Wood 101: Circular Saw

The following tips are helpful for safely and skillfully using a circular saw. I feel that knowing your tools and safety basics are the most important aspect of wood working. You will gain experience over time but must start with safe practices or you will gain many scars and possibly lose limps in your wood working endeavors!



Safety goggles might make you “look funny” for a minute but that is WAY than to not being able to look because you blinded yourself while sawing some plywood!! Eye Protection is a must when working with a circular saw as chips fly and can obscure your vision and/or lodge themselves in your eye. Ouch! Also, you never know when gremlins might show up and start throwing things at you!

Watch Your Cord

When ripping an eight-foot sheet of plywood, it’s easy for the cord to get looped around the end of the board, causing you to stop mid-cut and move it. It’s very difficult to stop a cut and then continue it without making some ugly marks or notches in your material. For sure you don’t want to cut through the cord with your blade. So plan ahead.. Make sure you have a long enough extension cord and that the cord is out of your way before starting any and all cuts! If you do have to stop in the middle of a long cut wait for the blade to completely stop before relaxing your grip on the saw.

Use the Correct Blade 4 your material &

Install it facing the Right Direction!

There are many different kinds of blades for your saw. You need to pick the correct blade depending on your material, how clean you need the cut to be and other variables. Ask the tool expert at your local hardware store for specific information and their recommendations. Also, make sure your blade is sharp as you can cause kickback and seriously injure yourself if the blade isn’t sharp enough.

Lastly on blades- INSTALL THE BLADE SO IT ROTATES IN THE CORRECT DIRECTION!! You seriously don’t want to be the idiot that is scorching your way through a cut scratching your head saying, “I wonder why this isn’t cutting right?”

Quick Tip: Scribing a Line

The most accurate way to make a straight line on a plywood sheet is to measure the width at both ends, then snap a chalk line. But if you’re in a hurry, or the line doesn’t need to be super accurate, you can scribe it by setting your width with a tape measure, planting a pencil on your mark, and sliding it down the length of the board. Make sure to keep the tape perpendicular to the board edge.

Set your Depth

Not only is it dangerous to plunge your saw all the way through a piece of wood, but it makes for a much sloppier cut. Set your depth so the teeth are just coming out the bottom. For big pieces of wet wood, make sure the entire gullet (the gap in between the teeth) clears, or else the saw will clog up.

Know your Saw & Be Confident Handling it

Different saws have different types of markings on them for when you’re cutting. Don’t trust that they’ll correspond to where the blade is going to go. Learn your tool’s idiosyncrasies, and consider the blade kerf.

Be on Guard ’cause the guard can’t be trusted

Keep the blade guard clean and oiled so it always closes quickly. Never assume the blade guard is closed or is going to close; always visually check that the blade is covered before setting the saw down.

The Circular Saw Notch Hack

If you need to cut a notch in a piece of wood but don’t have the proper tool to do it, you can just use a circular saw and a chisel. Set your depth and make several cuts that are close together. Break the bits away with a chisel and you have your notch.

Hands Away from the Blade

It is easy to be casual around this tool because the blade has a sliding guard. Don’t be fooled. A circular saw is a handheld table saw and must be treated with respect. You wouldn’t want to be that guy who lost 3 fingers because he didn’t respect the saw!!!

Aim Forward

Take a close look at where the blade touches your mark, but after that, follow the line just ahead of the saw. The idea is similar to that of follow-through in sports. You will end up with a much straighter line.

Kick Backs! Good when your speaking of a business arrangement, not so good when a saw does it!!!!

Be mindful of the possibility of kickback. Think about where the saw will go if the wood binds the blade and make sure there are no body parts in that path.

That’s about it… Happy Sawing!



Hi, I'm Stacy! I'm an Über Geek! Also a Mom, Artist, Craftsman, Writer, Fixer of all Things Broken, Caregiver! Professionally I am also a Notary, Certified Notary Signing Agent, Mortgage Banker (Licensed Loan Originator), Certified QuickBooks Bookkeeper, Small Business Consultant and Small Business Owner! Some call me "Malibu Ninja", "The Spiller", "Spacey", "Angel" or "Turbo"; Around family I answer to "Stace", "Ra-Stacy", "Susie", "Sue-Stacy" or "Hey You" but in all reality my name is Stacy Price (like The Price is Right). I list out a bunch of titles or labels (above) in a feeble attempt to describe myself but, I am much more than those labels.. First and foremost, I'm a Mom to Jamison, an amazingly intelligent 7 year old who astounds me every day with his wit, charm and outlandish smarts. He is in 2nd grade this year and is growing too quickly for my taste! I am human, I live on earth, I have a complex and often scattered mind with far too many thoughts running, jumping and screaming at the same time (ADHD, OCD or maybe some other acronym??)! I have lived an interesting life so far, learned many skills and even more lessons, mostly the hard way. I have earned my stripes and all my battle scars, I wear them proudly. I have plenty of good stories to tell and I undoubtedly will acquire many more in the colorful years ahead. People either hate me or they love me, not many fall in between. I am like the tazmanian devil, hard to handle! I am opinionated, expressive, artistic, loud and proud! Each day I will be bold, sometimes offensive but I will always be myself and my freak flag will be flying high until the day I die! Bragging rights I worked with a whole department full of Rocket Scientists (LITERALLY) and held my own intellectually (learned quite a bit too!) at the University of Washington Aeronautical & Astronautical Department of Engineering! I was told I could never have children (due to health problems) although it was risky and a huge challenge I survived having my son who is the most wonderful gift anyone could ask for!

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Posted in DIY Projects, SHOP HACKS, Tips & Tricks, Wood 101

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