Hello and happy spring! I know it’s not quite spring, but today the sun is shining and it’s making me feel like spring is just around the corner. Except for the windy weather it brings, I love everything about spring, so that makes me happy So let’s humor the woman with the pink toes and pretend that spring is here, shall we? And let’s also talk about how to cut a narrow piece of wood with a circular saw because that’s what the title says this post should be about.
**DISCLAIMER** This is what I do to cut a narrow piece of stock. I am not a power tools expert, just a DIY girl with a blog. I have safely and successfully used this method quite a few times now, but nobody has told me specifically that it is a safe method!! Use this tutorial at your own risk!!
First of all, I make the cuts for this using the method for cutting with a circular saw I talk about in the video I did. I can only vouch for my safety and success using this method, since I’ve never tried a different one. When I speak of a narrow piece of wood, I am talking about a piece of wood you want to cut, but you can’t clamp it to the straight guide because it is narrower than the straight guide. For demonstration purposes I will be showing a 1×2.
Obviously the 1×2 cannot be clamped to the straight edge–it is completely covered up by it! So what we need to do is find a larger piece of wood the same thickness of the narrow piece you want to cut. The 1×2 is 3/4″ thick, so I used 3/4″ thick plywood. They need to be snug together.
Lay your guide over both pieces and line up the edge of the guide to your marks on the narrow wood. Keep in mind that the side that is visible at this point is the waste side (the part under the guide should be the piece you want after the cut). That is because the saw blade is going to eat away about an 1/8″ (depending on your saw blade’s width) to make the cut and you don’t want that 1/8″ eaten away from your careful measurements!
Before you clamp, make sure that both pieces are still snug together and didn’t shift as you added the straight edge jig. Now you clamp to the larger scrap piece of wood. Your narrow piece is just floating under there, not clamped to anything. After I clamp I like to give the narrow piece a nice smack back toward the clamped piece just to make sure it is snug. If it moves at all you need to reclamp.
The saw’s weight and your slight pressure back toward the straight jig is what holds the narrow piece in place. Now I am going to admit that this 1×2 is the narrowest I have attempted using this method, and it was a fail. The saw started pushing the 1×2 halfway in the cut, so I stopped the saw and you should too, if that happens to you. Do not operate the saw with one hand to try to make this work! It’s not worth it. If you have to stop in the middle of a cut don’t raise the saw while the blade is still moving–if it touches anything else it might send it flying or it might send the saw flying. But I did get half through and just cut that to show you. The pictures and process are all the same and this works with slightly larger than a 1×2 piece!
That one more way I’ve gotten around not having a table saw in my arsenal of power tools. But I will admit to asking some questions about the table saw selection at Lowes, especially since SawStop doesn’t appear to be interested in sending me any surprise packages…
Ok Mel, here it is!! I had one request for the cutting plywood with a circular saw video so I edited it last night and uploaded it to You Tube. I have it on the setting that only lets you see it with a link, so if you go and search for it, it won’t show up. Here’s the link if you want to see how I go about it…
But first I must warn you! It’s long, sorry. I’m pretty sure I don’t sound like or look like the person in this video. I do weird things with my hands when I’m speaking and I got a strange southern twang on camera. It’s strange because I’m from central Ohio.
And here we go:
Oh my. I’m not sure I want you to tell me what you think. Be kind…
If you want to see the other posts on the circular saw:
That’s how all fairy tales end, right? I can now add The Beast to tools that I love because I CUT 2 SHEETS OF PLYWOOD WITH ONE YESTERDAY!! (That is me shouting, but my voice is all croaky with this cold I’ve got, so it might not have come off that way.) It was cold in the garage, I was stressed about the possibility of ruining two sheets of plywood, but it is all “happily ever after” today.
I used 5 2×4 supports to get the plywood up off the ground and support it to prevent kickback in the saw, and my straight cutting jigs that I made here. Those worked great and the advantage of 2x4s rather than the foam insulation sheets (info on that here) is that they store in a smaller spot. Advantage of the foam board: you have a flat surface to crawl along once your plywood is in smaller pieces, rather than stepping over 2x4s as you make the cut. I would still choose the 2x4s due to space shortage, but you might want to consider that in your decision.
I first made sure all the corner of the plywood were square (with a carpenters square) and checked the ends for damage, voids in the interior, etc. I found 3 square corners and one mushed end. I made sure the mushed part would end up in the scrap area of my cut list. If you’re dimensions are tight and you don’t have much scrap to play around with, make sure you come home with a great piece right from the store. I did this, but I think the damage happened in the van where it sat overnight in a wet area of the carpet…oops.
Good side of the plywood faces down for all cuts. My first cut was a crosscut (cut will go across the grain) so I taped both sides of the cut with blue painter’s tape. I made about 4 small marks down the plywood and made sure the tape was over those marks. Then I marked the cut line on top of the tape on both ends to line up the cutting jig.
Lined the edge of the jig up with the cut mark:
And then double checked that my dimensions were the same down the entire left side of the jig (in this picture). All that matters is that the dimension is the same from one end to the other, not what dimension it is. I had to make micro adjustments doing this, it added a LOT of time, but my cuts came out really accurate which should make the rest of the build much easier.
There was barely any rip out–even on crosscuts! Remember this picture of the crosscut the store made for me?
Look at how pretty my crosscut turned out! Make sure you remove the tape by pulling it perpendicular to how you put it on (the tape came off really easy for me, but if you use regular tape it might pull the veneer off if you just pull it up in the direction it is applied).
Sorry it’s blurry. I thought these were good in the poor light of the garage!
I wish I could show you some pictures of mistakes that you might want to look out for, but since I didn’t make any mistakes…
Well lookie here. I guess I was fibbing!
