Not only it is useful to have a circular saw guide in the workshop, I believe it is a must. There are many opportunities when you need to make a straight and precise cut. Using a circular saw freehand will end up with a somewhat straight cut but not a perfectly straight one. This guide serves as a straight edge guide as well as a crosscut guide.
I already made a circular saw track in the past. It was a great upgrade for my circular saw but it allows me to make only shorter cuts and does not allow me to make crosscuts. (I am still using that guide to this day though. It is easy to set up and a really great guide for precise cuts.)
So I decided to make a new one that would help me solve these previous shortcomings. The overall dimensions are 70 x 40cm which makes it easier to cut larger sheets of plywood (cuts around 50cm) and additionally I am also able to make 90-degree angle cuts.
How to make a Circular Saw Guide Video
If you want to see this build in action, watch the video below for a step-by-step guide and detailed instructions.
Table of Contents
- Material you will need
- General Questions
- Is it difficult to make a circular saw guide?
- How to cut straight with a circular saw?
- Is more teeth on a circular saw blade better?
- Should I get a Jigsaw or a Circular saw?
- Making the Circular Saw Guide Base
- Attaching the Guiding Rail for Straight Cuts
- Attaching the Crosscut fence
- Finishing the Circular Saw Guide
- Adding clamping holes
- Adding a handle
- Adding anti slip tape
- How to Cut with a Circular Saw Guide and Crosscut Jig
*Safety is your responsibility. Make sure you know what you’re doing and take all necessary safety precautions while working with power tools. Safety comes first!
Always be cautious and careful when using any power tool. If you are not feeling comfortable with a certain technique look for other options on how to do it.
Material you will need for the project
Circular Saw Guide DIY:
1x Plywood desk (Baltic Birch 70 x 40 x 0,9 cm)
Straight Edge Guide – 1x Aluminum U Angle (70 x 2 x 0,9 cm)
Crosscut Fence – 1x Aluminum L Angle (39,5 x 1,5 x 1,15 cm)
14x Wood Screws – 10 x 3 mm
14x Washers – for screws above
Handle 14 x 3cm + screws for attachment
Double-sided “carpet” tape
Forstner bit – 35mm
Anti-Slip Adhesive Tape
Jigsaw, Circular Saw, Hand Drill
Is it difficult to make a Circular Saw Guide?
No, it is not difficult to make this circular saw guide. This is a beginner/intermediate woodworking project. It is fairly easy to build though there are a few tricky parts that will require attention. The steps are straightforward and you will be able to complete the build in a day.
You can check the list of materials here. All the material is affordable and available in any local hardware store. You’ll spend only a few tens of dollars on this guide. Apart from the material, you will need a circular saw and potentially a hand drill or a jigsaw, or any other power tool to make the cuts. But probably those are the tools you already have in the shop.
As seen in the video I am using one of my circular saw tracks to build this circular saw guide. So you might be asking yourself how do I build a guide with a guide I don’t have? Well, I used it in the process since I already had it. It helped with the cuts, but to build this saw guide it is definitely not needed.
How to cut straight with a Circular Saw?
Although it is easier with a circular saw to make a straight cut as opposed to a jigsaw, a circular saw will not be able to make a perfectly straight cut by itself. If you are using a circular saw freehand most probably the blade will wander away from the cutline and you will end up with a crooked cut. You have a few options for how to achieve an accurate and straight cut with a circular saw. You can either use a fence or a cutting guide.
If you are looking for a solution on the market you can check the guides from Kreg Tools. These products are accurate and you’ll achieve straight cuts every time. But if you are looking for a cheaper solution you can also use a straight piece of wood, a square, or a DIY circular saw cutting guide. With all these options it will be easier to make a precise, accurate, and straight cut.
When using a board or a square or a DIY circular saw guide as a straightedge make sure the circular saw presses firmly against the guide. Hold the circular saw tightly and push it slowly and steadily. For better results, you can additionally clamp the guide in position.
TIP: Make the cuts on an MDF desk or a hard foam board. You will be able to easily cut the wood piece but the board will prevent you from cutting your workbench accidentally.
Is more teeth on a Circular Saw better?
It depends on the type of cut you are making and the material you are cutting. As a general rule, the higher the amount of saw blade teeth the smoother and neater the finish will be as well as the quality of the cut. The number of blade teeth also determines the speed of the cut. The more teeth the slower the cut. A blade with a lower amount of teeth will cut faster but the rougher the finish will be.
