Know Your Tools: Circular Saws

Know Your Tools: Circular Saws

Johnny Williams
Jun 14, 2010

Back in February, I posted this handy guide to hand saws. But certain jobs demand a hardier tool, and sometimes you need the power of a circular saw.

While many saws utilize round blades, the term circular saw is typically reserved for hand-held models with blades ranging from 5-3/8'' to 8-1/4'' in diameter. The size of a saw's blade determines its cutting capacity — most contractors and woodworkers opt for a 7-1/4'' model capable of cutting boards up to 2-1/2'' thick. As for choosing between a corded and a cordless saw, believe it or not, I'd recommend a corded. Despite the perks of portability, circular saws simply use more power than a battery pack packs.

Though the circular saw is capable of complex cuts, for our purposes, I'll describe the most basic technique: cutting across the grain aka a cross-cut. Before you begin, be sure that your blade is sharp, clean and installed with the teeth pointing forward. Next, check the depth setting on your saw such that the blade clears the thickness of your workpiece plus an additional 1/8''. But be aware — if it's extended too low, only a small portion of the blade is actually cutting and the saw is liable to bind or kickback at you.

Next, secure your board to a pair of sawhorses with a clamp or simply by leaning on it with your knee. Scribe a few lines and take some practice cuts, making sure to keep the power cord out of harm's way. Hold the saw flat atop the workpiece yet a couple inches from the edge. Now begin cutting slowly and straight, releasing the trigger only when you've cut all the way through the board. Oh, and I almost forgot: before you start slicing, remember to put on protective eyewear. Safety is never square, especially when it comes to circular saws.

Recommended circular saws

• Skil 5480-01 13 Amp 7-1/4-Inch Circular Saw Kit, $44.83 on Amazon

• Makita 5007MG Magnesium 7-1/4-Inch Circular Saw, $119 on Amazon

• DEWALT DW364K 7-1/4-Inch Circular Saw with Electric Brake, $159.99 on Amazon

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