Always keep the saw moving along the guide all the way through until the saw is clear of plywood. If you stop early, you cut off the corner and maybe burn a little of the edge…If you run out of cutting jig, follow the imaginary edge of the jig until you are entirely clear. I cut the edge for the first two cuts, then I got it figured out:
And apparently the straight jig does not guarantee a straight cut every time–you’ve got to do some of the work…
So, there you have it! Now, if I can do it you certainly can! My last words of advice are to do some research on safety with a circular saw and to READ your OWNER MANUAL. I have not covered any safety advice here. Two of the top (beyond doing what you can to prevent kickback) is to always have a firm, two hand grip on the saw and to keep the saw to the right or left of your body instead of standing directly behind it (which you end of doing with the set-up I used anyway). If it does kickback, then the wood and the saw are not hitting you.
But PLEASE make sure you do safety research!
And then do everything you can to be safe, grab your saw, plug it in, and make the cuts. Because we all know that if you want it done right you gotta do it yourself!
Look at my Beauty. She’s so pretty and clean and she doesn’t bite.
And here’s the Beast that I need to tame:
Like all fairy tales, this too has a happy ending. I made two of the straight edge cutting jigs for the circular saw yesterday like these here.
I used 1/2″ plywood and S4S 1x4s (so I could get a nice, smooth, straight edge). I had the store cut the plywood at 12″ down the 8′ side for the longer jig. Then cut it again on the 3′ side at 12″ for a shorter jig. That means you need an 8′ 1×4 and at least a 3′ 1×4 . I decided to use 2x4s for the support surface and I bought 5 of these.
Make sure you have a good blade to use too. This is what I used for the jigs and it worked great for the cuts with the grain (ripping). The more teeth that the blade has, the smoother the cut. But you also have to keep going at a decent rate or the blade heats up and burns the wood. I have to say that there was some burn smell in the garage when I was done, even with the 40T, so it was a good decision for me to not go any higher on number of teeth.
I plan to use tape on crosscuts (perpendicular to the grain) because they tend to rip the veneer like this crosscut that the store made. I hope the tape works with the 40T.
Mark a line down the longer edges of both plywood pieces 1.5″ from the edge. Cut your shorter 1×4 down to the exact length of your shorter plywood piece (long edge). Apply glue to the 1x4s.
Screw the two together–I used a countersink bit, but that probably isn’t necessary. You might want to predrill though. The article said that you would screw from the plywood side into the 1×4, because you want to screw through the thinner piece into the thicker. I didn’t do that and won’t know if I’ll regret that until I’ve used it. My thought was that I used glue with the screws, so it should hold.
When making a cut, you want your saw blade to just clear the material by no more than half of a blade tip (at least that’s what I hear). Make sure the saw is unplugged!
Now you run the circular saw down the wider side of the jig. Make sure you have the saw snug against the 1×4 edge for the entire length of the cut. This will be the edge you use on future cuts. You are creating an edge that you will line up with your cut line. This jig is specific for your particular saw, eliminating the math you need to do by just clamping a 1×4 to your plywood and then figuring out how far back you need it to be to account for the distance from the saw blade to the edge of your saw’s plate.
Now I haven’t gotten to actually use them, but even making them has gotten me comfortable using the circular saw. WELL, as comfortable as you can be with something that can cut off digits. I did make some practice cuts on smaller pieces of wood clamped to my workbench before tackling the jigs.
I will be using these jigs later this week to cut the pieces for the cabinet and shelving unit I’ll be building for the laundry room. Can’t wait to get started on it! Hopefully it will be a Happily Ever After relationship between My Beauty and The Beast.
If you couldn’t tell from yesterday’s post, I’m thinking that I’m going to have to learn how to cut a sheet of plywood by myself, rather than rely on Home Depot or Lowes to cut it for me. So I spent some time last night researching how to go about that, and I think I found some resources that will make this a successful venture (fingers crossed).
I googled “cutting a sheet of plywood with a circular saw”, because that will be my first tool of choice. I am vertically challenged, so cutting something of that size up on a table does not appeal to me. Not only are my legs short, but that means my arms are too (keeps me in proportion somewhat). That’s why I was happy to find this article right off the bat from Family Handyman. You’re cutting the plywood, which is fully supported by several 2x4s, right on the floor. The 2×4 supports prevent the wood from pinching or binding the blade, which is what causes the saw to kickback. Kickback is the only reason I have never used a circular saw up to this point in my life. Scares me.
Since I posed the cutting plywood question on Ana White’s forums (you can read me being whiny all over again there), I have another option as well–using 2″ foam insulation board like this (not styrofoam as was pointed out in the forum response by Dan K). I REALLY like that option, but after thinking about it, I’m wondering about storing that. Several 2x4s can go into a corner, but a 4×8 foot sheet of foam insulation is harder to hide. Hmmm, going to have to ponder that one.
I also plan on constructing a straight edge jig, like OkieJoe mentions in his response on the forum question. It isn’t complicated and I know I won’t be able to follow a straight line freehand. You’d have to have your eyes open to do that. Just seeing if you are still paying attention! Of course I’ll have my eyes open! I might be screeching louder than the saw the first few times, but after that I’m sure the saw will be louder.
Look at me, getting all Rosie the Riveter. Hey! Maybe someday I can claim the title “Rosie the Routerer” ! I’ll bet you anything that along with her red lipstick, Rosie had some pink toes going on in those work boots…
Stay tuned as I conquer my circular saw fear. Anyone else out there afraid of a particular power tool? I’d love to hear that I’m not alone in this! Chime in and tell me about it!