Circular Saw Use Guide: How-to, accessories, and more!


Circular saws are a very versatile saw that is widely used in woodworking. Additionally, circular saws have a vast compatibility with jigs and they can be used to cut various materials.

In this article, I will discuss how to pick a circular saw blade, types of circular saw jigs, How to use a circular saw, and common circular saw mistakes.

If you would like to learn about circular saw features and the best circular saws for your needs, then you should check out my first article “How to choose a circular saw”.

Directory

How to pick a circular saw blade

To effectively pick a circular saw blade, you will need to know the types of circular saw blades and the features.

First, I will go over the common types of circular saw blades and then the features to look for. Afterwards, I will discuss which blade will be the best for your needs.

6 Types of circular saw blades

Circular saw blades can be placed in 6 categories which includes, rip cut, crosscut, combination, dado, thin kerf, and specialty blades.

  1. Rip cut blade
  2. Crosscut blade
  3. Combination blade
  4. Dado blade
  5. Thin kerf blade
  6. Specialty blade

Below, I will discuss each blade type in detail.

  1. Rip cut blade
    • Rip cut blades are used to cut along the grain of the wood. These blades have fewer teeth and larger gullets than crosscut blades.
    • The larger teeth allow for rapid cuts when cutting along the wood grain. However, using a rip cut blade for a cross cut will result in rough cuts with wood blowout.
  2. Crosscut blade
    • Cross cut blades are used to cut across the wood grain. These blades have more teeth and smaller gullets than rip cut blades.
    • More teeth allow for a smoother and slower cut to prevent blowout and rough cut edges.
  3. Combination blade
    • Combination blades can be used as a ripcut and crosscut blade. These blades normally have more teeth than ripcut blades, but less teeth than crosscut blades.
    • Combination blades are the most common type of circular saw blade.
    • If you want a general purpose blade that can cut any type of wood and possible other materials like plastic and metal, then you should get a combination blade.
  4. Dado blade
    • Dado blades are blade sets that allow for dado cuts.
    • Normal blades cut at an angle and leave a jagged surface when trying to cut dados. However, dado blade sets include chipper blades that cut the wood at a flat, level, surface.
  5. Thin kerf blade
    • Thin kerf blades are smaller in thickness and result in less material from being eaten away from the saw blade.
  6. Specialty blade
    • Specialty blades are blades that are used to cut different types of material other than wood. These blades include aluminum, plastic, metal, tile, and cement blades.
    • Specialty blades, depending on the cut material, may have very small, high count blades or grinders.
    • The main difference between specialty blades and combination blades is that specialty blades are built for a particular cut material.

Circular saw blade features

Now that you know the different types of circular saw blades, I will discuss the different types of features and specifications to look for in circular saw blades.

  1. Blade Diameter
  2. Tooth count
  3. Kerf width
  4. Tooth Pattern
  5. Blade Material
  6. Blade use
  7. Arbor Diameter

Below, I will discuss each blade feature in detail.

  1. Blade Diameter
    • The blade diameter is the most important thing to consider when purchasing a circular saw balde.
    • You will need a circular saw blade with the diameter that matches circular saw size.
    • For example, you will need a 7 1/4″ circular saw blade for a 7 1/4″ circular saw.
    • Some circular saws are compatible with multiple blade sizes, but you should read the manual of your saw to ensure this.
    • Using a blade that is too small or too large can damage the saw and/or lead to injury.
  2. Tooth count
    • A higher tooth count will result in a smoother and slower cut. These blades are commonly seen in crosscut blades because they prevent blowout and rough edges.
    • Lower tooth count will result in a rougher and quicker cut. These blades are commonly seen in ripcuts blades because you do not need the fine teeth to achieve and smooth cut.
    • The teeth count will vary depending on the blade size.
    • The common number of teeth for 7 1/4″ circular saw blades are 24T, 40T, and 60T
      • 7 1/4″ 24T blade
        • 24T blades are ideal for framing and rough cuts where speed is most important
      • 7 1/4″ 40T blade
        • 40T blades are ideal for finer cuts where speed and cut finish are important
      • 7 1/4″ 60T blade
        • 60T blades are ideal for ultra fine finishes where cut finish is more important than speed
  3. Kerf width
    • The kerf width is the width of material that the saw blade removes during a cut.
    • Most circular saws blades have a kerf width of 0.050″ to 0.15″ with thin kerf blades being between 0.050 to 0.065 inches.
  4. Tooth Pattern
    • The two most common tooth patterns for circular saws are Flat Top (FT) and Alternating Top Bevel (ATB)
    • Flat Top tooth pattern
      • Flat top tooth pattern have blades that are square at the top. These blades are used for rip cuts and will result in blowout if used for cross cuts.
    • Alternating Top Bevel tooth pattern
      • Alternating Top Bevel blades are angled in alternating patterns to produce a clean cut that can be used for crosscuts and rip cuts.
      • Blades of High Alternating Top Bevels will result in deeper ridges when used to cut dados
    • Combination
      • Combination Alternating Bevel blades have one flat head raker tooth for every 4 alternating bevel teeth. These blades produce a smooth and flat cut.
  5. Blade Material
    • The blade material is an important factor in blade durability, cost, and blade use.
    • Tungsten Carbide Blades
      • Affordability: $$
      • Durability: $$
      • Common use: Wood, aluminum, plastic
      • Tungsten Carbide-Tipped steel blades are affordable and durable blades that can handle most woodworking applications
    • Diamond blades
      • Affordability: $
      • Durabilty: ***
      • Common use: Fiber Cement
      • Diamond blades are more costly than Tungsten Carbide blades, however they are much more durable and are commonly used for fiber cement cuts.
  6. Blade use
    • The blade material is not the only indicator for blade use. The tooth pattern, tooth count, and gullet size are all important in the type of material the blade can cut.
    • Most blades will specify which material to cut and if the blade is multi-purpose or not.
    • Common uses are wood, aluminum, steel, plastic, tile, and cement/masonry
  7. Arbor Diameter
    • The arbor diameter is the diameter of the hole where the blade is attached to the saw. The majority of the time, if you get a universal saw blade that matches the blade diameter, then the arbor diameter will match as well.
    • Common arbor diameter for 7 1/4″ circular saws are 5/8″.

