Circular Saw Use Guide: Techniques and Maintenance

Circular saws are some of the most common woodworking saws and are very beginner friendly. In this article, I will go over how to use a circular saw, special techniques, maintenance, and troubleshooting tips. Before purchasing a circular saw, saw blades, and jigs, I recommend that you check out my article “Circular Saw Purchase Guide”.


  1. How to use a circular saw
  2. Create smooth, clean circular saw cuts
  3. Create consistent, repeatable cuts
  4. Cut curves and irregular shapes
  5. How to adjust blade depth and depth angle
  6. How to maintain a circular saw
  7. How to store a circular saw

How to use a circular saw

There are 4 main types of cuts that you can create with a circular saw. You have rip-cuts, cross-cuts, beveled cuts, and cutting through sheet material. When you cut through sheet material, you are essentially performing a rip cut, but since the technique is so much different I decided to create a whole section for sheet material.


Rip cuts are cuts that are performed lengthwise across the wood and along the wood grain. To perform rip-cuts with a circular saw, depending on the width of the wood, you may need to cut in two phases. The reason for this is that the clamps may get in the way. So you may have to clamp the wood on one end and cut and then clamp the wood on the opposite end and complete the cut.

  1. Clamp the wood to the workbench
    • If the wood is 4 inches wide or less, then you may want to clamp the wood to sheet material so you don’t accidentally cut the workbench
  2. Align the saw where you want to cut, and mark the base plate edge
  3. Set up the fence at the marked location
    • To create a fence, place a piece of wood the same thickness as the workpiece behind the workpiece. Then place a straight edge piece of wood at the marked location.
  4. Align the saw against the fence and proceed with the cut
    • If the wood is 4 inches wide or less, then you may want to clamp the wood to sheet material so you don’t accidentally cut the workbench


Cross-cuts are performed widthwise across the wood and across the wood grain. A cross cut is a very easy cut to perform with a circular saw and all of the materials that you will need are the saw and a speed square.

  1. Measure the distance from the blade to the edge of the base plate
  2. Mark the offset from the cut line
  3. Clamp the speed square to the wood
  4. Proceed with the cut

Beveled cuts

Before performing beveled cuts, you will need to determine if it is a rip or cross beveled cut. To perform a beveled cut, you will adjust the base plate to the desired angle and then follow the steps for rip-cuts or cross-cuts.

Sheet material

Sheet material is larger boards of wood and are normally plywood, MDF, or other particle board. When cutting sheet material, you often have to elevate the board and clamp both pieces of wood. You will need to clamp both sides of the board so that the wood does nto break away as you come towards the end of the cut. Next, you will need to elevate the board because the saw blade will protrude out of the other end of the wood and you do not want to cut the base. 3 easy ways to cut elevate sheet wood when using a circular saw is by layering a few 2×4’s, placing the wood on two tables, or by using a saw horse. To actually perform the cut, you can use a circular saw ripcut guide.

Create smooth, clean circular saw cuts

Creating smooth, clean, and precise cuts with a circular saw is all about the blade and creating a straight edge. With the blade, you want to have a blade that is sharp and for the proper use. So you want a blade that is designed to cut the material and is used for the correct cut type, rip or cross cut.

Moreover, you want to create a straight edge. Luckily, there are many jigs that can assist you in creating a straight edge. Store bought jigs like Kreg crosscut and Kreg ripcut jigs are very durable and have many features. However, these jigs are more expensive. As an alternative, you can DIY your circular saw jig. These jigs are definitely cheaper but tend to be not as durable or have as many features.

To learn how to make circular saw jigs, check out my article “Circular Saw Jigs”.

Create consistent, repeatable cuts

Circular saws are very versatile and extremely portable. However, unlike the table saw, they do not specialize in creating consistent repeatable cuts. For the table saw, you can set up the saw fence and cut all of your wood to the same exact length.

For the circular saw, this will be more difficult and require more setup. The best way to create consistent, repeatable cuts with a circular saw is to use a ripcut jig with adjustable length. The Kreg ripcut jig has this feature, but most DIY jigs do not. A DIY ripcut circular saw jig that I like is this youtube video.

Cut curves and irregular shapes

Circular saws are not ideal for cutting curvature and irregular shapes. However, you can still cut very broad curves. To do so, you will need to slightly bend the saw and blade. The easiest way to do this by closely following the line. The most precise way to do this is by creating a curve cutting jig. The downside to creating a curve cutting jig is that you will need to create a new jig for each arc size. To learn how to create an circular saw curve jig, then check out my article “Circular saw jigs”.

To learn more about curve cutting tools in woodworking, then check out my article “Best tools to cut curves”

How to adjust blade depth and depth angle

You should adjust the blade depth of the circular saw so very little blade is protruding the wood during the cut. To adjust the blade depth, you will adjust the base plate adjustment knob and lower the circular saw base plate.

To adjust the angle of the circular saw to create beveled cuts, you will need to loosen the bevel angle adjustment knob and align it with the desired angle. Circular saws are generally not as precise and it is good practice to check the angle of the base plate in relation to the saw blade to ensure precision.

How to maintain a circular saw

There are 6 things to periodically check for when owning a circular saw to ensure it is properly maintained.

  1. Blade wear and tear
  2. Cord damage
  3. Clogging
  4. Lubrication
  5. Safety features

Blade wear and tear

Some signs of blade wear and tear are if the blade is getting caught in the wood often and causing kickback, requires more pressure to cut the wood, and if the blade is bent. A bent blade will cause for an immediate replacement. However, a blade that is getting caught in the wood or is becoming increasingly difficut to cut may only need to be sharpened. To sharpen a circular saw blade you will need a file and and strike the blade teeth along the blade. To learn how to sharpen blades, then you should check out my article “Sharpen blades”.

Cord Damage

Sometimes during normal use and storage, circular saw chords may become damaged. Damaged cords can cause shorts, sparks, tool damage, and sometimes eletric shocks. Peridodically checking for visual damage can help prevent damage to yourself or your tool due to chord damage.


Circular saw, especially cheaper and older models, get clogged through normal and heavy use. Clogging can cause motor overload and overheating and blade stalling. To clean a circular saw you will need to first unplug the saw or remove the battery. Next, you will remove the blade and clean the inside of the saw either using an air pressure tool or shop vac. Never use water to clean your circular saw.


Normal circular saws luckily do not need to be lubricated hardely ever. The only execption to this is the worm drive circular saw. Worm drive circular saws need to be lubricated and the oil levels of the saw should be checked.

Safety features

Periodically, you should check if the blade guard is dropping like normal when pulled away from the workpiece. To test this, with the saw unplugged or the battery removed you will pull the blade guard back with either your hand or the blade guard lever and let go to see the blade guard retract. The spring action should appear to work and the blade guard should retract fairly quickly.

Additionally, the safety stop buttons, if your saw has any, should function correctly. You should test these buttons periodically.

How to store a circular saw

Storing a circular saw is very simple. The key is to make sure the blade is protected, and the cords are not stressed.

  1. Make sure the blade is protected by the blade guard
  2. Make sure the cord is not stressed or pinched

Improper circular saw storge can cause blade damage and electrical issues.

There are a few ways to store a circular saw. You can store a circular saw by using shelf, angled, or hanging storage. I normally put my saw either in a drawer or on the shelf under my workbench. You can also make an angled storage jig or hanging storage.

No matter which method you use, you should make the blade is protected by either the blade guard or some other material. Additionally, you should make sure the cord is not stressed or pinched. So do not wrap the cord too tightly around the saw and make sure it is not being pinched between drawers.


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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