How To Use A Circular Saw – Beginners Guide

How To Use A Circular Saw - Beginners Guide

As its name may suggest, a circular saw is a round blade used for cutting a variety of materials. These are extremely diverse and high-powered tools that are essential in any good workplace or home workshop.

But when you first get your hands on one of these powered cutting tools, you will need to think about how to use it. Since saws can be a potentially dangerous tool, it is vital that you familiarise yourself with your circular saw and get a feel for how to use it correctly before you get started.

In this beginner’s guide to the circular saw, we will be looking at how to use a circular saw safely and correctly.

What Is A Circular Saw Used For?

A circular saw features a round blade that is edged with many sharp teeth. They are amazingly powerful pieces of equipment and are typically handheld as opposed to many other types of saw. They are compact and perfect for woodworkers on the go.

The blade of a circular saw is powered and will rotate resulting in a smooth and accurate cut. One of the best things about these tools is their diversity, they can be used to cut through a wide range of materials, but we will look at this in a little more detail later on.

A circular saw can be used to make a variety of cuts, which further adds to the versatility of these tools. Most notably, they are able to make cross-cuts, rip cuts and angled mitre cuts.

What Materials Can You Cut With A Circular Saw?

The circular saw is often seen in woodworking shops and they are incredibly adept at working with this material. They can be used for a wide range of woods including both hard and softwoods.

Can a circular saw cut metal?

The good news is that your circular saw will also serve you in other projects owing to the fact that it will also effectively cut metals, tiles, stone and plastic.

If you need a saw that will help you in almost all of your DIY endeavours then this should be a serious consideration.

The Parts Of A Circular Saw

Before you can start using your circular saw, you will need to get to know the various components of it. These tools can look a little complicated when you first get your hands on them since they do have quite a few parts that you will need to get used to.

  • The base plate which is sometimes called a shoe plate or simply shoe is a rectangular piece of metal at the bottom of the saw. It sits on top of the material you will be cutting.
  • The handle of the circular allows you to get a good grip on the tool as you operate it.
  • A front grip is another handle located at the front of the saw and is designed for your non-dominant hand to give you more control over the saw.
  • A trigger lock is for your safety and will prevent the tool from accidentally starting up when the trigger is pulled unintentionally.
  • The depth adjustment knob is a control that can be altered depending on the depth of the cut you intend to make.
  • The bevel adjustment knob allows you to alter the angle of your intended cut.
  • A blade guard retracts back as you are cutting and moves back into place once the blade stops rotating. This is another important safety feature of your circular saw.
  • The blade is the most important part of the circular saw as it does all of the hard work. Typically, it will be located on the right side of the device. However, for those who have a dominant left hand, there are special circular saws designed for this with the blade on the left.

Are Circular Saw Blades Universal?

When using a circular saw, you will need to think about the type of blade that you are using. As with many other types of saw, the blade of your circular saw can be changed and you would do this when making different cuts.

For example, when making a rip cut, you might use a different blade than when you are making a cross-cut. This is because these cuts go in different directions through the wood and as such, need a different type of blade to get the most effective and accurate outcome.

Furthermore, you should think about the model of circular saw that you are using. When you buy a blade, you should check that it is compatible with your saw. You may be best opting for blades made by the same manufacturer as the saw.

It is also important to keep in mind the shape of the blade as this can impact whether it will be suitable to use with any particular saw.

When To Use A Circular Saw

The great thing about a circular saw is that it can be used for many different applications and therefore, a lot of people make this one of their first purchases. However, you aren’t always going to need your circular saw, there may be times that other types of cutting equipment may be more handy.

In short, a circular saw can be used for many different materials and for a variety of different cuts. At times, you may consider using a jigsaw in place of your circular saw and while both tools do perform many of the same tasks, if you need to do curved or more detailed cuts then a jigsaw may be the better option.

But how about a circular vs mitre saw? In this case, you will want to think about the portability. Again, both tools are capable of very similar tasks but a circular saw is much easier to take from one place to another. Furthermore, a mitre saw might be better for precision but a circular saw will offer a better choice of angled cuts.

Another type of saw with a round blade that is common in many workshops is the table saw; but when should you put down the circular saw in favour of this? A table saw is more adept when it comes to cutting larger pieces of lumber and other materials but as a rule, both saws can manage many of the same jobs.

The key comes in understanding the workings of a circular saw. They are not as easy to use as a table saw. That being said, you’re reading this beginner guide so you’re already well on your way to being able to confidently use your new bit of kit.

Which Type Of Circular Saw Should I Use? – Powered versus Rechargeable

We are seeing more and more modern power tools that operate on a rechargeable battery as opposed to using the mains power. This is extremely convenient especially for people who are on the road like contractors who need a portable and easy to use tool.

However, which is better? A powered circular saw or a rechargeable one?

With the constant and often more extreme connection to the mains power, a corded circular will deliver a much greater degree of power but that isn’t to say that a cordless model isn’t up to the job.

Many modern cordless circular saws come close to rivalling the power of their corded counterparts and they will deliver an effective cut.

That being said,  you would typically opt for a corded saw when tackling more challenging projects and a cordless circular saw when you need to move around from place to place.

Circular Saw Safety

The most important part of operating a circular saw is to ensure that it is done safely. Circular saws are responsible for many injuries, particularly where the hands and arms are concerned. However, more often than not, it is not a malfunction of the saw but how the user is behaving whilst operating it.

To ensure that your DIY experience remains accident-free, you should always follow these circular saw safety tips.

  • Wear the appropriate PPE when operating a circular saw. Eye goggles, a dust mask and ear defenders are all important items.
  • Keep long hair tied back and refrain from wearing loose clothing or jewellery that could get caught in the saw.
  • Be sure to perform regular blade maintenance. Check how sharp the blade is and change it when it dulls. A dull blade can be potentially dangerous.
  • When changing the blade, be sure to disconnect the power.
  • Always use both hands to cut.
  • Keep the cutting depth to a minimum and never let the blade fall too far under the material you are cutting.

Do not place the saw down until the blade has stopped rotating completely.

Circular Saw Kickback

Kickback happens when the blade binds in the material and becomes stuck. This can then result in the saw flying back in your direction and of course, could be a serious injury risk.

To prevent kickback, there are certain things you can do. These include:

  • Make sure you have a firm grip on the tool, using both hands.
  • Stand to the side of the saw when in use. If kickback does happen, you won’t be in the firing line.
  • Make sure that the wood is clamped before sawing.
  • Always cut on a flat surface.
  • Do not use the saw if the blade is damaged, bent or otherwise compromised.
  • Only start cutting when the saw is at full speed.
  • Allow the cut piece to fall, giving it plenty of room to do so.
  • If you hear any odd noises during the cut, STOP and check the blade.

If you veer off your cutting line, do not be tempted to steer the blade back. Instead, stop and remove the blade before putting it back on track.


Having a circular saw will give you the freedom and diversity to tackle a huge number of projects. But before you make that first cut, be sure to look over our circular saw beginners guide to give you a good idea of how these tools work and what you can do to make operating one as safe and easy as possible.

How To Use A Circular Saw – Beginners Guide

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