May 11, 2021
You have already seen many woodworkers with their circular saw set up on a table, and you might have undoubtedly concluded that you can only use the circular saw on a table. Yet, there are instances when you would need to perform cuts without the table. And in those instances, you should know precisely how to perform cutting tasks with your circular saw.
A circular saw is a handy tool for cutting longboard, dimensional lumber, and sheet-good materials. Woodworkers would often spread the plywood on the table and push the circular saw past the plywood. Of course, moving a plywood sheet while you cut it is a challenge. So, you need to ensure that the plywood lays flat on a sturdy table when you cut it with a circular saw.
Different Methods of Using a Circular Saw without a Table
In the absence of a table, you need to be very careful and flexible enough when using your circular saw. Moreover, you got a few options when it comes to cutting wood using a circular saw, sans a table, and below are these methods:
Cutting Using an Edge Guide
If you want to make personalized cuts with your circular saw, you first need to select the plywood you would cut carefully. This plywood should be pressure-treated with a high moisture level. You should also use a circular saw blade designed for cutting this type of plywood. Such a blade comes with a non-stick covering that lessens friction as the blade plows through the damp wood.
Then, you need to avail of a specific type of edge guide that fits your circular saw. This edge guide will move along the plywood edge to ensure that you get an even cut from end to end.
Afterward, you need to make sure that you set the blade’s depth accurately, allowing it to plow along the wood at a correct depth. You can set the blade’s depth at around 1/4″.
You can then place the unused wood pieces on the sawhorses to cut through according to what you want. Even without the table, you can accurately rip and cut plywood with this method.
Cutting Using a Track
Before you employ this method, you must prepare the materials you will use, such as measuring tape, combination square, marker, chalk line, and wood screws. You would also need a regular drill bit, a drill with a countersink bit (rate of 8/10), worm drive, or circular saw for trimming.
Then, once you have prepared all these tools and materials, you can then take out two boards from your stack of boards. One should be around 2 1/2″ wider than the other board. Try to choose straight boards as much as possible.
Afterward, you take another board (plywood of 3/4″ in size). You can also use another type of wood around 11″ to 12″ wide and a 3/4″ thick. Then, cut it relative to the base of the circular saw. Then, draw a straight line up to 4 1/2″ on the wood.
You can now set a smaller wood piece and align it with the line you have drawn earlier. Afterward, get hold of the countersink drill once you have affixed the woods’ vertical edges to keep the wood steady and firm. Then, drill holes using the countersink drill through the smaller wood. Screw them to secure the board and prevent unnecessary movements.
Your next move would be to affix the larger board with your table as firmly as possible. Then, trim the board as accurately as possible. You can achieve this task by making a plunging cut and setting the circular saw base adjacent to the smaller wood. Then, cut the larger piece’s extra portion.
You can let the circular saw’s blade touch the wood piece’s horizontal edge, giving you a critical reference for cutting any wood.
Then, place the plywood below the track. Affix this plywood firmly. Afterward, you can set the saw allowing its base to touch the smaller wood. Moreover, you should ensure that the blade is adjacent to the larger piece. You can now cut across the wood with this setup, running the saw through the larger piece to get a clean cut.
Extra Tips When Cutting without a Table
Aside from the two abovementioned methods of cutting using a circular saw without a table, you can also check out the following extra tips:
- Ensure that you take the smaller wood piece and set it correctly on the guiding line that covers the external line area. Then, take hold of the countersink drill once you’ve clamped the woods’ vertical edge.
- The top smaller board should wrap around after clamping. You can use the countersink drill in drilling some holes through the smaller wood. Then, screw them to keep the boards tightly held.
- Afterward, clamp the larger board on the table firmly.
- You need to engage in a plunge cut to trim the larger board. You can do this by placing the circular saw base near the smaller wood. Next, cut the excess part of the larger wood. In doing so, you will get zero clearance while letting the saw blade touch the wood’s horizontal edge. With the cut wood, you will have an accurate reference for anything you would cut. In so doing, you can create a track for the circular saw.
- To properly cut the plywood, make sure that you clamp the plywood firmly.
- Then, position the saw’s base to touch the smaller wood while the blade stays adjacent to the larger wood. Next, run the saw across the larger wood piece.
Mistakes When Using a Circular Saw
You should avoid several mistakes when cutting using a circular saw, and some of these mistakes include the following:
Getting in the Path of the Cut
The circular saws are like free-hand table saws. They come with 13 to 15amp motors that spin a 7 1/2″ blade capable of 5,000 + RPM. The circular saw, however, has no fixed path. Moreover, the only thing that keeps your circular saw in line is your wrist and your arm.
So, make sure that you don’t put any part of your body in the cut path. Avoid placing your hand in front or before the blade path. You should also avoid positioning your knee behind the saw or in front of it. Stand on the side of the saw, and if possible, keep both hands on the saw. Don’t reach underneath it.
Binding the Blade
Blade binding happens when a spinning blade gets too much pressure from the wood that you are cutting. When a saw cuts a path, the blade sits in a clear channel. This channel is called the kerf. The kerf is a safe bubble for the spinning blade. So, avoid twisting the saw when cutting, which may lead to a kickback of the saw.
Ensure also that your pieces are supported near the cut to keep the pieces from collapsing. Without enough support, the bending material will cause the buildup of pressure on the blade, causing it to bind and kickback.
Failure to Prop the Cut
The circular saw might cut anything below the material. So, the best thing to do is prop your pieces by putting scrap wood beneath your material. You can also set a block underneath the cut path. Moreover, you can hang one end of the material that you would cut.
Just hang the waste off the table and cut, and make sure also that you have better support beneath the weight of the saw. There are other common mistakes when using a circular saw. But as of the moment, it would suffice to know these three common mistakes so that you can avoid them.
Carpentry is all about two things: cutting and fastening. Every single function that you would do as a carpenter would fall under any of these two functions. So, if you are a DIY carpenter, you will only need two tools to perform the carpenter’s two primary functions: a circular saw and an 18V half-inch cordless drill.
Of course, if you got a table saw, cutting plywood straight would be comfortable using it. However, there would be instances when you will be away from your shop and your table saw, and you need to make cuts on sight. In such instances, you can fall back to the use of your circular saw and accomplish the cutting jobs using it.
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.