Friday, October 25, 2013

Wood 101: Circular Saw

The following tips are helpful for safely and skillfully using a circular saw.  I feel that knowing how to operate your tools, what purposes they have and safety basics are the most important aspect of woodworking   You will gain experience over time but must start with safe practices.  If not, you will gain many scars and possibly lose limbs instead of gaining skill in your woodworking endeavors!


Safety goggles might make you “look funny” for a minute but that is WAY than to not being able to look because you blinded yourself while sawing some plywood!!  Eye Protection is a must when working with a circular saw as chips fly and can obscure your vision and/or lodge themselves in your eye.  Ouch!  Also, you never know when gremlins might show up and start throwing things at you! 

Watch Your Cord

When ripping an eight-foot sheet of plywood, it's easy for the cord to get looped around the end of the board, causing you to stop mid-cut and move it.  It’s very difficult to stop a cut and then continue it without making some ugly marks or notches in your material.  For sure you don’t want to cut through the cord with your blade.  So plan ahead..  Make sure you have a long enough extension cord and that the cord is out of your way before starting any and all cuts!  If you do have to stop in the middle of a long cut wait for the blade to completely stop before relaxing your grip on the saw.

Use the Correct Blade AND Install it Correctly!

There are many different kinds of blades for your saw.  You need to pick the correct blade depending on your material, how clean you need the cut to be and other variables.  Ask the tool expert at your local hardware store for specific information and their recommendations.  Also, make sure your blade is sharp as you can cause kickback and seriously injure yourself if the blade isn’t sharp enough. 

Lastly on blades- INSTALL THE BLADE SO IT ROTATES IN THE CORRECT DIRECTION!!  You seriously don’t want to be the idiot that is scorching your way through a cut scratching your head saying, “I wonder why this isn’t cutting right?” 

Tip:  Scribing a Line

The most accurate way to make a straight line on a plywood sheet is to measure the width at both ends, then snap a chalk line. But if you're in a hurry, or the line doesn't need to be super accurate, you can scribe it by setting your width with a tape measure, planting a pencil on your mark, and sliding it down the length of the board. Make sure to keep the tape perpendicular to the board edge.

Set your Depth

Not only is it dangerous to plunge your saw all the way through a piece of wood, but it makes for a much sloppier cut.  Set your depth so the teeth are just coming out the bottom. For big pieces of wet wood, make sure the entire gullet (the gap in between the teeth) clears, or else the saw will clog up.

Know your Saw & Be Confident Handling it

Different saws have different types of markings on them for when you're cutting. Don't trust that they'll correspond to where the blade is going to go. Learn your tool's idiosyncrasies, and consider the blade kerf.

Be on Guard ‘cause the guard can’t be trusted

Keep the blade guard clean and oiled so it always closes quickly.  Never assume the blade guard is closed or is going to close; always visually check that the blade is covered before setting the saw down.

The Circular Saw Notch Hack

If you need to cut a notch in a piece of wood but don't have the proper tool to do it, you can just use a circular saw and a chisel. Set your depth and make several cuts that are close together. Break the bits away with a chisel and you have your notch.

Hands Away from the Blade

It is easy to be casual around this tool because the blade has a sliding guard.  Don't be fooled.  A circular saw is a handheld table saw and must be treated with respect.  You wouldn't want to be that guy who lost 3 fingers because he didn't respect the saw!!!

Aim Forward

Take a close look at where the blade touches your mark, but after that, follow the line just ahead of the saw. The idea is similar to that of follow-through in sports. You will end up with a much straighter line.

Kick Backs!  Good when your speaking of a business arrangement, not so good when a saw does it!!!!

Be mindful of the possibility of kickback. Think about where the saw will go if the wood binds the blade and make sure there are no body parts in that path.

That’s about it.  If I forgot something please comment!  Happy Sawing!

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