Tool Primer: How to Select and Use a Circular Saw

Invented in 1923 by Edmond Michel, the circular saw remains a basic portable tool for any homeowner/woodworker nearly 90 years later. Skil77

The Model 77 hasn’t changed much, but worm-drive saws such as the 77 have become the realm of framers, carpenters and other tradesmen and women who make a living with the tool.  For a weekend warrior like myself and many others, we use  a sidewinder.  The sidewinder came about from  Porter-Cable in 1928.  In the next post, we’ll walk through selecting ourselves a proper circ saw and I’ll point you in the direction of some internet resources which show you how to use a circular saw.

My Skilsaw 5480 is a example of a modern sidewinder.  It has a couple of features which make it perfect for light-to-medium duty homeowner/hobbyist use:

  1. Tough casing.  Many older saws and some modern saws have metal cases.  A weekend warrior probably doesn’t really need the extra protection and a hard shell such as the 5480 has goes far enough.
  2. Metal base.  You are going to drop your saw.  Usually it will be on something hard.  Invariably, the thin metal base will get the brunt of the drop.  Get a saw with a thick, solid, hard as nails base.
  3. Strong guide knobs and such.  I’ve seen a few cheap (and some expensive) saws go kaput when the knobs go out.  Of course, you can replace the parts but the parts will still be plastic and the dealers sometimes gouge you on the shipping.  Better to have a sturdy, locking set of twisty bits in the first place.
  4. Sharp blades.  Use only sharp carbide blades.  Go expensive over cheap – stay away from generic and house brands.  I really like the Freud’s construction blades and tend to use them exclusively.  If you do any kind of woodworking with a nice plywood or melamine, such as a cabinet or puzzle chairs, you need to get a plywood circular saw blade.

With a saw chosen, it’s time to learn how to use one.

Note the sturdy work surface – but what if you are manhandling full sheets of plywood?

Try using Styrofoam as a backer.  I usually place a large sheet of insulation foam, 1″ thick, underneath the board.  Then I can mark my lines and cut away.  I just have to adjust my blade correctly for the thickness of the plywood.

Make it safe & keep the rubberside down this weekend.

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