Guide on Ripping Thin Strips with Circular Saw

Cutting very narrow and thin strips of wood using circular saw.

If the only rip-cutting tool you have at hand is a circular saw, you might be asking yourself how you can rip narrow strips with that saw. Using the circular saw to rip narrow strips will surely be challenging, considering that narrow strips mean less than five inches in width. Moreover, the standard guides for ripping thin and narrow strips off the board don’t work well with the circular saw. Besides, you will find it hard to clamp the guide to your board, making the cutting process scary using the circular saw.

The best power tool to use would be the table saw and bandsaw to cut narrow strips. Yet, if you are bent on using your circular saw, you should learn to use it well. Cutting thin strips using the circular saw is a daunting task that even experienced woodworkers would not dare engage in. Yet, it is not impossible to do if you know the proper way of doing it.

Cutting Narrow Strips with the Circular Saw: What You Should Know?

Cutting narrow strips using the circular saw is riskier compared to when you are using a bandsaw or table saw. So, you need to take extra precautions and employ the necessary safety measures when engaging in it. First, you need to know how to operate your circular saw well. If it is your first time using the circular saw, make sure you read the user manual and learn the cautionary measures laid out in that manual. 

Additionally, you should inspect the circular saw if it is in topnotch condition. Ensure that it doesn’t have shaky or loose components. Check its cable likewise if there is any exposed wire. It will be best also to wear your safety gear like hand gloves, face shield, safety glasses, mask, earmuffs, and footwear. 

Furthermore, when using the circular saw, you should ensure that children do not loiter around your workspace. Besides, you should make sure that the cables are not getting in your way while working. You should also ensure that your workpiece gets clamped firmly. 

The tools and materials you might need to cut thin strips using the circular saw include sharp circular blades, wood and pencil marker, clamps, nails, worktable, saw the track, and measuring tape.


Steps on Cutting Thin Strips Using a Circular Saw

The circular saw is not ideal for tight curves and thin strip cutting. Yet, in the hands of a pro, it can be the most helpful tool for making various cuts, including cutting narrow strips. Below are the simple steps you can follow to cut thin strips using the circular saw:

Step 1: Choose with Care Your Platform

When cutting using the circular saw, you need to choose a suitable platform to do the cutting. It can be a wood slab or multiple slabs with the right height for your cutting needs. It should be straight and long. The longer the slabs, the better for your work. 

You should ensure that the slabs are higher than the workpiece you will be ripping when ripping the board. You can also use a worktable, foam boards, or a couple of sawhorses for your platform. But make sure you got the right platform.

Step 2: Clamp Loosely the Sole of the Circular Saw to Your Platform.

You should clamp the circular saw at two points. Position some wood bits on the sole of the circular saw to enable the clamp to hold the sole correctly.

Step 3: Adjust Your Circular Saw Width

Locate the circular saw’s front. The front side is where you would push the circular saw into. You can feed with care a test wood onto the blade from the front side, enabling you to have a reference cut. Measure the cut’s thickness until you get the correct thickness. 

Step 4: Adjust the Circular Saw to Make the Blade Parallel to the Platform

It will be best to rotate the circular saw body to enable the saw blade to stay perfectly parallel to the platform’s face. In this way, the entire saw blade will not warp while you work. If you don’t make it parallel to the platform’s face, the saw blade might get strained, and the motor may get affected. It may also throw its shaft out of line, ruining the workpiece. 

In the worst case, the saw blade may shatter. Hence, you need to do this carefully. Ensure that you make a test cut. Turn the sacrificial board over to see your reference side. Cut toward the same side from the saw’s back. 

The reference cut will get situated on the underside. With care, remove the blade guard from the circular saw’s way to get the second reference cut. Check if both cuts concur on the same points. If they do not, adjust the saw by loosening the clamp at the saw’s back. The saw blade should be parallel when you cut the two reference cuts.

You can use a saw edge and attach it to the saw. You can also create your straight edge by using scrap wood pieces and nailing them along your cutline. Saw edges can enable you to make straight and accurate cuts with your circular saw. It can also help you create repeatable cuts.

Step 5: Adjust the Height

You can drop the saw blade down to the table. Then, adjust the saw blade to the correct height. You can insert a paper underneath the saw blade to ensure that it will just skim the paper. In this way, you will find the correct height for your saw blade. 

Step 6: Readjust the Parallel Again

The saw’s body might get positioned at a specific angle to the saw’s sole. The saw’s body might also wobble relative to the sole of the saw. You cannot simply spot the angle and assume the saw blade is parallel to the table. If the saw body is at a wrong angle or wobbles, you can position a wedge underneath the saw body, somewhere between the sole and the motor casing. The height will get affected. 

Step 7: Start Ripping

Once you’ve set up the saw correctly, you can start ripping the board. But before you start cutting, make sure that you wear your safety gear like safety glasses, earmuffs, air filters, and other safety gear. Measure your cutlines and mark them on the board using a pencil. Ensure that you have a sequential plan in your mind when cutting the board. 

Place the marked board on your workbench or table, depending on which type of platform you’ve prepared. Make sure that you clamp the wood to the platform using 8d nails. Nail the board to your table. Once done with the clamping process, you are good to rip.

Position the circular saw blade on your first marked cutline. Press on the trigger and lock the trigger. Refrain from pushing your finger beyond the saw’s sole. Slowly and smoothly slide the saw over your cutline until you completely cut through. Let the cut piece drop naturally off. 

Then, you can proceed in cutting along the next cutlines. Once done with the cutting process, you can disconnect the saw from the power outlet. Put the circular saw in a safe spot and clear out the dust and all the scrap pieces.


Conclusion

The ripping of narrow strips using the circular saw is not advisable for beginners. In fact, even professionals would hold back or shudder at the thought of doing it using the circular saw because other power tools can do it better. You can utilize, for example, the table saw or the bandsaw for this purpose and achieve optimum results afterward. 

You should only use the circular saw for ripping narrow strips when you don’t have a bandsaw or a table saw, and your only option is the circular saw. Moreover, when using the circular saw, you should follow the abovementioned steps on how to do it and the safety tips. Remember to always be on the safe side when using power tools like the circular saw to avoid the risks concomitant with its use.

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