How to Get a Straight Cut With a Circular Saw

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Learning how to get a a straight cut with a circular saw can be a little bit tricky.

If you’ve ever tried and failed, you might be wondering how on earth you go about getting your circular saw to cut in a straight line.

The truth is, it’s not as difficult as you might think, it just takes a little bit of getting used to, and some tried and tested techniques.

How to Get a Straight Cut With a Circular Saw

It’s difficult to move in a straight line when using a standard circular saw. This means that it requires specific techniques to accurately cut a straight line.

For starters, the use of equipment such as:

…will help you to make straight, clean edges when cutting with a circular saw.

Man using a circular saw

This equipment can be either store bought or made at home.

You can use a number of different methods or pieces of homemade and store-bought equipment to achieve a razor straight cut.

Techniques for Getting a Straight Cut With a Circular Saw

In this article, we will go over some of the best ways to get a straight cut with a circular saw.

1. Use a Speed Square

A speed square is a multitool that can be extremely useful for measuring different types of materials to help you make straight and accurate cuts.

It essentially combines 4 different tools in one, including a:

  • Protractor
  • Ruler
  • Try square
  • Scribing tool

A speed square is one of the easiest ways to make straight and short cuts with a circular saw.

Simply mark where you want to make the cut and push the base plate of the saw up against the edge of the speed square.

This will keep the saw straight when cutting. Be aware, this only works for short cuts.

2. Use a Cutting Guide

Good news for DIY lovers: you can make your own cutting guide to help you make precise, straight cuts.

Here, the base plate of the saw will move along the side of your homemade cutting guide, keeping it straight as you go.

You can use scrap pieces of wood to easily manufacture this useful piece of equipment at home.

This method also allows you to make the guide to your own specific measurements, which is useful when you need to make longer cuts.

Person using a measuring tape to mark wood

Use a bigger piece of plywood as the base for your jig and saw blade. Then, find a smaller piece that can be glued to the larger piece, and this will act as a fence for the base plate. 

Using this method will mean your cuts are perfectly straight, even if they’re long.

3. Buy a Rip Cut Tool

This is a store-bought solution rather than something you can DIY. A rip cut tool will easily help you make accurate and straight cuts with a circular saw.

To use this tool, you simply mount your saw to the sled before sliding it onto the rail. Most rip cut tools also come with an in-built measuring scale, which saves you a step.

Rip cut tools are good investments for people who regularly need to make straight cuts with a circular saw

Tips for Getting Accurate Cuts With a Circular Saw

Unfortunately, circular saws have a tendency to be inaccurate if you’re using them freehand or without a fence.

Be aware that, when purchasing a new circular saw, it may not come with a fence.

You’ll need to buy one separately, and you certainly should, as you’ll need one to ensure your cuts are as straight as possible.

You can easily use the above methods we addressed to get a straight cut with a circular saw.

However, there are some other pointers you should be aware of to help with general accuracy when using this piece of equipment.

1. Check That Your Circular Saw Is Accurately Adjusted

You should regularly check your circular saw is properly adjusted for accurate cutting.

If your saw seems off, it may be time for a tune-up. This will help significantly with making accurate and straight cuts.

To adjust your circular saw’s accuracy, you’ll need to do 2 things:

  • Make sure the shoe is sitting parallel with the blade
  • Calibrate your cutline markers
Man showing how to get a straight cut with a circular saw

2. If You Wander From Your Line, Start Over

Once you’re on track, especially if you’re using one of the methods mentioned above, it’s not too hard to keep straight.

However, if you do start to wander away from your guideline, you need to completely start over.

You can easily bind up your saw if you try to steer the blade back onto the line. Just stop, withdraw the blade, and start over again. 

3. Secure Your Board If You’re Making Rip Cuts

Keeping a circular saw straight when making a rip cut can be tricky to do.

A good table saw might be a better option, but if you don’t have access to one, then your circular saw will work fine.

In order to get the cut as straight as possible, you’ll need to make sure the board is fixed down and secured.

4. Ensure The Wood Piece Isn’t Supported At Both Ends

The end you’re cutting off should be able to fall or move away freely once cut.

If the wood is supported on both ends, it will bow inward and downward as you finish the cut.

This can cause the wood to pinch the blade, which in turn can lead to the board bucking. This can be a very hazardous situation.

Conclusion

Although circular saws aren’t the easiest to get a freehand straight cut with, it is possible. All it takes is a little guidance.

You can easily DIY a cutting guide at home to help you, or if you regularly need to make pin-straight cuts with a circular saw, consider purchasing a rip cut tool.

An expert at home repair, remodel, and DIY projects for nearly 40 years. His first experience came in completely restoring an antique home. Completely redone from the inside out, and restored to its original form, the home is a featured design by renowned Southern California Architect Cliff May, considered to be the father of the California Ranch Home. Now Dennis spends his time on fine woodworking projects and tool comparisons.