A circular saw is one of the most useful power tools in the workshop. It is the perfect tool for both professionals and DIYers. They can easily cut through different types of materials with high accuracy and together with their portability, it makes them one of the most versatile tools in the shop.
The two main types of cuts that can be made with a circular saw are called a cross-cut and a rip-cut. A cross-cut is a simple cut across the length of a piece of timber, against the grain. A rip-cut follows the length of the timber and goes with the grain. Rip-cuts need more practice than crosscuts and generally are more complicated.
There are a few guides that can be used together with a circular saw. A straight edge guide to make long straight and accurate cuts or a rip fence edge guide for parallel rip cuts.
The circular saw straight edge guide can be used to make both rip cuts and crosscuts, unlike the rip fence guide which is intended for rip cuts only.
In this article, I will be walking you through the process of making a DIY circular saw rip fence guide. This is not a beginner-friendly project and you should have experience with a circular saw, specifically with using a rip fence guide. Check out the jigs I used to build it. (see at the end of this article).
Also, make sure to avoid these 9 common circular saw mistakes. It will help you work with a circular saw more safely and effectively.
How to Make a Circular Saw Rip Fence Guide Video
If you want to see how it is all put together, watch the video below for a step-by-step guide on how to build a rip fence guide for a circular saw.
Table of Contents
- Material Needed to Make a Rip Fence
- General Questions
- What is a circular saw rip fence?
- What are the benefits of a circular saw rip fence?
- What are the drawbacks of a circular saw rip fence?
- What is a rip cut?
- Step 1 – Make the Circular Saw Rip Fence Base Plate
- Cut a slot for the slider
- Cut a slot for the marking ruler
- Make an attachment for the circular saw
- Step 2 – Make the Circular Saw Ripping Fence
- How to Use this Circular Saw Rip Fence Step by Step
*Safety is your responsibility. Make sure you know what you’re doing and take all necessary safety precautions while working with a circular saw. Safety comes first!
Always be cautious and careful when using any power tool.
Material needed to make a Circular Saw Rip Guide
Circular Saw Rip Fence (Base):
1x MDF desk (52,5 x 33 x 0,6 cm)
Birch Plywood stripes (2x – 16 x 1,5 x 1,2 cm; 2x – 33 x 1,5 x 1,2 cm)
6x Wood Screws – 12 x 0,95 mm
Dado Router bit – ø6mm Straight Router Bit
Circular Saw Rip Fence (Fence):
Birch Plywood – (30 x 17 x 0,9 cm)
Plywood Stripe – (12 x 1,5 x 0,6)
2x – M6 bolt, washers, knobs
3x wood screws – 12 x 0,95 mm
Double-sided “carpet” tape
Wood Glue, Epoxy
ø6 drill bit
What is a Circular Saw Rip Fence?
A circular saw rip fence is a parallel edge guide usually mounted laterally to the base plate of a circular saw. The rip fence serves as a guide for a rip cut. Most rip fences are reversible and they can be attached to a circular saw on either side of the saw. To set the width of the cut a screw is used to tighten the rip fence guide at a given position.
What are the Benefits of a Circular Saw Rip Fence?
- Easy installation – Installing and setting up a rip fence on a circular saw is quick and easy. The fence can be completely setup in a matter of minutes.
- Fast cuts – A rip fence allows to make fast rip cuts on a short notice. This is a huge advantage specially when traveling with a saw.
- Repetitiveness – Once the rip fence is set it allows to repeatedly cut pieces of wood of equal width.
- Narrow Cuts – The rip fence allows to cut narrow pieces of wood from a long board.
What are the Drawbacks of a Circular Saw Rip Fence?
- Accuracy – Usually the length of the fence is much shorter in comparison to the length of the circular saw which may lead to undesired wobbling, snatching and possibly even kickback.
- Precision – Starting and finishing the cut can be difficult. It is easy to veer off track which may result in an inaccurate cut. In order to avoid a skewed cut, the circular saw needs to be pushed at 90 degrees to the edge the entire time.
- Length – Usually rip fences are short in length which allows for narrow cuts only.
- Size – The size of the rip fence may interfere with other objects while cutting. Make sure there are no objects which could come into contact with the guide.
When it comes to ripping a piece of wood the circular saw is no match for a table saw. Ripping with a table saw is much more accurate and precise.
Unfortunately, a rip fence is one of the circular saw accessories that is used quite often, yet poorly designed by manufacturers.
What is a Rip Cut?
A rip cut is a basic and easy cut that follows the grain of the wood. A crosscut, the opposite of a rip cut, is a cut perpendicular to the wood grain. In order to achieve an accurate and clean rip cut, a table saw, a rip saw or a band saw are the best tools to use.
Ripping wood is easier than crosscutting. When ripping wood, the grain naturally parts, less load is put on the saw, and the cuts result in cleaner and smoother edges.
DIY Circular Saw Rip Fence Guide
The circular saw rip fence guide consists of 2 main parts:
- Base plate– made out of MDF. The circular saw is mounted into a slot on the base plate.