Types of circular saw jigs

There are two main types of circular saw jigs.

Circular saw guide rails

Circular saw guide rails are tracks that allow for precise rip and cross cuts.

There are many manufactured guide rails and easy DIY plans available.

Purchase the Kreg guide rails: Amazon link

Circular crosscut station

A crosscut station is a station where you sit your circular saw in to accurately perform crosscuts. You and also safely cut smaller pieces of wood, that would be difficult to cut if the circular saw was handheld.

The crosscut station is ideal for wood of a smaller width that would be difficult to cut using guide rails.

Purchase the Kreg crosscut station: Amazon link

How to use a circular saw

There are 5 steps that you need to follow to operate a circular saw.

  1. Set up cut station
  2. Secure the wood
  3. Align the saw with the marked line
  4. Make sure the blade is not touching the wood
  5. Start the saw and proceed with the cut

Steps:

  1. Set up cut station
    • When using a circular saw for through cuts, you want to have space under the bottom of the board for your blade.
    • You do not want to cut wood directly on the floor or your work bench, because you will damage the blade and your cutting surface.
    • You can use saw horses to prop the wood up wooden spacer between the workbench and the cutting material.
  2. Secure the wood
    • Now you will need to secure the wood, ideally both sides, with clamps.
    • Securing both sides of the wood will prevent the cut-off wood from falling off towards the end of the cut.
  3. Align the saw with the marked line
    • Now align the saw using the blade notch or laser function with the cut line on the wood.
    • Tip: You will want to align the saw on the outside of the line. Aligning the saw directly on the line will not produce an accurate cut because the kerf will take off extra wood.
  4. Make sure the blade is not touching the wood
    • After aligning the saw, slightly back the saw away to ensure the blade is not touching the wood.
    • Starting the saw with the blade touching the wood will result in kick back and can damage your workpiece.
  5. Start the saw and proceed with the cut
    • Start the saw and proceed with the cut. Allow the saw to do most of the work and do not try to turn the saw.

How to cut straight with a circular saw

The easiest way to cut straight with a circular saw is to use a saw guide. If you want a durable saw guide with many features, then you can purchase a manufactured product.

Purchase the Kreg guide rails: Amazon link

You can, however, create a DIY saw guide with very minimal time and effort. This saw guide will give you very accurate cuts and will cost you less than 5 dollars.

To learn how to create your own circular saw guide, then you should check out my article “DIY Circular saw guide”.

How to change a circular saw blade

Lastly, we will go over how to properly and safely change a circular saw blade.

Time to complete: < 5 minutes

Materials:

  • Circular saw
  • Wrench

Steps:

  1. Power off the saw
  2. Depress the spindle lock
  3. Use the wrench to loosen the bolt
  4. Move the blade gaurd and take out blade
  5. Insert new blade and tighten the bolt
  6. Depress spindle lock
  7. Tighten blade
  1. Power off the saw
    • Unplug the cord or remove the battery from the saw to prevent injury while changing out the blade
  2. Depress the spindle lock
    • Locate the spindle lock on the blade and depress it to keep the blade from moving
  3. Use the wrench to loosen the bolt
    • Use the wrench on the saw to loosen the bolt securing the blade
  4. Move the blade gaurd and take out blade
    • Move the blade guard out of the way and lift the blade up and out of the saw
  5. Insert new blade and tighten the bolt
    • With the blade guard still pushed back, insert the new blade
  6. Depress spindle lock
  7. Tighten blade
    • Tighten the bolt using the same wrench

Conclusion

In this article we learned about the 6 different types of circular saw blades and their features. We then learned about accessories and jigs that you can use with circular saws such as guide rails and crosscut stations.

Afterwards, we discussed how to use a circular saw and change a saw blade.

Thank you so much for taking the time to read this article and I wish you luck on your woodworking journeys!

Rachel

My name is Rachel Blanding and I am a woodworker. I started woodworking at the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic. I mainly create and refurbish furniture and create art. In this site I will share with you the knowledge I have gained over the years, and what worked for me and what didn't.

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