Circular saws are popular handheld power tools that are a must-have addition to any carpenter’s or builder’s collection. You would be hard-pressed to see a renovator or construction worker without one. While they aren’t completely required for all jobs, they certainly make every job easier, quicker, and much more efficient.
A circular saw uses electricity to power its ever-spinning blade. Professionals and beginners alike can get plenty of use from this kind of saw, as the circular blade sizes vary per project. For example, you can use a small 6.5” blade to cut thin planks of wood, while the 12” or 18” diameter blades are so powerful that they can cut through cement.
In this article, we’ll discuss how exactly a circular saw works. Before beginning, though, it is vital that you review our 10 Table Saw Safety Rules for use. While a circular saw is not always categorized as a table saw, the rules for safety and protection still apply at all times. Remember to never use a circular saw without gloves or protective eyewear. Since this is a very powerful automatic tool, it is best to take precautions at all times.
Basic Features of the Circular Saw
Again, since there are many different types of circular saws, there may be some features and technicalities that are available on one brand and not on the other. This section will go over some of the basic features and parts that all circular saws should have.
It’s important to take a good look at the features of the saw you want to work with before you decide to purchase it. It can be a difficult prospect at first, but the more you come to understand these powerful devices, the easier it will be for you to make your choice.
The base plate is the weighted, square-shaped base of your circular saw. It is often printed with a metric ruler, so that you can determine the precise measurements of your cuts each time. A protracted angle protrudes from the base, making a rounded half-circle for more measurements. Since this is a circular saw, most measurements will be made in a circular motion.
The base plate can be adjusted to fit just about any angle. You can tilt it to make angled cuts if you are working with wood. You can adjust it anywhere from 45 to 90 degrees, making it one of the most movable types of saws available. Be sure to stick to the scale that’s built into the base plate for the best accuracy.
Of course, all circular saws come with a pretty sharp blade! You’ll need to keep your hands away from the moving blade at all times. The use of a blade guard will be discussed further down.
A unique feature of circular saw blades in particular is the ability to set their depth for individual cuts, giving you the power of a more dynamic job. You can even set it to as little as 0.3” for the most delicate cuts. If you are looking for ways to adjust this blade, you can find the adjustment lever at the rear of the motor, as it locks the base plate at your designated height.
Not all circular saws come with a ripping fence, but most do. This is used to guide the blade as you cut along a board, making a “ripping” cut rather than an angled cut. This is a fast way to achieve a straight and smooth cut all the way across the board.
A dust ejector is used to get sawdust away from your face while you’re rapidly cutting with your circular saw. Most newer circular saw models, such as the Bosch CSDCHUTE, come with dust ejectors to blow sawdust away from the area where you are making your saw cuts.
Blade guards should come with every saw and are pretty much required for safe use. We do not ever recommend using a circular saw without a blade guard. Typically, a blade guard will come in two parts: The fixed guard, which is always situated over the top of the blade and never removed, and the floating guard, which can be pushed out of the way when you’re ready to move your blade into place. Most blade guards also come with a handle, so that you can lift it or rearrange it if it’s in the way, or use it as a good measuring tool for your cuts.
Types of Blades
Depending on the type and size of circular saw you purchase, you may be faced with a number of choices for your blade. They come in a variety of materials and sharpnesses, so be prepared to think about what it is you’re looking to cut into.
The two most popular kinds of blades for a circular saw include the HSS (High Speed Steel) blade, which has pretty much become an industry standard in the professional and amateur worlds, and the TCT (Tungsten Carbide Tipped) blade, which is an extremely durable and tough blade meant to cut through hardwoods.
Other types of blades that can come with a circular saw include:
- Blades with more than 40 teeth, which are used for crosscutting.
- Blades with fewer than 28 teeth, which are used to rip timber along the grain.
- Abrasive blades, which are carborundum and used to cut concrete and metal, although they can wear down easily and require replacements.
- Tempered alloy blades, which use carbon steel teeth in a fine line for galvanized metal, aluminum, or metal tube cutting.
- Diamond rim blades, which are highly specialized and use industrial diamonds to make them extra tough and durable for cutting cement and brick products.
Setting Up Your Circular Saw for Use
Before turning on your circular saw, there are several important preparations that need to be made.
Do you know what materials you’re using? What is it that you’re trying to cut? Do you want to tilt the blade for an angled line, or are you using the saw on your table?
Below is a highlight of the steps you should take in an easy-to-follow process to understanding how circular saws work.
Step 1 - Support Your Materials
If you are cutting a plank of wood, for example, you shouldn’t be expected to just hold it in your hands while you cut it. Be sure that it is on a solid, steady surface. A board or concrete slab won’t work, because it won’t be able to react to the power and movement of the circular saw blade. Instead, try laying your wood on a sawhorse or a specially built saw table.
Step 2 - Mark Your Materials
Using a pen or pencil, as well as your measuring tape, mark out the areas on your plank of wood (or whichever material you’re trying to cut) so that you can accurately align your blade before you cut.
An angle square is not a required tool, but it may be a helpful one during this step of the process. Our Tool Nerds enjoy using steel or angle squares to mark the path where the blade will travel along for your cut.
Step 3 - Set the Depth
Remember that your circular saw blade has a big range for depth setting. Don’t stretch it too far, though; we recommend not showing any more of the blade than you have to, for both safety and accuracy reasons. A few inches deeper than the material you’re cutting should do the trick.
For example, if you are cutting a 50mm thick plank, set your blade to 40 or 45mm. Plus, doing it this way will reduce the amount of kickback you may receive when the blade is in full use.
Step 4 - Check the Saw Guard
As you lower your blade to cut your planks, make sure that your saw guard is running smoothly. It should push up as the saw begins to cut. Keeping it up while working is okay, as long as you remember to put it back down when you return the saw to your workbench. The guard is there for a reason – you need to make sure you are protected at all times.
Step 5 - Start Cutting
You want to look down the right hand side of the blade at the piece of wood you’re about to cut. Line up the scaled baseplate with your pencil mark for ultimate accuracy. Then, make sure to keep your eye on the guide at all times. You will be in a natural body position as you watch the saw cut down the line.
Repeat this process for the rest of your cutting procedures. Go one mark at a time, and take your time if you need to. You should not rush while using power tools.
A circular saw is a powerful tool that most carpenters already have in their collection. Having a saw like this can make any cutting job easier and more streamlined, as long as you understand how it works and take the necessary precautions to protect yourself and your equipment. While an overview of its parts and instructions for using a circular saw are listed here, you can check out our 5 Tips for Using a Circular Saw for industry secrets and in-depth guides. And remember to always wear your proper safety equipment!