Circular Saw Basics

A Circular Saw is a very useful, portable power tool that should be owned by every woodworker. Due to its portability, it can replace a table saw if you don’t have a big space, and you can use it to build woodworking projects anywhere, be it on your balcony or driveway.

This handheld tool has similarities with a table saw, but you need to position it on the stationary workpiece and cut to your dimension. Freehand cuts can be safely made with this saw, but to get a straight cut, use a guide or fence.

Parts of a Circular Saw


There are two handles on this tool which allow you to use both hands to hold and control its operation. When it’s in operation, ensure that you hold the trigger at the back handle throughout the period of operation. Some circular saws have a lock button that must be pressed to prevent it from starting accidentally.


New circular saws are equipped with multi-purpose blades which can be used for cutting anything from plywood to softwood or hardwood. Blades with several teeth is used to cut plywood to achieve better results.

Every saw has a unique but similar way for replacing blades. You can learn about this by checking the owner’s manual.

First, unplug the tool from the power source, locate the lever or button and use it to lock the spindle. Press and hold down the spindle while using the hex key to loosen the bolt and nut.

Check to know the direction of the threads to ensure that you’re not tightening the nuts instead of loosening it. Remove the nuts, washer, or flange and keep it properly facing the correct direction.

There are arrows on the blade to show that its direction of rotation is anti-clockwise. Another point to note is that, the blade manufacturers logo always face out.

The blade of a circular saw is located on the right side of the electric motor, but you can as well purchase a left-handed saw if you’re left-handed, and this will help to keep the blade close to your body.


The saw has its baseplate resting against the wood surface, and it maintains the running of the blade at a steady angle of 90 degrees to the wood.

Saws with aluminum baseplate are light and inexpensive, but cannot handle much work. For best results, purchase a circular saw with magnesium or steel base.

You can as well tilt the baseplate when making beveled cuts, or you can set your desired cutting angle to 90 or 45 degrees, using the gauge of the saw, and adjust the saw for a shallow or deep cut.

Blade Guard

All circular saw comes with blade guards, and these guards automatically retracts when cutting starts. You can use a lever to also retract it manually. Plunge cuts are made through blade guards.

Sometimes, when I’m working on thin materials, I retract it to get it working.

Size of Circular Saws

There are different sizes of circular saws meant for different purposes. The recommended size for DIY projects and woodworking is the 7 ¼” saw which uses 7 ¼” blades.

Some are battery operated and others are corded saws, but I learnt that the rechargeable type works well although I’ve not use it. Using a rechargeable type is easier if you don’t have much work, but corded saws are very affordable.

Securing Wood

To achieve perfect cuts and avoid injury, hold the work piece in place and secure it with a pair of sawhorse. This is most applicable to plywood or board.

To avoid the two halves of the work piece collapsing in on each other as you approach the end of the wood while cutting, do not pin down the offcut piece.

Allowing this to occur may cause kickback or saw binding, although a table saw kickback is more dangerous than a circular saw kickback. This can be remedied by releasing the trigger and adjusting the work piece. In that case, clamp only one side to prevent the wood from binding.

I prefer placing my wood piece on a Styrofoam insulation on the ground to cut. This will eliminate kickback and gives support with a clean cut.

Making a Cut

Straight cuts are made with circular saws and table saws, while curved cuts can be made with a jig saw.

First, adjust the blade to the edge of the wood, set the depth and lock it down. There is a unique setting for different thickness of work piece. Using the freehand method for making straight cuts with a circular saw is the easiest.

This is done by drawing a line on the work piece and following it. With the trigger, roll the spinning blade into the wood along the sketched line of cut, while ensuring that your positioning is to the side of the saw and not behind it. This method is used for rough building projects.

The two notches of the baseplate shows the positioning of the blade, and to cut a wood, let the baseplate be kept flat against the surface of the wood. One of the notches is for straight cuts and the other is meant for beveled cuts.

Ensure that you wear safety equipment such as dust mask, ear and eye protection.

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