August 24, 2022
The handyman’s go-to tool when cutting thick wood for DIY (do-it-yourself) projects is the circular saw. It is a very convenient and versatile woodworking power tool to use. A circular saw is basically a power tool with a circular abrasive or toothed blade that can cut through a variety of materials such as wood, metal, plastic, concrete, and masonry, and it is usually powered by electricity. However, a hydraulic motor or gasoline engine could also be used. There are different types of circular saws for different materials. In woodworking, the circular saw pertains to the handheld type.
There are practical and safety guidelines, you need to keep in mind before you begin, and as you go through the steps of cutting that thick wood in front of you.
Things You Should Consider
Get The Right-handed Saw VS Left-handed Saw
It may be a simple thing, but getting this right is a practical thing to do. The blade is on the right of the right-handed saw while it is on the left of the left-handed saw. You have to determine which is more convenient to use for handling as well as for easy viewing of the cutting process. Just remember that it is ideal to have your dominant hand on the rear handle where the trigger or power switch is located. Your non-dominant hand is on the front knob or the auxiliary handle that helps provide stability when cutting.
The battery-operated circular saw makes for easy navigation because the distance does not restrict you to the wall outlets, and you do not have to deal with extension cords. This is ideal if you do not have much lumber to cut. However, if you have to do a lot of work, the corded one would provide you with the power supply you need for as long as you need by its connection to the electrical outlet. You do not have to worry about draining the battery power and looking for replacements if you are not finished with your work.
Familiarize Yourself With The Circular Saw Parts
There may be different brands of circular saw out there, but most of its features would be more of the same. You have to know more than just where the on/off switch or trigger is located. A handheld saw naturally has handles for you to hold or get a good grip as you maneuver it to make the necessary cut.
The blade cover or safety guard keeps the user safe from the spinning blade and protects the blade when not in use. It automatically retracts as you use it, but you can also do it manually using a lever. The bolt or arbor nut keeps the blade in place. The foot plate or base steadies the saw as it rests on the wood, and it also helps set the angle and depth of the cut. It has markings on it to locate the blade.
There is the bevel adjustment lever for adjusting the blade to make the required angle or bevel cuts. You can also adjust the blade for different wood thickness. Some circular saws come with an electric brake feature, which will stop the blade from spinning after two or three seconds upon releasing the pressure on the trigger.
Step-by-step Guide on Cutting Thick Wood Using Circular Saw
Step 1) Mark or Use Circular Saw Guide When Cutting The Wood
Make sure you mark the lumber by drawing a line with a pencil on where you need to cut. It is important you get the measurement right so as not to waste good lumber. All you have to do is keep the saw blade aligned with the cut line as you cut. However, if you have a straight edge clamp, it would be better and far more comfortable to use, especially for long cuts; the combination square or speed square for short cuts. Just do not forget to measure the offset of the blade from the plate’s edge to position the straight edge or saw guide accurately.
Step 2) Secure The Wood In Place
To ensure getting a good cut and avoid injury in the process, it is necessary to secure the wood in place by using a clamp. You position the wood on a sawhorse or table and clamp one side. Do not use a clamp on the offcut piece to avoid both halves from collapsing in on each other as the circular saw reaches the end of the wood piece. This could also result in a kickback or a bind, which can be jarring, and it could cause the circular saw to kick back or be thrown back in your direction. If this happens, just release the trigger. However, not supporting the weight of the offset piece can cause it to drop and splinter or break prematurely at the end. Some find it better to work on the ground using a Styrofoam under the wood, or you can just make sure that the offset piece will not be dragged down by its weight far from the ground.
Step 3) Check and Adjust the Blade
Cutting a three-inch-thick wood is different from cutting a quarter of an inch thick wood. It means the former is denser and a bit harder to cut. The circular saw usually has a 7-1/4 blade that can cut a 2 1/2 inches thick lumber. The handheld saw has a depth adjustment setting feature, which you can use to adjust the blade according to the depth of the cut you need to make. It should be a little deeper than the thickness of the wood you are cutting, and then lock it down.
Different blades would give different cuts. Crosscut blade has more teeth and gives a smoother cut across the grain cut while a rip blade has fewer teeth and can be used for cutting along the grain.
A carbide-tipped blade would be ideal for thicker wood. The bigger the blade, the deeper the cut it can make. You have to know what would work best when cutting the wood to get the result that you want. Remember to unplug the circular saw before you change or adjust the blade. Do not use a dull blade.
Step 4) Use Essential Safety Gear When Using the Circular Saw
While cutting the wood, there would be sawdust all over or even splinters of wood that could cause injury. Accidents happen, so it is important to take the necessary precautions. Make sure that your eyes are well protected from dust that can cause irritation or other serious eye injuries by wearing safety goggles or protective glasses. Wearing the right kind of mask could prevent you from inhaling harmful dust. Cutting makes a lot of noise, so it is best to protect your ears as well.
Step 5) Make the Cut After Everything is in Place
The base or foot plate of the cutting saw should be resting flat on the wood surface. Use the notch on the tool that would tell you where the blade would cut and position the cutting saw accordingly.
If you want the bevel cut, there is another notch that will guide you to make that cut. Squeeze the trigger and wait until the blade is spinning before you move the power tool. Position yourself to the side to get a better view of where you are cutting so you can easily follow the cut line.
However, if you are using a guide or straight edge, you do not have to worry about that. The safety guard will automatically spring back to cover the blade once you are through cutting, and with your finger off the trigger, it will be safe to set down the tool as the spinning blade slows to a stop.
For cutting the larger timbers, you have to rotate the timber toward you and start cutting the timber 1/4 at a time. And rotate the post again for cutting another 1/4 until you made a full round cut. Afterward, you can use a long handsaw or reciprocating saw with the longer blade to cut through the unreachable center wood in the timber.
Step 6) Keep the Cutting Saw & Saw Blades in Good Condition
Maintenance is important in keeping your cutting saw in good working condition. Unplug the saw before you do any cleaning. Wipe down the tool for dust after every use and check for debris that might have gotten wedged somewhere in the parts. Remove the blade so you can clean it thoroughly by using a rag or paper towel, and be mindful of the sharp points or teeth. Make sure it is dry before attaching it back to the saw. It is vital that you do this after every use to prevent any buildup of dust or dirt. Store the circular saw properly.
With your woodworking projects, even if it is just to build a small table or shelf, it is best to have a healthy respect for the circular saw or any power tools you are using.
Please familiarize yourself with the power tool and make sure you only use it according to what it is specified for. Read the instruction manual so you will know the proper and safe way of using the tool.
Do not take for granted the safety gear that you have to use before you put your finger on the trigger.
Jason is a 40-year-old woodworker, carpenter and author who have been involved in the woodworking and woodcraft industry with 17 years of experience. He is expertise in technical aspects, woodcraft and furniture building projects.