Circular saws are the go-to tool for crosscutting and ripping lumber and plywood. But a circular saw's strengths don't stop there. You can cut nearly anything with a circular saw provided you use the right blade. Here are some of our favorite techniques for cutting wood more efficiently and cutting almost anything else you can think of.
Whenever you have to rip boards and there’s no
table saw around, nail the board down to the top of
the horses with 8d nails. Just keep the nails away
from the cut. It’s much safer than holding the board
with one hand while you cut with the other. And
you’ll get a straighter cut. When the cut is complete,
pull the board free, tap out the nails to expose the
heads and jerk them out.
Don’t pick up sheets of plywood and place them on horses every time you
have a cut to make. Save your back and your time. Get down on your knees
and work off the stack. Slip a couple of 2x4s under the sheet undergoing
surgery, make your marks and then your cut. It’s that
simple. By the way, a drywall square is the
perfect tool for marking crosscuts
Forget about those throwaway abrasive masonry blades. Diamond
blades have dropped in price in recent years ($25), and they’re the key
for this task. Find a volunteer to hold a slow-running garden hose right
at the cut while you saw your way through. That’ll keep the blade cool,
speed up the cut and eliminate dust. And don’t worry. It’s safe as long
as you’re plugged into a GFCI-protected outlet.
If you have a yen for an extra circular saw, consider picking
a mini saw with a blade in the 5- to 6-in. range. You’ll
love it. It’s much lighter than a standard 7-1/4-in. saw, yet
you can still cut 1-1/2-in.-thick material at 90 degrees.
But here’s the big reason. On most mini saws, the blade
is on the left side of the motor (called a “left-tilt saw”).
Sometimes, this saw will fit in places where a larger saw
Mini circ saws also come in handy to cut bevels that are
awkward or impossible with conventional right-tilt saws.
Cutting steep angles, especially if they're
compound (cuts with a bevel and an angle),
requires one special step. That’s pulling the
guard back from the blade as you begin the
cut. Skip this step and your guard will get
bound up as you enter the cut and make it
impossible to continue.
Master this trick and you won’t have to lug lumber to the sawhorse
for every cut. It’s simple and saves countless trips back
and forth. It’s also perfectly safe as long as you keep your foot
at least 12 in. away from the cut. Just prop the board on your
foot with the other end resting on the floor or ground. Tilt the
board up and make the cut.
With a metal-cutting blade in your circular saw, metal roofing
cuts as easily as aluminum foil. No magic to it—just place
the show side down for a nicer finish. If you have metal to get
rid of, like old exterior doors or even old metal tanks, you can
cut them up into bite-size chunks that’ll fit in the trash can or
make them easier to haul to the dump.
Most circular saws will make bevel cuts of only 45 degrees.
Here’s a trick for cutting bevels that exceed 45 degrees. Let’s say
you need a 55-degree bevel. Subtract 55 (or whatever bevel you’re
after) from 90 and set your saw at that bevel (in this case, 35
Next, clamp or screw a block even with the end of the
board to support the saw base while you cut. The blade probably
won’t complete the cut, but it’s easy to finish it with a handsaw
or reciprocating saw. This trick works for compound cuts as well.
Cut the angle first with the saw at 90 degrees, and then use the
off-cut to support the saw while you cut.
A circular saw will do a sterling job for long,
gradual curves in a fraction of the time a jigsaw will. Plus, you’ll
get a much smoother cut. If you’re cutting plywood, set the saw
to cut just deep enough to cut through the wood. The deeper
the blade, the harder it’ll be to make the cut because it’ll get
bound in the kerf. If you’re cutting thicker material, cut halfway
through on the first pass and then make a second, deeper final
cut following the original cut.
A circular saw makes short work of pipe—any kind but cast iron.
Use a fine-tooth carbide blade for PVC, ABS or copper. Choose a
metal-cutting blade for cutting up steel, such as fence posts, and
metal plumbing pipe.
Sometimes you need to cut a hole in a roof for roof vents, chimneys,
skylights, whatever. You don’t have to remove shingles
before you cut. Just stick an old carbide blade in your saw and
plunge-cut right through the shingles and decking.
Cutting lap siding is
tough because it’s awkward
the saw over the laps.
Next time you’re faced
with cutting through
siding, make a plywood
cutting jig. Screw a 1x3 or 1x4 fence to a 12-in. strip
of plywood about 6 in. from the edge.
Then rip off the excess plywood.
Snap guidelines on the siding.
and screw the jig right
to the siding with the
edge of the plywood
directly over the desired
cutting line, and set the
cutting depth to cut
just through the siding,
including the thickness
of the jig. The saw’s
base will ride on the flat
surface and you’ll get a
perfect cut every time.
With a diamond blade,
this trick works great for
Have the necessary tools for this DIY project lined up before you start—you’ll save time and frustration.
Avoid last-minute shopping trips by having all your materials ready ahead of time. Here's a list.
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