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How to Make Long Cuts with Circular Saw

November 7, 2012 |
posted by Ana White

Hi everyone!

On our book tour, I had quite a few requests on things that might be so simple to some of you, but quite intimidating if you've never been showed how. The biggie seemed to be cutting boards.

Most of us don't own Compound Miter Saws, which I call the Builder's dishwasher for good reason - it saves so much time and helps you consistently do the same task with excellent results. But for those of us without, how to get good cutting results with an inexpensive circular saw?

Your instruction manual with your circular saw isn't going to tell you the tips and tricks that experienced woodworkers use to get controlled cuts. I can tell you just drawing a line and trying to follow it with sawdust flying has never worked well for me. Fine for rough cuts, but for fine furniture? You gotta cheat a little!

Here's how I consistently cut long cuts on plywood or even rip cuts with a ciruclar saw. Remember that every saw is different, and you will need to adjust accordingly. Some saws have the motor on the other side, so you may need to cut from the other end with your saw. With the foam trick, the weight of the saw will always be supported, and you can just concentrate on keeping that saw foot running smoothly along your clamped square edge.

Practice a few times first - it will take a few cuts to get everything alighned just right. And when the stars - or should we say the boards - align just right, magic will happen!

Video

Author Notes

If you enjoyed this video, please thank the kind folks over at 3MDIY.com for sponsoring the new How-To Video section and this video. It's been a big leap to take on video, and we couldn't have made it possible without their help. Thanks 3MDIY.com !

 

clips
bhoppy's picture

Great tip!

I sent you an email this morning about the video...

I forgot to ask you though what kind of foam is that? Is it hard like styrofoam? I can't wait to see if it helps as I suck at crosscuts with my circular saw!

posted by bhoppy | on Wed, 2012-11-07 15:14
clips
Ana White's picture

Foam Type

Thank you, sorry for taking so long to get back to you. For the foam, we just used leftovers from the Momplex. What I would recommend is any foam that holds together well (think years of handling) and is at least 1/2" thick - thicker will hold together longer. You don't necessarily need a full sheet. You could break the sheet up into pieces, and use pieces to support the wood, and then support the cut. Smaller pieces will be easier to store, more versatile for different cuts, and easier to handle. Hope this helps!

posted by Ana White | on Thu, 2012-11-08 12:46

theres an even easier way...

You can build a jig which lets you do this without the tape measure in about 5 minutes. Its best built with ply, you just need a piece about 4" wide (or more) with the factory edge from a decent sized sheet of 1/2" ply, and a piece of the same length, which is wider by more than the edge distance of your saw, preferably of 1/4" ply.
Glue the thin ply onto the bottom of the thicker with the extra width protruding below the factory edge of the board.
When its dry, run the saw down the factory edge of the board, cutting the thinner ply down.
You can now just clamp this down with the cut edge of the thinner board on the line you want to cut, and then run the saw along the factory edge to get a precise cut every time, no measuring, just clamp and cut.

posted by J Cliff (not verified) | on Wed, 2012-11-07 15:30

theres an even easier way...

You can build a jig which lets you do this without the tape measure in about 5 minutes. Its best built with ply, you just need a piece about 4" wide (or more) with the factory edge from a decent sized sheet of 1/2" ply, and a piece of the same length, which is wider by more than the edge distance of your saw, preferably of 1/4" ply.
Glue the thin ply onto the bottom of the thicker with the extra width protruding below the factory edge of the board.
When its dry, run the saw down the factory edge of the board, cutting the thinner ply down.
You can now just clamp this down with the cut edge of the thinner board on the line you want to cut, and then run the saw along the factory edge to get a precise cut every time, no measuring, just clamp and cut.

posted by J Cliff (not verified) | on Wed, 2012-11-07 15:30

Great idea Jeff! I think I

Great idea Jeff! I think I will try it your way so I don't have to keep measuring!

posted by Aisha_ (not verified) | on Wed, 2012-11-07 18:14

Awesome tip!!

Hey Anna,

Thanks for the awesome tip. My husband and I are fairly new to building (we have built the fancy x farmhouse table & benches and the fancy hall tree bench thanks to your plans.)
This tip will be extremely helpful since I have a husband that refuses to let Home Depot rip down our plywood. :)

Thanks again for all of your great plans and inspiration.
PS... I love checking in on the momplex! Great work!

posted by Lacy (not verified) | on Wed, 2012-11-07 16:09
clips
Ana White's picture

Thanks everyone! Great tip

Thanks everyone! Great tip Jeff - that would work awesome! Would be great to make even a short one for cross cuts. Thanks for sharing!

posted by Ana White | on Wed, 2012-11-07 18:26

Circular Saws

Really useful tips. The most important thing is to ensure your hands and fingers never come anywhere close to the blade. Most circular saws come with a push rod or you can just use an old piece of timber to push the timber through.

posted by Hometipster.com (not verified) | on Thu, 2012-11-08 00:34

Keep up the great work!

Just stopping by to say great work on the video and looking forward to more! I love the styrofoam tip. I'm often building by myself b/c hubby is watching our little one so I can :D.

I built the Clara table and $4 chairs recently and built a cutting jig for the cross cuts and it helped tremendously! I just didn't trust myself to do the calculation over and over and get it right. Plus, it saved so much time.

I also watched you on Home & Family and learned some tips (I.e. sand before assembling, drill screws halfway in before assembling). All basics, yes. But helpful reminders to newbies like myself.

Thank you so much for sharing, Anna!

posted by Lauren H (not verified) | on Thu, 2012-11-08 07:11

Kreg makes a jig for long cuts also.

My husband and I have been building furniture for several years now thanks to your awesome plans. Just a couple weeks ago we discovered that Kreg has an adjustable jig for making straight long cuts with A circular saw. We were very impressed with its ease of use and what a great job it did. It was cheap too. P.S. Your book turned out beautifully. I think it is a great way to introduce building to people who think that they may not be able to do it. My three sisters are going to get one for Christmas.

posted by Treva (not verified) | on Thu, 2012-11-08 13:55

Kreg makes an adjustable jig also

My husband and I have been building furniture for several years now thanks to your awesome plans. Just a couple weeks ago we discovered that Kreg has an adjustable jig for making straight long cuts with A circular saw. We were very impressed with its ease of use and what a great job it did. It was cheap too. We don't know if it is a new product, but it was the first time we noticed it at the hardware store.

P.S. Your book turned out beautifully. I think it is a great way to introduce building to people who think that they may not be able to do it. My three sisters are going to get one for Christmas.

posted by Treva (not verified) | on Thu, 2012-11-08 14:00

That's so awesome! I'm

That's so awesome! I'm totally going to go buy some foam. I appreciate the video!

posted by Deanna Teague (not verified) | on Sat, 2012-11-10 19:35

Cutting tip

If you laid out the plywood so you were cutting close to the edge of the table you could move along the edge of the table, pulling the saw along with you instead of having to lean forward and shove the saw away from you.

The control at the end of the cut is better.

posted by Anonymous Coward (not verified) | on Fri, 2012-11-16 03:36

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