- Ripping Fence – made out of plywood. Serves as a guiding fence for the circular saw.
Step 1 - Make the Circular Saw Rip Fence Base Plate
I started by cutting an MDF desk for the base plate. The base is 52,5 cm long and 33 cm wide. The reason I decided to go with MDF is that it is straight and it slides nicely on other materials.
Cut a slot for the slider
The fence is sliding in a slot on the base plate.
I marked a centerline on the base plate and cut a slot using a router dado jig. The slot is 33,5cm long and 1,5cm wide. To cut the slot I used a 1,5cm wide plywood stripe as a reference which I later used to make the fence.
NOTE: I used double-sided carpet tape to tape the stripe on the board (right on the centerline), set the router dado jig, and made the cut. You can use a square to make sure the slot is perpendicular to the edge of the base.
Sand the edges and round the corners of the plywood stripe to achieve a good slide in the slot.
TIP: Use the router dado jig on a mat or a board so you don’t route in the workbench.
Cut a slot for the marking ruler
I routed an additional slot 0,5 cm right above the first one. The slot is 40cm long, 1,3cm wide, and 1mm deep. Once finished with the base plate I will tape in a self-adhesive ruler to measure and easily set the width of the cut.
NOTE: The ruler is placed on the bottom side of the base plate (an easier option). A better option though would be to have it on the top.
Make attachment for the circular saw
First I cut off the unused corners of the base plate. This is optional, but I like it better and it makes the base lighter.
The circular saw is attached to the base in a “shoe”. I cut 4 plywood stripes, mitered the edges on a jigsaw station, and glued the stripes to the base around the circular saw base plate.
Make sure when you position the circular saw it is perpendicular to the routed slot for the fence. It is important the circular saw blade and the fence are exactly parallel to each other.
Additionally, I secured the shoe with a few screws to make sure it really stays in position.
Then I cut a slot in the base plate for the circular saw blade. To make the plunge cut I used the circular saw.
WARNING: I don’t recommend making a plunge cut with a circular saw unless you are 100% confident and you know what you are doing. It takes experience and it is not the safest approach. Check out these circular saw safety tips.
Consider if you have any other option to make the cut – for instance, cutting a slot with a router.
Optionally, you can make 2 cuts both for left-handed and right-handed use. As demonstrated in the video I am using the jig left-handed.
Finally, I taped the self-adhesive ruler in the slot on the base plate.
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Step 2 - Make the Circular Saw Ripping Fence
First, cut the plywood for the rip fence. The longer the fence, the better. The jig will be more stable since the fence has a larger area to slide on. I was using a shorter fence first but then I made a longer one. (The one on the pictures is the shorter one – 24cm in length, now I am using a 30cm long one.)
Mark the centerline on the fence and glue the plywood stripe to it – the one you were using as a reference for cutting the slot.
NOTE: Make sure the thickness of the plywood stripe is less than the thickness of the baseboard and it does not protrude above the board. You can sand it if needed.
Drill 2 ø6mm holes in for 2 M6 bolts and chisel out a hexagon to fully sink the bolt’s head. Make sure the bolt’s head is not protruding and is completely flush with the board. Use epoxy to glue the bolts.
I also screwed a few screws in to make sure the plywood stripe stays in position.
Place the fence in the slot and secure it either with wing nuts or wooden knobs. I am using wooden star knobs made on a star knob jig.
Finally, I attached a handle to the base plate for better manipulation.
And this is what the finished circular saw rip fence guide looks like.
How to use this Circular Saw Rip Fence Step by Step
Step 1 – Make sure the Circular saw is unplugged
Safety first! Before setting up the circular saw and the rip fence make sure the circular saw is unplugged. This step is absolutely crucial. Do not just turn off the circular saw but make sure it is actually unplugged.
This is much safer than just powering off the saw. Many accidents happen only due to improper and incorrect handling of the tool. To make sure you are taking all necessary safety precautions while working with a circular saw check out this article: 9 common circular saw safety mistakes and how to avoid them.
Step 2 – Set the width of the cut on the rip fence jig
Set the width of the cut on the rip fence jig first before mounting the circular saw. It is easier to set the desired width first than to manipulate the rip fence jig with the circular saw mounted.
Step 3 – Secure the rip fence
After adjusting the width, secure the rip fence position with 2 wooden knobs. Securing the fence is a must. Not only the fence stays in position making sure the cuts are straight but it is also much safer to operate the circular saw.
Step 4 - Mount the circular saw rip fence
Mount the circular saw on the base plate and make sure it fits properly into the marked rectangle. Set the right depth of cut and make sure the circular saw blade runs parallel to the rip fence.
Step 5 – Use the rip fence as guide for cutting
With the circular saw mounted, secured, and turned on you can start making the cut. Make sure the cut path is clear without any obstacles and you are following all safety precautions. Slowly and steadily make the cut.
Unplug the circular saw first, before making any adjustments to the rip fence.
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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.
If you have any questions on the jig I might have missed in the post let me know in the comment section below.