw, in this case, the circle saw, you will be able to work more efficiently, which will ensure that, in addition to working easily, you will also finish the job faster.
- When you want to shorten long pieces of wood across the grain.
- When you want to cut large sheets of plywood into smaller pieces.
- When you have a small workshop, and a table saw is too big.
- When you want to quickly reduce large pieces of firewood to fit in the fireplace.
- When you have to cut a lot on the move, and a table saw is too heavy to carry around.
- When to make a cut in vertical walls.
- When you need to cut wood at a certain angle and slope.
- When workpieces are too large to safely use on a table saw.
How to use a circular saw?
Now you know when to use a circular saw, it is also important to know how to use a circular saw.
Making a cut with a circle saw is a simple process that becomes second nature after a time. However, if you’re a beginner woodworker, it’s a good idea to consider the many steps you’ll need to follow. I’ll walk you through the most critical steps below.
Always use a sharp saw blade that is appropriate for the job at hand. “Understanding Table Saw Blades | Always Find The Perfect One,” I wrote recently. Although this post is about table saw blades, the basic principles you’ll learn there can also be used to finding the proper blade for your circular saw. Another point to remember is to always disconnect your tool before changing the saw blade and the settings of the machine.
Adjust the depth of your cut once the proper blade has been inserted. Always place the saw blade 0.2 inches (ca. 5 mm) deeper than the thickness of the wood is a method I utilize. Your wood will be completely cut through, but the chance of serious injury from coming into touch with the saw blade will be reduced. In addition to modifying the cutting depth, you can also adjust the inclination of the saw blade if necessary.
Place your workpiece on the sawhorse or workbench. In order not to damage the workbench during the sawing, I always raise the workpiece by sliding old pieces of hard insulation plate under it. It can’t hurt to cut into this with the saw blade. I rather cut into this material than into the worktop of my workbench. Once the workpiece is in place, you can make a mark where you will cut.
Clamps are then used to secure the workpiece to the workstation or sawhorses. It won’t be able to move or vibrate when cutting this way. When clamping, make sure the underside of the cutting line is clear of impediments like sawhorses. It’s best to clamp a piece of wood or an aluminum rail to the workpiece as a guide if you want to make straight cuts.
You can also make yourself a circular saw guide. Check out my article, “Make THIS Low Costs DIY Circular Saw Guide! FREE PLANS”, for step-by-step instructions. You can also watch me build it in my YouTube video here.
Now you are all set to make the cut. Hold the saw with both hands. In most cases, two handles are provided for this, one where the switch is located, and one at the front of the circular saw to maintain control over this tool. This will prevent circular saw kickback, more about this later.
Place the nose of the saw on the cutting line and press the switch, but wait to start cutting until the blade rotates at full speed. Once the circular saw is running at full speed, move forward slowly but at a consistent speed. Never force the machine, and give them time to get a good cut.
Although you are wearing ear protection, you will still hear when the machine is being pressurized by the drop in speed. That indicates that you will have to reduce the pressure.
Always support the material so that it does not break when you get to the end of the cut. If the workpiece is not properly supported, the material will be damaged. There is also a chance of circular saw kickback by pinching of the wood, or that the wood ends up on your legs or feet if it falls to the ground.
After cutting the wood completely, remove the circular saw from the wood so that the safety guard can automatically spring back and cover the rotating saw blade. Also, continue to hold the tool with both hands until the saw blade stops rotating.
Like that, you know exactly how to use a circular saw.
PS: if your circular saw keeps stopping while making a cut, check out my article, why does my circular saw keep stopping. There can be many reasons for this and this guide will help you fixing this problem for sure.
How to avoid circular saw kickback?
As I mentioned before, using a circular saw is not without its dangers. Above you could read a little earlier about a circular saw kickback. A kickback is one of the most common accidents to happen while using your circular saw.
Kickback occurs when suddenly the blade is pinched between the two parts you are cutting. Because of that, the blade suddenly stops while the circular saw motor continues to run. This pushes the circular saw out of the saw slot and returns to your direction.
A circular saw kickback can cause serious injury, and that’s the last thing you want to happen to you. That is why it is important to know why this happens and how you can protect yourself against it.
Now that you know exactly how kickback is caused, you can find below a list of things you can do to prevent the saw blade from getting pinched during sawing. With this knowledge, you can get to work safely as well as assess your own situation better in order to avoid accidents. The most important prevention measures to prevent circular saw kickback are:
- Support the workpiece and always place it on a flat surface.
- Support the cut piece and make sure it cannot fall so that it cannot pinch the saw blade
- Secure the workpiece securely.
- Use a straight, well-cutting, and clean saw blade.
- Take a position that is not in a straight line behind the saw.
- Keep both hands on the saw and handle the saw firmly.
- Cut in straight lines and try not to cut curved lines.
- Stop immediately if something goes wrong.
- Make sure you have all safety equipment.
Remember these tips and use them every time you make a cut with the circular saw. Remain attentive before and during cutting. Most accidents happen to absolute beginners who do not know how to safely handle power tools, but also often to professionals where all actions become a habit and stop thinking about the dangers.
Circular saw safety tips
The circular saw is a very effective power instrument. As a result, it is a hazardous tool that necessitates the application of safety precautions in order to work safely.
It is critical to protect oneself with the necessary safety equipment in addition to taking preventative measures to avoid backlash. In addition, there are a few more considerations that might help you increase workplace safety.
To find a list of Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) for woodworking, go check out my article Woodworking Safety – What PPE Do You Need For Woodworking?
- Make sure the sawhorse is securely installed.
- Maintain a clean working area free of clutter and electrical wires on the floor.
- Connect your circular saw to a dust collector.
- Make sure your blade is properly secured.
- With both hands, grip your saw tightly.
- Place a guide to cut along, so you have a clean, straight line and the saw blade doesn’t get stuck owing to left or right deviation.
- Never begin cutting until the saw blade has achieved its maximum speed.
- Power wires should be kept away from your cutting area.
- Don’t overwork your saw by putting too much pressure on it.
- Put on all the necessary safety gear (safety goggles, dust mask, and hearing protection).
- Before setting the saw down, wait for it to come to a complete stop.
Recommended circle saws
If after this article you are convinced that the circular saw is a tool that you should have in your workshop, but you are not sure which one to choose, check out these tools.
These are the circle saws I’d want to pick myself from if I had to replace mine. I can recommend these:
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Woodworking | DIY | Home decoration