If you are looking for the right saw blade a simple rule of choice is to compare the thickness of the material with the number of teeth touching the material while cutting.
- High amount of teeth (5+) – Cuts will be slow and the material may get burnt
- Low amount of teeth (1-2) – Cuts will be fast, rough but the material may get splintered
- Optimal amount of teeth (2-4) – Cuts will be smooth with a fine finish
The type of cut also determines the saw blade to be used. For ripping a saw blade with a lower number of teeth is needed in comparison to crosscutting where a saw blade with a higher amount of teeth serves better.
- Rip cuts – ripping blades tend to have fewer teeth, typically between 24-40. They also have deeper gullets between the teeth for quicker removal of sawdust from the cut.
- Crosscuts – crosscut blades tend to have more teeth, typically between 60-80, and they have more shallow gullets.
To get a nice clean cut on plywood without tear out or splintering you can use a saw blade with around 60 teeth.
Should I get a Jigsaw or a Circular Saw?
Since you are looking for a way how to make a cutting guide for a circular saw you probably already have one. But let’s say you’re still in the process of making your choice.
I think you should get both. They might be different from each other both aesthetically and functionally, they both serve a different purpose and they are used in different situations. Nevertheless, both of these basic saws are much needed in a workshop and they usually are the first saws that a beginner woodworker or a DIYer should get.
The question is which one to get first. Taking into account the usability of the tools, the projects you would be working on as a woodworking beginner, and my own purchase decision I believe a jigsaw is the better choice as the first power saw. Here’s why:
- With a jigsaw, you will be able to make more intricate and difficult cuts. You’ll be able to cut different shapes, sizes and make cutouts.
- The blades for a jigsaw are quite inexpensive and are easily replaceable.
- It is fairly easy to cut 2x4s with a jigsaw and even though a jigsaw is not suitable for long straight cuts a straight edge cutting guide will help you with that.
- There is a minimal learning curve in comparison to a circular saw.
It is not an easy choice. A circular saw has many advantages over a jigsaw as well. But for a DIYer and a woodworking beginner, I believe a corded Jigsaw is a better choice with greater potential. I bought a Jigsaw as the first power saw. It is a Bosch and I’ve been using it for a few years now – it is a great tool and I am really satisfied with the purchase, no regrets.
Let's Build It
The circular saw guide will let you make cuts around 50 cms in length. It is built for and will help you mainly with these cuts:
- Rip cut – is a cut that travels in the same direction as the wood grain.
- Crosscut – is a cut that travels across the wood grain.
The guide is not designed for miter cuts.
It consists of 2 main parts:
- Straight edge guide – serves for long straight cuts. An aluminum U angle is used as a guide.
- Crosscut fence – serves for crosscuts. An aluminum L angle is used as a fence.
All circular saws have different sizes. Take into account the size of your saw base when building this jig. I am using a Makita circular saw.
Make the Circular Saw Guide Base
I started off by cutting the plywood desk (0,9cm) for the base. The base is 70 cm long and 40 cm wide. To cut the base you can use a spirit level to make a straight cut.
Draw the design of the circular saw guide and cut out the extra parts. For the inner parts, drill several holes in the corners and then use a jigsaw to cut out the extra material. For the outer parts, I used a circular saw.
Getting rid of extra material will make the guide lighter and easier to manipulate.
NOTE: It is better to get rid of the extra material at the beginning before the aluminum guides are installed. It would be more difficult to do that afterward.
Sand all the edges and corners.
At this moment you have the base ready. Let’s continue with the guide rails.
Attaching the Straight Edge Guide Rail
First, let’s build the straight edge guide. That will help us later on to make the crosscut fence.
Measure the length and cut the guide to size.
NOTE: I am using a U-shaped aluminum angle. Keep in mind that the height of the angle should be less than the space between the circular saw and the surface when completely set down. Thus you will allow for the circular saw to cut even in the lowest position. The height of the angle I am using is 0,9 cm.
Use a marking punch to mark the position of the holes on the guide and drill the holes using a ø4mm drill bit.
Use double-sided tape to temporarily fix the angle to the base. Add several strips evenly across the guide. The more the better. It will prevent the guide from moving when additionally fixing it with screws.
