Making the Cut: Circular Saw Tips

Image 1By Joseph Truini 

One of the very first — and most important — skills learned by construction professionals is how to use a portable circular saw. It’s a critical skill to master because workers rely heavily on the circular saw for making quick, accurate cuts during all phases of construction, from forming the foundation to framing the roof. While most contractors are circular saw experts, there’s always something new to learn and pass along to the next generation of construction professionals.

Safety First

At the start of each workday, run a quick safety check on the saw: Most importantly, always wear eye protection when operating a circular saw.

Try Gang Cutting

When you need to cut several pieces of plywood, OSB or other sheet goods to the same size, use the gang cutting technique. Stack four or five sheets on top of each other, making sure the edges and ends are perfectly aligned. Then adjust the saw blade to its maximum depth of cut, and saw through the sheets at the same time. Image 2

Use Thin-Kerf Blades

These ultra-thin blades remove much less wood than a traditional blade, so they quickly slice through the densest, most resinous woods. A thin-kerf blade makes any saw cut with greater ease and efficiency, but it’s particularly important to use one on a cordless saw because the easier the blade cuts, the longer the battery will last.

Prevent Binding

When cutting large sheets goods, it’s important to provide the proper support to eliminate dangerous kickback, which can occur if the blade gets pinched in the cut. Place four long 2x4s underneath the sheet you’re cutting, spacing one 2x4 close to each side of the cut line. When you make the cut, both halves of the plywood will be fully supported by two 2x4s throughout the cut. 

Cut Splinter-Free

A spinning circular saw blade enters the bottom of the board and exits through the top, and as a result, splintering often occurs on the top surface. Here’s the solution: Place the board or panel with its best surface facing down. That way, any splintering will occur on the top surface, which is the back side.Image 3

When using a circular saw to trim wood doors down to size, you must eliminate splintering from both sides. Place the best side face down, then score along the edge of the cut line with a sharp utility knife. Now when you make the cut, the wood fibers will break off cleanly at the scored line, leaving a smooth, splinter-free cut.

Go Beyond Wood 

Circular saws are primarily woodcutting tools, but when fitted with the appropriate blade, they can also be used on other materials:

  • To cut masonry products, use a silicon-carbide abrasive blade or diamond-impregnated steel blade.
  • For steel and metal, you’ll gain better results and extended cutting life with a cermet-tipped blade. Cermet is a composite material composed of ceramic matter (cer) and metal (met). Cermet blades combine the high-temperature performance and wear resistance of ceramic with the durability and hardness of metal. Use them to cut ferrous and nonferrous metals, including steel pipe, angle iron and metal studs and conduit.

These tips and techniques can be used by any worker to improve their circ-saw cutting skills, no matter the job or task at hand.

Joseph Truini is a home improvement expert who writes extensively about do-it-yourself remodeling and repair, woodworking projects, and tools and techniques. He has authored six books and his work has appeared in several national magazines. He also writes for The Home Depot, which carries a wide selection of circular saws.

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