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Circular Saw Tips and Tricks

Do more with circular saws

FH11MAY_BIGSAW_01-2Family Handyman
Circular saws are great for cutting plywood and 2x's, but you can also cut everything from logs to concrete to steel beams with the right blade or the right type of saw.

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Big saws for big wood

Monster circular saw

This saw on steroids is the Makita 16-5/16-in. circular saw (model No. 5402NA). It’s huge! In fact, it’s so big that you can cut 6-1/4 in. deep at 90 degrees and 4-3/16 in. deep while the saw is set at 45 degrees. You’ll get the best results and save wear on the saw if you precut a kerf with a standard saw first. That way the saw will have 2 in. less depth to hog its way through. One of these will set you back close to $800.

Hybrid circular saw/chain saw

The Prazi USA PR2000 12-in. beam cutter is like a mini chain saw that attaches to a standard "sidewinder" circular saw or a worm drive saw. It cuts very fast and is pretty affordable at $150. Installation is as simple as replacing the blade with the Prazi bar.

Post and beam cutter

The Milwaukee 10-1/4-in. circular saw (model No. 6470-21) is for those who need to cut lots of 3-1/2-in. material. It cuts amazingly square every time, so you’ll have perfect joints when you’re putting your project together. One will set you back $350.

If you have big wood to cut that calls for closer tolerances than you can get with a chain saw, it’s time to enter the big leagues of circular saws. Every log or timber frame builder uses saws like the ones shown here. These beasts are expensive and rarely available for rental, so we’re talking about a big investment if you need one to build your dream cabin in the woods. They may look intimidating, but you’ll feel comfortable with any of them after a few cuts. You can find and order these bad boys at many online tool suppliers.

Blades that make the cut

Ferrous cutting blades

Called “ferrous” because they can cut iron-containing metals such as steel, these can cut any metal up to 1/4 in. thick. But not cast iron.

Framing blades

Use a 24-tooth carbide framing blade for 90 percent of your cutting. Not just framing-any wood where an ultra-clean cut isn’t needed.

Recycled blades

Don’t toss your old blades. Stick one in your saw for demo work, cutting shingles and nail-embedded lumber, and cutting up exterior doors so they’ll fit in the trash can.

Finish blades

Grab a 40-tooth finish blade to make finish cuts such as cutting off door bottoms, veneered plywood or plastics.

Diamond blades

You’ll need these for cutting concrete, stone, pavers or any other masonry. Segmented blades will give you the fastest cut.

Required Tools for this Project

Have the necessary tools for this DIY project lined up before you start—you’ll save time and frustration.

  • Circular saw
You’ll also need a circular saw blade or chain saw attachment.