How to Use a Circular Saw Properly

How to Use a Circular Saw Properly

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Operating a circular saw isn’t rocket science but it does require at least some basic knowledge if you want to do a good job. If you care about precision, appearance, and safety, you’ll want to know what everything on your saw stands for.

Luckily the basic principles of operating a circular saw are straightforward and it doesn’t take reading an entire book to get the information you need.

Here are the recommended steps of operating a circular saw with precision whether you want to crosscut or rip cut. There are also a few tips on how to make sure your cuts are always spot on.

Making Adjustments

Making Adjustments

Using a circular saw properly starts with understanding its cutting range and how to make the appropriate adjustments. The principle is the same for all circular saws, just that the actual buttons, dials, and levers may change from one model to another. Either way, the following tips apply to all of them.

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Depending on the blade, a circular saw can make crosscuts and rip cuts just as easily. It’s important to adjust the blade depth to make sure this penetrates all the way through in one go. When you do this it’s a good idea to position the saw blade to the side of your wood. Continue lowering the blade until you see the teeth at about 0.25 inches below the edge of the wood, and set the guard back in place.

Circular saws are also great for making bevel cuts. Almost all models offer at least a 45-degree range for angled cuts and should also have detents for 0, 22.5, and 45 degrees. For more custom cuts you might have to make your own measurements and markings.

You may think that knowing how to change the blade has nothing to do with how to use a circular saw properly. However, whether your saw needs a wrench, key, or tool-less blade change system, you need to know how it works for two important reasons.

First of all, you need to make sure that your blade is fixed in place and won’t shoot off after spinning for a few seconds. You can judge for yourself how dangerous that can be for you and how detrimental it can be for your project. Secondly, not all wood can be cut by the same blade, so knowing how to safely change your blade to the recommended type is important if you want to tackle a wider range of projects.

Using Handy Accessories

Even professionals will use all the tools available to them to ensure they get a perfect cut each time. There’s a lot of temptation to do freehand cutting with a circular saw because it may shave a few seconds off each task. Not only does this increase the chance of you having to start over a project but it can also become a safety hazard.

If you want to learn how to use a circular saw properly you have to start with the basics and always give your saw as much support and guidance as you can. Keep in mind that you won’t have the stability of a table saw workbench. Therefore using a square to guide the blade is very important.

Cutting above the Mark

Cutting above the Mark

When you’re finished marking your wood for a crosscut you shouldn’t rush into cutting on the pencil line. If you want to maintain the measured length, you should start off by creating a tiny blade mark right next to the line. This prevents you from cutting the line too low and shaving off potentially important millimeters of your wood.

Safety Tips

One of the most common accidents that happen to left-handed people is that they get blasted in the face with sawdust when using their dominant hand. Since most circular saws have right-sided blades, chances are that left-handed woodworkers are trained to use their right hand when cutting.

When they eventually switch to their left hand, the body will be in the way of all the sawdust being expelled. Wearing safety glasses is not to be underestimated as catching a splinter in your eye is not only dangerous for your sight but might cause you to lose control of the saw.

You should also be aware of where the saw cord is while you’re cutting. Not everyone uses a cordless saw so it is tempting to use a circular saw with a very long extension cord to allow more freedom of movement. A lot of accidents can happen when your cord gets tangled, finds its way into the blade, or unplugs the saw and makes you mess up a cut.


Knowing how to use a circular saw properly won’t make you the best woodworker overnight but it does guarantee that you can improve with enough practice. There’s nothing worse than having to relearn a trade, or skill, and trying to let go of bad habits.

Circular saws are very straightforward to use and although different models come with different instructions, the principles of cutting, using additional tools for support, and safety precautions, never change.


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