To fix the guide to the base first mark the position of the guide on the base. The distance from the edge should be a little greater than the distance between the circular saw base edge and the saw blade.
In my case, I am setting the guide 10,5 cm from the base edge since the distance between the plate edge and the blade is 10cm. This will create a wood excess of 0,5 cm on the base which will be cut off in the next step.
Additionally fix the guide to the base with screws and washers.
Cut the wood excess now.
Clamp the base to the workbench. Press the circular saw firmly against the guide, hold it tightly and push it slowly and steadily. Now you have a straight edge along the entire length of the guide.
NOTE: If cutting directly on your workbench, to protect it from the saw blade, put a layer between the guide and the workbench. A hard foam board or an MDF desk will work fine.
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Attaching the Crosscut Fence
Once having the straight edge guide in place you can continue with the crosscut fence. It is better to build the guide in this order since you will be using the straight cut to make a 90-degree angle.
This part requires attention. Spend extra time on this step so you get the 90-degree angle right. This is probably the most difficult part in this build.
NOTE: The aluminum angle for the crosscut fence can be higher than the angle used for the straight guide. In fact, using a higher guide will make working with the circular saw crosscut jig easier.
Turn the guide upside down. Attach a long right-angle ruler along with the straight cut you made, place it in position and fix it with clamps.
The process for attaching the crosscut fence is the same as for the straight edge guide.
- Pre-drill holes on the aluminum angle
- Use double-sided tape to temporarily fix the angle to the base
- Adjust it as necessary
- Use screws and washers to fix the fence permanently
Final Touches on the Circular Saw Guide
The following steps are optional but will make it much easier to work with the circular saw guide. Additionally, you can add:
– Holes for clamping and better grip
– A handle for easier manipulation
– Anti-slip tape for reducing the movement of the guide
Holes for Clamping
Drill several holes below the crosscut fence with a ø 35mm Forstner bit. When using the guide for crosscutting they can be used for clamping or when cutting narrow strips for better grip.
Handle for better Manipulation
Attach a handle to the base piece of the guide with screws and washers. I am using two plywood pieces to raise the holder a little.
The handle will not only help you manipulate the guide easier but you can also put pressure on it when cutting to fix the guide and the cut piece in position.
Add anti-slip tape to the bottom of the guide (grip tape for stair steps). The tape will help to prevent the guide from moving and will better fixate the cut piece in place.
How To Cut with a Circular Saw Guide and Crosscut Jig
The guide can be used for straight cuts (rip cuts) and crosscuts.
How to cut straight cuts
- Draw a line on the piece of wood you want to cut
- Align the edge of the circular saw guide with the drawn line
- Use clamps to fix the guide and the cut piece in position
- Press the circular saw against the guide, hold the saw tightly and push it forward slowly and steadily
How to cut crosscuts
- Press the cut wood against the crosscut fence
- Depending on the size of the wood piece fix it either with clamps or hold it with a hand if possible using pre-drilled holes
- Mount the circular saw on the guide and make the cut
This is a fine saw guide and quite useful to have in the shop. If you are building a small workshop or if you are just planning to make an upgrade for your circular saw I would definitely recommend building it. It really doesn’t cost much but will help you so much with your projects.
Over time I figured out that I am using this saw guide mainly for ripping longer sheets of plywood and for shorter crosscuts including 2x4s. For precise straight cuts, I prefer to use this circular saw guide track. I feel the rails on the sides hold the saw in place better.
What I like about this guide is how freely you can move it around and how easy it is to set up. You just place it on the piece you want to cut and then you make the cut. I added anti-slip tape to the bottom of the guide which reduces the movement a lot when cutting, nevertheless, I would still recommend clamping the guide to a workbench.
Those 70 cms in the length of the guide are just right to make a clean quick cut. Having a longer guide would make you lean over it when cutting which is neither comfortable nor safe. In that case, go for a straight edge guide.
Are you ready to build this saw guide?
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Power tools can be dangerous, including a circular saw. Always be cautious and careful when using any power tool. It is necessary to follow certain safety guidelines to avoid any injury. Read this blog post before operating a circular saw: 9 common circular saw safety mistakes and how to avoid them.
I hope the information shared in this blog post inspired and now you are adding a new jig to your gear. If you have any questions I might have missed in the post let me know in the comment section below. 😉